Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Gallery of Portsmouth Photos

Many thanks to Jim Fineman for sending me the following photos of the 2010 Portsmouth Island Homecoming. Established in 1753, Portsmouth was a prominent seaport on the Carolina coast, but steadily declined after the Civil War. The last residents, Marian Babb & Elma Dixon, left the island in 1971 shortly after Henry Pigott died. Today the island and the village are part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Walking the sandy lanes, exploring the village, and visiting the abandoned buildings is a magical experience...whether you are one of only a handful of people on the island, or one of hundreds who return every two years for the Homecoming.

Click on any photo to view a larger image.

The 1894 US Life Saving Station:

A View of the Methodist Church:

The Theodore & Annie Salter House (now the Visitors Center):

Molasses Creek Performing:

Miss Dot Salter Willis (oldest former resident of Portsmouth) & Friends:

The Lionel & Emma Gilgo House:

Life Saving Station Roof:

Jesse & Lillian Babb House:

Henry Pigott's House:

Another View of Henry's House:

Dinner on the Grounds (approximately 500 people attended the Homecoming):

Island Tidal Creek:

Portsmouth Methodist Church:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter celebrates colorful islander Don Wood (1936-1998). You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042610.htm.


  1. Wonderful photos, thanks. We'll have to make it to Portsmouth on our regular summer visit this August.

  2. Anonymous8:53 AM

    Jim, great shots!

  3. Anonymous9:44 AM

    Remember your bug spray the mosquitos are really bad! Other than that Portsmouth is wonderful.

  4. Portsmouth Island is notorious for mosquitoes...no question about that. But, sometimes bugs are not a problem. Homecoming was almost skeeter-free. There was a nice breeze...and it was early enough in the season so there were only a very few mosquitoes. I've even been to Portsmouth in July and was able to walk through the village in a t-shirt and swim trunks without a bite! With that said, it's always a good idea to make inquiries. The mosquitoes can truly be unbearable, and that's not an exaggeration.

  5. Anonymous10:36 AM

    I took the schoolhouse trail this weekend and they were real bad but like you said it was really pleasant in the village and during lunch. Which sure was a spread!

  6. Anonymous11:00 AM

    Having just arrived back on island, I had 7 layers of bug spray on at Portsmouth Sat. and still arrived back at Ocracoke with some wooper bites. But well worth - what a great day.
    Loved the Don Wood stories. Knew Don about 20+ yrs ago here - what a wonderful character. Ocracoke is full of characters - but Don was one of the most special. As is Stephanie his daughter, just in total different ways.
    Looking forward to hearing and telling more Don stories. Thanks,
    Jude (yes another)

  7. Anonymous11:42 AM

    Great photos, but I noticed that Kitty Mitchell was not in the picture of Molasses Creek. What's with that?

  8. Anonymous11:47 AM

    For the first 15 years, the core of the band featured Gary & Kitty Mitchell, and Fiddler Dave Tweedie with various guests. In 2006, Lou Castro joined the group and Gerald Hampton leapt in when the ensemble toured off Ocracoke. In 2009, Kitty Mitchell retired from the group to focus on her painting, and Lou’s wife Marcy Brenner joined up.

  9. Mosquitoes Redux:

    Either I went to a different Portsmouth Homecoming...or I'm relatively immune to the critters from living on Ocracoke so many years, but I was only (slightly) bothered by mosquitoes once, while sitting in a grassy area writing notes to mail at the Post Office. I even walked to the schoolhouse, and wasn't bothered at all by bugs.

    Or maybe I've been to Portsmouth enough times to have experienced their full fury. After that, what are a few bites?

    Bug spray? The mosquitoes use that as appetizer!

