Blockade Runner Beach Resort, a historic landmark and oceanfront icon of North Carolina for 55 years, announced it will reopen in time for Valentine’s Weekend. Blockade Runner closed in September to repair substantial damages sustained from Hurricane Florence.
“The reopening will be in two major stages,” said Nicolas Montoya, General Manager of Blockade Runner. “February 15 we will reopen the tower building containing the largest block of rooms at the resort. This will be followed by the reopening of the balcony building in March-April.”
“Aside from Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Hurricane Florence is the largest storm Wrightsville Beach has had as far as property destruction is concerned,” said Bill Baggett of the Baggett family, owners of Blockade Runner.
“On the outside looking in, media reports indicated that Wrightsville Beach fared very well following a direct hit by Florence. However, inside many homes and businesses, including Blockade Runner, there was water everywhere.
“I think a lot of the damage on the island has been underestimated. Inventory will be tight at Wrightsville Beach in 2019. Tourism is a significant part of the North Carolina economy, and I hope we can get all the properties at the beach open as soon as possible.
“The hurricane damage at Blockade Runner is in three categories: the damage to our buildings and property, estimated to be five million dollars; content loss, approximately two million; and loss of business during repairs, approximately two million. The total loss will be close to ten million dollars. As you would expect, Blockade Runner was insured,” said Bill Baggett.
“The exterior and subflooring of Blockade Runner are concrete and steel,” noted Mary Baggett. “However, many interior walls were plaster and sheetrock. Seventy-five percent of these walls were replaced in the tower building, and all of these walls will be replaced in the balcony building. We lost the entire roof in the balcony building.”
“Many repairs will be unnoticeable to our guests. The majority of damages were related to roofing, walls, utilities inside the walls, and insulation. Elevators will be the last to be refurbished, but everything will come together better than ever as spring progresses,” added Ms. Baggett.
Recruited by elected and community leaders after Hurricane Hazel, Lawrence Lewis Jr. opened Blockade Runner on the former site of Ocean Terrace Hotel in 1964. The Ocean Terrace was damaged by Hazel and subsequently lost to fire, a significant setback for the coastal tourism economy in the ‘50s and early ‘60s.
Lewis, the founder of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, was a descendant of American industrialist Henry Flagler, founder of Standard Oil, and developer of numerous famous resorts, including Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine, and Hotel Royal Palm in Miami.
Purchased from Lewis in 1971 by Dr. Joseph Baggett of Fayetteville, Blockade Runner Beach Resort remains locally owned and operated by the Baggett family.
Designated a historic landmark by the Historic Wilmington Foundation, Blockade Runner’s mid-century design contains 120 waterfront rooms in the tower building and 30 oceanfront rooms in the balcony building.
All spring and summer events at Wrightsville Beach supported by Blockade Runner will continue as usual. These include: Valentine’s and Easter weekends; the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Marathon Madness weekend (Mar 8-9); US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship presented by Alpha Mortgage (Mar 22-24); the Carolina Cup, presented by Surftech (April 24-28); Charity Surf Camps by Indo Jax (May-Sept 2019); Wahine Classic, O’Neil Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest, and Surfers Healing (Aug 2019)