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Gone — a sign of times past

By Staff
Whichard’s Beach sign comes down after 30-plus years
By DAN PARSONS, Special to the Daily News
With a loud clang, the iconic sign — and a piece of history — on U.S. Highway 17 advertising Whichard’s Beach &Marina was uprooted and toppled Saturday morning.
It’s demise marks the erasure of the public beach that had been a staple of local recreation since 1945.
The Whichard’s Beach property was known for its marina, campgrounds, dance club and public access to the Pamlico River. The property was sold in May 2006 to a South Carolina developer for $9.5 million. The sign on U.S. 17 was among the last vestiges of the well-known, warm-weather destination in eastern North Carolina.
The faded red-and-green sign was the second to stand at the intersection of U.S. 17 and Whichard’s Beach Road and advertise the beach, marina and other amenities at the end of Whichard’s Beach Road, according to Whichard, a former owner of the property on the south side of the Pamlico River. Each of its plastic panels once had a fluorescent light inside that illuminated the sign, but a “hurricane came though some years ago and knocked it out, and we never lit it back up,” Whichard recalled.
Below the sign, on the same pole that supported the sign, was a full-size boat hull built specially for the sign, Whichard said.
The sign’s removal was orchestrated by the Miracle Mile Association, a nonprofit group with the goal of beautifying the section of U.S. 17 between Chocowinity and Washington. The group has overseen previous demolitions such as the Osprey Seafood building and several oil tanks that once stood on the shoulders of that section of highway.
Mitch St. Clair, owner of St. Clair Trucking in Washington, donated his time and the use of a front-end loader that felled the sign. The steel pole that supported the sign will be recycled. St. Clair said he would haul the remainder of the landmark to a landfill at no cost to the association.