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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bogue Banks State Park, 1923

In a search for information about Alice Hoffman's dairy business, a file in the State Archives of North Carolina titled "Documents regarding proposed State Parks on Bogue Banks" caught my eye. This file, containing 56 pages  of text along with numerous period pictures, assesses the feasibility of establishing a State Park on all or some of Bogue Banks. The various reports and studies span 17 years from 1923 to the 1940s. The earliest reports give a picture of the island nearly 100 years ago. It also reflects the socio- economic conditions and prevailing attitudes of the times. This post contains excerpts from that file that the author found illustrative, interesting, or surprising.

The complete document is available at The State Archives of North Carolina Digital Collections

The cover page is reprinted below:

                    REPORT ON BOGUE BANK
                J. B. Holmes, State Forester
        North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey

                      June 30th, 1923

             Bogue Bank is an island extending from Beaufort Inlet west to Bogue Inlet along the southern border of Carteret County, NC. It is bordered on the north by Bogue Sound and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean. It is about twenty-five miles long and varies in width from one-quarter of a mile to a mile. It contains probably from eight to nine thousand acres,one-half of which is open sandhills and beach.

             The western end of the island, extending to practically half its length is owned by Henry K. Fort, of Philadelphia. This property, is known as the Royall Lands, extends east to Rice Path, which crosses the island at its narrowest point. From there east the island widens out again and for more than five or six miles is owned by Mrs. Alice Hoffman, who for part of the year lives at her home at Bogue Bank Postoffice. From her eastern boundary the island is held by a number of small owners and two small tracts are developed beaches, one for white people and one for colored people. The eastern end of the island, containing Fort Macon, is owned by the war department.

• Note the use of the identifier "Bank" as opposed to the more common "Banks." 

• The "Rice Path" referred to above was a path that went from the sound to the ocean just west of the community of Salter Path.

• Hoffman land extended for 12 miles not five or six. 

• The phrase "lives at her home at the Bogue Bank Postoffice" is essentially a true statement. But, more accurately, the post office was a corner of her kitchen table at her home. The U.S. Government established the Bogue Banks Post Office at her home in 1918. 

 • The existence of a separate beach for white people and colored people is reflective of the times.

Other comments of historical interest in the State Forrester's report follow:

In an appendix about Fort Macon, we learn, "At the present time there is a band of Banks ponies using the eastern end of the Island."

In an appendix about the Henry Fort land in a discussion about possible development, we learn, "Amongst other plans, the owner has under consideration the construction of a road along the sound side of the island. This road to be composed of material dredged from the sound."

The Hoffman property is described in a report the National Park Service released in September 1935.
Bogue Sound fro Hoffman property, 1935

"Along the 12 miles of the Hoffman property there is a continuous row of barrier dunes. . . . [It is]...A well covered sea island. . . . 
Animal life has been protected on the Hoffman property. . . ."
And the more enigmatic statement, "For a real sanctuary the whole island would give a biological unit."

Hoffman Property, mean tidee change 5', width of beach at low tide 300', August 26, 1935

A letter from the Regional Inspector, National Park Service, Oct. 1935, endorses the concept of the entire island as a State Park or at a minimum the Hoffman property. However, it acknowledges the lack of funds for such a direct approach.

In a discussion of beach erosion,  the writer states that in ". . . reports from the Coast Guard establishment on Bogue Island, I am informed that the shoreline from a point approximately half way between the Atlantic Beach hotel and Fort Macon State Park, running in a westerly direction to the extreme opposite end of the island has undergone no change in the past 50 years." (Emphasis added. Since the 1940s, beach erosion has been an on-going concern along that same stretch of beach.)

In a letter from the N.C. Superintendent of State Parks to Quentin Roosevelt dated July 24, 1939, we find the following request: 
"One of North Carolina's greatest need's is an adequate seashore park. . . . For many years this department has hoped and worked to establish on the Hoffman property such a state park, but, unfortunately, money has not been available. . . . Would you help us by donating to this Department the Hoffman property, or a portion of it. . . ."

There was also a letter from State Forrester to Mrs. Hoffman accepting her invition to visit, dated August 15, 1939, and another 
letter from from Mrs. Hoffman concerning damage from forest fires on Bogue Banks, dated July 25, 1941.

Even more informative were six pages of hand written notes concerning the financial transactions by the Roosevelts,  John M. Mathias, The Alden Corporation, L.Phillips, and A Hoffman to secure title to her property from debt and tax liens.

These pages give some first-hand insight into the financial arrangements the Roosevelts undertook to rescue their great-aunt's property.

A January 25, 1944 letter from Alice Hoffman to the State Parks personnel thanks them for their visit.

An August 1954 letter by Nathan Sangree to N.C. Governor, William Umstead, endorses development of Bogue Banks as a State Park, "having seen in fifty odd years most of the coast line of this country, I realize what a uniquely beautiful area it is. . . .
The State's response stated, ". . . full agreement on desirability, but lacking funds for doing so, this is not possible.

And so it goes. Our Bogue Banks home is our home and not a state park, but, perhaps stemming from those decades of studies and discussions, some parts of it are. In 1971, the Roosevelts donated to the State 290 acres for a Natural Area including land for the N.C. Aquarium. The Roosevelts also gave 23 acres, 2,750 feet of oceanfront property south of the community of Salter Path to the State.

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