Elizabeth City, North Carolina
—  City  —
Flag of Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Official seal of Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Nickname(s): Harbor of Hospitality, E.C.
Location in Pasquotank and Camden counties in the state of North Carolina
Coordinates: 36°17′44″N 76°13′30″W / 36.29556, -76.225Coordinates: 36°17′44″N 76°13′30″W / 36.29556, -76.225
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Pasquotank, Camden
 • Mayor Roger McLean (D)
 • City 9.6 sq mi (24.8 km2)
 • Land 8.9 sq mi (15.913 km2)
 • Water 0.6 sq mi (1.6 km2)
Elevation 12 ft (4 m)
Population (2008)
 • City 20,685
 • Density 2,182/sq mi (842.6/km2)
 • Metro 63,270
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 27906, 27907, 27909
Area code(s) 252
FIPS code 37-20580[1]
GNIS feature ID 1025307[2]

Elizabeth City is a city in Pasquotank County and Camden County in the State of North Carolina. With a population of 18,683 at the 2010 census, Elizabeth City is the county seat of Pasquotank County.[3]

Because Elizabeth City has a high degree of economic integration with its neighboring counties, and the majority of the population in Camden, Pasquotank, and Perquimans County is concentrated in this city, Elizabeth City has been designated as the heart of the Elizabeth City Micropolitan Statistical Area, with a population of 64,042 as of 2009.[4] Because the area outside this city is sparsely populated, however, Elizabeth City only shares a border with one town—the consolidated city-county of Camden. The largest city in the Elizabeth City μSA, this town is not only the economic center of this region, but it is also home to many historical sites and cultural traditions.

Known as the “Harbor of Hospitality", Elizabeth City has had a long history of shipping due to its location at the narrowing of the Pasquotank River. Founded in 1794, Elizabeth City prospered early on from the Dismal Swamp Canal as a mercantile city, before later shifting later into a varied industrial and commercial focus. While Elizabeth City still retains its extensive waterfront property, it is thoroughly linked to neighboring counties and cities by interstate highways and bridges and serves as the site of a US Coast Guard Base. The city has also been cited as one of "The 100 Best Small Towns in America" by author Norman Crampton.[5]


Located at the narrows of the Pasquotank River, the area that would become Elizabeth City soon served as a trading site, and as early as the mid 18th century, inspection stations and ferries were established. With the addition of minor roads, a schoolhouse, and soon a church, a small community was established at these narrows.[6]

The Dismal Swamp Canal

In 1793, construction of the Dismal Swamp Canal, which would drive Elizabeth City's commerce, began, the North Carolina Assembly incorporated the town of Redding. In 1794, the town was renamed Elizabethtown, but due to confusion with another town of the same name, in 1801, the city was renamed Elizabeth City.[7] The name "Elizabeth" has been variously attributed to honor either Queen Elizabeth I of England, who 200 years earlier spearheaded the colonization of the Carolina and Virginia coasts, or Elizabeth "Betsy" Tooley, a local tavern proprietress who donated much of the land for the new town.[8]

The improvements made to the Dismal Swamp Canal made Elizabeth City a financial center of trade and commercially successful for the early 19th century. In 1826, the federal government purchased 600 stocks in the canal and, in 1829, additional funds for improvements were raised by the Norfolk lottery. With these funds, the Dismal Swamp Canal was widened and deepened, allowing for larger boats to ship their goods.

Further bolstering Elizabeth City’s financial success was the movement in 1827 of the customs house from Camden County to Elizabeth City, leading much of northeast Albemarle’s trade to be directed directly through Elizabeth City. From only 1829 to 1832, Elizabeth City’s tolls tripled. During the American Civil War the Confederate States had a small fleet stationed at Elizabeth City. After the Battle of Roanoke Island the Union forces sent a fleet to take Elizabeth City. There was a small skirmish that followed which ended in a Union victory. Elizabeth City was under Union control for the remainder of the war though Confederate irregulars engaged in Guerrilla warfare with Union forces in the area for the remainder of the war.

