Just a short trip over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge from downtown Wilmington, the Leland/Belville area has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. New homes abound as available land in New Hanover County becomes increasingly scarce and people are drawn to Brunswick County’s more affordable real estate, slower pace, and proximity to the amenities found in a bigger city. But there is a lot more to the story of Leland/Belville than what you see today. Both have evolved tremendously from their humble, rural beginnings.
Leland’s roots go back to the mid-1890s as a settlement at the crossroads where Village Road crossed the Wilmington, Columbia, and Augusta Railroad. Its name became formalized in late 1897 when Joseph W. Gay and other area citizens petitioned the federal government for a local post office. During this process, a list of three names was submitted as possible monikers for the area covered by the new post office. Leland, the name of Gay’s nephew, Leland Adams, was chosen, and the new post office opened on February 10, 1898, with Gay as postmaster. It was located in a corner of Gay’s General Store.
The Leland area was initially settled at the same time the earliest plantations along the Cape Fear and Brunswick rivers came into existence. Early activity revolved around the post office, the school, two grocery stores, the railroad station, Leland Baptist Church, Leland Methodist Church, and numerous homes. For many years, Leland was one of numerous small, unincorporated communities throughout Brunswick County serving as minor centers of trade throughout the early 20th century.
Due to its location adjacent to the Brunswick River, Leland also served as an early transportation center. By modern standards, the early roads in the area were primitive. There were ferries in place across the Brunswick River and across the Cape Fear River for travelers going north and south. The Brunswick River actually received a bridge in 1890 before the Cape Fear River. The Brunswick River Causeway, across Eagles Island, was always known as a problem area because of the wetness of the soil and swamps between the two rivers. By 1923, the road from the Brunswick River through Leland had been paved and was known as State Road 20.
Finally incorporated in 1989, Town of Leland recently celebrated its 28th birthday during its annual Founders’ Day celebration, held on the second Saturday of September and featuring entertainment, food, a carnival, arts and crafts/business vendors, fireworks, and a salute to veterans. According to Census figures, Leland has grown from a population of 4,123 in 2000 to 18,843 in 2016, due mostly to large neighborhoods of new construction. In July 2015, the Town of Leland moved into its new 40,000-square-foot $9.7 million Town Hall, and that same year the 18,000-square-foot Leland Cultural Arts Center opened.
For those interested in learning more about Leland’s past and present, a few times each year there is an award-winning Leland We Don’t Know program, a two-hour bus tour that takes participants through parts of Leland they may have never seen, including sites from the Town’s early days and some of the area’s newest neighborhoods. It highlights Leland’s history and plans for the future. The next segments are planned for Oct. 3, and although both trips are already full, you can put yourself on a waiting list for either time here.
Popular subdivisions in Leland include Waterford, Magnolia Greens, Brunswick Forest, Compass Point, Jackey’s Creek, Waterberry Plantation, Olde Towne, and Mallory Creek.
Belville borders the Brunswick River and was incorporated in 1977. Its population was 1,186 in 2000 and 2,094 in 2016, according to Census figures.
Prior to incorporation, Belville enjoyed a thriving downtown boosted by traffic from a causeway that connected Wilmington to Brunswick County and passing right through the town’s heart. But in 1977, a new Brunswick River bridge and bypass highway was opened to traffic and the old causeway road was completely abandoned, leading businesses to close their doors and creating a blighted downtown Belville. This continued until 2006, when the town announced a major redevelopment plan. Part of that plan is the Brunswick Riverwalk at Belville, which opened in May 2016. The N.C. Rice Festival is held there each September, and year-round the park provides an opportunity to escape from urban life and connect with nature.
Like the Town of Leland, the Town of Belville also identified the need for a new Town Hall to house its employees and operations. The $1.4 million building opened this month and ended a decade of renting space after the original Town Hall was condemned.
Popular subdivisions in Belville include Highland Shores, Hawkeswater, and Rice Hope.
Are you looking to be part of the future of Leland and Belville? Intracoastal Realty can help. We are a full-service real estate brokerage operating since 1976, and we currently have 13 offices with over 400 agents and staff to serve Southeastern North Carolina, including the areas of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Southport, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Leland, Hampstead, and Topsail Island.