Volunteers work to repair fencing at Salvo Community Cemetery | Island Free Press

Volunteers work to repair fencing at Salvo Community Cemetery | Island Free Press
Photo by Dawn Taylor

Volunteers are taking steps to repair the fence that borders the Salvo Community Cemetery after high winds from a recent winter storm dislodged the fencing along the Pamlico Sound, causing it to lean.

“I think it was the most recent wind events we had after Christmas [that caused the damage],” said Robin Daniels Holt, Hatteras Island Genealogical Society Member and project organizer. “When the fence was put up, [the crew] didn’t think it was necessary to set the piles with concrete. Now we find out differently, of course.”

There is not any damage to the fence yet, but volunteers want to reinforce the fencing now, before any future storms cause additional deterioration. “The posts are loose enough that with a little encouragement, I believe we can remove the sections of fence, add concrete easily to reset the posts, and then reattach the fence sections,” said Holt.

Salvo Community Cemetery before 2018 renovations

The new fence was installed in 2021, and was part of a long list of improvements to this 146-year-old landmark.

The Salvo Community Cemetery, which is bordered on all sides by National Park Service land within the popular Salvo Day Use Area, has had a long and stormy history.

Once a tragic waterfront area where 100-year-old tombs and headstones were crumbling into an eroding shoreline, the cemetery is now a historic attraction in its own right, with a bulkhead, fencing, and informational signs that outline its legacy.

After a series of hurricanes in the 2010s, including 2011’s devastating Hurricane Irene, the cemetery began crumbling rapidly due to an eroding shoreline and little protection from the elements.

Salvo Community Cemetery before 2018 renovations.

By 2016, headstones had broken or washed away, while tombs were regularly becoming exposed as the soundfront area steadily disappeared due to a routine onslaught of high water and waves.

In 2015 and 2016, a community-wide initiative was launched to prevent further devastation to the cemetery, which was losing gravesites to erosion on a regular basis. The Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association played a big role in the restoration of the site, (and served as the umbrella group to conduct the needed repairs and renovations), and they hosted fundraising campaigns to raise the estimated $120,000 to protect the cemetery.

This initiative was successful, and the formation of a protective bulkhead and rock barrier along the Salvo Community Cemetery was completed in 2018, followed by the installation of the fencing to further protect the site and to keep it secure.

In September of 2021, an outdoor photo exhibit was also added, outlining the area’s history and the years-long efforts to bring attention to the historic cemetery. The 41.5-foot-long and weather-proof mesh banner was the brainchild of Durham-based journalist and photographer, Justin Cook, who worked with local residents and historians to create the panel of photographs, and the ensuing story. An educational panel by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was also added shortly after, in November of 2021, to further mark the site’s significance to the general public.

A team of local residents help to install the new photo exhibit in 2021. Photo by Justin Cook

In the past several years, Dawn Taylor and her partner Dave Padgett of Carved in Stone Cemetery Preservation Services have been spearheading the majority of the remaining restoration work, and have been busy resetting headstones, and cleaning existing gravesites so that the epitaphs are clean and readable.

“Dawn and Dave have volunteered to do the [fence] repairs for a nominal fee of about $200,” said Holt. “Dawn and Dave are also the custodians for the cemetery maintenance during the summertime.”

Donations are continually needed to keep the Salvo Community Cemetery in pristine condition, and to conduct repairs when required, like the latest project to reset the fence.

To donate to the Salvo Community Cemetery restoration, checks can be sent to Dawn Taylor, PO Box 629, Avon, NC 27915 with “Salvo Community Cemetery” in the memo line.

For more information on the ongoing efforts to restore the cemetery, and the recent October 2021 re-dedication ceremony that was held after the bulk of the work was complete, click here.

Photo by Dawn Taylor