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Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Ec birdview.jpg
Official seal of Elizabeth City, North Carolina
“Best City in the 252”Harbor of Hospitality® (registered by the city), E.C., River City, Queen of the Albemarle, Betsy City
Location in Pasquotank counties in the state of North Carolina
Location in Pasquotank counties in the state of North Carolina
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Pasquotank, Camden
 • City 12.31 sq mi (31.89 km2)
 • Land 11.69 sq mi (30.28 km2)
 • Water 0.62 sq mi (1.61 km2)
12 ft (4 m)
 • City 18,683
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,518.22/sq mi (586.21/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
27906, 27907, 27909
Area code(s) 252
FIPS code 37-20580
GNIS feature ID 1025307

Elizabeth City is a city in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 18,683. Elizabeth City is the county seat and largest city of Pasquotank County. It is the cultural, economic and educational hub of the sixteen-county Historic Albemarle region of northeastern North Carolina.

Elizabeth City is the center of the Elizabeth City Micropolitan Statistical Area, with a population of 64,094 as of 2010. It is part of the larger Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Combined Statistical Area. The city is the economic center of the region, as well as home to many historic sites and cultural traditions.

Marketed as the "Harbor of Hospitality", Elizabeth City has had a long history of shipping due to its location at a narrowed bend of the Pasquotank River. Founded in 1794, Elizabeth City prospered early on from the Dismal Swamp Canal as a mercantile city. Later it developed industry and other commercial focus. While Elizabeth City still retains extensive waterfront property, it is linked to neighboring counties and cities by contemporary highways and bridges to support other transportation. It hosts one of the largest United States Coast Guard bases in the nation.


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.

In 1793, construction of the Dismal Swamp Canal began, which would drive Elizabeth City's commerce, and 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". The name "Elizabeth" has been attributed to Elizabeth "Betsy" Tooley, a local tavern proprietress who donated much of the land for the new town.

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. 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 the 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 directly 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.

SC-708-Under Construction at Elizabeth City Shipyard-2Nov1942
Submarine chaser SC-708 under construction at Elizabeth City Shipyard. The shipyard not only built the most subchasers for the US Navy (30 out of 438) but also holds the record speed for construction of said class, with SC-740 laid down in only thirty days.
SC-1280-Elizabeth City Shipyard
SC-1280 was one of thirty subchasers built at the Elizabeth City Shipyard.

Such new opportunities established Elizabeth City as a thriving deep-water port whose varied industries as lumbering, shipbuilding, grain, fish and oyster processing, together once made the city a formidable regional economic center rivaling that of Norfolk, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland. With the 1881 establishment of the Elizabeth City and Norfolk Railroad, later renamed the Norfolk Southern Railway, water-based shipping was rendered less relevant, with many of the waterside industries relocating to the growing cities of North Carolina's Upper Coastal Plain and Piedmont.

The declaration of World War II reinvigorated Elizabeth City's industries, particularly in shipbuilding, textiles and aeronautics. Establishment of Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City in 1940 as well as Navy Air Station Weeksville in 1941 provided valuable surveillance by seaplane and dirigible of German U-boats actively targeting American merchant shipping in East Coast waters. Additionally from 1942 to 1944, the Elizabeth City Shipyard manufactured thirty 111-foot SC-class submarine chasers, four YT-class yard tugboats, and six 104-foot QS-class quick supply boats. The Elizabeth City Shipyard not only built the largest number of subchasers for the war effort (30 out of 438 total), but also set the record construction time for the SC-class, with SC-740 laid down in only thirty days. As of June 2013, the Elizabeth City Shipyard is still in operation.

The conclusion of the war led to a levelled economy as industry withdrew gradually over the following decades to form the service, government and agriculture-dominant economic sectors present today. Starting in the late 1990s, revival efforts in tourism and civic revitalization centered over downtown and the city's five historic districts have led to increasing economic stability.

The Elizabeth City Historic District, Elizabeth City State Teachers College Historic District, Elizabeth City Water Plant, Episcopal Cemetery, Norfolk Southern Passenger Station, Northside Historic District, Old Brick House, Riverside Historic District, and Shepard Street-South Road Street Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Battle of Elizabeth City

During the Civil War, there was a small battle between the Confederate states and the Union 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 with subsequent capture of the city.


