Hampstead & Holly Ridge
Considered a suburb of Wilmington, new developments are spawning all around the Hampstead area to take advantage of Hampstead’s proximity to the city and to the beach. Unfortunately, the closest beach is Figure Eight Island, very exclusive and gated. Unless they can get their names on a list at the Figure Eight Island Guard’s Station, Hampstead residents will be driving the extra couple miles north to the beaches of Topsail Island.
In Hampstead, numerous small inland creeks and waterways make for charming new home waterfront lots. The Hampstead Chamber of Commerce urges visitors to hurry up and visit the relaxed small-town atmosphere soon, because it looks like the hustle and bustle of the city is headed their way. Golfers also enjoy Hampstead, which is home to four golf courses: Belvedere Plantation, Castle Bay, Topsail Greens and Olde Point.
The historic part of Hampstead is the privately owned Sloop Point Plantation, on the sound side of the Topsail Inlet. Built in 1727, the house overlooks Stumpy Sound and Banks Channel. It was the residence of the Honorable John Baptista Ashe, who received three large land grants from the British crown, including the tract around the Sloop Point house and all of what is now Topsail Island.
About five miles south of Hampstead on Highway 17 is Poplar Grove Plantation, which is open to the public with tours several times daily and a weekly farmer’s market on the front lawn. The manor house was built by Joseph Mumford Foy in 1849, on land that had been his father’s peanut plantation for half a century. The Greek Revival style house has 4,284 square feet, 12 fireplaces, two pairs of corbelled interior chimneys and 12 rooms. The tour includes a tenant farmer’s cabin, craft shops where costumed docents demonstrate basketmaking and weaving, and a blacksmith’s shop.
The annual Spot Festival in September celebrates a small fish resembling a croaker, found in plentiful numbers in these waters and are typically fried up in a big old batch of batter. It is said to be the type of fish Jesus used to feed the multitudes, and the black spot above the silver gills is supposed to be His fingerprint.
Located about 12 miles north of Hampstead is Holly Ridge. When they called Holly Ridge a boom town, they meant it in every sense of the word. Incorporated in 1941, Holly Ridge had only 28 residents at the intersection of Highways 210 and 50. Two years later when Camp Davis was built, the anti-aircraft artillery training base multiplied the local population exponentially, from 28 to 110,000. All that gun play probably created a few booms, plus the recruits that trained at Camp Davis called it a boom town because “boom you are in it, and boom you are out.”
Camp Davis was massive by any standards, built on more than 4,500 acres with close to 1,000 buildings, including barracks, mess halls, recreational buildings, theaters, warehouses, a hospital and a post office. Today, all you will see are a few streets that used to go to the camp but instead dead-end at a forest. Behind that solid stand of trees, an old airstrip is still used occasionally by Camp Lejeune aircraft.