Monday, June 05, 2017

Foot Bridges

Last month a reader left this comment/question on one of my posts: "A while back a friend of mine sent me a picture of a pony standing on an arched foot bridge with railings on the side of it that spanned part of Silver Lake. I think the picture was taken in 1938. He had another picture of just the bridge but this time it didn't have any railings on it, again it was taken in the 30's. How wide were these bridges? Clearly wide enough for a horse. What about a wagon? The lighthouse was in one of these pictures. Why would Ocracoke even need a bridge like these? Anyway they were interesting."

Before WWII Silver Lake Harbor was a shallow tidal creek. Islanders still use the traditional name, Cockle Creek (or just "the Creek"), to refer to the harbor. Although it was shallow (only 3-4 feet deep) it was as wide as it is today. Then, as now, the harbor was connected with the sound at the "Ditch" (the narrow inlet adjacent to the old Coast Guard Station).

Two small tidal streams flowed from Silver Lake toward the "bald beach." These streams, or "guts" as they were known by islanders, divided the village into two major areas, Around Creek (including the Community Store, Howard Street, etc.) and Down Point (from the southern side of the Island Inn to the lighthouse and in that general vicinity).

Several primitive wooden bridges spanned the guts.

This detail from a 1939 US Army Corps of Engineers survey map shows Silver Lake (upper left), the Island Inn (the rectangle just above the top left corner of the map title and key), the two guts (on either side of the Island Inn), and four foot bridges (two spanning the guts near the Island Inn, one longer bridge at Silver Lake where it flows into the two guts, and another short bridge across a "finger" below and to the left of the longer bridge). Click on the map to view a larger image.

I discovered the photo below after my father died. It was probably taken in the 1930s. From left to right (back to front), to the best of my knowledge: Juliana Guth (my mother's mother), Kunigunde Guth Howard (my mother), Helena Guth Webster (my mother's sister), Lawton Howard (my father), and an unknown man.

Here are three more photos of some of the foot bridges:

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel:


  1. Anonymous8:26 AM

    It is great old photos survive. However, one must ask, gee, what kind of camera was used? PH, do you have any recollections of your family owning a camera and if so what kind. To have photos documenting such a remote location is a credit to the photographer. Now I suspect that perhaps the film was developed in house. Someone's house, the hobby photographer's house. Certainly, developing your own film for the first time is thrilling, opening the canister, threading the film on to the reel, adding the developer etc etc. But the magic is in the printing, one can nudge more contrast from an image if I recall correctly, and this would involve a machine which enlarges the image to be printed on light sensitive paper. It was all hit or miss but a somewhat forgiving process as you could try and try again. Or go out and adjust your F-stop or shutter speed and expose another negative. Oh man, those were the days-- photography was an art form. Now people take pictures of the foam on their latte, the seeds and nut arrangement in their bowl of yogurt, maybe this is the 21st century version of the me generation and naval contemplation please don't get me started on Pintrest.

    1. I will publish a photo of my mother's camera in a future blog post.

  2. Debbie Leonard8:37 AM

    Thanks for these photos; someone was asking about this on the festival Admiralty cruise Saturday evening; I tried my best to explain but I wish I'd had these photos to show him!


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