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Winnabow, North Carolina

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

From failed port town to Civil War fort, the ruins of this former defense saw their finest day in the television age. 

Tucked away on the banks of the Cape Fear river in North Carolina, sits the ruins of an old Colonial port town. It’s called Brunswick Town and it was one of the earliest colonial settlements of the Cape Fear region.

The town was established in 1726. It was named Brunswick in honor of King George I, because he came from the German house of Hanover-Brunswick. As the town grew, it’s prime coastal location made it a perfect spot for a port and in 1731, Brunswick was made the official Port of Entry for all of the lower Cape Fear region.

In 1740, the city of Wilmington was established and due to disease and terrible weather conditions, Brunswick Town began to fall into decline as its inhabitants moved closer inland towards Wilmington. It wasn’t until the American Revolution that Brunswick Town was issued a final blow. Before and during the revolution, Brunswick Town played a crucial role because of its port of entry status. Both Patriots and British soldiers used the town as a meeting place and Brunswick’s port was used by the British as an embarkation point for their ships. In 1776 and 1781, Brunswick Town was burned by the British and was left in ruins.

It wasn’t until 1862 during the American Civil War, that Brunswick Town found itself again in the middle of another American struggle. That year, Fort Anderson was constructed over the colonial ruins of Brunswick Town. During the American Civil War, the Cape Fear region was vital to the Confederacy for bringing in much needed supplies for the army and it became a stalwart against the Union blockade. Fort Anderson was one of the many forts that defended the region. It was originally named, Fort St. Phillips after the St. Phillips church in Brunswick Town, but in 1863 the name was changed to Fort Anderson in honor of Brigadier General George Burgwyn Anderson, who had been mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, archeologists excavated the ruins of Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson. It is now a North Carolina historic site and is open for tours of the old colonial ruins, as well as the fort. It has also been used as a filming location for the Fox television series, Sleepy Hollow, which filmed an episode there last year at Brunswick Town. The wooded area around the historic site has been used in other television series such as Revolution and Under the Dome, as well as the Nicolas Sparks movie, Safe Haven.