Isolated Portsmouth, Once Booming Trade Center


On November 29, 1978, Portsmouth in Carteret County was added to the list of the National Register of Historic Places.

The Portsmouth Village Historic District boasts 250 acres of ocean-views and quaint town buildings. Located between the North Core Banks and Ocracoke Inlet in a secluded portion of a tract now protected by the Cape Lookout National Seashore, Portsmouth Island saw its last permanent residents in 1971.

Among the largest settlements south of Virginia by 1760, Portsmouth became a booming village for shipping and trade. Some estimate that by 1852, more than two-thirds of North Carolina’s imported goods passed through Portsmouth Island. By 1860, almost 700 people called Portsmouth home. During the Civil War, however, Union troops targeted the village, prompting residents to leave the island permanently.

With the increasing use of railroads for transport of goods, the shipping industry in Portsmouth suffered, causing the town to become a small fishing village. Though no permanent residents live in Portsmouth today, the unassuming island supports graceful scenic views and a variety of plant and wildlife.

Visitors can also explore a number of buildings in the historic Portsmouth village, including the town church, post office and general store and residential homes.

Other related resources:

  • HPOWEB, an interactive tool from the State Historic Preservation Office that lets you search historic properties statewide

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.