Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
The Port City
Location within New Hanover County
|Incorporated||February 20, 1739/40|
|Named for||Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington|
|• Mayor||Bill Saffo|
|• City||41.5 sq mi (107.4 km2)|
|• Land||41.0 sq mi (106.2 km2)|
|• Water||0.5 sq mi (1.2 km2)|
|Elevation||30 ft (9 m)|
| • Estimate
|• Density||2,600/sq mi (990/km2)|
|• Urban||254,884 (US: List of United States urban areas)|
|• Metro||282,573 (US: 167th)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1023269|
|Sister cities||Dandong, Liaoning, China
Doncaster, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom
San Pedro Town, Belize
With a population of 119,045 in 2017, it is the eighth most populous city in the state. Wilmington is the principal city of the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan area that includes New Hanover and Pender counties in southeastern North Carolina, which has a population of 263,429 as of the 2012 Census Estimate.
Wilmington was settled by the English along the Cape Fear River. The city was named after Spencer Compton who was the Earl of Wilmington. Its historic downtown has a 1.75-mile (2.82 km) Riverwalk, developed as a tourist attraction in the late 20th century. In 2014 Wilmington's riverfront was ranked as the "Best American Riverfront" by readers of USA Today. It is minutes away from nearby beaches. The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected Wilmington as one of its 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations. City residents live between the river and the ocean, with four nearby beach communities: Fort Fisher, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, all within half-hour drives from downtown Wilmington.
In 2003 the city was designated by the US Congress as a "Coast Guard City". It is the home port for the USCGC Diligence, a United States Coast Guard medium endurance cutter. The World War II battleship USS North Carolina is held as a war memorial; moored across from the downtown port area, the ship is open to public tours. Other attractions include the Cape Fear Museum, and the Wilmington Hammerheads United Soccer Leagues soccer team. The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) provides a wide variety of programs for undergraduates, graduate students, and adult learners, in addition to cultural and sports events open to the community.
Wilmington is the home of EUE Screen Gems Studios, the largest domestic television and movie production facility outside California. "Dream Stage 10," the facility's newest sound stage, is the third-largest in the US. It houses the largest special-effects water tank in North America. After the studio's opening in 1984, Wilmington became a major center of American film and television production. Numerous movies in a range of genres and several television series have been produced here, including Maximum Overdrive, Iron Man 3, Fox's Sleepy Hollow, One Tree Hill, Dawson's Creek and NBC's Revolution.
The area along the river had been inhabited by various successive cultures of indigenous peoples for thousands of years. At the time of European encounter, historic Native Americans were members of tribes belonging to the Algonquian family.
The ethnic European and African history of Wilmington spans more than two and a half centuries. In the early 16th century, explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano was reportedly the first European to see this area, including the city's present site. The first permanent European settlement in the area started in the 1720s with English colonists. In September 1732, a community was founded on land owned by John Watson on the Cape Fear River, at the confluence of its northwest and northeast branches. The settlement, founded by the first royal governor, George Burrington, was called "New Carthage," and then "New Liverpool;" it gradually took on the name "New Town" or "Newton". Governor Gabriel Johnston soon after established his government there for the North Carolina colony. In 1739 or 1740, the town was incorporated with a new name, Wilmington, in honor of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.
Some early settlers of Wilmington came from the Albemarle and Pamlico regions, as well as from the colonies of Virginia and South Carolina, but most new settlers migrated from the northern British colonies, the West Indies, and the British Isles. Many of the early settlers were indentured servants, recruited mainly from the British Isles and northern Europe. As the indentured servants gained their freedom and fewer could be persuaded to leave England because of improving conditions there, the colonists imported an increasing number of African slaves to satisfy the labor demand. By 1767, slaves accounted for more than 62% of the population of the Lower Cape Fear region. Many worked in the port as laborers, and some in ship-related trades.
Due to Wilmington's commercial importance as a major port, it had a critical role in opposition to the British in the years leading up to the Revolution. The city had outspoken political leaders who influenced and led the resistance movement in North Carolina. The foremost of these was Wilmington resident Cornelius Harnett, who served in the General Assembly at the time, where he rallied opposition to the Sugar Act in 1764. When the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act the following year, designed to raise revenue for the Crown with a kind of tax on shipping, Wilmington was the site of an elaborate demonstration against it.
On October 19, 1765, several hundred townspeople gathered in protest of the new law, burned an effigy of one town resident who favored the act, and toasted to "Liberty, Property, and No Stamp Duty." On October 31, another crowd gathered in a symbolic funeral of "Liberty". But before the effigy was buried, Liberty was found to have a pulse, and celebration ensued.
Dr. William Houston of Duplin County was appointed Stamp Receiver for Cape Fear. When Houston visited Wilmington on business, still unaware of his appointment, he recounted,
"The Inhabitants immediately assembled about me & demanded a Categorical Answer whether I intended to put the Act relating [to] the Stamps in force. The Town Bell was rung[,] Drums [were] beating, Colours [were] flying and [a] great concourse of People [were] gathered together." For the sake of his own life, and "to quiet the Minds of the inraged [sic] and furious Mobb...," Houston resigned his position at the courthouse.
