Monday, November 11, 2013


Several days ago, as I was visiting with my cousin Juanita and her family, I laid on my kitchen table a US Army Corps of Engineers chart of Silver Lake made in 1939, soon after the harbor was dredged.

Follow Directions on Right to Enlarge

There are a number of interesting features to note. The depth in the center of the harbor varied from about 2 feet to 5 feet, with most readings around 3.5 feet. My father often commented that when he was a child he could walk across the Creek (as the harbor is still known by natives today) without getting his chin wet. Limited dredging shortly before this chart was made increased the depth to between 5 and 11 feet in the "ditch" and leading up to the Coast Guard Station.

At the top of the chart, on Pamlico Sound and to the NW of the harbor, is the C.G. (Coast Guard) cupola. This is the old station that was torn down after WWII. It was behind the current station (now the NCCAT building).

I have identified several other landmarks with colored arrows, as follows:
  • Purple -- The Community Store
  • Blue -- One of the Bridges over the "Guts"
  • Green -- My House on Lawton Lane (The Bragg-Howard House)
  • Red -- The Island Inn (surrounded by marsh)
  • Black -- The Lighthouse
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of the Soundfront Inn, one of the oldest structures on the island. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Philip, on your chart you noted a blue arrow at one of the bridges over the guts. About a year ago or so, I asked you knew anything about the bridge over the creek area at the NC12 junction. I told you that I either saw or had at one time a picture of a bridge at this area. The bridge had a slight arch in the center and there was a horse drawn wagon crossing the bridge with a woman and man in the seat. The caption below this photo said that this was Silver Lake in the 20's, 30's somoewhere along that timeline. Anyway the purpose of my comment on this bridge back then was to see if you knew where I could get a clear copy of this photo. Your reply was that you were unaware of any bridge. Is your 'blue arrow' indicating a different kind of bridge than the one that I saw or is it the same bridge? This is very interesting which is why I am dwelling on it. Any help or info is appreciated.

    Nancy M.

    1. Nancy, I think you misunderstood me. I have known about the bridges for many years (although they were gone before I was born). I remember you mentioning the photo. I was unaware of that particular picture. Tomorrow's post will have a different photo of the bridge identified on today's post with the blue arrow. My guess is that the photo you saw is of this very same bridge.

  2. Anonymous4:54 PM

    I have a 1951 us geological survey aerial map taken directly overhead silver lake. It a big super clear black and white picture. Probably taken with a military aerial camera. Anyway, it clearly shows a smaller version of the coast guard station directly behind the larger coast guard this the original?

    Also interesting is the fact that from about where 'castle' is all the way around to where the community center is now there was nothing. No businesses, no buildings, no docks, nothing. THIS IS THE OCRACOKE I LOVE. I know progress progress but Ocracoke was a pretty nice place back then. Every where you look now along that same area is a sign, a trash bin, a parked car, a lot of squeezed in commercialism, not quaint at all anymore. Still cool, and worth getting away to for a weekend but not as 'quaint' as it was.

    1. I am not sure which survey map you have, but the old Coast Gurad Station sat directly behind the present building.

  3. Anonymous12:09 PM

    It is not a survey map but a actual photo in a frame taken directly overhead silver lake. It is a 24 x 24 inch black and white. Crystal clear. The date on the back is early 50's. (It hangs on me 12' wall and takes a ladder to remove it to check the actual date. In the water in front of the larger coast guard building is a floatplane.