Wilmington, North Carolina: Day 1

Started my day with a retired naval veteran having 29 years of service showing me around. For a few extra dollars this is worth it as these volunteers know their stuff. Try to get their before 10 a.m. to catch them as they get scooped up quick. This is a new volunteer program and thank you vets for your continued service.

Additional note: The ship is self-sustaining, no state or federal monies are received. Fees are reasonable and the docent charge contributes to ship maintenance.

Note turrets on the deck

This vessel is the most decorated surviving WWII battleship in existence with 15 battle stars to her credit. Built in 1937 and commissioned in 1941, it housed 2300 young men and 64 marines. Interesting fact: Marines handled the gun operation on the ship.

On the deck was the “bullet,” a 2000 pound explosive device with 6 attached bags holding 90 pounds of ammo in each. These devices softened the land for marines to later follow. While this device is small the war room below which handled the operation was not. Kids today do not recall when a computer was the size of several rooms. Here’s some pictures that show the behind the scenes effort that went into getting the bullet and turrets into action.

Besides responding in 4 minutes to deck when duty called, the sailors also called this home. Feeding 2300 men with 25 kitchen workers was no easy feat. Meal time saw 700 hungry sailors per shift and the staff were known to make 1600 loaves of bread daily. Pictures below – ice cream shop, kitchen prep, and Thanksgiving cafeteria line where 850 pounds of turkey were served. Cafeteria style serving was invented here as family style too labor intensive.

The mess hall was multi-purposed handling anything from church services to extra soldiers in hammocks who had been picked up along the way.

Hygiene was limited in the ship as water acquired went mainly to ship operations and hydration. No long showers here even when water was available. However, haircuts were a necessity as was shoe repair, a small movie area, post office and of course the hospital area for anything from infectious disease to surgeries. And did I mention the Lost and Found as well as the a newspaper office to keep current on the news of the ship?

Whew! So much to consider.

As you leave stop by the grounds surrounding the ship as they are lovely, and have shaded picnic benches. Great place for a family picnic. Also, the North Carolina government employees donated a walkway next to the ship. What a nice gesture.

On to the Bellamy Mansion —

This lovely antebellum home was built in 1859 by slaves. Located on the highest bluff in the area it housed a family of 12 with 9 slave workers. John Bellamy was a doctor, business man, and plantation owner of pine trees. These trees provided tar for ship waterproofing, and John amassed a fortune from this venture. He and his wife, Eliza, had 10 children and descendants remain in the area.

The slave house, a recreation of the true home, is a must see on the tour.

The house has a long history with descendants living here through the 1940’s. It fell into disrepair and in 1972 was rescued by a North Carolina group who re-opened it post renovation in the 1990’s. During the summer months there are monthly jazz events with a September Happy Bellamy Birthday Celebration as well as movies, and Christmas holiday festivities.

There are other colonial homes in the area, however check schedules as many close on Sunday. Here are other homes to visit:

  • Poplar Grove Plantation
  • The Latimer House
  • Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens

Next, it was Downtown Wilmington which was a fun spot of shops, things to do and, of course, restaurants.

Stop by Chandler’s Wharf for more dining pleasure and rum cake. Yum.

Or take an excursion on land or water.

OR, if the heat index isn’t too high try a horse trolley tour.

Final stop, Wrightsville Beach for an evening cruise. Sandra Bullock once considered purchasing a home here. Sandy, I don’t know if you made the right decision. What a beautiful spot.

See you tomorrow for Day 2.

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