Wilmington has a population of 92,000 and is located on the Cape Fear River and is the major deepwater port on the North Carolina coast. A principal trade, manufacturing, and retail center, it is an attractive town with many carefully preserved historic buildings. This has made it a popular setting for films such as \”Blue Velvet\” and \”Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,\” and television’s “Dawson’s Creek.” The city was incorporated in 1739 and was the state’s largest town by 1780. During the Revolutionary War it was a major center of rebel activity. In the Civil War it served as the South’s last port of exchange with the outside world.
The racial issues that underscored the Confederate cause were still running strong in 1898 when a white mob killed dozens of blacks during a race riot. President Woodrow Wilson moved with his family to Wilmington in 1873, although he soon took up studies at Princeton.
Basketball legend Michael Jordan is another former resident.
Wilmington has numerous extravagant antebellum houses, churches, and public buildings that testify to its former importance and wealth. Of interest is the Cotton Exchange building, now an interesting waterfront shopping center, and the Georgian Burgwin-Wright House (1770), which briefly served as the 1781 headquarters of England’s General Cornwallis.
The 44,000-ton USS North Carolina is berthed at Eagle Island in the Cape Fear River. This 2,300-man battleship took part in every major offensive in the Pacific during World War II.
St John’s Museum of Art includes a rare collection of prints by Mary Cassatt while the Cape Fear Museum examines the region’s natural, cultural, and social history.
South of Wilmington are Carolina Beach State Park and the generally uncrowded Kure Beach. Nearby is Fort Fisher State Historic Site, overlooking the ocean and the mouth of the Cape Fear River. It preserves 10 percent of the earthworks associated with this earth-and-sand Civil War fort that protected ships running the Union blockade, thus allowing the Confederate forces to retain a trading harbor. The fort fell after a major Union assault in 1865 which was allegedly the largest land-sea battle prior to World War II.
A museum displays war relics from sunken Confederate blockade runners. Adjoining it is the North Carolina Aquarium, showcasing local marine fauna.
Some 23 miles northwest is Moores Creek National Battlefield where, in February 1776, colonists defeated a band of Highland Scots during the Revolutionary War, thus ending royal rule in North Carolina.
Wilmington is linked to the outside world by the highway system (I-40, US-17, US-117, US-421, US-74/76), an airport, and bus and train service.