It’s not often that there’s a chance to say, “Check out this government website. It’s really cool.” But honestly, the Dare County GIS website is worth a look and spending some time exploring the pages.
The obvious use for GIS is to get a look at property parcels, and just about everything needed for a deed search is on the page—ownership history, tax value, when the building was constructed—it’s all there.
Dare County created its GIS page back in 1995, and there’s a good possibility it was the first county in the state to do so. Greg Ball, the GIS supervisor for the county made that point in a recent interview, adding that the reason the county felt they needed an online GIS property page was for the Hatteras residents who were driving to Manteo to simply get basic deed information.
It can be fascinating, wandering around the aerial view of the Outer Banks and highlighting a property. The dates of construction of the Nags Head unpainted aristocracy is all there. The dates and the picture of the homes tell the stories—1860 is the construction date of one building or 1885 for another. And there were so many built early in the 20th century.
But there is so much more to explore on the page.
There is a wonderful floodplain map. Sounds not terribly exciting, but what the page offers is the ability to swipe across the image and show the original flood plain that was changed in 2020 compared to the current map.
The really fun maps, though, are the many ways Dare County GIS is taking a look at local history.
The first map in the series came out in 2020—that was Outer Banks Shipwrecks. The sheer volume of shipwrecks off the coast means something will be missed, but there are still a lot of names of ships that are beneath local waters. It’s only Dare County; neighboring Currituck and Hyde County are not included.
That was followed quickly by the 150th Anniversary of Dare County. The county (created from parts of Tyrrell, Currituck, and Hyde Counties) held its first commissioner’s meeting on March 28, 1870.
The map is liberally provided with blue dots that link to the timeline at the bottom of the page. Click on the dot on the bridge between Roanoke Island and Nags Head, and a picture of the 1928 drawbridge that predated the Washington Baum Bridge pops up along with the story of how the bridge came to be named after Washington Baum, the county commissioner who pressed for better roads and bridges for the county.
Click on a dot on the Bypass in Kill Devil Hills, and the popup tells of completing Highway 158 in 1931, creating the road and bridge link with Currituck County.
The most recent map, Days Gone By, may be the most ambitious.
The map is a journey to an Outer Banks that no longer exists. Along the left side of the page are pictures of buildings and places that have, for a variety of reasons, ceased to exist. Beneath them is a short description of the significance of the picture and what happened to the business.
The trip begins with an image of the very first Nags Head Hotel—the one that the sands of Jockey’s Ridge have consumed. As is noted at the end of the description discussing whether the ruins are buried or gone forever, “…some are skeptical, but others believe it is still there.”
There are pictures from the days of the Nags Head Casino, once located across from Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where Kitty Hawk Kites is now housed.
The picture tells a wonderful story of the fabled dance hall. Click on the images, and they come center screen. The black and white of the couple dancing speaks volumes about what it was like. Look carefully at everyone in the photo, and there are no shoes. Raz Wescott, the owner, would not allow shoes on his beautifully waxed and maintained dance floor.
There are other maps as well. There’s a duck blind map. For hunters an invaluable tool. Be sure to check out the recreation map that shows the many trails through our area’s maritime forests, Jockey’s Ridge, and more. The map also shows town and county parks and much more.
It may seem strange to explore a place just by looking at maps, but for Dare County GIS, strange seems to work quite well.