Tag Archives: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Fort Raleigh – The Lost Colony

FORA-junior rangers

I have no idea who those children are. They piled out of a van at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, wearing vests covered with Junior Ranger badges. I was so impressed that I asked their father if I could take their pictures.

How does the National Park Service interpret a site when there’s nothing physical to interpret?

FORA-visitorcenterFort Raleigh National Historic Site protects the site of the Lost Colony that landed here in 1587.

By definition, there’s nothing to show. On top of it, the visitor center is under repairs and there’s only a temporary visitor center where several posters have been hung.

I am on Roanake Island between the Outer Banks and the North Carolina mainland. This was where Virginia Dare, the first American child, was born in 1587. To interpret this site, it takes enthusiastic interpreters like Ranger Rob Bolling and Robin Davis of Eastern National, who has lived on the island for over 30 years. I’m the only person at the Visitor Center this morning and Robin takes me aside to tell me the story.

Sir Walter Raleigh sponsored several expedition into the new world. The first two Roanoke expeditions were expeditions of men. They were looking for resources and to raid Spanish ships and went back to England. Raleigh never came to North America because Queen Elizabeth I didn’t want to lose him.

On the third voyage in 1587, 117 people came to settle here including women and children. They were supposed to go to Chesapeake Bay but their captain said that he wasn’t going any further so they were dumped here.

It sounds like the equivalent of “You’ll figure it out”. But they were not self-sustaining and asked their leader, John White, to return to England to get more supplies.

When White returned after three years (1590), he found no one. Nothing but the letters CROATAN carved in a tree. Does that mean that the colonists went with the Croatan Indians? The mystery remains.

A short trail took me to Albemarle Sound with a small beach. I passed some earthenworks where archeologists are digging hoping to get some answers about the fate of the Lost Colony. I also passed the three children on a bench working quietly on another Junior Ranger badge.

FORA-ElizabethgardensClose by are the Elizabethan Gardens, 10 acres of beautiful gardens, immaculately manicured.


FORA-ElizabethstatueThe gardens were started by a women’s garden club and officially opened on Virginia Dare’s birthday, August 18,
1960 in 1960. It has an Elizabethan design with modern plants. That’s Elizabeth, the First, on the right.

The Sunken Gardens is the center of the Elizabethan Gardens design, with the fountain in the center. It’s a cross design with an enclosed walkway. At the time, Elizabethan gardens were inspired by Italian designs.

I was there on the day of the Royal Wedding. I was conscious of the number of visitors with British accents but they seemed more preoccupied with the past than with the wedding that had just occurred. The only Brit I spoke to about the wedding was the woman at the Garden store.

All the comparisons were with Charles and Diana’s wedding, 30 years ago. Diana would have been over 50 years old, Would she have tried to upstage Princess Katherine?