Back in 1905 a brightly lit pavilion in south Wrightsville Beach known as the “Fun Spot of the South” opened for the first time.
It was referred to by many names, “The Pleasure Palace of the South,” “The Fun Spot of the South,” and “The Palace of Light.”
In June 1905, Hugh MacRae who owned Consolidated Railways Light & Power Company, Wilmington’s electric utility, opened Lumina in a location near the last stop of Wrightsville’s electric trolley line.
His motivation for creating Lumina was to promote beach tourism, encourage folks to ride on the trolleys and start to use electricity.
He lit up Lumina with over a thousand incandescent bulbs lighting up his three story, 25,000 square foot dance hall.
The Lumina building was bright enough for sailors to navigate their ships by it.
The ground floor of Lumina featured dressing rooms, a promenade, a bowling alley, refreshment stands, a movie theater and other amusements.
The second level had a ballroom/dance floor with a restaurant with a fireplace for cold nights and a balcony and band shell for orchestras and big bands, like Cab Calloway’s or Louis Armstrong’s.
On the third floor a 15-foot wide promenade overlooked the dance floor.
Right from its opening day, Lumina was enormously successful soon expanding to double the size of the ballroom and adding the movie screen. The movie screen itself was marvel rising from the surf 50 feet out to sea, so that audiences could watch films right on the beach!
It attracted huge crowds and Lumina’s dance floor became known as “The South Atlantic’s Finest.”
The Wilmington Star stated that “if a woman didn’t have a Saturday night date for the Lumina, she was in disgrace.”
Lumina was “a glowing beacon” that called out to anyone who could get on a trolley and wanted to have a little fun.
The beginning of the end for the trolley system came when North Carolina began constructing highways in the area in 1935.
In 1940 the last trolley car ran, and although Lumina maintained its popularity into the 1950s, its best days had comer and gone now that folks could access the beach in their could automobiles
Then Hurricane Hazel damaged Lumina in 1954, and by the time the 1970s rolled around Lumina had deteriorated to the point that officials condemned the iconic structure.
In May 1973 bulldozers began demolishing the building. Eventually condominiums were built in its place.
Now just a fond memory Wrightsville Beach’s “Pleasure Palace of the South” is commemorated with the annual Lumina Daze festival at Wrightsville Beach’s Blockade Runner Resort remembering Lumina Pavilion’s heyday with a fun evening of food, big band music, and dancing.