Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Atlantic Hotel
Morehead City, N. C.

The Atlantic Hotel was built on Arendell Street in Morehead City, Carteret County, NC in 1880. Morehead City is on the peninsula between Calico Creek and the waters of Newport River on the north and Bogue Sound on the south and the hotel was at the point of the peninsula.  “Located on both sound and sea,”[1] the visitor enjoyed the best of both worlds. 

Atlantic Hotel, Morehead City, N. C. page 19: Internet Archives at

In those days, there were no good roads to the coast and nearly everyone arrived by train. Then, as now, the railroad ran down the center of Arendell Street, allowing guests to step off the train just a few feet from the door of the hotel. Since the trip was long and arduous, many people made long visits; some stayed all summer.

Patrons of the hotel included guests from as far away as New York, Louisiana, and Alabama as well as many wealthy and influential North Carolinians. A number of large groups held meetings there, including the Teachers Assembly in 1887 and the North Carolina Bankers Association in 1897. The Atlantic was a favorite destination until it was destroyed by fire in 1933.

Documenting the American South:

The impressive structure was six hundred feet across the front and three stories high. The hotel’s 233 rooms, single and en suite, were comfortably furnished in ash or cherry. Baths and closets were available on each floor. There was also a row of twenty-six cottage rooms.  The hotel was very advanced for its day with gas lighting, telephones, running water, telegraph, and a post office.

 "Every door, window and piazza of the huge hotel opens to the water; from the front or railroad side can be seen the pretty shore opposite where the village of Beaufort makes a pleasing picture, with its old-time houses and church spires. … A short walk from the hotel brings you to the railroad dock, the terminus of the road, where freight is discharged for Beaufort and other settlements."[2]

In 1884, the hotel was leased for a term of 8 years by R. B. Raney & Co. The new operators gave the hotel a face lift for the 1885 season. As guests arrived, they found additions to the building that extended it out over the water; a new dining-hall with a view of the water; the surrounding areas laid with oyster shells; and the bridge from the hotel to Morehead City turned into a beautiful promenade. They also found that “the billiard-room, bar, store, ten-pin alley and barber-shop are in buildings separated from the main hotel, thus securing unusual quiet.”[3]

There was a splendid dining room that could seat up to 300 diners. The guests were cosseted with elegant cuisine including the best meats and an abundance of local fish and shell fish, all prepared by a French Chef. The excellent food was accompanied by a live orchestra. A Charlotte visitor described the dining experience: “The menu, enriched by every variety of sea-food, was tempting and artistic, the music of a good band enlivening, and the society gathered there was cultivated and congenial.”[4]

Atlantic Hotel, Morehead City, N. C. page 4: Internet Archives at

The ball-room, said to be the largest in the South, was a hundred feet square with a vaulted glass ceiling sixty-three feet high. A balcony circled the dance floor. As a rule, the dancing began about 8:30. “At that time the train arrives, bringing, among others, a party of gentlemen from Raleigh, New Bern or Goldsboro’, who, in a twinkling, have exchanged their traveling suits for evening dress and pumps, and are making engagements for the German, which is called for half-past nine. Later you will see parties of two, three, or half a dozen stealing out from the wide doors of the ball-room opening seaward, with cloaks and wraps. This means the very acme of pleasure at Morehead—a moonlight sail.”[5]

New Bern, NC Historical Society:

Along with the nightly music and dancing in the ball-room, guests could amuse themselves with moonlight sails in “sharpies” or “sharpers,” enjoy comfortable bathing rooms on the beach or the sound, or sit on the large open pavilion and watch the more daring ocean bathers. During the season, a livery stable was opened on the beach with rides or drives available along the hard-packed beach at all hours.

Atlantic Hotel, Morehead City, N. C. page 11: Internet Archives at

Fishing was a favorite pastime with a choice between the sound and the ocean. "Under the railroad wharf, on the strong, wide beams, one can sit at ease and trap the tempting sheep's head. Here, in the shade, with the lulling sound of the lapping water, fishing passes from mere sport into the realm of dreamy luxury."[6] Blue fish and Spanish mackerel were favorite catches from the ocean.

Atlantic Hotel, Morehead City, N. C. page 8: Internet Archives at

N. C. Highway Historical Marker Program:

 [Sources for the story were:
  1. "Atlantic Hotel," The State Magazine; 8/20/1844, p5  
  2. Atlantic Hotel, Morehead City, N. C. published in 1884 and found at this web site:
  3. An internet search for Atlantic Hotel Morehead City Postcards will yield a number of interesting images.

[1] The Atlantic Hotel, 18.
[2] The Atlanatic Hotel, 29
[3] The Atlantic Hotel, 3.
[4] The Atlantic Hotel, 10.
[5] The Atlantic Hotel, 30.
[6] The Atlantic Hotel, 29.

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