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29 Apr 2009
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History & Culture

It's hard to imagine a time where the letters "OBX" didn't plaster every sign, t-shirt and bumper sticker you encountered during your summer vacation but the Outer Banks of North Carolina has not always been known as such to visitors or locals. So how did this barrier island become known as the Outer Banks?

Known as Nags Head

Until recent years, the area was referred to as Nags Head. Even up until a few months ago, the Virginia Department of Transportation had an exit for the Outer Banks that labeled the area as Nags Head. 

"Up here, everything from Oregon Inlet north was Nags Head, Hatteras and Ocracoke was the Banks," said Allen Burrus, a 56-year old native of Hatteras village. "Manteo was Roanoke Island. And of course south of us was Down East."  Old advertisements invited visitors to "Come to Nags Head" or the "Dare beaches" or the "Sir Walter Raleigh coast land."

"Outer Banks" Catching On

In a collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Wilson Library, the earliest mention of the Outer Banks, written in lowercase, in the New York Times archives was on Dec. 26, 1932, according to Nicholas Graham, the state's maps project manager. 

As far as locals and the Dare County tourism board are concerned, the changing of the Virginia Department of Transportation's sign is a huge success story.  "That’s how powerful the brand is," said Carolyn McCormick, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. 

The Outer Banks brand is catching on, and the OBX alias is a close second. 

Source: Virginia Pilot Online