Ec birdview
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 Albemarle Sound. Directly across the river lies Camden County.

Elizabeth City is located at 36°17′44″N 76°13′30″W / 36.29556°N 76.22500°W / 36.29556; -76.22500 (36.295585, −76.224954).

According to the United States Census Bureau, Elizabeth City has a total area of 12.2 square miles (31.7 km2), of which 11.6 square miles (30.1 km2) is land and 0.62 square miles (1.6 km2), or 5.09%, is water. Located in the "Inner Banks" region of North Carolina, Elizabeth City is largely flat and marshy with an elevation of only 12 feet (3.7 m) above sea level. 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, receiving on average a total of 3.5 inches (89 mm) of snow.

Climate data for Elizabeth City, North Carolina (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 50.9
Average low °F (°C) 31.9
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.56
Snowfall inches (cm) 1.4
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 8.6 8.9 9.7 9.1 10.8 10.1 11.8 10.8 9.1 7.7 7.9 9.5 114.2
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 0.7 0.3 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.2 1.5
Source: NOAA


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 930
1880 2,315 148.9%
1890 3,251 40.4%
1900 6,348 95.3%
1910 8,412 32.5%
1920 8,925 6.1%
1930 10,037 12.5%
1940 11,564 15.2%
1950 12,685 9.7%
1960 14,062 10.9%
1970 14,381 2.3%
1980 14,004 −2.6%
1990 14,292 2.1%
2000 17,188 20.3%
2010 18,683 8.7%
2019 (est.) 17,751 −5.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Elizabeth City racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 6,852 36.78%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 9,332 50.09%
Native American 71 0.38%
Asian 220 1.18%
Pacific Islander 11 0.06%
Other/Mixed 845 4.54%
Hispanic or Latino 1,300 6.98%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 18,631 people, 6,526 households, and 3,839 families residing in the city.

2010 census

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 18,683 people, 7,487 households, and 4,689 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,607.0 people per square mile (4162.12/km2). There were 8,167 housing units at an average density of 702.24 per square mile (18.1879/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 54.00% African American, 39.50% White, 0.40% Native American, 1.20% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 0.62% from other races, and 2.30% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.00% of the population.

There were 6,577 households, out of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.0% were married couples living together, 22.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 32.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 27.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.7% under the age of 19, 12.1% from 20 to 24, 23.1% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 81.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 68.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,582, and the median income for a family was $41,071. Males had a median income of $31,307 versus $25,683 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,592. About 21.6% of families and 28.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 42.5% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.

U.S. Coast Guard

Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City 1999
Elizabeth City Coast Guard Air Station

Established in 1940 and located southeast of Elizabeth City's corporate limits, Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City is the largest United States Coast Guard Air Station in the nation, and home to six commands - Air Station Elizabeth City, Aviation Logistics Center, Aviation Technical Training Center, Base Elizabeth City, C-27J Asset Project Office (APO), and Small Boat Station Elizabeth City - as well as the off-base National Strike Force Coordination Center located in northern Elizabeth City. As a component of 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 were featured in numerous scenes of the 2006 Disney movie The Guardian, standing in for Kodiak, Alaska.

Elizabeth City is home to one of the United States' few airship factories. 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.

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.

Arts and 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.

Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City, NC
Museum of the Albemarle viewed from Waterfront Park

Downtown Elizabeth City is also home to Arts of the Albemarle, located in the Historic Lowery-Chesson Building. Following a 3.4 million dollar fundraising campaign, the building was renamed "The Center" in 2005, and on three floors, houses three art galleries, the state of the art McGuire Theater for the performing arts, and multiple conference and meeting roooms. The Center has been an economic driver for downtown Elizabeth City since it's opening.

Elizabethcity mainstreetCBD
Main Street business district, looking westward and away from Pasquotank River waterfront

Pasquotank County has seven National Register Historic Districts and six resources that are listed individually on the National Register, containing the state's largest concentration of antebellum-style homes and commercial buildings.

