Every location has surprising nuggets of historical information and the Outer Banks is no exception. Here are five facts about this land by the sea that are likely not well known to those who reside outside of our region.
1. Mother Vine – The Oldest Documented Grape Vine in North America
On the north end of Roanoke Island, on the west side of old US 64 is Mother Vineyard Road—aptly named because it passes by the Mother Vine.
The exact age of this scuppernong grape vine is unknown. The vine is cited in a land transfer deed in the 1720s, so one can assume it was a mature specimen at that time. Legend has it that when the colonists of the Lost Colony fame arrived, there was a trellised vine growing on that site. Native Americans knew about trellising grape vines even in these early days. If that is the case, this vine is likely the oldest in the world.
2. Kitty Hawk Was a Logging Center
Maritime forests that are so prevalent along the soundside shores of the Outer Banks produce wood that is ideal for commercial use. From the late 19th century until 1930, the village of Kitty Hawk was an important logging center in eastern North Carolina.
Initially juniper and live oak were harvested, but over logging depleted the inventory. After the large trees gave out, workers began harvesting dogwood. Dogwood was the ideal wood for the bobbins that drove the North Carolina fabric industry.
3. Whalehead Club – A Missile Test Site
After the Corolla Academy, a summer boarding school for boys, moved out in 1962, Atlantic Research Corporation moved into the Whalehead Club. The company had been working on liquid propelled rockets for some time. Their design was one of the first used in the Minuteman rocket, and they needed a remote site for their experiments. In 1969 the company moved out, probably looking for an even more remote location. Atlantic Research continues to develop liquid fuel rockets today.
4. Nights in Rodanthe House
The book by Nicholas Sparks is certainly a fictional depiction of our area that’s woven into a romantic tale, but what’s certain is that house featured in this movie does exist. It has a treacherous history, because years of coastal storm systems and erosion almost washed it out to sea from its oceanfront location on the north end of Rodanthe.
The beach on the north end of Rodanthe may be one of the most dynamic on the Outer Banks, and when the movie was filmed in 2008, this house was already on the edge of the sea. By 2010, the house was uninhabitable and had to be moved further inland. It’s likely the movie’s notoriety saved this home, and it’s nice to know this unique structure lives on in Rodanthe.
5. The Multi-million Dollar Recreational Boat Industry
It’s a known fact that tourism is the economic engine that powers the Outer Banks, but it is not the only engine. From workshops in Manteo and Wanchese to boatyards in Manns Harbor, the recreational boat industry is thriving.
The decision by the Dare County Commissioners to increase the sales tax by a quarter cent (that’s 25 cents on $100) to help pay for dredging Oregon Inlet, was driven by two concerns—the need to get recreational and commercial fishermen through the channel, and the economic impact to boat builders if they couldn’t get their product out to sea.