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Town of Morehead City

The Morehead City Town Hall is located at 706 Arendell Street, Morehead City, NC 28557; phone: 252-726-6848.

Beginnings [1]

In the early 1850s, a group of investors known as the Shepard Point Land Company purchased 600 acres of land on the eastern tip of the peninsula that is now the site of Morehead City. Their objective was to take advantage of the deep channel of Beaufort Inlet that led into Shepard Point to construct a port and connect it by rail to Goldsboro. Governor John Motley Morehead, for whom the town is named and a principal member of this group, initiated construction of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad in 1855, and by July 1858, rail service had been established. In 1857, Governor Morehead laid the town out in a grid pattern of city blocks, reaching to 15th Street. Each block contained sixteen lots and a service alley. The main 130-foot-wide thoroughfare (Arendell Street), bisected by the railroad tracks, terminated at the Newport River at the eastern edge of the peninsula.

The town grew quickly as individuals began to build single-family dwellings, stores, and hotels on the town's new blocks. The first train from Goldsboro arrived in Morehead City on June 7, 1858. The North Carolina Senate incorporated the town of Morehead City in 1860 with Bridges Arendell Jr. as mayor. By this time, the town's population had grown to more than 300. The town continued to prosper until the Civil War, during which time it was occupied by Federal troops. The war disrupted commerce and the port declined along with the town's population.

It was not until the 1880s, with the construction of the Atlantic Hotel at the tip of the peninsula, that its promotion by the railroad as the "Summer Capital by the Sea" for northern tourists began a resurgence of the area. The village grew into a town during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Eight general stores were in business, as well as the Morehead City Ice Company. By 1896, Morehead had grown to include 1,365 inhabitants. A number of seafood dealers sold clams, fish, and oysters, and by 1905 a fish factory had opened. Since the early twentieth century, Morehead City and neighboring Beaufort's famous fisheries industry has been North Carolina's leading seafood center and one of the largest in the United States.

The Norfolk and Southern Railroad took over the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad line in 1904, marking the end of Morehead City's era as the terminus of Governor Morehead's railroad. The old railroad warehouse wharf on the bank of the Newport River continued to function until 1906 when the railroad was extended to Beaufort. From 1904 until 1907 the Norfolk and Southern Railroad leased the wharf facilities, then rerouted shipments through the port in Norfolk, Virginia, and closed down the Morehead City port. By 1908 the Norfolk and Southern Railroad had constructed a new passenger and freight depot in the center of the 700 block of Arendell Street between 7th and 8th streets.

  1. Adapted from, Beth Keane, Retrospective, Morehead City Municipal Building, Carteret County, North Carolina, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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