Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Lost Colony on Roanoke Island

Happy National Park Week! Today it's back to North Carolina, to Fort Raleigh!

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site preserves the location of Roanoke Colony, the first English settlement in the present-day United States. The colony was led by Sir Walter Raleigh, and was established in 1584. But sometime between 1587 and 1590 the settlement was abandoned, for reasons unknown; ultimately the fate of the "Lost Colony" remains a mystery.

We visited Fort Raleigh on a visit to the Outer Banks, making the Roanoke Island stop on our way home from Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Located 3 miles north Manteo, NC, our first stop at the historic site was the Visitor Center.

Exhibits explore the history of the English expeditions and colonies, the Roanoke Colony, and the island's Civil War history and Freedmen's Colony, and the boys were soon engrossed in their Junior Ranger booklets. This site also preserves the cultural heritage of the Native Americans who lived in the area, and in-depth heritage stories tell the history of the island from multiple perspectives.

Just outside the Visitor Center is the First Light of Freedom monument, which commemorates the Roanoke Island Freedman's Colony that was set up during the American Civil War. We followed the paved trail towards Albemarie Sound and soon came to the 1896 Monument, which marked the beginning of preservation efforts of this unique site.

The earthen works that are visible in this area are not 430 years old, instead they are a part of a reconstruction from 1950. The reconstructed fort allows for a visual to accompany the story of the Lost Colony that is being told through the exhibits and informational placards.

The Fort Raleigh historic site is also home to Paul Green's outdoor symphonic drama, The Lost Colony. This Roanoke Island Historical Association production has been performed in the Waterside Theatre every summer since 1937, except for during World War II.

From the theater visitors can take the Thomas Hariot Trail, a 0.3 mile loop through the maritime forest. Or for a view of the Croatan Sound you can backtrack to the parking area at the end of National Park Drive and hike Freedom Trail, a 1.25-mile trail that winds through the maritime forest to the western edge of the park.

Finally, a highlight of the historic site - the Elizabethan Gardens. The sunken gardens are managed by the Garden Club of NC and are an example of a period garden. The 10 acre gardens were created as a memorial to the first colonists, and include a replica Tudor gate house. Open 7 days a week, there is an admission fee to this area of the site.

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