  10. Anonymous12:37 PM

    Where are the floor plans to those awesome buildings?? martha stewart has a line of houses based on her homes why not license the floor plans for a fund raising event/program give others an opportunity to live in a house fashioned after a historic building I think that you folks are siting on a gold mine

  11. Anonymous1:14 PM

    Two things I will share with you but first let me call my stock broker to purchase shares in the Pine tar soap futures -- My issue of Garden and Gun which featured an article by wild food expert Vickie Shufer-- she is quoted as stating "I should have had you (the author of the article) wash with my pine tar soap .It's all I use now, nothing bites me anymore: ticks mosquitoes and chiggers Don't ask me why, but it works. Also i discovered on line the scan of a type written document the original application for granting placement on the national historic register the sites including Historic Portsmouth Village and the Light House it is 208 pages long with corrections used when one types on a typewriter as they did in 1970 I was looking for floor plans sketches of layouts and was simply so fascinated I needed to tell you ASAP!!!!!! But you probably already knew this.

  12. I did not know of the 1970 document (Historic Resource Study for History of Portsmouth Village), although I am familiar with much of what is written there. Here is the web address: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/calo/portsmouth_village.pdf

    Thanks for letting us all know about this document.

  13. Anonymous11:44 PM

    I had a piano tuner visit my home here in Pittsburgh yesterday who told me of his trip to Ocracoke a handful of years back to tune a piano for a member of Molasses Creek. I believe he said her name was Kitty Mitchell. While he was on the island, he also tuned a piano at one of the local churches. He had great memories of his time there and especially of the hospitality of the folks who invited him down. Small world.

  14. Anonymous11:51 PM

    Regarding the photo identifying "Miss Dot Salter Willis (oldest former resident of Portsmouth)." That caption would seem to imply that other, younger former residents may still be around. From your visit this weekend, do you have any insight as to whether any--or perhaps how many--former island residents are still around? Thanks.

  15. Re. former Portsmouth residents: If I remember correctly only three or four people at the Homecoming had been born on Portsmouth Island. A dozen or so had lived there, and a larger number (maybe a hundred or more) had family connections to past residents. For example, my grandfather served in the Life Saving Service/Coast Guard at Portsmouth from 1913-1917. I remember my father telling me that they lived in a small cottage (now gone) near the schoolhouse.

    Maybe one of our readers has more accurate figures about how many former Portsmouth residents are still living.

  16. Anonymous2:37 PM

    A question about the mosquitoes--were they always that bad or have they gotten bad since people left the island? If they were always bad, how did residents deal with them in days gone by?

  17. Mosquitoes have always been, at least at times, horrendous on the Outer Banks. Low, marshy wetlands just breed the critters. My grandmother and other old timers painted their screens with kerosene to ward off the bugs. When the skeeters were bad people stayed indoors as much as possible. Around WWII and after, they sprayed DDT outside and Flit (really DDT) inside. I can't imagine what it was like before screen wire was invented. Today we have a more ecologically sound mosquito control program on Ocracoke, but none on Portsmouth.

  18. Anonymous7:32 PM

    As for former residents of Portsmouth
    my mom, Virginia Dare GILGO Allen
    lives in New Bern.. she was named after inal the orig Virginia Dare
    first born in the new world

    also my Aunt Sara Gilgo Lupton
    lives in Bridgeton, NC
    both are going on 80 yrs old

  19. Delia Allen1:21 AM

    My Mother Virginia Dare Gilgo was Born on Ocracoke Island and her sister Sarah Gilgo Lupton.. Both are sill Living and call Ocracoke there home as they have for as long as i remember.. My Grandfather Lemmie Gilgo Is burried there and it has been many years sense i have visited, I am 47and live in New Bern NC..I would love to chat with anyone who may know my family from Ocracoke or any thing i can find out about them would be much appreciated. please contact me at Destinynnc@yahoo.com..my name is Delia.. any memories or info you may have i would be very interested in.

  20. Anonymous3:17 PM

    She called it Home...Jessie Lee did, Marion Gray did...so did my mom...Edna E. Babb Giannino! This place call Portsmouth hold the place where my grandmother lies and rests. She died January 8th 1969. She loved it there. So did my mom and her sisters. For some its a curious place. For me its world of great memories. As I approach my 55th birthday my mind wanders back to days I only wish I could go back to. Back to see and be with all the people of that time because I loved them so dearly and miss them so very much! Its a great place...hard to get to and buggy but for those who know it as I do its all part of the experence! God Bless!