Governor William Tryon made attempts to mitigate the opposition, to no avail. On November 18, 1765, he pleaded his case directly to prominent residents of the area. They said the law restricted their rights. When the stamps arrived on November 28 on the H.M. Sloop Diligence, Tryon ordered them to be kept on board. Shipping on the Cape Fear River was stopped, as were the functions of the courts.
Tryon, after having received his official commission as governor (a position he had assumed only after the death of Arthur Dobbs), was brought to Wilmington by Captain Constantine Phipps on a barge from the Diligence, and "was received cordially by the gentlemen of the borough." He was greeted with the firing of seventeen pieces of artillery, and the New Hanover County regiment of militia, who had lined the streets. This "warm welcome" was spoiled, however, after a dispute arose between Captain Phipps and captains of ships in the harbor regarding the display of their colors. The townspeople became infuriated with Phipps and threats were made against both sides. After Tryon harangued them for their actions, the townspeople gathered around the barrels of punch and ox he had brought as refreshments. The barrels were broken open, letting the punch spill into the streets; they threw the head of the ox into the pillory, and gave its body to the slaves. Because of the unrest, Tryon moved his seat of government to New Bern instead of Wilmington.
On February 18, 1766, two merchant ships arrived without stamped papers at Brunswick Town. Each ship provided signed statements from the collectors at their respective ports of origin that there were no stamps available, but Captain Jacob Lobb of the British cruiser Viper seized the vessels. In response, numerous residents from southern counties met in Wilmington. The group organized as the Sons of Liberty and pledged to block implementation of the Stamp Act. The following day, as many as a thousand men, including the mayor and aldermen of Wilmington, were led by Cornelius Harnett to Brunswick to confront Tryon. The governor was unyielding but a mob retrieved the seized ships. They forced royal customs officers and public officials in the region to swear never to issue stamped paper. Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in March 1766.
In the 1830s, citizens of Wilmington became eager to take advantage of railroad transportation. Plans were developed to build a railroad line from the capital, Raleigh, to Wilmington. When Raleigh citizens declined to subscribe in sufficient number to stock to raise money for the project, organizers changed the terminus to Weldon. When the railroad line was completed in 1840, it was the longest single line of railroad track in the world. The railroad also controlled a fleet of steamboats that ran between Wilmington and Charleston; these were used both for passenger travel and transportation of freight. Regular boat lines served Fayetteville, and packet lines traveled to northern ports. The city was a main stop-over point, contributing greatly to its commerce.
By mid-century, the churchyard of St. James Episcopal Church and other town cemeteries had become filled with graves. On November 16, 1853, a group of citizens, organized as "The Proprietors of the Wilmington Cemetery," was formed to develop a new cemetery. Sixty-five acres of land around Burnt Mill Creek was chosen as the site for what would be called Oakdale Cemetery. It was the first rural cemetery in North Carolina. The cemetery's first interment, on February 6, 1855, was six-year-old Annie deRosset. Many remains from St. James churchyard were relocated to the new cemetery.
The Wilmington Gas Light Company was established in 1854. Soon after, street lights were powered by gas made from lightwood and rosin, replacing the old street oil lamps. On December 27, 1855, the first cornerstone was laid and construction began on a new City Hall. A grant from the Thalian Association funded the attached opera house, named Thalian Hall. In 1857 the city opened its first public school, named the "Union Free School", on 6th Street between Nun and Church streets, serving white students.
Wilmington had a black majority population before the Civil War. While most were slaves, the city had a significant community of free people of color, who developed businesses and trades. For a period up to Nat Turner's Rebellion, they had been allowed to vote, carry arms and serve in the militia. Fears after the rebellion resulted in the state legislature passing laws to restrict the rights of free blacks.
During the Civil War, the port was the major base for Confederate and privately owned blockade runners, which delivered badly needed supplies from England. The Union mounted a blockade to reduce the goods received by the South. The city was captured by Union forces in the Battle of Wilmington in February 1865, approximately one month after the fall of Fort Fisher had closed the port. As nearly all the military action took place some distance from the city, numerous antebellum houses and other buildings survived the war years.
Wilmington Insurrection of 1898
During the Reconstruction era, former free blacks and newly emancipated freedmen built a community in the city. Most blacks voted for the Republican Party, which had brought the slaves freedom. There was increasing violence around elections in this period, as armed white paramilitary insurgents, known as Red Shirts, worked to suppress black and Republican voting. Conservative white Democrats regained control of the state legislature and sought to impose white supremacy, but some blacks continued to be elected to local offices.
The Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 (formerly and inaccurately called a race riot) occurred as a result of the racially-charged political conflict that had occurred in the decades after the Civil War and efforts by white Democrats to reestablish white supremacy and overturn black voting. In the 1890s, a coalition of Republicans and Populists had gained state and federal offices. The Democrats were determined to reassert their control.
