Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friends of Portsmouth Island

Just across Ocracoke Inlet lies Portsmouth Island, a magical place with wide, undeveloped beaches and a village stranded in the last century. It has been almost 40 years since the last permanent residents moved away from Portsmouth. Today the island is administered by the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Portsmouth Island US Life Saving Station:

Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Still standing in Portsmouth Village, on the north end of the island, are the Methodist church, the schoolhouse, the post office, the US Life Saving Station, and a handful of once private dwellings.

Portsmouth Island Schoolhouse:

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

In cooperation with the National Park Service, Friends of Portsmouth Island, a non-governmental non-profit organization, is dedicated to keeping the memory and legacy of Portsmouth islanders alive.

FPI’s spring meeting will be held Saturday, May 21 at 10 a.m. on Ocracoke at the NCCAT building (the former US Coast Guard Station). Events will include the following:

*Pat Kenney, Cape Lookout National Seashore's new Superintendent, will be introduced.

*There will be a report on the restoration of Henry Pigott's House, and memories of Henry from Rudy & Donald Austin.

Henry Pigott's House:

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

*Penny Akahloun will talk about her recent discovery that her grandfather was a survivor of the sailing vessel “Vera Cruz” which wrecked at Portsmouth nearly a century ago.

*Jack Saylor, Beaufort artist, will share his plans for a series of Portsmouth paintings.

*FPI will be serving lunch on the porch to all who attend.

*After lunch there will be a boat trip to Portsmouth Island (there is a fee for this activity).

*Tours of the Ocracoke Working Waterman's Exhibit will be arranged.

Come out to the meeting to support the work of the Friends of Portsmouth Island, and to learn about the exciting projects being undertaken to protect and preserve this unique Outer Banks village.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Preservation Society. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:51 AM

    Portsmouth Island has always fascinated me. I've read a wonderful book that I picked up @ the OPS Gift shop in Oct of 2009 about it and I find it very intriguing. Excellent photos and info.

    I attempted on that same Ocracoke fall trip to take one of Capt. Rudy Austin's boats out to the island, but there wasn't enough people signed up to go.

    My next trip to Ocracoke, although unscheduled for now, will hopefully include a visit to Portsmouth Island. I just need to remember to take plenty of bug spray, as I've heard and read the insects will eat a person alive!

    I have also heard that beautiful, whole large seashells are often discovered on the ocean side...especially after a storm has come through the area.

    One of the board members is from Person county, which I find interesting. I believe her last name is Spruill....don't know if she is a descendant, or not.

    Thanks for posting the lovely photos and info, Philip. Portsmouth Island is a treasure that people need to be reminded of the importance it played in our NC coastal history.

  2. Anonymous9:50 AM

    What interesting buildings. I understand a tour operation charges 85 dollars per person to ride a boat (20 minutes) ride about on an ATV . I find this so odd, visiting a remote island filled with houses maintained but unoccupied. Visitors ride around on gas guzzling machines to observe the wildlife. A picture shows the ATV on the shores of the very beach you will find the best shells -- hmm would the shells not be broken by the two ton ATV?? A

  3. Anonymous10:49 AM

    According to the PI friends of newsletter-- it alludes to the fact the house being restored is considered a private residence which is leased from the NPS-- how would opportunities such as leasing the other structures come to the public/nationwide awareness. Is it the historic property leasing program?

  4. I have been lucky enough to have been on Portsmouth Island. We went during the summer one year. It was great. Yes do take bug spray but besides that, it is a perfect day trip. I would love to live over there now. It is something you can read and see pictures about but if you don't go over there, you just don't get the true meaning. I enjoyed walking from the village to the beach area. It is an adventrue that all should take it possible.

  5. At one time the National Park Service leased several homes with the condition that the folks leasing the buildings would maintain them. Apparently that didn't work very well -- it is extremely difficult, expensive, and time consuming to work on a house on Portsmouth. Everything (materials, tools, etc.) must be carried over there on a private boat. I understand that, as leases expire, the NPS is not renewing them. But I guess they made an exception for FPI since they have an excellent track record of concern and work for Portsmouth Island.

  6. Anonymous1:52 PM

    I was also curious about the leasing program. Why would one lease a home in which they could never live?

  7. The people who leased the houses could use them whenever they wanted to. Some were leased by fishermen...others by people with a connection to Portsmouth families, or just a love of the island. A house on Portsmouth could provide a wonderful, relaxing, get-away like no other.

  8. Anonymous4:37 PM

    Thanks Philip-Sounds a bit too primitive for me-interesting article though.

  9. Anonymous6:08 PM

    Sorry, the boat ride there, courtesy A Todd, was memorable but I was bit to death whilst there and could not enjoy the visit. Maybe I need to try it again when the bugs have gone away.

  10. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Cell phones, solar power, and the ocean provide for most bare essentials for a remote location. One would go to a remote area to get away from it all- not to bring it all with you though.

  11. Anonymous12:57 PM

    Has there ever been a art event on the island? Where artists paint the landscape, people come out to watch an artist in action --- the paintings are sold and a portion of the proceeds goes to raising money for the cause? A Portsmouth Paint out ----there is a French term for it is it Plein AiR --I think

  12. There's never been a Portsmouth artist's event that I know of. I'll pass the idea along. Maybe some day there will be one.