• November 26, 2020
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Portsmouth Island is located around 6 miles from Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks, and tourists can visit to see the now abandoned town and surroundings. 

History:

Established in 1752, Portsmouth started out as a port town full of life, partially because of its closeness to Ocracoke Island, a major shipping port. Settlers, sailors, and businessmen all came through as its shipping industry thrived –and there were nearly 700 residents by 1860. However because of the Civil War, the national railroad, and the constant battle with storms, residents slowly left the island for better work and opportunities. 

In 1956 only 17 residents remained on the island, the rest of the people having moved onto bigger places as Portsmouth became more irrelevant to society. As residents went down, supplies went down as well, and more were forced to leave. Marion Babb and Elma Dixon were the last two to leave in 1971, and ever since then the island has stayed deserted. 

To keep the village from fully deteriorating, the National Park Service stepped in to renovate the buildings and clean up the land. Now Portsmouth is back more or less to its original state for people to see. 

Today: 

When visitors get to the island, they can walk down the sandy trails to different houses, the church, school, general store, and more. A few places are even open for people to explore. There is also 13 miles of beach, where people can collect shells and fish. 

In the left picture there is the United Methodist Church and some houses. The middle picture shows a view inside the general store, where they have different items on display for tourists to examine. The building in the right picture is of the coastguard station that helped rescue ships in distress. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Stern)

I have had the opportunity to visit the island a couple of times. Living on Ocracoke for several years, I could go over on someone’s boat with friends or family and look around, ringing the church bell and collecting sand dollars on the beach. It was enjoyable for me as a kid, and it became even more of an interesting place when I got old enough to really learn it’s story. 

For the people lucky enough to make the trip, they will enjoy seeing the old buildings and beautiful surroundings. Visitors can almost see the town how it used to be, bustling with activity. While Portsmouth is definitely remote, if you are ever on Ocracoke Island or close enough to take a ferry over, you will not regret it. Just one piece of advice: If you are offered a bug suit, take it!

Portsmouth Island is located around 6 miles from Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks, and tourists can visit to see the now abandoned town and surroundings. 

History:

Established in 1752, Portsmouth started out as a port town full of life, partially because of its closeness to Ocracoke Island, a major shipping port. Settlers, sailors, and businessmen all came through as its shipping industry thrived –and there were nearly 700 residents by 1860. However because of the Civil War, the national railroad, and the constant battle with storms, residents slowly left the island for better work and opportunities. 

In 1956 only 17 residents remained on the island, the rest of the people having moved onto bigger places as Portsmouth became more irrelevant to society. As residents went down, supplies went down as well, and more were forced to leave. Marion Babb and Elma Dixon were the last two to leave in 1971, and ever since then the island has stayed deserted. 

To keep the village from fully deteriorating, the National Park Service stepped in to renovate the buildings and clean up the land. Now Portsmouth is back more or less to its original state for people to see. 

Today: 

When visitors get to the island, they can walk down the sandy trails to different houses, the church, school, general store, and more. A few places are even open for people to explore. There are also 13 miles of beach, where people can collect shells and fish.

 

In the left picture there is the United Methodist Church and some houses. The middle picture shows a view inside the general store, where they have different items on display for tourists to examine. The building in the right picture is of the Coast Guard station that helped rescue ships in distress.

I have had the opportunity to visit the island a couple of times. Living on Ocracoke for several years, I could go over on someone’s boat with friends or family and look around, ringing the church bell and collecting sand dollars on the beach. It was enjoyable for me as a kid, and it became even more of an interesting place when I got old enough to really learn it’s story. 

For the people lucky enough to make the trip, they will enjoy seeing the old buildings and beautiful surroundings. Visitors can almost see the town how it used to be, bustling with activity. While Portsmouth is definitely remote, if you are ever on Ocracoke Island or close enough to take a ferry over, you will not regret it. Just one piece of advice: If you are offered a bug suit, take it! 

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