Back in 1905, a brightly lit pavilion in south Wrightsville Beach, known as the “Fun Spot of the South”, opened for the first time. It was referred to by many names including: “The Pleasure Palace of theSouth;” “The Fun Spot of theSouth;” and “The Palace of Light.” In June 1905, Hugh MacRae, who owned Consolidated Railways Light &Power Company, Wilmington’s electric utility, opened Lumina Pavilion near the last stop of Wrightsville’s electric trolley line. His motivation for creating Lumina was to promote beach tourism, encourage folks to ride on the trolleys, and to encourage the use of electricity. He lit up Lumina Pavilion with over a thousand incandescent bulbs which brightly lit up his three story, 25,000 square foot dance hall. The Lumina building was so bright sailors could navigate their ships by it.
The ground floor of Lumina Pavilion featured dressing rooms, a promenade, a bowling alley, refreshment stands, a movie theater and other amusements. The second level had a ballroom/dance floor, a restaurant with a fireplace for cold nights, a balcony, and a band shell for orchestras and big bands, like Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong. On the third floor a 15-foot wide promenade overlooked the dance floor. Right from its opening day, Lumina Pavilion was enormously successful. Soon, MacRae expanded and doubled the size of the ballroom and added an outdoor movie screen. The movie screen itself was a marvel, rising from the surf 50 feet out to sea. Audiences could watch films right on the beach! It attracted huge crowds and Lumina’s dance floor became known as “The South Atlantic’s Finest.” The Wilmington Star stated that “if a woman didn’t have a Saturday night date for the Lumina, she was in disgrace.” Lumina was “a glowing beacon” that called out to anyone who could get on a trolley and wanted to have a little fun. The beginning of the end for the trolley system came when North Carolina began constructing highways in the area in 1935. In 1940 the last trolley car ran.
Although Lumina maintained its popularity into the 1950s, its best days had come and gone now that folks could access the beach in their automobiles. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel severely damaged Lumina Pavilion. By the time the 1970s rolled around, Lumina had deteriorated to the point that officials condemned the iconic structure. In May 1973, bulldozers began demolishing the building. Eventually condominiums were built in its place.
Now just a fond memory, Wrightsville Beach’s “Pleasure Palace of theSouth” is commemorated with an annual “Lumina Daze Festival” at Wrightsville Beach’s Blockade Runner Resort. There, Lumina Pavilion’s heyday is remembered with a fun evening of food, big band music, and dancing.
This ornament is one of several important fundraisers needed to help us achieve the ongoing mission of the Wrightsville Beach Foundation, which is twofold:
• Promote a partnership among residents, visitors, and the Town of Wrightsville Beach in an effort to enhance recreational opportunities while helping preserve and improve our beautiful coastal environment
• Provide financial assistance within the county to educational and care giving organizations in need, especially during times of natural disaster.
This commemorative ornament, and those that will follow annually, will help raise funds to support our mission. By joining the Foundation and by gifting or collecting our annual ornament, you put the“YOU” in our organization to help us achieve our goals.
Also available for purchase at:
- the Wrightsville Beach Farmers Market WBF tent every Monday from 8am to 1pm
- The Blockade Runner Resort Gift Shop
- Crabby Chic at 4107 Oleander Dr