The Life-Saving Station

By James Charlet | June 3rd, 2014

BOOMER heads to the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in Rodanthe, on the northern part of Hatteras Island.

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station complex in Rodanthe, on the northern part of Hatteras Island, dates to 1874, when the first seven U.S. Life-Saving Stations were built in North Carolina.

Chicamacomico (chik-a-ma-COM-i-co) was the first to be completed and manned. The Life-Saving Service was responsible for rendering aid to those in peril from the sea; in 1915 it evolved into the U.S. Coast Guard. The site includes the 1874 station, the 1892 cookhouse, the 1911 station with its separate cookhouse, the boathouse, the stable and the tractor shed. A recent addition is the 1907 Midgett family home, now open to the public. This is the most complete remaining oceanfront site of a U.S. Life-Saving Station in the country. Numerous displays and artifacts of the Life-Saving Service and the Coast Guard abound.

Staff and docents are available to tell the rugged history of the station and the sometimes spectacular rescues that are a part of it. The most famous was the 1918 rescue of 42 of the 51 men aboard the British tanker Mirlo, saved from a fire that resulted from an attack by a German U-boat during World War I. Surfboat No. 1046, used in that rescue, is on the site.

The seven-acre, eight-building complex is owned and operated by the Chicamacomico Historical Association, a nonprofit organization. The site and museum shop are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., mid-April to November. The site, listed on the National Historic Register, is also part of the Historic Albemarle Tour and one of 30 official sites on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway.

Self-guided tours, special group tours, summer programs including the popular Beach Apparatus Drill, films and a museum gift shop are available. A $6 day’s admission ($4 for seniors; $5 each in groups of 20 or more) goes entirely to preservation and operation of the site. It includes access to all buildings and programs.

For more, visit, email or call 252-987-1552.

James Charlet is historic site manager of Chicamacomico, with which he has been involved for 21 years. Formerly a teacher of North Carolina history, he spent 13 years in historic interpretation at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Roanoke Island Festival Park. He was a presenter and co-chair at the Annual Hatteras Storytelling Days, sponsored by Our State magazine in May. Reach him at 

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