Historic Wrightsville Beach landmark Blockade Runner Beach Resort is reopening its largest block of rooms Feb. 15, with another big portion to follow in March and April, according to an announcement Wednesday.
Blockade Runner closed in September to repair substantial damages caused by Hurricane Florence.
“The reopening will be in two major stages,” said Nicolas Montoya, general manager of Blockade Runner, in a news release. “February 15 we will reopen the tower building containing the largest block of rooms at the resort. This will be followed by the reopening of the balcony building in March-April.”
Bill Baggett of the Baggett family, owners of the Blockade Runner, said aside from Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Hurricane Florence was the worst storm, in terms of property damage, that Wrightsville Beach has seen.
“On the outside looking in, media reports indicated that Wrightsville Beach fared very well following a direct hit by Florence. However, inside many homes and businesses, including Blockade Runner, there was water everywhere," he said in the release. “I think a lot of the damage on the island has been underestimated. Inventory will be tight at Wrightsville Beach in 2019. Tourism is a significant part of the North Carolina economy, and I hope we can get all the properties at the beach open as soon as possible."
Baggett said the hurricane losses at Blockade Runner were in three categories: the damage to buildings and property, estimated at $5 million dollars; content loss, at about $2 million; and loss of business during repairs, about $2 million. He said the total loss will be close to $10 million dollars.
"As you would expect, Blockade Runner was insured,” he said.
Mary Baggett said in the release that the exterior and subflooring of the Blockade Runner are concrete and steel.
“However, many interior walls were plaster and sheetrock. Seventy-five percent of these walls were replaced in the tower building, and all of these walls will be replaced in the balcony building. We lost the entire roof in the balcony building,” she said in the release.
Mary Baggett added in the announcement, “Many repairs will be unnoticeable to our guests. The majority of damages were related to roofing, walls, utilities inside the walls, and insulation. Elevators will be the last to be refurbished, but everything will come together better than ever as spring progresses.”
Recruited by elected and community leaders after Hurricane Hazel, Lawrence Lewis Jr. opened Blockade Runner on the former site of Ocean Terrace Hotel in 1964, according to the release.
"The Ocean Terrace was damaged by Hazel and subsequently lost to fire, a significant setback for the coastal tourism economy in the ‘50s and early ‘60s," the release stated.
The release also shared some history: Lewis, the founder of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, was a descendant of American industrialist Henry Flagler, founder of Standard Oil, and developer of numerous famous resorts, including Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine, and Hotel Royal Palm in Miami.
"Purchased from Lewis in 1971 by Joseph Baggett of Fayetteville, Blockade Runner Beach Resort remains locally owned and operated by the Baggett family," the release stated. "Designated a historic landmark by the Historic Wilmington Foundation, Blockade Runner’s mid-century design contains 120 waterfront rooms in the tower building and 30 oceanfront rooms in the balcony building."
All spring and summer events at Wrightsville Beach supported by Blockade Runner will continue as usual, according to the release.