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Nonprofit dedicated to saving the 1898 Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station is moving forward

The Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station. Photo by Joy Crist.

Its name is the Outer Banks Coast Guard History Preservation Group. The broad name is to match its broad objective, starting with rescuing the 1898 Oregon Inlet U.S. Life-Saving Service (LSS) Station No. 16.

Here is the Oregon Inlet LSS Station’s brief background, or ‘How It Got into This Mess.’

It started in 1988 when the station was decommissioned, making way for the present USCG MLB Station Oregon Inlet. A lawsuit over ownership awarded the abandoned station to the State of North Carolina. The state really didn’t know what to do with it, so it was offered to the nearest state agency – which was the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island (Manteo).

The Aquarium had big plans for it originally, and accomplished several designs and set a budget. Then, Jennette’s Pier happened instead. That is where all the state funds and plans went, which left the Life-Saving station with no future.

So, unfortunately, it remained abandoned, isolated, and vandalized. One major effort was made to address the situation: it was raised by quite a few feet, new siding and windows were added, but the interior was stripped. It still remained abandoned, not maintained, and more vandalized than ever.

To address the situation, the Aquarium now only had two realistic options: (1) give it away, or (2) move it to Manteo where they could at least save it from further deterioration and vandalism. The latter would require an expensive move, cutting the building, and destroying a major part of Hatteras Island’s history.

Unfortunately, that spawned numerous inaccurate rumors. For one, it does not necessarily need to be moved. It could be resurrected by a nonprofit right where it is and serve many useful functions and benefit hundreds of thousands of tourists. The most common argument against leaving it where it stands is that “a hurricane will soon get it if it stays there.” Yet, it has been there since 1898. It has seen quite a few storms in all those years. Also cited is “beach erosion threatens it.” It is not only thousands of feet from the water, but the land is also actually accreting to the north.

Everyone on Hatteras Island has seen it deserted and deteriorating every time we pass going ‘up the beach.’ We all know this is another part of our island’s history in danger of being lost. Some even want to move it off our island.

Here is the Outer Banks Coast Guard History Preservation Group’s plan.

First, it stays where it is on northern Hatteras Island.

Then it begins its services, starting with a Hatteras Island Welcome Center.

Dare became a county in 1870. In 1953, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established here, the nation’s first. By the 1960s, it was becoming a noticeable tourist attraction. Today, it is a world-famous resort destination.

In 2022, Dare County had four Visitor Centers: Kitty Hawk (33,000 visitors), Manteo North (not recorded), Manteo South (18,000 visitors), and Hatteras Island South (3,000 visitors). Yet, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore had 2.9 million visitors, most of whom came through the Whalebone Entrance, leading to Hatteras Island, which has no welcome center.

For the uninitiated first-time visitors, after crossing the new Marc Basnight Bridge, which is an exhilarating experience in itself, they finally after all these years see a sign to tell them where they are -Hatteras Island – but there is nothing to welcome them.

Then they drive 12 miles “through the middle of nowhere” before seeing any familiar sites, so they may be easily put off or even just turn around.

James D. Charlet

The proposed Welcome Center will obviously have all the standard offerings: brochures, advice, information, suggestions, directions, maps, and restrooms. Even more importantly, because Hatteras Island is so different, this is an opportunity for Dare County to not have new visitors learn the hard way about so many things such as soft shoulders, driving on the beach, sand spurs, rip currents, and a host of other good, useful information for a fun and safe vacation. Presently, we are just throwing them to their own devices once they cross the bridge.

For the long-time repeat visitors, they may not know of state laws requiring headlights to be on with wipers; or to yield to pedestrians at designated crosswalks; or that ALL fireworks or illegal; and that so are metal detectors and now drones. And these are just a few important examples.

Even if it is not visited by tourists coming to Hatteras Island, it will still be seen by millions. It will make them wonder, ask questions, and learn.

Worth repeating is the staggering figure: It will be seen by the approximately three million visitors annually that cross the magnificent Marc Basnight Bridge as they come to visit Hatteras Island. Hundreds of thousands of them would stop at the saved and repurposed Visitor-Museum-Complex.

How the Outer Banks Coast Guard History Preservation Group is moving forward.

A number of vital “first steps” must be taken to prepare for such a huge project. Thanks to the generosity of Attorney Rick Prentis, the Outer Banks Coast Guard History Preservation Group nonprofit was recently legally formed and registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State, and we also completed the initial By-Laws.

Fundraising is the next vital step. We are pleased to announce that the nonprofit’s bank account has been established at TowneBank. The people there have been extremely helpful and are excited to have us aboard. We wanted to keep the bank within regional North Carolina, like our stations were.

“Preserving the history of our shorelines is the shared responsibility of this community,” says Taylor Sugg, president of TowneBank in Northeastern North Carolina. “We welcome the opportunity to be the banking partner of this new group and to support its mission.”

We also have an official post office box address for the donations to be sent to. That address is PO Box 633, Rodanthe, NC 27968.

Our Board of Directors is close to being completed, (a few positions remain for those interested), and we will be recruiting volunteers for the numerous committees necessary.

As our organization grows, we will continue to spread the word about our heroic cause, and you can join our efforts by emailing .

If not, all of the above – one hundred percent of it – will be lost forever.