In 1898, a cadre of white Democrats, professionals and businessmen, planned to overthrow the city government if their candidates were not elected. Two days after the election, in which a white Republican was elected mayor and both white and black aldermen were elected, more than 1500 white men attacked and burned the only black daily newspaper in the state and ran off the new officers. They overthrew the legitimately-elected municipal government. This is the only such coup d'état in United States history.
On November 10, 1898, nearly 1500 white men, led by the Democrat Alfred M. Waddell, an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in 1896, marched to the offices of the Daily Record, as they had been angered by its publisher Alex Manly. The mob broke out of control, shattering windows and setting fire to the building. Violence later broke out across town in Brooklyn, the black neighborhood, which was attacked by mobs of whites. Waddell and his men forced the elected Republican city officials to resign at gunpoint and replaced them with men selected by leading white Democrats. Waddell was elected mayor by the newly seated board of aldermen that day. Prominent African Americans and white Republicans were banished from the city in the following days.
Whites attacked and killed an estimated 10-100 blacks. No whites died in the violence. As a result of the attacks, more than 2100 blacks permanently left the city, leaving a hole among its professional and middle class. The demographic change was so large that the city became majority white, rather than the majority black it was before the white Democrats' coup.
Following these events, the North Carolina legislature passed a new constitution that raised barriers to voter registration, imposing requirements for poll taxes and literacy tests that effectively disfranchised most black voters, following the example of the state of Mississippi. Blacks were essentially disfranchised and excluded from the political system until after Congressional passage in the mid-1960s of the civil rights acts.
World War II
During World War II, Wilmington was the home of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company. The shipyard was created as part of the U.S. government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program. Workers built 243 ships in Wilmington during the five years the company operated.
Three prisoner-of-war (POW) camps operated in the city from February 1944 through April 1946. At their peak, the camps held 550 German prisoners. The first camp was located on the corner of Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road; it was moved downtown to Ann Street, between 8th and 10th avenues, when it outgrew the original location. A smaller contingent of prisoners was assigned to a third site, working in the officers' mess and doing grounds keeping at Bluethenthal Army Air Base, which is now Wilmington International Airport.
National Register of Historic Places
The Audubon Trolley Station, Brookwood Historic District, Carolina Heights Historic District, Carolina Place Historic District, City Hall/Thalian Hall, Delgrado School, Federal Building and Courthouse, Fort Fisher, Gabriel's Landing, William Hooper School (Former), Market Street Mansion District, Masonboro Sound Historic District, Moores Creek National Battlefield, Sunset Park Historic District, USS NORTH CAROLINA (BB-55) National Historic Landmark, James Walker Nursing School Quarters, Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District, Wilmington Historic District, and Wilmington National Cemetery are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Wilmington is located at  It is the eastern terminus of Interstate 40, an east-west freeway that ends 2,554 miles away at Barstow, California, where it joins I-15, the Gateway to Southern California. This road passes through many major cities and state capitals along the way..
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 41.5 square miles (107 km2). 41.0 square miles (106 km2) of it is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) of it (1.16%) is water. Wrightsville Beach is a popular destination in the Wilmington area. Carolina and Kure beaches also add to the city's beach attractions.
- Winters are generally mild with January highs in the mid-50s °F (~12°C) and lows in the mid-30s °F (~1°C). Snowfall does not occur in most years, and when it does, is generally light.
- Spring is reasonably lengthy, beginning in late February and lasting to early May. The presence of abundant dense vegetation in the area causes significant pollen dusting in the springtime that tends to turn rooftops and cars yellow.
- Summer brings high humidity, with daily high temperatures usually ranging from the upper 80s to lower 90s °F (31–34°C), and daily low temperatures usually from 70 to 75 °F (~22°C). Heat indices can easily break the 100 °F (38 °C) mark, though the actual temperature does not in most years. Due to the proximity of warm Atlantic Ocean waters and prevailing tropical-system tracks, the Wilmington area is subject to hurricane or tropical storm activity, mostly from August to early October, with an average frequency of once every seven years. Such tropical systems can bring high winds and very heavy rains, sometimes 4 inches (100 mm) or more in a single tropical system. Precipitation in Wilmington occurs year-round. April is the driest month, with less than 3 inches (76 mm) of rain on average, and July to September are the wettest months, with over 7 inches (180 mm) of rain each, on average. In an average year, the July to September period delivers about 40% of annual rainfall.
- Autumn is also generally humid at the beginning, with the threat from tropical weather systems (hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions) peaking in September.
|Climate data for Wilmington Int'l, North Carolina (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1870–present)[a]|
|Record high °F (°C)||82
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||73.7
|Average high °F (°C)||56.4
|Average low °F (°C)||35.6
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||18.5
|Record low °F (°C)||5
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.76
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||0.4
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.2||9.5||10.0||8.5||10.9||12.8||16.4||15.9||12.8||9.0||9.2||9.4||134.6|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||0.3||0.3||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.3||1.0|
|Average relative humidity (%)||70.7||68.4||69.1||66.8||73.7||76.3||78.3||80.7||79.9||75.9||73.2||71.5||73.7|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||181.5||182.1||238.0||276.3||285.3||280.1||280.7||254.3||230.0||229.3||197.4||181.1||2,816.1|
|Percent possible sunshine||58||59||64||71||66||65||64||61||62||65||63||59||63|
|Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990)|
- Normal January mean temperature: 46.0 °F (7.8 °C). The coldest month in recorded history was January 1977, averaging 35.7 °F (2.1 °C). However, January 1981 had a colder average minimum of 25.8 °F (−3.4 °C).
