After more than four years of hard work and experimentation, it only took the Wright brothers 12 seconds to change the world. On December 17, 1903, at 10:35, Orville Wright made the world's first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight. Before climbing onto the plane, Orville Wright carefully set up his camera and asked one of the lifesavers to snap the shutter just as the Flyer left the ground. It's ironic that one of the world's most famous photographs, the photograph that documented the Wrights' successful first flight, was taken by John T. Daniels, a Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station surfman who had never used a camera before.
The crew of the Kill Devil Hills Lifesaving Station in 1903
The Wrights announced their discovery to the world in a telegraph message to their father from the Kitty Hawk Weather Station. Thus, when the world covered the event, it was Kitty Hawk that received the glory.
Kill Devil Hills's began to grow once the bridge was constructed from Point Harbor on the Currituck County mainland across Currituck Sound in 1931. Kill Devil Hills did not have docks for small passenger ships arriving from Elizabeth City and Norfolk, Virginia. It wasn't until cars could reach the center stretch of the northern Outer Banks beaches that the area started to develop.
Currituck Sound Bridge Looking toward Kitty Hawk in 1931
1930s: Kill Devil Hills Coast Guard Station
1940s: Hotel Croatan in KDH
Back in the 50s lots in Avalon, one of the Outer Banks's first subdivisions, sold for $250. Most of the early cottage owners came from Elizabeth City, Edenton, Suffolk, and the Norfolk area. By the 1970s, Kill Devil Hills was thriving — with summer cottage rentals, motels, restaurants, and year-round residents. The first large shopping center was opened in 1988.
1950s: Ocean View Cottage Court
Today, Kill Devil Hills is the oldest township in the whole of the Outer Banks region – yet it was formally incorporated in just 1953. It is located in the near geographic middle of the northern Dare County beaches between the towns of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk. Kill Devil Hills is also the largest municipality in Dare County with a year-round population of approximately 7,000 people and is a popular vacation destination, and home to many beach cottages, vacation rentals, hotels, and motels.