August 26, 2009
Several months ago I
was visiting cousin Blanche and she brought out an old photo album for
me to look at. I made copies of a few of the pictures and I share them
this month, along with brief captions. I hope this ecclectic glimpse
into Ocracoke's past brings a bit of our history into sharper focus.
Unfortunately the photos are small, so much of the detail is lost.
Aftermath of the 1944 Hurricane:
On September 14, 1944 a fierce storm pummeled Ocracoke Island. Winds were estimated
at over 100 mph, and tides were running at fourteen feet. The
entire island was under water as powerful waves crashed into boats, homes and
businesses. Six houses were completely destroyed.
Boats Ashore after the '44 Storm:
The mailboat Aleta and another boat are left high and dry near the Island Inn. Note the lighthouse behind the Aleta's bow.
Another Victim of the '44 Storm:
One resident's first-hand account relates
that there was "three feet of water pounding through this cottage," that the
porch was "blown off and front windows shattered, and front door blown
in." "Practically all furniture [was] upturned and much of it
washed into [the] kitchen."
The Old Post Office:
Post Office (notice the sign above the door) was located in Big Ike's
store (located where Captain's Landing Motel sits today). Even with the
windows shuttered the building sustained considerable damage from the
1944 hurricane. The front porch was blown away and portions of the
siding were torn lose.
The Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks:
The five-masted schooner, Carroll A. Deering,
wrecked on Diamond Shoals in January of 1921. All sails were set, the
tables were prepared for dinner, and there was food in the galley
stove, but no one was aboard when the Coast Guard approached the wreck.
Only a six-toed cat was found. Speculation about the disappearance of
the crew focused on mutiny, piracy, and mysteries of the Bermuda
Triangle. The Carroll A. Deering soon came to be referred to as the Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks.
In the early 1950s a storm washed much of the wreckage onto the north
end of Ocracoke Island. The capstan (visible on the right hand side of
this vintage post card) became the iconic image of this unfortunate
The Island Inn:
Silver Lake Inn in the 1940s, the Island Inn is the oldest operating
hotel on Ocracoke. This building (the center section of the current
structure) was built in 1901 as the Oddfellow's Lodge (they met on the
second floor; school was held on the ground floor). A one-story wing
was added on the southern side of the building (toward the
lighthouse) after WWII, and was originally part of the WWII Navy Base.
Some years later a two-story addition was built onto the other side
(the side visible in this picture). This photo was taken from somewhere
near Lawton Lane, after spoil from the dredging of Cockle Creek (Silver
Lake Harbor) was pumped up and deposited in front of the building.
Today this view is obscured by a number of cedars and other buildings.
The Ocracoke United Methodist Church:
photo was taken soon after the dedication of this new church in 1943.
This building replaced the Southern Methodist Church (located on Howard
Street) and the Northern Methodist Church (located on the Back Road)
after the two national bodies reunited and the two local buildings were
demolished. Again, notice the soft sand in front of the church, where
the paved School Road is today.
The Wreck of the Nomis:
On August 16, 1935 the Schooner "Nomis" ran ashore at Hatteras Inlet.
James and Charlie Williams were among those
islanders who hauled home a significant quantity of lumber from the
wreck. The Williamses donated part of the lumber, and several men
worked at building crude benches for the outdoor congregation of the newly organized Assembly of God Church.
The Wahab Village Hotel in the 1940s:
The Wahab Village Hotel in the 1950s:
called Blackbeard's Lodge, this was Ocracoke's first truly modern
hotel, built by R. Stanley Wahab in 1936. At that time it sat on the
edge of the bald beach (the hotel has not been moved; but vegetation
has colonized the area in front of the hotel that was once nothing by
sand, shells, and bird's nests). Old Jake Alligood operated a
four-wheel-drive taxi (a converted army vehicle) that would transport
visitors across the adjacent tidal flats to the Atlantic Ocean. Today
the hotel is operated by Stanley "Chip" Stevens, the great grand-nephew
of Stanley Wahab.
We hope you have enjoyed this virtual "photo album" showing a few scenes from Ocracoke's past.