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  • Writer's pictureTopsail Times

Celebrating Ward Realty

David remembers the day of his first boat ride, the same day he ate potato chips for the first time. He was 4 years old, and he traveled with his father, A.H. Ward, to visit Topsail Island. 

“That was 1947,” David Ward recalled. “Ed Yow introduced my father to Topsail.”

David also remembers getting kicked off the island by military police because Operation BumbleBee was still underway.

“At that time, you had to get a permit to visit the island,” he explained. “The military leased the island for Operation Bumblebee, but they were in demobe mode. Daddy came to the island with an eye to develop.”

In 1948 Operation Bumblebee ended on Topsail Island. 

A.H. Ward owned and operated Standard Realty & Construction in Wilmington. He saw potential on the beautiful island, and he purchased some property. He moved a military barracks, divided it, and restructured it into four cottages. 

“Daddy offered his first cottages for sale around 1948,” David recalled.

The company’s first office was a part of a former barracks. 

A.H. Ward was one of the principal designers of the layout of a subdivision called Surf City. In 1949, Surf City Subdivision One was laid out. The foundation of the Town of Surf City was underway, and the town was incorporated that same year.    

In 1952 A.H. Ward changed the name of the family company to Ward Realty Corporation, a company that was responsible for the development of much of Topsail Island. They built a total of 19 subdivisions and built approximately 100 cottages through the years. The company also built a shopping center on the corner of Roland Avenue that housed a grocery store, a hardware store, and boutiques. 

A.H. Ward served as the mayor of Surf City. He was the mayor in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel hit the island. 

“I remember 15 houses floating in the sound and marshes,” David said. “One house was picked up and set down across the road and the furniture was still in place.”

David’s memories of those early days include working at the family’s grocery store on Topsail Island, picking up bullets found on the beach from the military’s former target range, and swimming when he didn’t work. 

“I worked in the grocery store from the age of 12,” David said. “I swam one day that entire summer.”

The Ward family worked to create subdivisions such as Del Mar Beach, Grady-Moore Beach, White Hills Beach, Buccaneer Beach, Pirates Cove, and Channelbend.

“I graduated with a degree in architecture from State in 1974,” David said. “My brother and I designed built each house in Channelbend. Every home is different.”

He remembered alternating designs on one home four times to preserve a tree. 

“I liked the finished product,” David added. 

It wasn’t until 1957 that Ward Realty entered the vacation rental market. The company was one of the first vacation agencies in the nation to have a computer-run accounting and reservations system. 

David Ward collaborated with Software Dynamics to create one of the first full-service rental software programs in the country. It was called Resort Manager System.

Ward Realty now offers a selection of more than 300 rental properties. 

“We’re renting to the grandchildren of our first renters,” David said. 

Ward Realty is a full-service company, offering sales, rentals, and property management. 

“Honesty and integrity are important to me as a company,” said David of the company’s growth and longevity. “We have 24 employees, and we treat everyone like family.”

David’s son, Brandon, has taken over the reins of the company, however, David still works in the company. He said he’s not very good at retirement. 

In 2024, when the Town of Surf City celebrates its 75th anniversary of incorporation, Ward Realty will celebrate 77 years of service to Surf City, and the entirety of Topsail Island.

“I often look around and I wonder, ‘What would Dad think?’,” David said. 

Surely, A.H. Ward, who passed away in 2000, would be proud of the company that has grown, prospered, and is celebrating three generations of leadership in the real estate industry.



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