The earliest visitors to Bogue Banks came by boat, canoe or by swimming across the sound. The boats were powered by sails or oars and, later by internal combustion engines. Before the dredging for the Intracoastal Waterway, originally called the Inland Waterway, it was possible to wade across in places. This all changed with the opening of the first bridge in 1928.
Atlantic Beach got its start as a recreational destination in the late 1880s with a few small one-story pavilions serving refreshments and providing changing amenities.
|Atlantic Beach circa 1930, A Brief History of Atlantic Beach, NC, by James N."Cap'n Jim" Willis III|
|The Atlantic Hotel on the Sound at 23rd thru 25th St.|
The State magazine, March 16,1963
Island access improved in the early 1900s with the introduction of motorized boats. Then, a major improvement came about with the opening of a toll bridge in 1928. Built by a group of Carteret County investors, the bridge for the first time linked Bogue Banks with the mainland.
|Toll Bridge 1928|
In 1936 the toll bridge was sold to the state, and toll charges were dropped.
In 1953 a swing-bridge replaced the old bridge, and in 1987, the current Atlantic Beach-Morehead City four-lane, high-rise bridge replaced the drawbridge. It allowed vessels requiring up to 65-foot clearance to use the Intracoastal Waterway without interruption to crossing vehicular traffic.
|Swing bridge opening 1953|
This sequential improvement in access to Bogue Banks was the catalyst for major development on the island. During the 1960s, the preferred approach even to the western end of the Banks was using the Atlantic Beach-Morehead City bridge.
|Take the Morehead City Bridge to Emerald Isle,|
Adverisement in The State magazine, July 3, 1954
This bridge connection remained the only permanent link to Bogue Banks until 1971 when the B. Cameron Langston Bridge was completed at the west end of the Banks providing a high-rise link from Emerald Isle and Cedar Point on the mainland.
From 1960 until the opening of this bridge, there was car ferry service to the west end of Bogue Banks. First privately owned, then operated by the state, this ferry crossed the sound approximately a mile east of the current bridge, landing at Old Ferry Road in Emerald Isle and Bayshore Drive in Cape Carteret.
|B. Cameron Langston Bridge|
|Advertisement from The State magazine, May 25, 1963|
A Third Cross-Sound Bridge
Early sketches and formal plat plans submitted to the Recorder of Deeds Office indicate that the concept of a bridge between PKS and the mainland was a major element and focus of the layout and design plans of PKS.
|PKS History Archive, AC Hall collection|
This concept was a serious consideration into the early 1970s. At the Pine Knoll Association annual meeting, June 10, 1972, the decision to eliminate the proposed bridge over the canal at Brock Basin was announced. One of the reasons cited was the potential increased traffic through the residential areas caused by cars coming off the Cross-Sound Bridge - an indication that the bridge to Morehead City was still in the town's plans (It was also noted that not having a bridge at Brock Basin allowed larger boats access to the canal front property on the west part of the waterway.)
The third bridge concept was put aside when the State Highway Department would not support the idea. The decision was probably based on traffic studies, cost priorities and lukewarm community support. The January 1975 Shore Line reported there would be a group formed to study "pros and cons of a bridge from the mainland to Pine Knoll Shores." In accord with the results of a survey, Pine Knoll Shores' Planning Board supported plans for "a third bridge across the Sound,"but adopted the majority view . . . that the bridge should not come into Pine Knoll Shores." So, momemtum for a third bridge between Bogue Banks and Morehead City died in 1975.
The two bridges that bookend the island, one with the intriguing name B. Cameron Langston and the other with the informative, if less poetic name, Atlantic Beach-Morehead City, serve the island well. While both maybe out of scale with the surrounding landscape, they each provide a spectacular and welcoming view of the ocean for returning bankers and visitors alike.
When access to Bogue Banks was a chore and a challenge, the Island remained sparcely inhabited and a place for a special visit. As access became more convenient and reliable the population grew, and with that population growth came all the benefits and concerns associated with progress.
As the voice whispered from the cornfield in the 1989 film Field of Dreams, "if you build it, he will come."
Post author: Walt Zaenker, revised 1/13/2013
To contact the author or the History Committee
To contact the author or the History Committee