What is a cistern? A cistern is a tank used to store rain water, usually for drinking purposes. Cisterns have been used for thousands of years by people living in places where fresh water is hard to find. The Bible mentions cisterns in Proverbs 5:15, "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well." Prior to the advent of the public water system on Hatteras Island in the 1970's, almost all houses in the village depended on cisterns for fresh water.

Below is an example of a round wooden cistern built next to the Nelson Stowe house in Hatteras Village. The photo below was taken in 1946. Notice the downspout leading down from the gutter to the cistern. This cistern was probably elevated so gravity could be used to move the water from the cistern to the house.

Photo used with permission  of the University of Louisville Photographic Archives


The cistern shown in the photo below (lower right) was probably constructed of blocks with a cement cap. The photo was taken in the 1940's.

Photo courtesy of Josephine Oden


This cistern was found at the end of Kohler Drive in Hatteras Village. It is constructed of brick with a cement cover.

Photo by Ray Midgett


Ray Midgett