Among these is the most-striking architectural feature of the greater Albemarle region. The Virginia Dare Hotel and Arcade is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and continues to dominate the skyline of Elizabeth City since its completion in 1927. Designed by William Lee Stoddart of New York City, one of the nation’s leading hotel architects, the nine-story building was billed as the Albemarle’s first “skyscraper” when it opened in 1927. It remains the tallest building in the region.

The hotel contained 100 rooms, and a heated garage (now the rear parking lot) with an interior filling station and lubricating stand. It remained the premier hotel and center of Elizabeth City’s social activities for over 40 years. Architecturally, its restrained Colonial Revival finish follows the typical division of such tall buildings into the three parts of a classical pillar: a sturdy two-story base; a simply detailed six-story shaft; and a one-story capital, which displays an abundance of decoration. Today it serves as an elderly apartment complex.

Elizabeth City has 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 1933-1937 and for whom Ehringhaus Street, a major thoroughfare, is named.

NC Potato Festival 2010
National Potato Peeling Contest, one of several potato-related activities at the festival

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.

Elizabeth City was the 1929 birthplace of the American Moth Boat, a class of recreational sailboats invented by Dr. Joel Van Sant. The city hosts a Moth Boat Regatta annually in late February. The Moth Boat features prominently on the city's seal.

North Carolina Potato Festival

Elizabeth City 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.

Albemarle Craftsmans Fair

This annual Christmastime fair is sponsored by the Albemarle Craftsman's Guild and features artisans, many of whom wear period costumes, selling and demonstrating traditional crafts. Crafts include quilting and fiber arts, pottery, jewelry and woodwork.

Juneteenth Celebration

This annual celebration is sponsored by River City Community Development Corporation and celebrates the freeing of African Slaves in America. It has evolved into a multi-racial, multi-cultural celebration of American Freedom. The festival features vendors and informational booths, speakers, entertainment and good food.



Truck Business-US 17-Elizabeth City,NC
Northern termini 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 multiplexed with US 158).

Elizabeth City is linked to neighboring counties and cities through a network of 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 U.S. Route 17 U.S. Route 17 crosses the Little River, entering Pasquotank County from the southwest. Bypass US 17 immediately splits off to the northwest as mainline US 17 continues to the northeast toward Elizabeth City. Shortly after entering the city limits, US 17 Business splits off to the east towards the downtown waterfront. Mainline US 17 continues through Elizabeth City as Hughes Boulevard (the former US 17 Bypass from 1969 to 2002).

The route encounters major intersections with the commercial corridor of NC 344 (Halstead Boulevard), Church Street, Main Street and midway by Elizabeth Street, where it is joined by US 158 and Truck Business US 17. This tri-route combination continues northeastward to Business 17 and Truck Business 17's northern termini at the intersection with North Road Street. From here, mainline US 17 and 158 make a curve to the northwest, departing Elizabeth City as a continuance of North Road Street.

Bypass US 17 rejoins the highway several miles outside of town, while US 158 splits off to the west at Morgan's Corner just before crossing the Pasquotank River into Camden County. Running parallel to the Dismal Swamp Canal and the eastern boundary of the Great Dismal Swamp, US 17 continues to the Virginia border.

U.S. Route 17 Business (1969–present) U.S. Route 17 branches off Hughes Boulevard and travels east as Ehringhaus Street, named for Governor John C. B. Ehringhaus (1933-1937), the only governor native to Elizabeth City. The route turns north through Downtown as North Road Street, ending with its intersection with US 17/Hughes Boulevard. Mainline US 17 continues north on North Road Street.

U.S. Route 17 Truck Business is a double designation almost unique among U.S. routes, traveling from the Camden Causeway west along Elizabeth Street and north along Hughes Boulevard to double-terminate with US 17 Business. The northern segment of US 17 Business from Elizabeth Street to its termination at Hughes Boulevard runs through a residential district and additionally has weight restrictions, thus requiring an alternate business routing.

