The Pea Island Lifesaving Station is historically significant and distinctive, as it was the only lifesaving station in the United States to be manned by an all black crew. Under the direction of Keeper Richard Etheridge, the crew was hired from local black men in the community and trained to be dedicated and dependable watermen in the service of lifesaving. The men of Pea Island never received any awards for rescues, no matter how many lives they saved. It wasn’t until 1996, 100 years after the heroic rescue of the crew of the E. S. Newman in 1896, that the U.S. Coast Guard finally paid honor to the crew of the Pea Island Station. The efforts of a 14 year old girl, two authors, a U.S. Congressman and a diligent Coast Guard Officer resulted in the Gold Lifesaving Medal being awarded to those courageous men who would never know the honor was finally bestowed upon them.
The Pea Island Cookhouse is the first stage of the Collins Park Project. The cookhouse has been restored and will be used as a museum displaying memorabilia, artifacts, relics, and pictures depicting life in the Life Saving Service. The Town of Manteo intends to work with its non profit partners to seek grant and/or gift funding to assist with a replica of the living quarters at the station. The goal of the future building will be designed to teach our community about African American heritage. Tour times are Monday, Wednesday, & Friday from 11am to 3pm.