Dare County marks its 150th anniversary this year highlighting several superlatives such as the New World’s first English born baby, the first manned, powered flight and the tallest brick lighthouse in America.
A new website dare150.com lists 150 things to do in Dare County and on the Outer Banks including hang gliding, lighthouse climbing, surfing, sunset and sunrise watching and offshore fishing. Such activities draw thousands of people to the area generating a tourism industry of $2 billion a year.
A celebration marking the anniversary will be held May 2 at Island Farm on Roanoke Island north of Manteo. Island Farm is a re-creation of a local homestead from the 19th century and is open to the public.
The North Carolina General Assembly separated parts of Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell counties on Feb. 3, 1870 to make Dare, named for Virginia Dare, the first English born child in the New World, according to a release from the county.
John White led a colony of more than 100 settlers to Roanoke Island in 1587. He recorded the birth of Virginia Dare, his granddaughter, on Aug. 18 of that year. He left shortly thereafter for England to get more supplies but could not return for three years. When he returned, the people were gone leaving few clues of their fate. They become known as the Lost Colony.
The county was formed to help residents on the long and remote Outer Banks who had to travel for days over primitive roadways and expansive waterways to get to their county seat, according to the county release. The new county seat became the Manteo, named for the native American who aided early English attempts at settlement here in the 1580s.
Manteo sailed to England and lived there for months before returning home. He was baptized and served as a mediator between the English and the natives.
The current Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built in 1870, the same year the county was formed. Ships frequently wrecked in storms and on the shoals off the coast. The lighthouse had to be bright and tall to warn passing vessels of the dangers. At nearly 200, it’s the tallest brick lighthouse in America.
Three decades later, Wilbur and Orville Wright arrived on the Outer Banks to test their ideas of how a man could fly. In the first years of the 20th century, they repeatedly soared in gliders off a large sand dune in the incessant coastal winds to improve wing designs and flight controls. Later, they added an engine. On Dec. 17, 1903, the brothers lifted off to become the first to fly a powered aircraft.
Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, firstname.lastname@example.org