Ocean City North Topsail Beach – A Piece of American History

The neighborhood of Ocean City is located in North Topsail Beach (the northern area of Topsail Island). Although the town of North Topsail Beach was not incorporated until the 1990s, Ocean City has an over 60 year history, most of which compliments the American story.
Topsail Island in the mid-1940s was owned by the United States Government and was home to “Operation Bumblebee”. Operation Bumblebee was the US project to test rockets that later would lend its findings to modern day rocket propelled missiles and even NASA. Many relics can be found of the operation island wide but Ocean City has one interesting relic that still stands. We will discuss that more below because there of course is a lead in story first!
In the late 1940s, Edgar Yow, a white Wilmington Attorney and later Mayor of ocean-city-ncWilmington, approached Dr. Gray of Wilmington with an endeavor and later adding the Chestnut family; creating the first African American beach in the still segregated south.
The inter-racial corporation, probably another first in this time, was formed as “Ocean City Developers, Inc.” and primarily handled the development of the neighborhood, with some of the first homes being owned by the Chestnut family whose descendants still live in the community.
In the 1950s, Father Kirton of the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church along with the Chestnut family decided to have a summer camp located in Ocean City. Soon after the community built a dormitory that housed over 60 children for the summer camps. Today, the Wade H Chestnut Memorial Chapel still stands and is the center of community activities along with the Ocean City Community Center.
In 1959, Ocean City Developers, Inc. decided to build the Ocean City Fishing Pier. The pier was located and built upon one of the watch towers left over from Operation BumbleBee.
A personal connection of the history of Ocean City lends itself in this era of the community. Elizabeth “Peggy” Lewis, a then paralegal with the Attorney Yow and later owner of Lewis Realty Associates, Inc. from the 1980’s till 2011, assisted the Ocean City Developers, Inc. in their meetings by serving as their secretary. Lewis also through the law firm assisted with real estate purchases and development.
Peggy’s (my great aunt) father, George Hall Lewis (my great grandfather) also enjoyed fishing at the pier and caught many virgina mullet from the “secret” fishing hole located just off the side of the pier. Hall had been known to say that Ocean City Pier had the best fishing bottom on the entire island!
After the hurricanes of 1996 (Fran & Bertha) the pier was demolished because of extensive damage but the watch tower still stands as a reminder rightfully so.
Modern day Ocean City boasts the annual Jazz Festival in the community which is supported in part by North Carolina Arts Council. Artists, visitors and residents enjoy and look forward to the event yearly, usually in July of each year.
May 26, 2012 brought historical recognition to the community with a commemorative sign dedication on each street listing the community as a historical area of the state.
Ocean City is truly a great community built by its great residents and a snapshot of the American story of military expansion and Civil Rights right here on Topsail Island, NC.
More information on the community of Ocean City, its history and events can be found at the community’s official website,Ocean City NC or on their face book page.

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