- Normal July mean temperature: 81.1 °F (27.3 °C). The hottest month in recorded history was July 2012, averaging 84.7 °F (29.3 °C). However, July 1993 had a hotter average maximum of 94.0 °F (34.4 °C).
- Average nights ≤ 32 °F (0 °C): 39
- First and last freezes of the season: November 18 and March 20, allowing a growing season of 244 days
- Average days ≥ 90 °F (32 °C): 43, but historically as low as 9 in 1909 and as high as 71 in 1980.
- First and last 90 °F highs: May 15, September 15
- Highest recorded temperature: 104 °F (40 °C) on June 27, 1952
- Lowest daily maximum temperature: 16 °F (−9 °C) on February 13, 1899 and December 30, 1917
- Highest daily minimum temperature: 83 °F (28 °C) on August 1, 1999 and August 9, 2007
- Lowest recorded temperature: 0 °F (−18 °C) on December 25, 1989
- Average annual precipitation: 57.6 inches (1,460 mm), but historically ranging from 27.68 in (703 mm) in 1909 to 102.40 in (2,601 mm) in 2018, aided by 23.02 inches of rain, September 13-16, from Hurricane Florence's slow movement across the Carolinas. The 2018 annual precipitation of 102.40 inches exceeded the previous record wettest year (1877, with 83.65 inches of precipitation).
- Wettest day: 13.38 in (339.9 mm) on September 15, 1999
- Driest month: 0.16 in (4.1 mm) in April 1995
- Wettest month: 24.13 in (612.9 mm) in September 2018, followed closely by 23.41 in (594.6 mm) in September 1999
- Winter average snowfall: 1.6 inches (4.1 cm) (the median amount is 0)
- Snowiest day (midnight-to-midnight): 11.1 in (28.2 cm) on December 18, 1896
- Snowiest month: 15.3 in (38.9 cm) in December 1989, making the winter of 1989–90 the snowiest
Wilmington boasts a large historic district encompassing nearly 300 blocks. Abandoned warehouses on downtown's northern end have been recently demolished making room for multi-million dollar projects, such as the World Headquarters of Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) and a state-of-the-art convention center.
|Downtown Monuments and Historic Buildings|
|The George Davis Monument|
|The Confederate Memorial|
|The Bellamy Mansion|
|Cotton Exchange of Wilmington|
|The Temple of Israel|
|The Murchison Building|
|Crime rates* (2017)|
|Total violent crime||618|
|Motor vehicle theft||373|
|Total property crime||5,910|
*Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
2012 population: 109,370
Source: 2012 FBI UCR Data
Wilmington has an increasing problem with gang violence and on October 15, 2013 the WPD and NHC Sheriffs department created a joint task force to combat gang violence. Just a day later the city council approved $142,000 in funding for a gang investigative unit.
According to 2013 census estimates, there were 112,067 people and 47,003 households in the city. The population density was 2,067.8 people per square mile (714.2/km²)and there were 53,400 housing units. The racial composition of the city was: 73.5% White, 19.9% Black or African American, 6.1% Hispanic or Latino American, 1.2% Asian American, 0.5% Native American, 0.1% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
There were 34,359 households out of which 20.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.5% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.5% were non-families. 36.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.77.
In the city, the population was spread out with 18.4% under the age of 18, 17.2% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 15.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,099, and the median income for a family was $41,891. Males had a median income of $30,803 versus $23,423 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,503. About 13.3% of families and 19.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.9% of those under age 18 and 12.0% of those age 65 or over.
Less than half of Wilmington's population is religiously affiliated (47.30%), with the majority of practitioners being Christian. The two largest Christian denominations in Wilmington are Protestant: Baptists (14.66%) and Methodists (8.29%), followed by Roman Catholics (7.42%). There are also a significant number of Presbyterians (3.19%), Episcopalians (2.30%), Pentecostals (1.45%), and Lutherans (1.32%). Other Christian denominations make up 7.02%, and the Latter-Day Saints have 0.90%. Much smaller is the proportion of residents who follow Islam (0.46%), and Judaism (0.25%). A small percentage of people practice Eastern religions (0.04%).
The Wilmington International Airport (ILM) serves the area with commercial air service provided by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. American Airlines carries a large share of the airport's traffic, and therefore flies the largest of the aircraft in and out of the airport. The airport serves over 800,000 travelers per year. The airport is also home to two fixed-base operations (FBO's) which currently house over 100 private aircraft. The airport maintains a separate International Terminal providing a full service Federal Inspection Station to clear international flights. This includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Dept of Agriculture and the U.S. Dept of Immigration. The airport is 4 miles from downtown.
