I tried to come up with a great way to summarize what Sunset Park was like back in 1912 and I feel nothing says it better than an article written by a newspaper man on September 22, 1912 who actually visited the Sunset Park. The article was written just a couple of weeks before the opening sale by The Fidelity Trust & Development Company of lots in Sunset Park - October 5, 1912.
A Visit to Sunset Park
A Newspaper Man Goes Out to See Just Why "Everybody's Going South" - Artesian Water and Modern Conveniences
September 22, 1912 - Wilmington Star
A Visit to Sunset Park, the new southern sub-division to Wilmington, will be a distinct and pleasant revelation to citizens. Here is surely a spot of rare beauty, designed by nature itself as an ideal location for a highclass residential section.
The tract of 442 acres—the largest acreage by far ever handled locally for subdivision—was purchased last Winter by the Fidelity Trust and Development Company, and early this Summer they began active operations on the immense permanent improvements they had planned. An expert landscape architect was first secured, and spent a week in making a topographical survey of the property, and then planned the boulevards, streets, parkways and plazas with a view to the utilization of the natural contour and beauties of the tract to the greatest advantage. (see pen drawing in right column) Then a skilled civil engineer was employed to lay out a perfect water and sewerage system, and other architects were in turn employed to design ornamental structures for the entrances to all three of the boulevards.
As one now approaches Sunset Park he is first delighted with a magnificent entreway, designed similar to the entrance to the famous Champ Eleysis Boulevard of Paris. The main piece extends across the entire front of the plaza, and immediately to its rear a drinking fountain will be placed. On opposite sides of the boulevard, and in line with the principal structure, are two pagodas or rest pavilions. (see post card in right column) Similar entreways will be constructed at the entrances of the two boulevards further south. Directly across Carolina Beach boulevard from the main entrance, there has been platted a beautiful eight-acre park, and a handsome little building to be called "Sunset Lodge" will be at once erected in the center of this park.
Facing the river again one looks down the full length of Northern boulevard, a beautiful winding driveway leading to the river. Immediately south and paralleling Central and Southern boulevards. All boulevards are 90 feet in width, with a thirty-foot plaza, each a full block long and running down the center of the boulevard. The boulevards are bisected by the north and south streets, which are named after and in the order of our Presidents, Washington street being the first west of Carolina Beach boulevard.
Walking west on Northern boulevard over a slightly rolling surface, one approaches Cape Fear river, and at its edge one stands on an eminence—the site of an old fortress of Revolutionary times—and enjoys a view up and down the river which can only be fittingly expressed by the word "magnificent." At this point several prominent Wilmington citizens have purcahsed lots and will erect handsome homes.
Along the southern river frontage of the property lies a bay, which one can, with but little imagination, see dotted with the private skiffs and launches of Sunset Parkers.
Turning one's steps eastward again he passes a large force of workmen who are busily constructing a water and sewer system which is the equal in its completeness of a city system. Sixteen-inch mains are being installed, at a depth varing from six to 18 feet, and with manholes and automatic flushing devices and floodgates every 300 feet. One is impressed on every hand with the thought that this is no cheap makeshift development, but of a highly substantial and permanent character. In fact over $30,000, has already been expended on the property, and an additional like amount has been contracted for.
Macadamizing and four-foot cement walks is now being completed along six blocks at the main entrance, and the same character of improvements will be continued along the remaining blocks at the main entrance, and the same character of improvements will be continued along the remaining blocks as fast as it is possible to do so. One of the especially desireable, and most esential features being installed is the drilling of an immense artesian well, with a guaranteed flow of forty-five gallons per minute. This pure artesian water will be forced through the large mains now being installed, and property owners will make direct connections onto these mains and secure their entire domestic supply of water by the mere turning of a convenient faucet in their homes. Provisions have already been made for an extension of the gas and electric service from the city limits to the property. It will thus be seen that even the first resident of Sunset park will have all the conveniences of pure drinking water, gas for cooking, and electric lights from the very moment he first introduces his family into their new Sunset Park home.
The methods of handling this new subdivision have certainly made Wilmington "sit up and take notice," and Star considers it a distinct credit to the city that is has a concern in its midst with the faith and resources requisite to project and execute such a creditable undertaking as the Fidelity Trust & Development Company is doing with Sunset Park. It is well worth the while of any citizen to personally visit this property.
In an ad with the pen drawing of a bird's eye view over Sunset Park along with a poem singing its praises:
Beyond the placid waters/Of Greenfield's lovely lake,
There lies as fair a region/As skillful hands can make.
It reaches to the 'Dram Tree',/Made famous long ago;
And many mounds and batt'ries/Its history will show.
Regardless of the prices/It costs to reach the mark,
We'll beautify the landscape/Of lovely Sunset Park.
With granolithic side-walks,/And streets macadamized,
We'll leave all other places/Neglected and despised.
Each man who owns a cottage,/That he can call his own,
Will be a little Monarch/That no one can dethrone
Each lot will have its sewers,/To take the filth away;
And water-mains to furnish/The folks who come to stay.
The sun will shine in daylight,/Electric lights at dark;
We'll have a Fairy City/At lovely Sunset Park.
To each prospective buyer/We'll offer terms to please,
So that every one may purchase/A home with perfect ease.
No painter can portray it,/His brush would be too dark,
To give the glowing colors/of lovely SUNSET PARK.
Pen drawing by a local artist for The Evening Dispatch—1912
(Bill Reaves Collection, New Hanover County Library)
Postcard showing the original entrance to Sunset Park located on Northern Boulevard. The pagodas on the northern and southern corners are the only part that still remain. The date of construction and demolition of the central piece are currently being researched.
A Sunset Park ad by The Fidelity Trust & Development Co.—1913
(Bill Reaves Collection, New Hanover County Library)
Sunset Park Quick Facts
"Sunset Park" a name submitted by Montrose Bain, circulation editor of the Wilmington Star was the winning entry for a new 600-acre development just 3 miles south of downtown Wilmington along the Federal Point Road (Carolina Beach Road). The prize for his submission was $10.00.
The Fidelity Trust & Development Company purchased the 600-acre tract on March 9, 1912. The original owner T.F. Boyd of Hamlet, North Carolina sold the land for $35,000.00.
Opening sale of properties was Monday, October 7, 1912.
Sunset Park was envisioned by the Fidelity Development & Investment Company as a high-class, planned community with views overlooking the Cape Fear River and picturesque Greenfield Lake. All the city conviences and modern improvements would be guaranteed by FD&I. Street car service, electric lights, gas, sewers, sidewalks and tree-lined macadamized roadways and plazas just to name a few. The neighborhood is said to be modeled after that of Ansley Park and Westland Estates in Atlanta.