With a rich history of being a port city that served local residents from New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick County, Wilmington is the eighth largest city in North Carolina. Its earlier settlers had several names for her: New Carthage, New Liverpool and New Town, which later was Newton. Finally, in honor of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington (England), the town nestled against the Cape Fear River, 28 miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean, got her rightful name.
Fueled by the abundance of forest resources, the major industry here in the 18th and 19th century was timber. The “Port City” later became a strategic commercial ally in the opposition to British rule and was so vocal against the Stamp Act of 1765, that it was defeated the next year. In the 1800s, the city also built the longest railroad line in the world to Weldon, NC and was a major commercial and passenger hub for passengers & freight heading southwards to cities like Charleston.
Centuries later, Wilmington is a thriving small city sandwiched by the Cape Fear River to the West and the Atlantic Ocean to the East. While it still is a port town, it also is the commercial, medical and learning center of southeastern NC. Firms such as General Electric, PPD (Pharmaceuticals), Screen Gems, Corning and Verizon call ILM home, as well as Cape Fear Community College and University of North Carolina @ Wilmington.
However, the latest industry Wilmington is attracting is the influx of retirees from points north and west. With its wonderfully temperate year round weather, miles of white sandy beaches, exciting and eclectic downtown and riverfront park, new shopping venues, theater, fine dining and so much more, it’s no wonder that Wilmington is one of the largest destinations for the 10,000 Americans that retire each and every day.
On a quiet street in downtown Wilmington, the cries of “The British are Coming, The British are Coming” have been replaced by “The Retirees are Coming, The Retirees are Coming!!”
Since my move here from Boston in 1999, where I spent 7 frigid years, I have seen The Port City come into its own. While the changes have in and of themselves not been significant, in total they have helped transform a small, sleepy town into a fairly cosmopolitan little city with a Charlestonesque southern flair to her. Make no mistake about it, when people speak of retiring in Wilmington, others are no longer saying “Delaware”?
So in my time living in southeastern NC, here are the changes that I believe have helped Wilmington evolve from a moth into a butterfly:
- MLK Jr Drive – prior to this road being built, going from east to west meant you were either on Oleander or Market street. MLK/Eastwood Road allows those in Brunswick County to scamper cross town to popular destinations like Wrightsville Beach, Mayfaire and ILM – our airport.
- PPD – http://www.ppdi.com/ This home grown pharmaceutical firm, chose to build it’s beautiful campus like skyscraper along the north end of the Cape Fear River – breathing new life to what was one a disregarded step child part of downtown
- Wilmington Convention Center –https://www.businessmadecasual.com/attend/event-calendar/ A beautiful waterfront facility tucked in behind Cape Fear Community College with more waterfront development pending! (ie hotel, shops and more)
- Mayfaire at Town Center – www.MayfaireTown.com Several hundred acres that were formerly Parker Farms was converted into a shopping, dining, retail and commercial wonderland about seven years ago. Every day this exciting Mecca continues to add to your best shopping experience in SE NC (Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Barnes & Noble, Belks and more!)
- Zimmer Cancer Center @ New Hanover Regional Medical Center – http://www.nhrmc.org/zimmer-cancer-center Cancer is never a welcome word but in Eastern North Carolina, the Zimmer Cancer Center is a blessing.
- The Betty Cameron Women’s & Children’s Hospital – http://www.nhrmc.org/betty-h-cameron
- No place along the east coast of North Carolina takes better care of Women and Children than this amazing new facility
- I-140 and Porters Neck By Pass – this long awaited highway connects the northern part of Wilmington/Hampstead to the Cape Fear River. Plus, within a year the extension will be completed, which will connect I-40 to Hwy 17 in Leland, just below Brunswick Forest. That will take a boat load of traffic off of hwy 17 in Leland.
- Then there are the new(er) retail venues such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market, the addition to Lumina Station and many more.
- New(er) restaurants include Ruth Chris Steak House, Manna, The Kitchen, Indochine, Circa, Brasserie du Soleil, Boca Bay, Port Land Grille, Melting Pot and many more
When our clients come for a visit, we always do our best to make sure that they see the highlights of our very own Port City. Wilmington is not necessarily though a town to retire in because it is chock full of subdivisions, which are simple neighborhoods with a pool and tennis court. Our clients are looking for an active lifestyle with amenities galore such as indoor/outdoor pools & hot tubs, golf, walking trails, tennis, fitness classes, cardio equipment, planned activities, restaurant, parties and more.
Therefore, the majority of our clients will agree that they “Buy Wilmington, but sleep in Brunswick County!” So if you have not had one of our firm’s almost famous tours of the Port City, contact us so we can arrange for you to get intimate with one of the east coasts top destinations for retirees and those looking for a second home.