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Morehead City is a port town in Carteret County, North Carolina, United States. As of the 2000 Census, the population was 7,691. Morehead City celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding on May 5, 2007. It forms part of the Crystal Coast.
In the early 1850s, a group of investors named 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, leading into Shepard Point, to construct a port and connect it by rail to Goldsboro.
Governor John Motley Morehead, for whom the town is named, a principal member of this group, initiated construction of the railroad in 1855 and by July 1858 rail service had been established. The town was laid out in city blocks of 16 lots each, reaching to 15th Street, with a system of alleys within each block in the form of an H, so that all houses and businesses could be serviced from the alleys. Much of this "Philadelphia plan" still exists today. The town was officially incorporated by the North Carolina Senate in 1860, by which time the town’s population had grown to more than 300.
The town continued to prosper until the American Civil War, when in 1862 it was occupied by Federal troops. The war disrupted commerce, and the economy of 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, and its promotion by the railroad as the "Summer Capital by the Sea", that the area began to experience a resurgence. The popularity of this particular hotel, with its train depot entrance, grand ballroom, piers, sailing and ferries to the beaches of Bogue Banks, helped to establish Morehead City as a summer destination.
It was also during the 1880s and 1890s that fishermen who had lived on the island of Shackleford Banks moved on to the mainland (often transporting their houses by boat from the outer banks), settling in the areas between 10th and 15th Streets and calling it the Promised Land. These fishermen became the nucleus of the fishing industry that has remained an important part of the town's economy.
The Great Depression and World War II markedly altered the character of the town. The traditional downtown area had deteriorated and, as newer stores opened further west, the decay in the old center of town accelerated. Finally, in the 1980s, a renewal began when the town obtained a Community Development Block Grant to replace an aging infrastructure and improve the appearance of the waterfront area. Subsequent grants, private investment, and town monies have maintained the forward momentum, so that the town now has a new sea wall, underground utilities, brick paved walkways with planters along the waterfront, all in the downtown area, and tree-lined streets, renovated houses, new docks and new businesses.