WALLOPS ISLAND, Va.- A local piece of maritime history could soon go to the highest bidder.
The U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association says the Wallops Beach Lifeboat Station--located on Wallops Island--is set to be auctioned off in the next week or two. The property was built in 1933 and was one of many lifesaving stations across the country in the late 19th century/early 20th century. The U.S. Life Saving Service later enveloped into the U.S. Coast Guard.
"The stations were all up and down the Delmarva coast, Atlantic Coast, Great Lakes, five to seven miles apart," explains Laura Scharle, the Interpretive Programs Manager at the Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum in Delaware Seashore State Park. "There's not many remaining."
The Indian River Life-Saving Station was purchased and rehabilitated by a non-profit before Delaware State Parks took over the property. It's now used for historical enactments, private events, and educational programs. Heritage Association member Timothy Dring hopes to see the Wallops building transform like Indian River.
"We as an organization we really try to encourage as much as possible saving these buildings as a testimony to the sacrifices that were made by people in the service to save lives," he tells WRDE.
The Wallops Beach Lifeboat Station poses some logistical challenges, however, that Dring fears makes the dismantling or demolishing of the station more likely.
"Because of the current location of the building on Wallops Island where there's an active rocket launching facility, whoever purchases the station will have to move it," Dring explains. "It has its financial challenges as well as its practical, logistic challenges but in the end we believe it would be very well worth it."
Dring and Scharle say preserving the station is also preserving Delmarva history.
"It's not uncommon for people to come in here and say 'My great, great uncle served here. My grandfather served here'" explains Scharle. "They are just so in awe of the fact that it is preserved in its original location and feels like it's of the time period."
"It's a piece of American history that just sometimes it's lost and forgotten about," Scharle continues. "Being able to be at this site every day, I can't even put it into words. It's amazing."
For more information about the Wallops Facility, click here.