The US Weather Bureau once used Coastal Warning Display towers such as this one to fly signal ﬂags to warn mariners of wind shifts or approaching storms.
On November 10, 1904, the Weather Bureau established the Manteo Weather Station with Alpheus W. Drinkwater in charge. The Manteo Chamber of Commerce requested that the bureau be given permission to place a tower on the grounds of the Dare County Courthouse.
Since weather news was transmitted by telegraph, Drinkwater, in his role as telegraph operator, was a logical choice for the weatherman. He also is noted for sending news of the Wright Brothers' flight tests to news agencies across the country.
Beyond the symbolic colors and shapes that foretold a rainy day or a ﬂood tide on a northwesterly wind, weather ﬂags, when flown in various combinations of shapes and colors, signaled that it was time to take in the laundry or to set the ﬁshing nets, part of everyday life in Manteo. At night, two red and one white signal lights signaled storm warnings.
The tower was later moved near its present location on the waterfront and then to Drinkwater's home on Ananias Dare (old Main) street. Upon inquiry by the Manteo Board of Commissioners, the John Booth family gave permission for the tower to be moved to town property, and provided the original signal lights.
In 2005, the Town of Manteo had the tower refurbished and moved to this site so that the weather signal ﬂags could once again ﬂy on the Manteo waterfront. The Manteo Weather Tower is believed to be one of only ﬁve towers still in use, and may be the only one with all of its original signal lights affixed.