June 23, 2008

At the Chicamacomico historic site you can learn about the heroes of the U.S. Life-Saving Service ....with Slideshow

At the Chicamacomico historic site you can learn all about the heroes of the U.S. Life-Saving Service

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site is a seven-acre, eight-building complex, extending from Highway 12 to the Atlantic Ocean in Rodanthe on Hatteras Island.  It is considered the most complete remaining U.S. Life-Saving Service complex in the nation. Of the 285 USLSS stations built from 1848 to 1914 along most of America’s coastline, the Chicamacomico complex contains two complete stations as well as a number of outbuildings.  

Chicamacomico was the first operational station in North Carolina and is located on the eastern-most point in North Carolina.  Today the site is open to the public and contains artifacts, displays, photographs, and other unique items.

The site consists of eight buildings:

The 1874 Station opened in December 1874.  The architecture is stunning and highly unusual. It was originally located approximately a half mile north of its current location but was relocated soon after the 1911 Station was completed.  Once the replacement station was built, the 1874 Station was used by the crew as a boathouse and storage shed. It now resumes its original role as a USLSS lifesaving station.  It contains original and reproduction USLSS rescue equipment.  It is one of only two 1874 Life-Saving stations in the nation that is open to the public.

The 1892 soundside Boat House. Originally it housed a smaller, shallow-draft boat for rescues in the Pamlico Sound.  It now serves as a Visitors’ Center and gives first-time visitors an orientation to the USLSS in general and to the Chicamacomico site in particular.

The 1896 Cook House was built to accompany the 1874 Station.  In later years, it was relocated on the property and was then used as an Oil Shed. (currently not open)

The 1911 Station was a larger structure with unique architecture – cedar shakes and shingles, dormer windows, and an enclosed watch tower. Both the first and second floors are open and are filled with displays, artifacts, photographs, and many unique exhibits.  There are also two videos visitors can watch, and the highlight for many is climbing to the top of the watch tower for the spectacular 360-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound, and the village of Rodanthe.

The 1911 Stable held two “government horses” until they became obsolete for this type of beach patrols. Later it was converted to a workshop. (currently not open)

The 1911 Cook House. Completely furnished with a coal-fired cook stove, wooden table and chairs, cast iron and porcelain sink with hand pump, a cold-storage room, and even a fully stocked pantry with lots of details.  Everything turn of the century, of course!
The 1936 Tractor Shed. (currently not open)

In addition, the site also contains three wooden water cisterns (1874 era) and one concrete “beehive” cistern (1911 era).
The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Service Station was decommissioned and closed in 1954.  It was abandoned property until it was acquired by a private citizen.  In 1974, this private citizen turned the property over to the residents of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo.  They then created the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the Chicamacomico Historical Association, to own and operate the complex.  CHA raises all of its own funding.

Limited restoration was done to the buildings up to 1994, when vigorous work began.  From 1994 to present, the 1911 Chicamacomico Station is 97 percent restored and the 1874 Station is 75 percent restored.  The buildings on the site are now back in their correct historical location.

In 2005, a home built on Hatteras Island in 1907 was donated, complete with furniture and other furnishings, and was relocated to an adjacent piece of property within the Chicamacomico complex.  This home has direct ties to the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station.  It is now called the 1907 Midgett House (the eighth building) and is also open to the public.  It is set up as a real home and not a museum piece.  There are literally hundreds of details, and it has been very well received by the visitors.  Many say they felt like they had stepped back a century in time.

Chicamacomico was the scene of the most highly awarded maritime rescue in American history – the SS Mirlo on Aug. 16, 1918. On display at the station is Surfboat No. 1046, the actual boat used in that stunning and dramatic rescue.  Chicamacomico was also the scene of one of the last breeches buoy rescues in the state of North Carolina – the Omar Babun in 1954.  

Today Chicamacomico is one of only two places in the United States that perform the full Beach Apparatus Drill reenactment for the public during the summer months.  It is the only drill reenactment in the world performed by active duty U.S. Coast Guard personnel.


The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site, located on Highway 12 in Rodanthe, is open Monday through Friday from noon until 5 p.m. during the season.  Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for seniors and students from 6 to 17. For more information, call 252-987-1552. The e-mail is [email protected], and the Web site is www.chicamacomico.net

2008 SUMMER Program Schedule

Programs presented June, July, and August ONLY.

•    All programs last approximately one hour and are family-friendly.
•    Programs are held outdoors and are weather dependent!  Inclement weather may cause programs to be cancelled for your safety. Call 252-987-1552 for more information.
•    Site Admission charged (includes daily program): $6 Adult (18-61 yrs.), $4 Senior (62+), $4 Youth (6-17 yrs.)

Tuesday, 7:30 PM – Beach Bonfire Program.  Bring a blanket and flashlight and settle on the beach to hear a brief history of the Life-Saving Service and Chicamacomico (one of the most complete USLSS sites in the nation), culminating with fascinating details of the true, daring, and heroic rescues by these brave “storm warriors.” You won’t want to miss the dramatic retelling of S.S.Mirlo rescue (the most highly awarded rescue in America’s maritime history), which has all the makings for a Hollywood movie without adding a single detail.  Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to purchase your tickets and make your way to the beach program area.

Wednesday, 2:00 PM – “The REAL ‘Taffy’ of Torpedo Junction.”  Nell Wise Wechter wrote a book of fiction published in 1957 called “Taffy of Torpedo Junction.”  It was set on Hatteras Island during World War II and described the little-known overt wartime German activity on the Outer Banks.  The central character is a high-spirited 12-year-old tomboy named Taffy and was based on Mrs. Wechter's student, Carol Dillon of Buxton.  Come hear the “real” Taffy, Ms. Dillon, tell her remembrances and true stories of life on Hatteras Island during that action-packed era.

Thursday, 2:00 PM – Beach Apparatus Drill Reenactment – a historic rescue reenactment. Today’s U.S. Coast Guard performs this historically accurate reenactment of the very effective rescue method utilized from the late 1800s through the mid-1950s, and commonly referred to as the “Breeches Buoy Rescue.”  Best daytime show on the Outer Banks – and Chicamacomico is the only place in the world where you can witness active-duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard paying homage to their past by performing this complete Beach Apparatus Drill.  The reenactment consists of a live demonstration of the rescue equipment, including firing the Lyle gun (small cannon) and “rescuing” a victim.
Thursday, 3:00 PM – MOJO COLLINS, a national treasure and musician extraordinaire will entertain you with a myriad of songs and instruments.  If you’ve ever heard him perform, you know he puts his heart and soul into every note he plays and every word he sings comes from the depths of his very being. Currently his music is receiving airplay in the U.S. and nine other countries.  He received the prestigious songwriting Fellowship through the N.C. Arts Council in 1999-2000.  MOJO has opened for such acts as Janis Joplin, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller, Santana, Ike and Tina Turner, The Grateful Dead, Muddy Waters, and many, many more.  His CDs are available for purchasing and autographing!
Friday, 2:00 PM – “What Really Happened to the 'Lost Colony.’”  Scott Dawson, author of “Croatoan: Birthplace of America” and native of Hatteras Island, provides compelling arguments, logic, and evidence to answer the question "What really happened to the lost colony?" This has long been one of America's greatest mysteries but the plain simple truth may be at hand. Dawson's knowledge, arsenal of facts, and rapid-fire delivery will hold you spellbound.  He also has Native American artifacts on hand during the presentation.  Copies of his book are available in the gift shop and can be personalized by the author.


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