U.S. Route 17 Bypass (2002–present) U.S. Route 17 is a fully access-controlled and Interstate-grade freeway. Completed in 2002, U.S. 17 Bypass stretches 9.3 miles to the immediate west of the city, eliminating one of the last remaining inner-city stretches of US 17 in North Carolina. In combination with other bypasses on U.S. 17 from the Virginia border to Williamston, the Elizabeth City bypass forms an integral component in the future I-87.

US 158 U.S. Route 158 enters Elizabeth City from points east, including the Outer Banks, as well as Dare, Currituck, and Camden counties. Traveling westward through town as Elizabeth Street, US 158 temporarily merges with mainline and Truck Business US 17 along the Hughes Boulevard and North Road Street corridors. It continues traveling northwestward leaving the city limits, turning left at Morgan's Corner and continuing westward across the Great Dismal Swamp into Gates County.

NC 344 N.C. Route 344 forms a minor connection southeastward from the US 17 Bypass to southern Pasquotank County. NC 344 serves as a major commercial and industrial corridor along Elizabeth City's southern edge, providing access to Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, Elizabeth City State University, and the rural unincorporated community of Weeksville.


Interstate 87 Interstate 87 is planned to connect Elizabeth City to the Interstate Highway System; when completed, it will run from Raleigh to Norfolk, Virginia, utilizing existing segments of US 64, US 13 and US 17, upgrading them to fully controlled access Interstate highway standards.


Elizabeth City has a joint civil-military airport, shared with U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, and located 4 miles (6 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 north in Norfolk, Virginia.


Local public bus transportation is provided by the Inter-County Public Transportation Authority (ICPTA), with service to Pasquotank, Perquimans, Camden, Chowan, and Currituck counties.

Elizabeth City has regularly scheduled inter-city bus service through Greyhound.


Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad Locomotive 3841, often seen parked adjacent to Halstead Boulevard Extended (NC 344)

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. The railroad still serves the region, primarily carrying grain, sand, gravel and other raw materials to and from the Norfolk Southern and CSX mainlines in Chesapeake.

Passenger service to Elizabeth City ended in 1947. Today, the closest passenger service is provided by Amtrak in Newport News, Virginia, approximately one hour to the north. Though an Amtrak station exists in Norfolk, Virginia, most outbound passengers from Norfolk are bussed via Amtrak Connect to Newport News instead.


All public education is overseen by the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County School Board of Education under the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public School system (ECPPS) which operates seven elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, one Early College program, one alternative high school and one public charter STEM school

Elementary schools

  • Central Elementary
  • J.C. Sawyer Elementary
  • Northside Elementary
  • Pasquotank Elementary
  • P.W. Moore Elementary
  • Sheep-Harney Elementary
  • Weeksville Elementary

Middle schools

  • Elizabeth City Middle
  • River Road Middle

High schools

  • Northeastern High
  • Pasquotank County High
  • Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Early College

Alternative school

  • H.L. Trigg Alternative

Public Charter STEM School

  • Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies (NEAAAT)

Private schools

  • Albemarle School
  • Cathedral Christian Academy
  • Foreshadow Academy
  • Grace Montessori Academy
  • New Life Academy
  • Victory Christian School

Higher education

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

Elizabeth City State University, the smallest constituent member of the 16-campus University of North Carolina System, is a historically African-American institution, enrolling 2,930 students as of fall 2011 on a compact 200-acre (0.81 km2) campus along the city's southern edge. Founded as a normal school in 1891, it now serves the higher educational needs of northeastern North Carolina's sixteen counties, offering 28 undergraduate and four master's degrees.

ECSU offers Aviation Science programs at their training facility at Elizabeth City Regional Airport, as well as a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), flagship school of the UNC system.

One of the entrances to the ECSU campus

Also located here is the main campus of the College of the Albemarle (COA), 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. COA has satellite campuses in Barco, Edenton and Manteo.

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

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

Notable people



  • James W. Owens (born 1946), former chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc. 2004-2010



  • Max Roach (1924–2007), nationally known jazz percussionist, drummer and composer. Roach was born in the northern Pasquotank County township of Newland north of Elizabeth City.
  • Scott Sanders (born 1968), screenwriter and director known for Black Dynamite


Images for kids

See also

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