North Carolina state highways
Alternative transportation options
Public transit in the area is provided by the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, which operates fixed bus routes, shuttles, and a free downtown trolley under the brand name Wave Transit. A daily intercity bus service to Raleigh is provided by Greyhound Lines. Wilmington is also served by Amtrak Thruway bus connections to Wilson, NC.
The City of Wilmington offers transient docking facilities in the center of Downtown Wilmington along the Cape Fear River approximately 12.5 miles (20 km) from the Intracoastal Waterway. The river depth in the run up from the ICW is in excess of 40 feet (12 m). Taxicab service is available from several vendors, however, as the price of fuel rises, yet the City's Taxi Commission keeps meter rates artificially low, there is a real likelihood that no drivers will continue to work, as their income, before taxes, now averages 30% of what it was in 1998.
The Gary Shell Cross-City Trail is primarily a multi-use trail which provides bicycle and pedestrian access to numerous recreational, cultural and educational destinations in Wilmington. The Gary Shell Cross-City Trail provides bicycle and pedestrian connection from Wade Park, Halyburton Park and Empie Park to the Heide-Trask Drawbridge at the Intracoastal Waterway. It also connects to the River to Sea Bikeway and the under construction Central College Trail and Greenville Loop Trail.
Wilmington's industrial base includes electrical, medical, electronic and telecommunications equipment; clothing and apparel; food processing; paper products; nuclear fuel; and pharmaceuticals. Wilmington is part of North Carolina's Research coast, adjacent to the Research Triangle Park in Durham, NC.
Also important to Wilmington's economy is tourism due to its close proximity to the ocean and vibrant nightlife.
Located on the Cape Fear River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, Wilmington is a sizable seaport, including private marine terminals and the North Carolina State Ports Authority's Port of Wilmington.
Wilmington is home to the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the oldest Chamber in North Carolina, organized in 1853. Companies with their headquarters in Wilmington include Live Oak Bank and HomeInsurance.com.
According to the City's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
|#||Employer||# of Employees|
|1||New Hanover Health Network||5,991|
|2||New Hanover County Schools||3,645|
|4||University of North Carolina Wilmington||1,844|
|5||New Hanover County||1,563|
|6||Pharmaceutical Product Development||1,464|
|8||Cape Fear Community College||1,176|
|10||City of Wilmington||995|
Universities and colleges
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington
- Cape Fear Community College
- Shaw University satellite campus
- University of Mount Olive satellite campus
- University of North Carolina at Pembroke satellite campus
- Miller-Motte Technical College
Public Schools in Wilmington are operated by the New Hanover County School System.
- Eugene Ashley High School
- John T. Hoggard High School
- Isaac Bear Early College High School
- Emsley A. Laney High School
- New Hanover High School
- Mosley Performance Learning Center
- Wilmington Early College High School
- Holly Shelter Middle School
- Murray Middle School.
- Myrtle Grove Middle School
- MCS Noble Middle School
- Roland-Grise Middle School
- Trask Middle School
- Williston Middle School
- Lake Forest Academy School
- St. Mark Catholic School (Wilmington, North Carolina)
- Walter L. Parsley Elementary School
- Bradley Creek
- Castle Hayne
- College Park
- Forest Hills
- Freeman School of Engineering
- Gregory School of Science, Mathematics, and Technology
- Holly Tree
- Lake Forest Academy
- Mary C. Williams
- New Horizons Elementary School (private)
- Pine Valley Elementary School
- Snipes Academy of Arts and Design
- Sunset Park
- Winter Park
- Wrightsville Beach
- Friends School of Wilmington
- St. Mark Catholic School (Wilmington, North Carolina)
- Cape Fear Academy
- The Lyceum Academy
- Wilmington Christian Academy
- Coastal Christian High School
- St. Mark Catholic School (Wilmington, North Carolina)
- St. Mary Catholic Church (Wilmington, North Carolina)
- Cape Fear Center for Inquiry
- Wilmington Preparatory Academy
- Wilmington Academy of Arts and Sciences
The city supports a very active calendar with its showcase theater, Thalian Hall, hosting about 250 events annually. The complex has been in continuous operation since it opened in 1858 and houses three performance venues, the Main Stage, the Grand Ballroom, and the Studio Theater.
The Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, 120 S. Second Street in historic downtown Wilmington, is a multiuse facility owned by the City of Wilmington and managed by the Thalian Association, the Official Community Theater of North Carolina. Here, five studios are available to nonprofit organizations for theatrical performances, rehearsals, musicals, recitals and art classes. For more than half a century, the Hannah Block Historic USO Building has facilitated the coming together of generations, providing children with programs that challenge them creatively, and enhance the quality of life for residents throughout the region.
The Hannah Block Second Street Stage is home to the Thalian Association Children's Theater. It is one of the main attractions at the Hannah Block Community Arts Center. The theater seats 200 and is a popular performance venue for many community theater groups and other entertainment productions.
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington College of Arts and Science Departments of Theatre, Music and Art share a state-of-the-art, $34 million Cultural Arts Building which opened in December 2006. The production area consists of a music recital hall, art gallery, and two theaters. Sponsored events include 4 theater productions a year.
