Missiles & More Museum
Also located on Topsail Island with free admission is the Missiles & More Museum, in the Assembly Building at 720 Channel Boulevard. After the military ceased its missile operations here in 1948, the Assembly Building became a building supply store, a restaurant and bar, and a boutique before the Topsail Island Historical Society acquired it and set up one section for the Missiles & More Museum and the main hall for community functions. A mural artist has painted nautical scenes in multiple panels around the large room, and a catering kitchen services weddings and fundraising functions.
Missiles & More Museum exhibits include Indian artifacts, probably from Algonquin and Sioux tribes that were merely passing through. These tribes left arrowheads and pottery shards behind, as well as a dugout canoe that may have been rigged up with a mast in imitation of the vessels of the colonists.
Ocean City was the name of the first black beachside community, created in the 1950s when all land sales contracts specifically contained the following wording: “no lots in subdivisions shall be sold or owned by any Negro, Mulatto, Japanese or Chinese person.” Nevertheless, the Chestnut family purchased land from the aforementioned Edgar Yow, and to this day continue to occupy a piece of property formerly owned by the government and containing one of those concrete-block towers.
In addition to bumblebees, WASPS were here (Women’s Air Service Pilots) from 1942 to 1944, covering for the shortage of male pilots. What began as routine flights to pick up planes from manufacturers and deliver them to air bases turned into a full-scale military flight regime, “flying the targets,” as they say.
“The gold hole” was dug in the late 1930s by a gentleman from New York who acquired a treasure map and became convinced that a Spanish galleon had wrecked here and left a vast fortune buried under the dunes. There was no bridge or equipment, and workers had to be found and brought by boat to dig this 40-foot deep hole, with pilings to support the dunes and pumps for when the hole filled with water.
One morning the workers showed up to find the owners were gone. The speculation ever since has been: did they leave an embarrassment behind because they never found a thing, or did they take off in the middle of the night with an enormous vessel brimming with gold? Sadly, we will never know, but the workers tend to believe they never found a thing.
A photo collage of the eight concrete-block towers at the Missiles & More Museum tells the tale of what became of them. A few stand vacant and decaying, looking almost shell-shocked, like they had been hit by one of the missiles they were supposed to be observing. Several have been incorporated into larger floor plans, in one case with the tower part left very primitive. In other cases they have been spiffed up, painted, decorated to the teeth and rendered completely unrecognizable. Apparently the towers and the land they occupied were sold off long before the historic preservation movement gained any kind of foothold. And, since they have withstood the test of time, they make wonderful in-home hurricane shelters.
Peek out the back window of the Assembly Building and you will see, along with a great view of the sound, either the Vonda Kay or the Buccaneer (or maybe both), charter boats that can be found at this dock when they are not out and about. Passage on the Vonda Kay includes bait, tackle and instruction for full-day or half-day fishing trips trolling for black sea bass, snapper, grouper, triggerfish, mahi mahi, amberjack, mackerel and cobia. The Buccaneer offers Bubba Gump Kid’s Shrimp Cruise and sightseeing tours of the island with glimpses of dolphins, osprey, and Blackbeard’s old hideout. The Assembly Building hosts a number of fall festivals, including Autumn With Topsail and Tasting With Topsail.