President Roosevelt Visits Dare County

[This blog post comes from Tama Creef at the Outer Banks History Center.]

When we began research for the Outer Banks History Center’s current exhibit, “Dare County in the 1930s: Decade of Determination,” the figure of Franklin D. Roosevelt loomed large. There was just no way to tell the story of the 1930s without including the most influential man of the age. After all, he was instrumental in creating the policies that fought the effects of the Great Depression, and indirectly set the Outer Banks on the course of tourism and development that it still follows today. Although the area saw commercial growth, fire and severe storms during those years, in the minds of many local people nothing compares to the day that Roosevelt came to town.

Dare County was still a quiet backwater community when President Roosevelt came to Roanoke Island to make a speech and see a performance of The Lost Colony in August of 1937. Direct air or rail transportation from the nation’s capital was non-existent, and while automobile travel was possible, it created a host of security and logistical issues that made a long road trip out of the question. Ultimately, concerns for the president’s safety won out over his wish for a little rest and relaxation, and the politicians’ desire to “show him off” on a long excursion through the state.

Meanwhile, on Roanoke Island, the cadre of boosters responsible for the event had even bigger issues to address. Once the president arrived, where would he stay? What would he eat? Where would he speak, and how would the community handle the anticipated crowd of thousands? All of these questions had to be answered before he arrived or the event could be a catastrophe. The nuts and bolts of the trip took months of planning and involved the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, White House administrative staff, politicians, the press corps, and a host of local people who worked behind the scenes to make the president’s visit a success.

On June 8, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. in the Outer Banks History Center, we will kick off the 2013 2nd Saturday season with the free program “Welcome to Roanoke Island Mr. President”,  presented by Tama Creef.  Participants will view never-before-seen pictures from the History Center’s collections of the accommodations made for the president’s limited mobility and hear stories of what it was like to accompany the chief executive on his excursion. Oral histories and first hand newspaper accounts complete the description of the day this gigantic man came to tiny Roanoke Island.

Second Saturdays:

As part of the Department of Cultural Resources “2nd Saturdays” series, the Outer Banks History Center will present additional programs that expand on those touched upon in our current gallery exhibit, “Dare County in the 1930s: Decade of Determination.”  

July 13:  “Fort Raleigh’s Log Buildings and Frank Stick’s Vision: From Reality to Fiction and Back Again” will be presented by KaeLi Schurr. 10:00 a.m. OBHC Reading Room

August 10:  Learn How to Dance the “Big Apple” with Sarah Downing.  Co-hosted with   Roanoke Island Festival Park. 10:00 a.m.  RIFP Gallery. This program is appropriate for all ages.

“Dare County in the 1930s: Decade of Determination” will be on display through Oct. 15, 2013.

About the Outer Banks History Center

The Outer Banks History Center is a regional archives and research library administered by the State Archives of North Carolina, Department of Cultural Resources.  It is open to the public and is located across from the Manteo, N.C. waterfront at Roanoke Island Festival Park.  The reading room is open Monday through Friday and the History Center Gallery is open 7 days/week.  For more information, call (252) 473-2655, e-mail obhc@ncdcr.gov, visit www.obhistorycenter.ncdcr.gov, or see us on Facebook.

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