The Brooklyn Arts Center at St. Andrews is a 125 year old building on the corner of North 4th and Campbell St in downtown Wilmington. The Brooklyn Arts Center at Saint Andrews (BAC) is on the National Register of Historic Places. The BAC is used for weddings, concerts, fundraisers, art shows, vintage flea markets, and other community-driven events.
Wilmington, otherwise known as Hollywood East, is home to EUE/Screen Gems Studios. Popular televisions series' like Sleepy Hollow, Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, SIX, Good Behavior, Eastbound and Down and Under The Dome used the stages, and multiple locations throughout the city, as well as popular movies like Iron Man 3, We're the Millers, The Longest Ride and The Choice. Movies shot in Wilmington include Maximum Overdrive (1986), Crimes of the Heart (1986), Year of the Dragon (1985), Blue Velvet (1986), King Kong Lives (1986), Hiding Out (1987), Raw Deal (1986), Track 29 (1988), Weeds (1987), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), The Crow (1994), Silver Bullet (1985), Firestarter (1984).
Since 1995, Wilmington hosts an annual, nationally recognized, independent film festival, the "Cucalorus". It is the keystone event of The Cucalorus Film Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Foundation also sponsors weekly screenings, several short documentary projects, and the annual Kids Festival, with hands on film-making workshops.
The Cape Fear Independent Film Network also hosts a film festival annually.
In 2014, governor Pat McCrory decided not to renew the film incentives which ended up taking a massive toll on not just Wilmington's but North Carolina's entire film industry. As a result, most productions and film businesses moved to Atlanta, GA. As of 2017, there have been attempts to bring the industry back to North Carolina via the North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grant. This grant designates $31 million per fiscal year (Jul 1-Jun 30) in film incentives.
Birthplace of Johnson Jones Hooper (1815-1862), Author of the Simon Suggs Series.
Birthplace of Robert Ruark (1915-1965)
Chamber Music Wilmington was founded in 1995 and presents its four-concert "Simply Classical" series every season. The concerts are performed by world-class chamber musicians and are held at UNC-Wilmington's Beckwith Recital, acoustically designed for intimate music performances.
The Wilmington Symphony Orchestra was established in 1971 and offers throughout the year a series of five classical performances, and a Free Family Concert. Wilmington is also home to numerous music festivals.
Celebrating its 37th year, February 2 thru 4th, 2017, the North Carolina Jazz Festival is a three-day traditional jazz festival which features world-renowned jazz musicians.
The Cape Fear Blues Society is a driving force behind blues music in Wilmington, N.C. The organization manages, staffs and sponsors weekly Cape Fear Blues Jams and the annual Cape Fear Blues Challenge talent competition (winners travel to Memphis TN for the International Blues Challenge). Its largest endeavor is the Cape Fear Blues Festival, an annual celebration that showcases local, regional and national touring blues artists performing at a variety of events and venues, including the Cape Fear Blues Cruise, Blues Workshops, an All-Day Blues Jam, and numerous live club shows. Membership in the CFBS is open to listeners and musicians alike.
Museums and historic areas
- Cameron Art Museum
- The Bellamy Mansion
- The Confederate Memorial, Wilmington
- Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
- The Children's Museum of Wilmington
- First Baptist Church (founded 1808)
- Fort Fisher Historic Area
- Grace United Methodist Church (founded 1797)
- St. James Episcopal Church - the oldest church in Wilmington
- St. Mary Catholic Church - historic Roman Catholic church in Wilmington
- First Presbyterian Church - historic Presbyterian church
- Latimer House Museum
- Sunset Park Historic District
- Temple of Israel - the oldest synagogue in North Carolina
- USS North Carolina Memorial
- Wilmington Railroad Museum
- Hannah Block Historic USO
The Second and Orange Street USO Club was erected by the Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of $80,000. Along with an identical structure on Nixon Street for African-American servicemen, it opened in December 1941, the same month that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. From 1941 to 1945, the USO hosted 35,000 uniformed visitors a week. Recently renovated with sensitivity to its historic character, the Hannah Block Historic USO (HBHUSO) lobby serves as a museum where World War II memorabilia and other artifacts are displayed. The building itself was rededicated in Ms. Block's name in 2006 and restored to its 1943 wartime character in 2008. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The World War II Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition, an all volunteer 501(c)(3) preservation organization, is the de facto preservationist of the building's history and maintains the home front museum.
Wilmington is host to many annual festivals, including, most notably, the Azalea Festival. The Azalea Festival, sponsored by the Cape Fear Garden Club, features a garden tour, historic home tour, garden party, musical performances, a parade, and a fireworks show. It takes places every year in April.
The Star-News is Wilmington's daily newspaper; read widely throughout the Lower Cape Fear region and now owned by GateHouse Media. A daily online newspaper, Port City Daily (portcitydaily.com), is owned by Local Voice Media. Two historically black newspapers are distributed and published weekly: The Wilmington Journal and The Challenger Newspapers. Encore Magazine is a weekly arts and entertainment publication.