Meanwhile overland travel slowly improved, furnishing greater trade between neighboring counties, and a ferry continued to be used for transport between Elizabeth City and Camden county. However, the completion of competing canals and railroads around Elizabeth City diverted some of its financial success to neighboring cities. The Portsmouth and Weldon Railroad, completed in the 1830s allowed for goods to be transported from the Roanoke River to be directly transported to Weldon, and the Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal, completed in 1859, created a deeper channel for merchants shipping goods from the Eastern Albemarle Sound to Norfolk. It would not be until 1881 that the Elizabeth City and Norfolk Railroad, later renamed the Norfolk Southern Railway, would once again jumpstart the city's industry.[9]

Industry grew further during World War II, particularly in shipbuilding, tapering off over the following decades as industry withdrew to form the service, government and agriculture-dominant economic sectors present today. A recent revival in tourism and civic revitalization centered over downtown and the city's varied historic districts has further shaped the city's current P.R. image.

Battle of Elizabeth City[]

During the Civil War, there was a small battle between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America near Elizabeth City on the Pasquotank River on February 10, 1862. It was nothing more than a skirmish and casualties were low. The battle ended in a Union victory and resulted in the capture of Elizabeth City by the Union.


An aerial view of Elizabeth City. The Pasquotank River and neighboring Camden County can also be seen.

Elizabeth city is located alongside the Pasquotank River, which connects to the Albemarle Sound and is part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Directly across the river lies Camden County.

Elizabeth City is located at 36°17′44″N 76°13′30″W / 36.29556, -76.225 (36.295585, -76.224954).[10]

According to the United States Census Bureau, Elizabeth City has a total area of 9.6 square miles (25 km2), of which, 8.9 square miles (23 km2) of it is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2) of it (6.49%) is water. Located in the Inner Banks of North Carolina, Elizabeth City is largely flat and marshy with an elevation of only 12 ft (3.7 m).[11] The city's semi-coastal geography has played an important role in its history—Elizabeth City once hosted thriving oyster and timber industries.


Elizabeth City has a humid subtropical climate, experiencing seasonal variation in temperature and precipitation. Due to its location, however, relatively close to the Albemarle Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, the temperature variations are somewhat softened. On average, Elizabeth City has its highest temperature and accumulation of precipitation in July. Elizabeth City commonly experiences thunderstorms during these summer months and has endured many tropical storms and hurricanes due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. This city experiences very little snowfall, however, on receiving on average a total of 3.5 inches (89 mm) of snow.[12]

Climate data for Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Average high °F (°C) 52
Average low °F (°C) 32
Record low °F (°C) −2
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.40
Snowfall inches (cm) 0.8
Source #1:
Source #2:

Arts & Culture[]

Elizabeth City is home to the Museum of the Albemarle, the northeastern regional branch of the North Carolina Museum of History. Located near the waterfront, the museum contains many permanent and revolving exhibits on the history and culture of the Albemarle region.

Greater Elizabeth City (Pasquotank County) has 6 National Register Historic Districts and 6 resources that are listed individually on the National Register, containing the state's largest concentration of antebellum-style homes and commercial buildings.

Notably, the Virginia Dare Hotel and Arcade, a neoclassical building designed in 1927 by William Lee Stoddart, continues to form the skyline of Elizabeth City and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[13] This nine-story building adorned with a two-story arcade currently serves as an elderly apartment complex.[14]

Elizabeth City has also been the birthplace of a few government officials in its history. Judge John Warren Davis, a justice on the Federal Court of Appeals was born in Elizabeth City as was John C. B. Ehringhaus, governor of North Carolina from 1933-7 and for whom Ehringhaus Street, a major thoroughfare, is named.[15]

During the same era, nine-ball legend Luther Lassiter was born in Elizabeth City, and developed much of his skill at pool in the City Billiards pool hall.[16]

North Carolina Potato Festival[]

Elizabeth City also hosts the North Carolina Potato Festival, an annual celebration of the potato, one of the region's most important crops. The festival has steadily become one of the most popular draws in northeastern North Carolina, and is usually held in mid-May in downtown Elizabeth City.


