Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station and Historic Site. Photo by Joy Crist.

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is spearheading the 2024 celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Life-Saving Service in North Carolina, and the public’s help is needed to make this statewide milestone a success.

The Rodanthe landmark already has support from the National Park Service (NPS) and the Black Pelican Restaurant – one of the original seven N.C. stations built in 1874 – but local involvement and community support will be crucial in the months ahead.

“We are seeking grassroots involvement to present the histories of the other stations, as well as to support a year-long series of events and presentations honoring this amazing legacy,” said Larry Grubbs, President of the Chicamacomico Board of Directors. “This year-long celebration will culminate in a series of honorary events in October 2024.”

“This is a request for one year of involvement,” he added. “If you wish to continue after that, great. We can assure you there is always plenty to do, but no obligation is attached to your willingness to support this event.”

The details of the celebration to come will be outlined at Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station’s Open House event on Friday, November 24, from 2-5 p.m. During this annual event at the Rodanthe site, (which takes place the day after Thanksgiving), Chicamacomico will host their traditional Thanksgiving/ Christmas festivities, including a special visit by Santa himself.

This year, however, the annual event will be slightly different, as Chicamacomico Board of Director members, staff, and volunteers will also be on-site to answer questions, and to glean information on how residents and visitors of Hatteras Island can best help present this important chapter of national history.

The History

1874 Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station. Photo by Joy Crist.

The United States Life-Saving Service was the precursor to the modern-day U.S. Coast Guard, and in 1848, the U.S. Government provided funding to New Jersey to establish life-saving services along its coast.

This set in place a foundation for what was to come, as the United States became increasingly industrialized, and the need to provide shipping along the Eastern Seaboard became apparent.

In 1871, Sumner Kimball was appointed to serve as Chief of the Treasury Department’s Revenue Marine Division, and he requested and was granted $200,000 to fund multiple Life-Saving Stations along the East Coast. Due to its centuries-old reputation as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, Kimball identified the coast of North Carolina as an area of highest priority.

By 1874, funds were appropriated to build seven stations in the state of N.C. These seven stations included the following:

  • Chicamacomico Life-Saving StationChicamacomico was the first of the seven stations to be fully operational, and the original 1874 station and additional structures still remain as a popular Hatteras Island attraction and museum.
  • Little Kinnakeet Life-Saving StationLittle Kinnakeet was deactivated in 1954, but the station still stands along the soundside, just north of Avon. While the buildings are closed to the public, the grounds can be visited, as the site is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
  • Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station – The newer 1898 Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station, located on the southern edge of Oregon Inlet, still exists, although the station is closed to the public. Threatened by erosion, the future of this site remains uncertain.
  • Nags Head Life-Saving Station – The original Nags Head Station no longer exists, as it was destroyed in 1962 during the historic Ash Wednesday Storm.
  • Kitty Hawk Life-Saving Station – Located near milepost 4.5 on the Beach Road, the 1874 Kitty Hawk Station now houses the Black Pelican Restaurant.
  • Caffey’s Inlet Life-Saving Station – Situated in the town of Duck on the Dare-Currituck County line, Caffey’s Inlet Life-Saving Station now serves as a restaurant within the Sanderling Resort.
  • Jones Hill Life-Saving Station – Also called the Currituck Beach Station, Jones Hill was moved from its original location in Corolla to a site adjacent to the Penneys Hill Station for use as a private home.
Little Kinnakeet Station site, north of Avon. Photo by NPS.

In October of 1874, construction of all of the original seven stations was completed.

By 1878, an additional 11 stations were also built, eventually leading to the establishment of 29 stations along the coast of North Carolina, which were located approximately seven miles apart.

In 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service merged to form the modern U.S. Coast Guard. Over the course of its 44 years of operation (1874-1915), the Life-Saving Service responded to 28,121 vessels in distress.

Of 178,741 lives in peril at sea, 177,286 of those were rescued by the surfmen of the Life-Saving Service.

How to Help

As noted, volunteers from all walks of life can help make this once-in-a-lifetime milestone a success, but the opportunity to assist may be particularly appealing to history buffs, descendants of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, or anyone who wants a chance to get involved in the local community.

Folks who are unable to attend the November 24 event, but who wish to be involved, can reach out to Chicamacomico for an information packet to look over at their convenience.

Inquiries on how to volunteer can also be emailed to contact@chicamacomico.org.

In the meantime, the public can get a jumpstart on honoring the upcoming landmark year with a visit to the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station and Historic Site in Rodanthe. For more information on hours of operation and special events at the site, visit https://chicamacomico.org/.

 

The post Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station needs your help to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Life-Saving Service in North Carolina appeared first on Island Free Press.

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