- 630 AM WMFD - Sports ("ESPN Radio, AM 630")
- 1340 AM WLSG - Oldies ("Beach 94.1")
- 1490 AM WWIL - Urban Gospel ("Gospel Joy, 1490")
- 88.9 FM WKVC - Contemporary Christian ("K-LOVE")
- 89.7 FM WDVV - Worship & Praise Music ("The Dove, 89.7")
- 90.5 FM WWIL-FM - Christian Music ("Life 90.5")
- 91.3 FM WHQR - Public Radio
- 93.1 FM WBPL-LP - Wilmington Catholic Radio
- 94.1 W231CL: WLSG translator
- 95.5 FM W238AV - Contemporary Christian ("K-LOVE")
- 95.9 FM W240AS - Talk Radio ("Port City Radio"),
- 97.3 FM WMNX - Hip Hop/R & B ("Coast 97.3")
- 100.5 FM W263BA - Contemporary Christian ("K-LOVE")
- 101.3 FM WWQQ-FM- Country ("Double Q, 101")
- 102.7 FM WGNI - Hot AC ("102.7 GNI")
- 104.5 FM WYHW - Christian Talk ("104.5")
On July 26, 2018, WHQR announced that Star-News reporter Hunter Ingram has started a new project to sort out the fact from fiction of real life stories, mythical tales or legends of Wilmington. The first episode of the podcast CapeFear Unearthed began on July 25, 2018.
The Wilmington television market is ranked 130 in the United States, and is the smallest DMA in North Carolina. The broadcast stations are as follows:
- WWAY, Channel (3), (ABC affiliate, with CBS on 3.2 and CW on 3.3): licensed to Wilmington, owned by Morris Multimedia
- WECT, Channel (6), (NBC affiliate): licensed to Wilmington, owned by Gray Television
- WILM-LD, Channel (10), (Independent station): licensed to Wilmington, owned by the Capitol Broadcasting Company
- WSFX-TV, Channel (26), (Fox affiliate): licensed to Wilmington, owned by American Spirit Media and operated by Gray Television
- WTMV, Channel (29), (Antenna TV) : licensed to Ogden, owned by Tutt Media Group Inc.
- WUNJ-TV, Channel (39), (PBS member station, part of the UNC-TV Network)
- W47CK, Channel (47), (MyNetworkTV affiliate, uses fictional WMYW calls on-air): licensed to Shallotte
- W51CW-D, Channel (51), (TBN affiliate)
Cable news station News 14 Carolina also maintains its coastal bureau in Wilmington.
On September 8, 2008, at 12 noon, WWAY, WECT, WSFX, WILM-LP and W51CW all turned off their analog signals, making Wilmington the first market in the nation to go digital-only as part of a test by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to iron out transition and reception concerns before the nationwide shutoff. Wilmington was chosen as the test market because the area's digital channel positions will remain unchanged after the transition. As the area's official conduit of emergency information, WUNJ did not participate in the early analog switchoff, and kept their analog signal on until the national digital switchover date of June 12, 2009. W47CK did not participate due to its low-power status; FCC rules currently exempt low-powered stations from the 2009 analog shutdown. WILM-LP and W51CW chose to participate, even though they are exempt as LPTV stations.
Despite Tropical Storm Hanna making landfall southwest of Wilmington two days before (September 6), the switchover continued as scheduled. The ceremony was marked by governmental and television representatives flipping a large switch (marked with the slogan "First in Flight, First in Digital") from analog to digital.
|Wilmington Sharks||CPL, Baseball||Buck Hardee Field at Legion Stadium||1997||2|
|Wilmington Hammerheads||USL, Soccer||Legion Stadium||1996||1|
|Wilmington Sea Dawgs||TRBL, Basketball||Wilmington YMCA||2006||0|
The Wilmington Sharks are a Coastal Plain League (CPL) baseball team in Wilmington that was founded in 1997 and was among the charter organizations when the CPL was formed that same year. The roster is made up of top collegiate baseball players fine-tuning their skills using wood bats to prepare for professional baseball. Their stadium is located at Buck Hardee Field at Legion Stadium in Wilmington.
The Wilmington Sea Dawgs are a Tobacco Road Basketball League (TRBL) team in Wilmington that began its inaugural season with the American Basketball Association (ABA) in November 2006 and have also played in the Premier Basketball League, and the Continental Basketball League.
The Wilmington Hammerheads are a professional soccer team based in Wilmington. They were founded in 1996 and played in the United Soccer Leagues Second Division. Their stadium was the Legion Stadium. After the 2009 season, the USL discontinued their relationship with the franchise owner Chuck Sullivan. The Hammerheads franchise returned in 2011.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington sponsors 19 intercollegiate sports and has held Division 1 membership in the NCAA since 1977. UNCW competes in the Colonial Athletic Association and has been a member since 1984.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington is also home to the Seamen Ultimate Frisbee team. The team won the National Championship in 1993 and most recently qualified for the USA Ultimate College Nationals tournament in 2014
The Cape Fear Rugby Football Club is an amateur rugby club playing in USA Rugby South Division II. They were founded in 1974 and hosts the annual Cape Fear Sevens Tournament held over July 4 weekend; hosting teams from all over the world. They own their own rugby pitch located at 21st and Chestnut St.
