Plymouth, North Carolina
On our way to the Outer Banks, we decided to stop in historic Plymouth. Nope, it wasn’t a planned destination. Just something we saw on the map as we were driving that had a lighthouse on the Roanoke River. Okay, I’m game. We didn’t know what to expect but as we drove in, we were greeted with one of those seemingly abandoned towns in the middle of nowhere. You’d think we would see lots of such towns as we drove across the country but if you stick to the interstate highways, you don’t see such towns. The interstate keeps such small towns surviving. Much like Historic Route 66, when it was a thoroughfare, kept towns along the way thriving but when it ceased to be a major road, most towns along the way died. Plymouth is just far enough from the interstate to experience some of that death but close enough to linger yet.
I have to admit, there’s a certain charm in it’s tranquil silence and reminders of yesteryear. I know, it’s a bit condescending to the remaining residents of Plymouth who somehow still scratch out an existence. What do they do to try to make ends meet?
The town is home to the Roanoke River Lighthouse, a replica of the 2nd lighthouse that was built in 1866. The history of the lighthouse here is enough drama to make a short feature film as four have stood on this location—previous iterations being destroyed by fire then ice, and then moved. It stands on several steel pilings as the original stood in 9 ft. of water.
Walking along the riverfront boardwalk was quite pleasant. I tried to imagine it’s heyday in the late 1800s through early 20th century. There use to be a lot of river traffic along here that brought much commerce because of the surrounding farm land. The 2nd largest Civil War battle in North Carolina occurred here with the culmination in the sinking of the Confederate ironclad Albermarle. In recent times, most employment came from the paper mill but even that is being reduced with an expected 30% reduction in work force which will greatly increase the already 11.5% unemployment and negative job growth.
With it’s lush surroundings, river, historic sites, the town is seeking to refresh itself as a tourist destination just right off route 64, the major road to the Outer Banks. With a population of just over 4000, and tourist customers being seasonal, it’d be hard put to survive with just that.