April 25,  2008

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site is open for 2008

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site is once again open to the public for visitation.  This historic site, on the National Register of Historic Places, was one of the stations of the United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS), predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard.  Both services’ histories are celebrated there. 

The seven-acre complex contains eight original historic buildings and includes two complete lifesaving stations (1874 and 1911), two complete cook houses, a boat house, a tractor shed, a horse stable/workshop, three barrel cisterns, one rare “beehive” cistern, and a 1907 island two-story, 10-room home, fully furnished as if the visitor stepped back a century in time. 

This is one of the most complete USLSS complexes in the nation.  The 1874 Life-Saving Station has recently undergone extensive restoration, now looking much like it did when it was built in 1874.  It became the first operational lifesaving station in North Carolina, thereby now making it the oldest.  In fact, the only government structure on the island older is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and that is by only four years.  The Chicamacomico Station is one of only two 1874 USLSS stations open to the public in the nation.

The Chicamacomico Station was the scene of the most highly awarded maritime rescue in American history; that of the S.S. Mirlo on Aug. 16, 1918.  The original surfboat used in that rescue, Surfboat No. 1046, is on display in the 1874 Station.  It is only one of hundreds of original artifacts, displays, exhibits, and photographs available for viewing. Other parts of the site are more of an experience itself -- the feeling one gets in the 1911 cook house with the table half set, the coal stove apparently in use, the fully-stocked pantry with turn-of-the-century goods, spilled coffee cups and chairs askew -- did the men just rush out to a rescue?  Looking at one of the seats in Surfboat No. 1046, you might imagine yourself as a surfman there amidst the inferno of flames from the torpedoed tanker.  Then there is seeing the complexity of all of the equipment used in the breeches buoy rescue and imagining that either you were a surfman expertly using this apparatus to make the daring rescue or that you were the terrified shipwreck victim who was so utterly grateful for these heroes.

This is a fascinating yet little-known history that should not be missed.  Locals are especially encouraged to visit, especially if it has been longer than three years since the last visit.  There have been numerous improvements.  This is your history.
Chicamacomico is a nonprofit organization that raises all of its own funding, so admission is charged.  The cost is  $6 for general admission, $4 for seniors 65 or older and students, $5 per person for a group rate (more than 20), and $15 for a family rate (Mom, Dad, and any number of your children under 17).
Hours of operation presently are Monday through Friday from noon until 5 p.m.  Visitors to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are encouraged to stop first at Chicamacomico on their way to the lighthouse to ensure the site is still open.
Chicamacomico is located in the village of Rodanthe, which is the first village on Hatteras Island coming from the north, almost exactly one mile from the first home on the beach.  More accurately, it is at milepost 39.5 on Highway 12.  Or, even more precisely, it is at latitude 35 36 12.00396 N and longitude 075 27 43.44302 W.

Formal programs are held in June, July, and August.  This year’s programs are the Beach Bonfire on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., The Real Taffy of Torpedo Junction on Wednesdays at 2 p.m., and the Beach Apparatus Drill Re-enactment performed by the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursdays at 2 p.m.
For more information call 252-987-1552 or visit www.chicamacomico.net

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