Off and on, from 1900 to 2001, Wilmington has been home to a professional minor league baseball team. The Wilmington Pirates, a Cincinnati Reds farm team, were one of the top clubs in the Tobacco State League from 1946-50. Most recently the Wilmington Waves, a Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, played in the South Atlantic League. Former All Star catcher Jason Varitek played for Wilmington's Port City Roosters in 1995 and 1996. In 1914 the Philadelphia Phillies held spring training in Wilmington.
- Independence Mall
- Cotton Exchange of Wilmington
- Mayfaire Town Center
- Hanover Center Shopping Mall
- Long Leaf Mall
- Chandler's Wharf
- Front Street Center
- The Point at Barclay
Wilmington is a sister city with the following cities:
- Dandong, Liaoning, China—1986
- / Doncaster, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom—1989
- Bridgetown, Barbados—2004
- San Pedro Town, Belize—2007
Points of interest
- Airlie Gardens
- New Hanover County Extension Service Arboretum
- North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
- North Carolina Azalea Festival
- EUE Screen Gems Studios
- USS North Carolina Battleship & Museum
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington Arboretum
- Cameron Art Museum
- Cape Fear Museum
- Carolina Beach
- Kure Beach
- Wrightsville Beach
- Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
- Edwin Anderson, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient
- Eugene Ashley, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient
- Barnacle Boi, aka Ian Oliver, electronic music producer
- Arthur Bluethenthal, football player and World War I pilot
- Jock Brandis, author, co-founder of the Full Belly Project
- David Brinkley, television newscaster for NBC and ABC
- Jonathan Cooper, NFL offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers
- Alge Crumpler, NFL tight end for the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots
- Kristen Dalton, Miss North Carolina USA 2009, Miss USA 2009
- Julia Dalton, Miss North Carolina Teen USA 2008, Miss North Carolina 2015
- Charlie Daniels, country music legend, inducted into the Grand Ole Opry
- Minnie Evans, folk artist
- Roman Gabriel, Los Angeles Rams quarterback; 1969 NFL Most Valuable Player
- Joseph Gallison, actor best known for his role as Dr. Neil Curtis on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives
- Althea Gibson, tennis Hall of Famer
- Andy Griffith, actor owned a home in the Wilmington area while filming Matlock there
- Pat Hingle, actor best known for his role as Commissioner Gordon in the films Batman, Batman Returns and Batman Forever
- Ed Hinton, actor in television series I Led Three Lives; father of Darby Hinton and Daryn Hinton
- William Hooper (1742–1790), member Continental Congress; Signer United States Declaration of Independence; Deputy Attorney General, NC; Federal Judge
- Dennis Hopper, actor lived in Wilmington for several years after filming multiple movies at Screen Gems Studios
- Keever Jankovich, NFL player
- Caterina Jarboro, first black opera singer ever to sing on an opera stage in America. In 1999, she was inducted into the Wilmington Walk of Fame.
- Sam Jones, American basketball player, 10 time NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics, member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
- Michael Jordan, basketball player, 6-time NBA Champion with the Chicago Bulls, member of the Basketball Hall of Fame
- Tamera "Ty" Young, basketball player for the Chicago Sky of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)
- Sonny Jurgensen, former Washington Redskins quarterback, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Clarence Kea, retired professional basketball player.
- Charles Kuralt, award-winning journalist
- Linda Lavin, actress, singer, and arts patron best known for her title role in the television series Alice
- Meadowlark Lemon, basketball player best known for being a member of the Harlem Globetrotters
- Sugar Ray Leonard, won gold medal in boxing at the 1976 Olympics
- Quinton McCracken, former Major League Baseball outfielder
- Charles P. Murray, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient
- Trot Nixon, former Major League Baseball outfielder
- Sam Pellom, former NBA player
- Thomas Peters, early founder of Sierra Leone, who escaped from slavery in Wilmington at the beginning of the American Revolution.
- Robert Ruark, sportsman and syndicated writer during the 1940s–1950s
- Captain William Gordon Rutherfurd, commanded HMS Swiftsure during the Battle of Trafalgar
- Emily McGary Selinger (1848–1927), painter, writer, poet, educator
- Willie Stargell, former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder and 1st baseman, member of the Baseball Hall of Fame
- John Steele, landed with the 82nd ABN in Normandy during World War II. Made famous in The Longest Day
- Jessica Stoyadinovich, pornographic actress and model, regarded as Digital Playground's first alt porn contract girl
- Robert Robinson Taylor, American architect; the first accredited African-American architect, first African-American student enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1888
- Ralph T. Troy, mayor of Monroe, Louisiana, from 1972 to 1976, former resident of Wilmington and former chairman of the New Hanover County Democratic Party
- David Walker Abolitionist
- Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States
- Amy Wright, CNN Hero of the Year 2017
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