The Daily Advance has served as Elizabeth City's sole newspaper since its founding by Herbert Peele in 1911.[17] In mid-2009, the Daily Advance was bought by Cooke Communications.[18]

Due to its proximity to Hampton Roads, many of the major network affiliates received in Elizabeth City actually are broadcast from southeastern Virginia cities, including WTKR (CBS), WAVY (NBC), WVEC (ABC), WVBT (FOX), and WHRO-TV (PBS). In fact, the only non-public service station based in Elizabeth City is W18BB, broadcasting from Elizabeth City State University.

U.S. Coast Guard[]

Elizabeth City Coast Guard Air Station

Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, the largest United States Coast Guard Air Station on the East Coast, is located directly south of Elizabeth City's city limits. Recently incorporated into the United States Department of Homeland Security, the base, along with a host of defense contractors anchored by DRS Technologies, provide a host of local jobs and maintains an influx of Coast Guard and industry employees from all around the country.

The USCG Air Station and the Aviation Technical Training Center (ATTC) in Elizabeth City was also featured in numerous scenes of the 2006 Disney movie "The Guardian", although the base was made to look like Kodiak, Alaska in keeping with the film's script.

Elizabeth City is also home to one of the United States' few airship factories.[19] Many of the nation's commercial blimps are made and serviced here. The current airship facilities evolved from what had previously been Naval Air Station Weeksville, operational from 1941 to 1957. NAS Weeksville's LTA craft played a vital role in German U-boat spotting during World War II, helping to minimize losses to East Coast shipping.[20]

Capitalizing on the region's reputation as the birthplace of aviation including the Wright Brothers' First Flight on the Outer Banks, presence of the U.S. Coast Guard and the lighter-than-air blimp industry, a joint public-private airpark adjacent to the Coast Guard base is in the planning stages. Intended to make Elizabeth City a premier hub of the aviation industry, the airpark hopes to attract major tenants as well as the Aviation Science programs of Elizabeth City State University and related programs by the College of the Albemarle.


According to Census Bureau estimates for July 1, 2008, there were 20,188 people, 6,877 households, and 4,689 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,923.2 people per square mile (742.3/km2). There were 7,463 housing units at an average density of 835.1 per square mile (322.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 40.24% White, 56.60% African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.62% from other races, and 1.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.50% of the population.

There were 6,577 households out of which 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.7% were married couples living together, 23.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% were non-families. 31.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 15.1% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 18.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 81.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,193, and the median income for a family was $28,037. Males had a median income of $27,434 versus $20,836 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,333. About 25.1% of families and 27.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.5% of those under age 18 and 23.7% of those age 65 or over.


All public education is overseen by the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County School Board of Education. ECPPS, the local school system, operates seven elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and one alternative learning school.[21] Elizabeth City is additionally home to some private and religious schools, including Albemarle School,[22] Foreshadow Academy, Victory Christian School, and Cathedral Christian Academy.

Elizabeth City is home to one private and two public institutions of higher education.

Elizabeth City State University, a constituent member of the University of North Carolina System, is a historically African-American college, currently enrolling 3,061 students on a compact 200-acre (0.81 km2) campus along the city's southern edge. Founded in 1891 as a teacher training school, it now serves the higher educational needs of northeastern North Carolina's sixteen counties. It offers a doctor of pharmacy program in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,[23] as well as aviation science programs in a joint venture with the College of the Albemarle.[24]

Mid-Atlantic Christian University, a private Christian institution, is located along the Pasquotank River, north of downtown Elizabeth City. It was founded in 1948.

Also located here is the main campus of the College of the Albemarle, positioned on the city's northern edge adjacent to Albemarle Hospital. It is known as the first community college to be established under the (North Carolina) Community College Act of 1960.[25]

All three schools have agreements allowing students to dual-enroll in one of the other two institutions.


Elizabeth City serves as the County Seat of Pasquotank County under a council-manager style of government.

