April 22, 2011

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site celebrates its centennial year

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site has opened for the season and is also celebrating the centennial year for the 1911 station.

While a major one-day event is being planned for Aug. 4 (see www.chicamacomico.net), the recognition will go on all year.  There are many special  “centennial items” that will be available in the gift shop all season long, and there are many new Coast Guard items, including hats, T-shirts, decals, challenge coins, and more.

The historic site is now open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The nonprofit charges nominal admission fees which help keep it running.  General admission is $6, and senior (65 plus) and student admission is $4.

Daily programs are scheduled for June, July, and August at 2 p.m. each day Monday through Friday and are included in the admission cost.  The programs include a behind the scenes look at the making of the “Nights in Rodanthe,” film, the heroes and history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the real “Taffy of Torpedo Junction, the beach apparatus drill, and the fate of The Lost Colony. For more information on the programs, go to http://www.chicamacomico.net/Calendar.htm

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site is a seven-acre, eight-building complex.  It is considered the most complete remaining U.S. Life-Saving Service complex in the nation.  It contains two of the 285 U.S. Life-Saving Service stations built from 1848 to 1914.  It 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 including:

  • The 1874 station opened in December, 1874.  It was located approximately a half mile north of its current location but was relocated to its current location 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.
  • The 1892 soundside boat house.
  • 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.
  • The 1911 station is a larger structure with unique architecture – cedar shakes and shingles, dormer windows, and an enclosed watch tower.
  • The 1911 stable held two “government horses” until they became obsolete for this type of beach patrols.
  • The 1911 cook house.
  • The 1936 tractor shed.

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.  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 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 and is also open to the public. 

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

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

This unique complex is truly special, is all real, and is a national treasure not to be missed.

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site & Museum is one of the many sites on the Historic Albemarle Tour and the National Outer Banks Scenic Byway.  To learn more about Chicamacomico, its exciting activities and offerings, visit www.chicamacomico.net, or email at [email protected] or call 252-987-1552.

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