Our fine-dining restaurant is named ‘Kimball’s Kitchen’ after a very prominent figure in U.S. History. Discover the transformation of the U.S. Life-Saving Service and how Superintendent Sumner Kimball’s efforts transformed today’s maritime travel.

Kimball was unquestionably the driving force behind the United States’ possessing a first-class lifesaving organization.” – Dr. Dennis Noble, Historian of the U.S. Life-Saving Service

It can be argued that the combination of one ship’s wreck and one man’s efforts sparked the reformation of the Life-Saving Service. When U.S. Army steamer Huron-Metropolis met a violent storm in Nags Head, 103 lives were said to have been lost. Two miles away, the Nags Head Life-Saving Station was closed for the season. This dramatic loss was cause for a nationwide uproar.

Uncle Sam Cartoon

“I suppose I must spend a little on Life-Saving Service, Life-Boat Stations, Life-Boats, Surf-Boats, etc.; but it is too bad to be obliged to waste so much money.”  -Published in Harpers Weekly, December of 1877

After the tragic loss, discrepancies in the service surfaced. Defects in the ship had been a secret, inspectors were charged with collusion, and the ship was overloaded by its chartering company. The Life-Saving crew met the wreckage too late, and without sufficient equipment.

But no matter. As long as men trod that lonely, violent beach, they will always remember the Metropolis as one of the too-often times when man’s mistakes and inadequacies and greed coincided with a cruel mood of nature to shock the nation with a brutal episode of the sea.” Bill Sharpe’s 1951 article on the heavy loss from the shipwreck

It was very clear something needed to be changed.

Around this time, the national maritime organization ‘The Revenue Marine’ had become the United States Revenue Cutter Service, and operated solely as an ocean-based law enforcement. The Service was never prepared for life saving rescues. The void continued until 1871 when the U.S. Life-Saving Service was established.

Sumner Kimball 2

The Service sought a powerful, competent administrator. Sumner Increase Kimball was asked by the Treasury Department to be the Service’s Superintendent, to which he replied, “I shall accept your offer upon one condition. If you will stand by me, after I have convinced you that I am right, I shall attempt to bring about the reforms you desire. But I warn you that the pressure will be tremendous”. Kimball knew that the Treasury’s Secretary would face criticism and backlash for Kimball’s choices, even saying “it will require an uncommon display of backbone on your part”.

With a stellar reputation, Sumner Kimball was the ideal man to be Superintendent. He knew that in order to have a successful service, his men would have to be above the politics of the small communities in which they served. They would have to identify as a service to the community and nation.

Today, Sumner Kimball’s standards have been transferred into today’s U.S. Coast Guard. His efforts are the model of efficiency, competency, standardization and honor that keep today’s maritime travel safe.

*Fun Fact: On an average day, the Coast Guard: 

  • Conducts 45 search and rescue cases
  • Saves 10 lives
  • Saves over $1.2 million in property

Our fine-dining restaurant is named ‘Kimball’s Kitchen’ after the concept that each Life-Saving Station had its own respective kitchen. When Caffey’s Inlet Life-Saving Station was moved, it was without a kitchen. Therefore, its neighboring restaurant was referred to as the kitchen. Being such a prominent name in the Service’s history, Kimball’s name finished the title of the restaurant!

We thank Superintendent Sumner Kimball for his efforts to make America’s travel safer and secure.

History of Sumner Kimball 


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