Illuminating Our History

Between our secluded location and the wide variety of shops, dining and services we offer here at Lumina Station, it’s understandable that many of our visitors – and longtime residents of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington – don’t know that our marketplace holds a lot of history.

The design of our buildings, and what our varied collection of merchants represents, calls back to a time when right on the shores of Wrightsville Beach stood a similar-looking structure that housed all the recreation the then tiny coastal town could offer.

The original pavilion, simply dubbed Lumina at the time, opened in 1905 under the direction of Hugh MacRae, who also owned Wilmington’s electric utility. Though it was intended as a way to encourage denizens of the area to make use of the trolley and the utility itself, the last station on the line also hosted a number of activities and attractions. The only way these could only be reached was via the public transportation system – hence the term “station” in our own name!

Once you arrived at the pavilion, which was lit by more than a thousand light bulbs, then the real fun began. The three-story, 25,000-square-foot dance hall boasted a ballroom on the second floor, as well as a restaurant with a fireplace and enough balcony space for visiting orchestras and big bands to entertain the dancers. The ground floor offered additional dancing space as well as a bowling alley, a movie theater, and a few more restaurants for hungry Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington locals.

This bright spot on the beach – which was reported as being so noticeable and luminescent that sailors would use it to navigate during the night – was an entertainment and industry mecca in an otherwise quiet coastal North Carolina environment, and paved the way for economic development in years to come. As a testament to these beginnings, our station was built in much the same design as the original Lumina structure: white-washed wood on the exterior, with darker roofing to evoke that classic beach style.

After the trolley system stopped running in 1940, Lumina kept offering its neighbors a place to gather and enjoy themselves through the early 1950s when Hurricane Hazel swept through and did some serious damage to the building. Over time, the structure deteriorated to the point that town officials eventually condemned it, and it was demolished in May of 1973.

But, even without this shining example of coastal North Carolina hospitality, here at Lumina Station we like to think that our community still enjoys having a place to go where there are various avenues to explore for fun and relaxation. So in our way, we carry on the tradition at our own Lumina Station, where locals and visitors alike can indulge in the eats, treats, and other coastal favorites that make our region so enticing and unique! Visit our village and experience them all for yourself.