Photo Courtesy: The Ocracoke Preservation Society Collection
The Ocracoke Preservation Society is a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to the preservation of Ocracoke Island's rich historical and cultural heritage.
Founded in 1983, OPS has maintained a free admission museum at the century-old David Williams House since 1992. This traditional two-story house was built around the year 1900. Its owner, David Williams, was the first Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard station on Ocracoke. The house is a contributing structure in the Ocracoke Historic District. In 1989, it was moved to its present location on National Park Service property to prevent its demolition and was subsequently restored.
We first opened our doors to the public in June of 1992. The ground floor rooms have been converted to serve as our museum, and the second floor contains a research library and administrative offices. The house and surrounding Ocracoke Historic District property are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum is grateful to the many people who volunteer their time and services as well as those who loan or donate items to the museum. These contributions make the David Williams House a wonderful place to visit. Our sincere thanks to you all!
How You Can Help
As with any historical museum, we are always interested in expanding our collection of artifacts. If you have photographs, documents or items from Ocracoke's past that you would be willing to share, please contact us.
We are always looking for new and returning volunteers at OPS. Whether it be in the Gift Shop, helping with collections, special projects or special events, please inquire directly at the OPS Museum or contact us if you would like to become a more active member of the community striving to preserve Ocracoke.
The Ocracoke Preservation Society was incorporated as a non-profit group existing under the laws and regulations of the state of North Carolina and dedicated to:
a) Encouraging, assisting, advising, and participating in the identification, preservation, and restoration of significant structures, buildings, districts, objects of local interest, historic charm, distinctive character and natural endowments of Ocracoke Island:
b) Facilitating and encouraging public participation in preservation programs and activities;
c) Cooperating with other agencies, organizations, and individuals, public and private, including the extension of such technical and financial assistance as may be available;
d) Purchasing, accepting, holding, and administering gifts of money, securities or other property of whatsoever character for the purpose of carrying out its program;
e) Carrying out any other function related to its overall purposes not otherwise inconsistent with the law.
Policy of OPS Executive Committee Regarding Restricted Funds
Ocracoke Preservation Society welcomes donations, and thanks all friends of Ocracoke and the Society who so graciously contribute money, documents, photos and artifacts for the preservation of island history and culture. We strive always to be good stewards of all donations.The majority of monetary donations are unrestricted. Ocracoke Preservation Society uses these funds at the discretion of the Executive Committee with input from various special committees.
A portion of donations made to the Society are restricted. Special accounts may be set up by the Executive Committee for specific projects (e.g. to restore an historic boat, to digitize photos and documents, or to fund educational events). Sometimes these projects are initiated by the Executive Committee. At other times members of the Society or friends of the island may offer to donate money or artifacts for a project of the donor’s choosing. In this case, prior to accepting the donation, the Executive Committee (with advice from relevant committees) will decide if the project both promotes the mission of the Ocracoke Preservation Society and can be implemented adequately.
Once a restricted fund is established, money in that account will be used only for the express purpose for which it is designated. In the unlikely event that restricted funds are remaining after the completion of a project or the project is incapable of completion, as determined by the Executive Committee after receiving a recommendation from the relevant OPS Committee, every effort will be made to contact the donors to determine their wishes for the redistribution or return of their contributions. If the donors cannot be reached after a reasonable period of time, the Executive Committee, after receiving a recommendation from the relevant OPS Committee, will make a determination for the redistribution of remaining funds.
Do you enjoy all our Facebook posts? Do you want to keep learning about Ocracoke history and see new exhibits when you come to the museum? This is the fund that keeps our doors open, the programs happening and our posts updated. Money from this fund can be used to help any of the other funds achieve their goals too.
Building Fund: This year we need our railings replaced and our museum washed. One year we needed a new roof. Over time, the building needs upkeep and this fund was created specifically for maintaining, with historical accuracy, the integrity of this lovely old island home.
How do we come up with the amazing old island photos we’ve been posting? Generous folks share their collections with us, we scan them on hi-tech equipment, label them according to donor, and research their origins and subjects. We also have an extensive collection of household artifacts that require storing, labeling and research. All this requires people power and funds to keep things organized, displayed, and researched.
Maintaining a data base of the historic homes on the island is a challenging job. Over the years, houses change ownership and even location. In order to be able to help prospective house preservationists, we need to keep an accurate list of what houses still exist in the historic district and which ones are eligible for the valuable historic district tax credits.
Historic Preservation Projects
This fund started with a vision and a generous endowment from the David and Jerry Beveridge estate. This fund gives us at least a starting point to save historic structures that are at risk of being lost. Our goal is to keep historically significant structures in the historic district from being changed beyond recognition or destroyed. Our first project with the money from this fund is the Simon & Emma O’Neal House at 458 Lighthouse Road.
Sometimes it’s not just structures that we need to preserve. Occasionally donors give us land to take care of. Sometimes we keep that land for public use (Robbie’s Way) and sometimes we use that last in conjunction with other like-minded organizations to further the access and appreciation of greater island areas. With the Lampe Tract, we are working with the NC Coastal Land Trust in conjunction with the Ocracoke Youth Center and the NPS in order for a walking trail to be built and accessible to the general public.
Occasionally we receive gifts that are simply too big to be displayed in the museum, so we set up an area for outdoor exhibits. One example is the large brick and concrete cistern off the back porch. Not only do we have to get the donations to the property, we have to prepare the location for display and we have to maintain the artifacts as they age and weather. We also have a large restored boat, the Blanche, that needs continual painting and basic upkeep. Hopefully in the future we can add another boat to our fleet that kids (and adults) will be allowed to climb in and learn from.
Springers’ Point Nature Preserve
Though we don’t actually own this section of land, we do work with the NC Coastal Land Trust to keep funds flowing into this historically significant area.
Occasionally we work with an artist who features a limited time exhibit in our museum. The subject of the work is usually either focused on Ocracoke or Portsmouth Island life. In order to afford these special exhibits, we need funds to help offset the costs incurred by the artists setting up these exhibits. In 2017 we had an exhibit of local Ocracoke Artists and their work in the Parlor Room.
Ocracoke Preservation Society Board Members
President: Ken DeBarth
Vice President: Bill Cole
Secretary: Jeanie Owens
Treasurer: Charlie Ralston
Member-at-Large: Kathi O'Neal Weiss
Trustee: Judy Garrish
Trustee: Candy Gaskill
Trustee: Brant Godfrey
Trustee: Bob Kornegay
Trustee: Peter Vankevich