Highway 6: Celebrating White Lake’s hundred year history

Highway 6: Celebrating White Lake’s hundred year history

WHITE LAKE, NC (WECT) - Over 100 years of change, but one thing that has remained the same at White Lake, the lake itself.

It’s unclear how the lake came about exactly, but right at the cusp of a new century is when history began.

Ralph Melvin opened the first public beach property in 1901. The beach was a one stop source for entertainment: dancing, food, and a comfortable place to sleep. The growth of White Lake didn’t stop there.

Melvin's Beach in the 1940's. (source: Cathy Kinlaw)
Melvin's Beach in the 1940's. (source: Cathy Kinlaw)

“By the 1920′s the tourist industry just boomed," said Cathy Kinlaw who has a 50-year history with White Lake .She met her husband there, raised her kids, and currently calls the town home.

“They had small hotels, arcades, rides," Kinlaw said. "Just beautiful locations for folks back in the 1920′s to come.”

That’s when Goldston’s Beach came about. The property is the most popular attraction for White Lake to this day.

Golden's Hotel in the 1930's. (source: Cathy Kinlaw)
Golden's Hotel in the 1930's. (source: Cathy Kinlaw)

“It’s still in it’s same location," Kinlaw said. "It looks a little different but it’s still family owned and still offers amusement rides and interesting food. It’s the probably the prettiest waterfront of any public beach on the lake.”

Crystal beach was another popular spot back in the day and it’s now Regal Resort which is one of the premiere camping facilities in the state.

People enjoying Crystal Beach. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)
People enjoying Crystal Beach. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)

By this time, White Lake had rapidly grown in both size and popularity. Big Bands came to the town and the public beaches hosted elaborate dances and gatherings.

“By the 1950’s, White Lake was the place to bring your family," said Kinlaw. "It was an inexpensive resort area, lots of accommodations, and lots of free access to White Lake.”

Lew Gogerty Band in the 1940's. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)
Lew Gogerty Band in the 1940's. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)

Along with the big boom at the lake, came great heartache.

On July 2, 1957, a huge fire on Crystal Beach took over Goldston’s Beach and engulfed most of the waterfront buildings on both properties, but it didn’t take long for the town to pick the pieces up and continue on.

The fire on both Goldston's and Crystal beach properties in 1957. (source: Cathy Kinlaw)
The fire on both Goldston's and Crystal beach properties in 1957. (source: Cathy Kinlaw)

“People from as far away as Myrtle Beach came the very next day which was July the 3rd and helped rebuild some temporary bath houses and shelters and pier access for this area that was just in ruins from the fire," said Kinlaw.

Both beach facilities were back up and running just in time for the Fourth of July.

Water sports of all kinds were a growing sport on white Lake by the 1970′s. The White Lake Ski Heels began. The team traveled all over the state performing shows at various events and eventually went national; performing at Disney World and Sea World.

Water skiers on White Lake. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)
Water skiers on White Lake. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)
Water skiers on White Lake. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)
Water skiers on White Lake. (Source: Cathy Kinlaw)

In that same decade, the White Lake Water Festival began. A weekend full of dances, car shows, a parade, local food, and so much more. And 41 years later, the festival is still the busiest, most anticipated weekend in White Lake.

But for those who call it home, it’s their own little slice of heaven.

“It is a lovely place to live," Kinlaw said. "It’s a small community. Not too far from Wilmington, not too far from Fayetteville and yet isolated enough to make you feel like you have a good getaway at White Lake.”

Kinlaw wrote a book about White Lake titled, “White Lake: A Historical Tour of the Nation’s Safest Beach." Robert Kinlaw also produced a documentary about the town.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.