Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Monday, April 13, 2015

Main Street, PKS

Crossing the town from border to border, this road links all parts of the community together; it connects us to Atlantic Beach on the east and Indian Beach on the west and all places beyond. How State Road NC 58 came to be and why it follows the route it does is an interesting story.

In 1928, a group of Carteret County investors completed construction of a causeway toll bridge that crossed the sound from 28th St. in Morehead City to Bridge Street—what is now Old Causeway Road. The road made of sand, gravel and shells worked fine for Model T’s and the recently introduced Model A’s. The road from the bridge went south across the island to a roundabout near the ocean shore—known as The Circle. Shortly after the bridge opened, the circle was reconfigured to the “Y” formation we know today, and the road surface was improved with a sand-clay mix. Along the ocean were several bathing pavilions, amusement centers and refreshment establishments that catered to summer holiday bathers.

1930 North Carolina County Road survey
The prosperity of the ‘20s ended with a severe financial depression that affected all elements of society. Vacation areas were particularly hard hit. Other than the remote settlement at Salter Path, eight miles to the west of Atlantic Beach, the only permanent year-round establishment active on Bogue Banks at this time was Fort Macon and the nearby Coast Guard Lifesaving Station.

Although Fort Macon Military Reservation had been transferred to the state on September 18, 1924, for one dollar, to become the second State Park in North Carolina, it would be another decade before the state, with the use of federal programs, would begin to make the park readily accessible to the public.[i] During the 1930s, the federal government created a number of programs intended to expand economic activity and build employment; several of these programs provided the foundation of road systems on Bogue Banks. In 1933, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) started a sand-clay road from Atlantic Beach to Fort Macon. The CWA was disbanded in 1934, leaving the road only partially completed. Soon afterward, a 220-man Civilian Conservation Corps unit, established at Fort Macon, undertook completion of the sand-clay road between the fort and Atlantic Beach.
1936 North Carolina County Road Survey

The topography on the eastern end of Bogue Banks consisted of low-lying dunes that were bare sand or covered in scrub shrub and grasses. In the 1920s, if one ventured west from the area near Atlantic Beach, the vegetation became thicker, attaining greater height and was interwoven with vines to form “dune thicket.” Continuing west beyond Hoop Pole Creek, the island had maritime forest rising above the dune thicket. This dense forest, called Hoop Pole Woods, extended for the next ten miles. Travel west from Atlantic Beach was restricted to the beach or to a meandering foot trail through the woods. This trail, which followed dune ridges and worked around obstacles and ponds, connected Atlantic Beach to the hamlet of Salter Path, with stops along the way at Alice Hoffman’s homestead and several beach access points.

Until the toll bridge linked Bogue Banks to the mainland, there was no need for anything better, but the bridge brought motor vehicles in abundance. Traveling west on the beach was fun for the adventurous and possible at low tide, but impractical for a routine commute. Little by little, increased foot traffic, wagons and high-spirited auto drivers widened the trail.

In 1938, the Works Project Administration and the State Highway Commission began work on a roadway west from Atlantic Beach. The workers employed for this arduous task were from Salter Path and Broad Creek. Manual labor and hand tools were the main means of construction[ii]. The roadway adopted the line of least resistance by generally following the route worked out by the existing trail, a trail perfected by generations of walkers.

Salter Path Road in the village of Salter Path, 1945 from the News and Observer, 7 October 1945

The resulting roadway meandered westward down the island, ending on the west side of the settlement of Salter Path, then, abruptly veered south to the ocean, allowing access to the beach for travelers wishing to proceed further west. When the road was completed in 1940, it was surfaced with packed sand-clay wide enough for one vehicle. When oncoming traffic was encountered, each vehicle had to partially pull off the road to pass. There was no posted speed limit.

Sand-clay road construction was one of the common methods of providing a stable road surface in the early 20th century. The idea was that adding clay to sandy roads gave them stability; adding sand to clay surfaces prevented them from rutting and becoming sticky in wet weather.[iii] The U.S. Office of Public Roads recommended the construction of sand-clay roads where they were most practical—areas where frost did not penetrate the ground to any appreciable depth. The South Atlantic and Gulf States were especially suited to the technique[iv].

1944 North Carolina County Road Survey

The road survey was conducted on an irregular basis about every ten years. It wasn’t until the 1968 survey that the roadway was correctly drawn as we know it today—running close to the south shore.
1968 Morth Carolina County Road Survey
During World War II, the road was improved by the military to support heavy equipment for servicing the several military installations on Bogue Banks. In 1953, the first hard surface paving of the road was accomplished by the State. This was a Macadam surface or, as we call it today, asphalt.
1939 Aerial Photo. In the future, Mimosa Blvd. would be on the left edge and Yaupon Dr. on the right edge. The newly worked roadbed is visible on the lower right.

1953 Aerial Photo, after the WPA work of 1939, the widening during WW II and the state paving in 1953.
This is a road of many names. The first official designation was State Road 1201. In the 1960s, it was changed to NC 58.
Today, it is known as Fort Macon Road in Atlantic Beach; Salter Path Road as it passes through Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach and Salter Path; Emerald Drive as it continues through Emerald Isle.
It is also known as the “George W. Smith Highway.” George Smith lived in Salter Path most of his life, was a commercial fisherman, ran the mail boat and was justice of the peace[v]. In 2005, the NC Board of Transportation adopted resolutions naming NC 58 from Salter Path to Atlantic Beach in Carteret County for the late George W. Smith, “for his dedication and service to the citizens of Bogue Banks and Carteret County.”
This road of many names is also the designated “Evacuation Route” for the entire island, linking with the two bridges to the mainland.

Nowhere and at no time was it called “Main Street.” However, this old footpath with its gentle curves and bends is the only road traversing Bogue Banks from east to west, and it does serve as the “Main Street” of Pine Knoll Shores.

Post Author: Walt Zaenker
To contact the author or the History Committee

[i] Fort Macon a History, by Paul Branch, The Nautical & Aviation Publishing Co, 1997
[ii] Bogue Banks a Look Back, by Jack Dudley, 2009
[iii] NCpedia, Roads, by Davis A. Norris and Robert E. Ireland, 2006
[iv] Highway History, Federal Highway Administration, The Sand-Clay Roads of South Carolina, 2013
[v], George W. Smith