A fallen star

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lumina News file photo 

Built in 1910, this was the oldest home on Wrightsville sold in 2013, selling for $1.475 million.

A star has fallen on Wrightsville Beach.

On Tuesday, Feb. 4, heavy machinery brought down the circa 1910 cottage at 506 S. Lumina Ave. 

The cottage on the oceanfront, once owned by Dr. James Sprunt, was later moved to the other side of the trolley tracks. 

It was used for five years as the Star of the Sea Hospital, for convalescent patients and nurses by the James Walker Memorial Hospital Board while Dr. James Sprunt’s wife summered in the North. It was listed on the 1910 Sanborn Insurance Company Map of Wrightsville Beach as the Marion Home for Sick Children, named in memory of Sprunt’s daughter, Marion, who died at age 13.

The property occupies approximately one-quarter of an acre. The 3,718-square-foot, gable-roofed cottage was recently bought back into the Sprunt family. The two-story cottage contained seven bedrooms and five bathrooms and had ocean facing porches on both floors.

James Laurence Sprunt, who was convinced to move the cottage when waves reached its foundation during a heavy storm, purchased the home in 1918. In 1928, the cottage was rented to Beatrice Jordan, who then operated it as the Beachland Boarding House.

Jordan and her sister, both spinster schoolteachers from Augusta, Ga., soon felt the demand for rooms outpacing the supply, and expanded the boarding house in 1935, connecting it to the house next door. However, with demand from vacationers in the 1940s being drawn to new high-rise hotels on the beach, the two cottages were disconnected in 1952 and reestablished as individual summer homes. The other still stands: the Gwathmey Cottage, purchased in 1980 by its current owners, Frank and Marietta Gwathmey.

The Wrightsville Beach Planning and Parks Department issued a demolition permit to Sam Sprunt, who on Nov. 8, 2013, bought the cottage for $1.475 million, bringing it back into the Sprunt family after 33 years of ownership by the Richmond-based Noell Family.

Tony Wilson, Wrightsville Beach Planning and Parks Director, said the demolition permit allowed the building to be torn down effective Feb. 3. Demolition began at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4.

“Last week they did their asbestos report, and they had a [Coastal Area Management Act] permit, and a demolition permit about two to three weeks ago,” Wilson said in a Jan. 31 interview.

Lossie Noell, a Wilmington native whose family purchased the cottage in 1980 later moved to Richmond, returning to Wrightsville Beach annually to visit her grandfather, also a beach property owner. They enlarged the kitchen and added air conditioning units to the bedrooms after buying the property.

Charles Noell, listed as the previous property owner by New Hanover County’s tax records, did not return repeated phone calls requesting information on the sale.

However, Realtor David Eggleston with Intracoastal Realty, who was the listing agent for of the property, said Jan. 30, the return of the parcel to the Sprunt family might result in a redrawing of property lines. 

“The three sons of Sam Sprunt are now going to tear it down,” Eggleston said. “They own four lots adjacent to each other, and they are going to redraw the property lines to make the properties more even in size.”

Eggleston added the Sprunts are likely to hold onto the properties, as one of them plans to retire to the beach within the next year. 

Repeated calls to Sam Sprunt and other members of the Sprunt family were not returned, but Gloria Sprunt said Feb. 3 Sam Sprunt was out of town. She declined to comment on the owner’s future plans for the property.

email sam@luminanews.com

A Tale of Right-of-Ways and Easements

By Pat Bradford

Traveling south on Lumina Avenue, there are several places where the road dead ends and taking Waynick Boulevard is necessary to continue south. Among these instances is the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, Carolina Yacht Club, Hanover Seaside Club and what’s called the Sprunt compound, which sits between Bridgers and Sprunt streets. The story of why South Lumina stops and starts at the family’s compound involves right-of-ways versus easements.

The late Kenneth Sprunt told the story of his family’s ownership of the land prior to the Wilmington Sea Coast railroad trolley line extending to that point. When in the early 1900s, the company wanted to continue the tracks south, it approached his grandfather about a right-of-way for the line, which was to end at the grand dance pavilion — Lumina — on the southernmost end of the line.

Years later, while other property owners granted the Consolidated Railway, Light and Power Company the right-of-ways, James Sprunt granted right of way by an easement, which was to revert back to him in the event of the line’s removal.

With the construction of Waynick Boulevard in 1936, the streetcar tracks were taken up in 1939, leaving the Sprunt compound undivided except for the thin sidewalk that exists today.

Reprinted from Wrightsville Beach Magazine August 2004.

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