Elizabeth City District Court

Elizabeth City’s government is composed of the City Council and the Mayor. The City Council itself is composed of eight council members and the City Manager, elected by these council members. The City Manager serves a largely executive function, overseeing the city’s administrative departments, appointing department heads and city employees, and informing the rest of the Council of relevant municipal conditions. Currently, the city manager is Rich Olsen.[26] The eight council members, on the other hand, acts in a legislative regard, adopting city policies, holding the Manager responsible, and choosing a Mayor pro-Tempore from its council members. This council is elected every two years by each of the four wards composing the city electing two members.[27]

The Mayor, elected by the whole voter body every two years, also serves an executive function, serving as the head of a council meeting and casting a tie-breaking vote for the council. As of 2008, the mayor is Roger McLean. The council holds its meetings every second and fourth Monday of the month and is rebroadcast on a public service channel.[28]

Elizabeth City has an office for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, headed by Terrence W. Boyle as the resident judge. This Court presides over cases in the northern region of this district.[29]

Elizabeth City also occupies North Carolina’s First Congressional District, served by US Representative GK Butterfield.[30]



Northern terminii of both US 17 Business and US 17 Truck Business at Hughes Boulevard (Mainline US 17), continuing north as North Road Street (Mainline US 17).

Elizabeth City is linked to neighboring counties and cities through a network of and interstate highways.

Most unusual are the four branches of U.S. Route 17 that pass through the city - rarely are there more than two or three variants of the same route in any given community.

(Mainline) US 17 enters Pasquotank County from the southwest (Perquimans County), travels through Elizabeth City as Hughes Boulevard (the former US 17 Bypass from 1969 to 2002), departing as the northern section of North Road Street as it continues north into Camden County toward the Virginia border.

US 17 Business branches off Hughes Boulevard and travels east as Ehringhaus Street, turning north through Downtown as North Road Street, ending with at its intersection with (Mainline) US 17/Hughes Boulevard and continuing as such as North Road Street.

US 17 Truck Business appears to be a designation unique among U.S. routes, traveling from the Camden Causeway west along Elizabeth St. and north along Hughes Blvd to double-terminate with US 17 Business.

The last and newest branch is the US 17 Bypass, a fully access-controlled and interstate-grade freeway. Completed in 2002 to the immediate west of the city, the bypass eliminated one of the last remaining inner-city stretches of US 17 in North Carolina.

U.S. Route 158 forms a route westward from Camden County, providing Elizabeth City linkage to points east including the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In town, US 158 temporarily merges with US 17, traveling northeastward before diverging at Morgan's Corner and continuing westward across the Great Dismal Swamp into Gates County.

North Carolina Highway 344 forms a minor connection southeastward from the US 17 Bypass to southern Pasquotank County, serving as a major commercial and industrial corridor, providing access to Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, Elizabeth City State University, TCom and the rural unincorporated community of Weeksville.


Elizabeth City has a joint civil-military airport, shared with the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, and located 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of the city limits, named the Elizabeth City Regional Airport (IATA: ECG, ICAO: KECG, FAA LID: ECG).

Scheduled domestic and international passenger services are available at Norfolk International Airport (IATA: ORF, ICAO: KORF, FAA LID: ORF), located about an hour away in Norfolk, Virginia.


Elizabeth City has regularly scheduled bus service through Greyhound.


The Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad, a short line operated by the North Carolina and Virginia Railroad, extends 82 miles (132 km) between Edenton, North Carolina, and Chesapeake, Virginia. This line had first been established in 1881 as the Elizabeth City and Norfolk Railroad, later renamed the Norfolk Southern Railway. Once one of Norfolk Southern's principal lines, the decline of the region's industry and the demolition of tracks across the Albemarle Sound from Edenton to Mackey's Ferry marginalized the route, forcing the line's lease to the Chesapeake and Albemarle in 1990.[31]

The closest passenger service is provided by Amtrak in Newport News, Virginia, approximately one and a half hours to the north.


  1. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
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  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
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External links[]

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.