Rescuing the ‘Old’ 1898 Oregon Inlet United States Life-Saving Service Station No. 16 – Finally! Part II – OBX Today

(Submitted/Courtesy BMH Architects)

By James D. “Keeper James” Charlet © 2024

FIRST and FOREMOST… If you missed Part I, catch up by clicking on this link. 

Want to help? The single-most important thing you can do is send comments of support to the NC legislators who will decide this. For your convenience, here are their contacts. 

The North Carolina Aquarium, Roanoke Island’s Plan

Reviewing some background from Part I: When the Aquarium first was awarded this amazing structure, it enthusiastically welcomed it with great plans. It would become a unique maritime facility. It would have many uses and benefit many people, as well as increasing the economy of Dare County. They made specific and detailed plans and established a budget. 

Then Jennette’s Pier happened. All the plans, money and the site itself went to Nags Head. That left the 1898 Oregon Inlet Station in Limbo. It was not as easy to get to. It was a problem to maintain. It could not be staffed. Every day, it became more of a liability. Year after year it remained abandoned. Deterioration followed. Then vandalism. No one stepped forward.

As early as 2015, I presented a formal proposal to Dare County to take it over. For economic reasons, the County was unable to do that. At that point, the only choice the Aquarium had was to move it to Manteo so at least they could maintain it and hoped to eventually restore it. Better to have that than to have it ruined even more.

Then The Outer Banks Coast Guard History Preservation Group nonprofit happened this January of 2024! We have a plan to save it where it is. That changes everything. Let’s compare the plans:

Which Plan Benefits North Carolina and its People Best?

The North Carolina Aquarium, Roanoke Island’s Plan as seen in media accounts.

First, the building will need to be sawed into movable pieces. The iconic watchtower will need to be amputated for the move.

Then, it will cause massive traffic jams while being moved.

The move itself will cost the State hundreds-of-thousands of dollars. The Aquarium will eventually ask the State for millions more to restore it – presently, it is a two-story shell of a building with no floors.

The move will be insulting to the people of Hatteras Island. How would Manteo feel if Hatteras asked for Manteo historic sites? It would be the same thing.

If the station was moved to Manteo, it would only be seen by a small number of people compared to the Hatteras location. 

It will be historically inaccurate; NO North Carolina U.S. Life-Saving Service stations were ever NOT directly accessible to the Atlantic coast.

It would deny Hatteras Island its first-ever Visitors Welcome Center for the 154-years that Hatteras Island has existed as part of Dare County.

Will continue to cost the State for restoration and maintenance.

Will NOT provide the unique “extras” of the other plan, listed below.

The Outer Banks Coast Guard History Preservation Group of Hatteras Island’s Plan

First and most importantly, the station remains in its historic birthplace on Hatteras Island where it has been for 125 years!

It could cost the State (and you tax-payers) ZERO DOLLARS if we get Sponsorships.

Saves the dignity and unique history of Hatteras Island

Hatteras Island is already a major contributor to the economy of Dare County and the State of NC – this plan greatly increases those contributions.

Even before restoration on Hatteras Island, the majestic station will be seen by nearly three-million visitors to Hatteras Island every year.

It will obviously be visited by many of those millions of visitors.

The station will be one of the few anywhere in its nearly original 125-year-old setting.

It will provide the first-ever Visitors Welcome Center to northern Hatteras Island.

It will be financially self-sufficient, not continuing to cost taxpayers.

Provides unique features such as North Carolina’s 29 United States Life-Saving Service stations history min-museum, meeting spaces, exhibits for Participants and Sponsors, a weather station, a web-cam from the tower and many more (see later details).

Makes the Great State of North Carolina a Hero Honoring the Historic Heroes of Hatteras.

We realize there will remain challenges, since we have put ourselves as “The Man in the Arena.”

Clarification from Part I statement

About the 150th Anniversary of the Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station:

The Part I original statement: “Let’s start with this: It is currently celebrating two major anniversaries: it is one of the seven Outer Banks United States Life-Saving Service 1874 stations, its 150th anniversary. It was built in 1898, serving its 125th anniversary.” 

The explanation: Bodie Island Then Oregon Inlet Confusion 

The naming of the Oregon Inlet Station had an amusing, and somewhat confusing episode. The confusion is on multiple levels. It starts with the improbable naming of the inlet. When a gigantic hurricane ripped open a huge void between Bodie Island to the north and Pea Island to the south on September 7, 1846, a nearby sailing vessel named Oregon was nearly wrecked by the storm and so passed through the new inlet to seek safety out of the ocean. The inlet quickly became known locally as the Oregon Inlet, while the more logical name would be “the Bodie Inlet,” much like “Hatteras Inlet” is named from the gap between Hatteras and Ocracoke, and “Ocracoke Inlet” is named for the water between Ocracoke Island and Portsmouth Island. 

The confusion began in earnest with the naming of the first station south of Oregon Inlet, on the northern extreme of Hatteras Island, (or occasionally it was Pea Island). It was one of the first seven of 1874-style, but somehow it was named as the Bodie Island U.S. Life-Saving Station No. 16 even though it was clearly not on Bodie Island, but rather Pea Island (or the northern end of Hatteras Island). The first keeper of this station was Edward Drinkwater.

In the next round of construction, one of the eleven 1878-type stations was built a mile and one-eighth north of the 1872 Bodie Island Lighthouse and named Tommy’s Hummock (Hummock is a rounded knoll or small hill frequently made from the shifting winds of the Outer Banks). 

In 1883, the mis-naming was corrected by renaming Tommy’s Hummock as the Bodie Island station. That meant that the ‘old’ 1874 Bodie Island station still on the south side of the inlet had to be renamed and so became the Oregon Inlet station. Adding even more to this confusion is this: The remaining Old Oregon Inlet LSS Station is now THE most mis-identified Outer Banks landmark. It is generally called the Pea Island Station, understandably, since it is on Pea Island. But the 1880 Pea Island station no longer exists but would have been located where the “Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge” is today. The replacement 1930 Pea Island station remains in Salvo as a commercial building.

So, the Oregon Inlet station can claim 1874 for its original location, and 1898 for its present building. It celebrates both a 125th and a 150th anniversary! One more unique thing about this Special Place.



Financial donations

Displaying your “Helping Hatteras Historic Heroes” badge (being developed) on website, Facebook etc., your emails and letters.

Encouraging other businesses and customers to follow your example.

Clubs and Groups

All of the above.

Establish committees to find other ways to help.

Arrange fund-raisers.

Have qualified speakers address your group.


Appropriate things from above lists.

Talking about it with friends, neighbors, and social media posts.

Do you know someone who might fund?

Do you know a celebrity who could help with publicity?

Do you know any specialists or experts in the area that we need help?


Help people understand:

The station does NOT need to be moved.

It is NO MORE erosion danger than any others on Hatteras Island.

Writing to Government officials is CRITICAL to our success. Here again is the list. A few lines will suffice; what is critical is the NUMBER of responses.

I am working on establishing a number of things at this time, including a website, a Facebook page, and a bank account, which is why I need help. So stand by: things are coming!

Contact me at 

Please indicate full name, email address, town of residence, smart phone and pertinent details.

Please indicate the following – This is a list of the areas of expertise needed:

VOLUNTEER Positions presently

Running a successful business

Financial affairs

Public Relations



Being on a Board of Directors

HIRED Positions once operational

Site Manager

Events Manager

Operations Manager

Gift Shop Manager

Maintenance Manager


(Submitted/Courtesy OBX Helicopters)