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History of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Few attractions that dot the coastline of North Carolina are as famous as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Located in Buxton, this iconic black-and-white spiraled structure is the crown jewel of Hatteras Island and attracts nearly 200,000 visitors each year. If you’re planning a trip to our barrier island paradise, your vacation won’t be complete without a visit to this Outer Banks landmark that has protected the treacherous shoals of the Graveyard of the Atlantic for centuries.

Just off the coast of Cape Hatteras, the Labrador Current—a current of cold water that flows south from the coast of Canada—and the Gulf Stream—an ocean current comprised of warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico—collide and create one of the most dangerous spots for ships and sailors in Atlantic Ocean: the Diamond Shoals. When Congress recognized the hazards posed by this stretch of shoreline in 1794, the construction of a lighthouse was authorized to protect those attempting to navigate their way around the 12-mile-long sandbar.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The construction process began in 1799, and in October 1803 the original Cape Hatteras Lighthouse—a 90-foot-tall sandstone structure that boasted a lamp powered by whale oil—was lit for the first time. Despite its builders’ good intentions, the lighthouse was unable to effectively warn the sailors out at sea that they were entering the perilous waters of the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Deemed too short to send a strong enough signal to those whose ships were nearing Cape Hatteras, the lighthouse received numerous complaints, and in 1853 the Lighthouse Board approved the addition of 60 feet to the height of the structure.

Taking into account other complaints sailors had frequently made about the original lighthouse—namely that the unpainted sandstone exterior didn’t provide a stark contrast to the sky during daylight hours—the second version of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was painted white on the bottom and red on the top so it no longer blended into the background. To ensure the structure’s signal was strong enough to reach mariners sailing toward the treacherous coastline, the new lighthouse was retrofitted with a kerosene-powered Fresnel lens that allowed it to emit a much stronger beam of light that could be seen nearly 20 miles from shore. After years of use, however, the structure was in need of extensive repairs, and funds were soon appropriated for a new lighthouse that could better serve the needs of sailors traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

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Construction got underway in October 1868, and in February 1871—two months after the new lighthouse was first lit in 1870—the 1803 lighthouse was demolished. In 1873, the present-day Cape Hatteras Lighthouse received its characteristic spiral marking of black and white stripes. Assigned by the Lighthouse Board, this distinctive daymark pattern as well as a unique light sequence—known as a “nightmark,” in which the light flashes every 7.5 seconds—helped to distinguish the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse from other navigational aids along the East Coast.

Although the newly constructed third rendition of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was both tall enough and bright enough to successfully warn ships of the dangerous shoals that lay ahead, the structure soon found itself facing another major challenge: Mother Nature. The tower was originally built in a spot deemed safe from the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean; however, with each year that passed and every hurricane and nor’easter that hit the Outer Banks, more of the shoreline was stripped away, leaving the lighthouse increasingly vulnerable to imminent destruction.

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In 1893, the lighthouse stood 1,500 feet from the shoreline, but by 1975 only 175 feet separated the structure from the pounding surf—and cracks in the tower resulted in the lighthouse being closed to the public. In 1980 the lighthouse sat just 50 feet from the ocean, and the following year the “Save the Lighthouse Committee” was formed by U.S. Senator Helms and North Carolina Governor Hunt, among others. An independent study requested by the National Park Service (NPS) recommended relocation of the Outer Banks landmark, and the NPS later announced that moving the lighthouse to a safer spot posed less of a risk than leaving the structure in its perilous position. Restoration of the damaged tower began in 1990, and the lighthouse was reopened to the public in 1993.

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Six years later, in 1999, the keepers’ quarters, oil house and two cisterns were moved to a new site further inland, and soon after, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse began a journey that would garner worldwide attention. Over a period of just 23 days, in an effort to combat the ever-present threat of shoreline erosion the lighthouse faced as it stood precariously perched mere feet from the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The 4,830-ton historic structure was lifted off its foundation at the edge of the encroaching sea, loaded onto a transport system and moved 2,900 feet to the southwest from the spot where it had stood since 1870. In 2000, the lighthouse finally reopened to the public. Now safely situated 1,500 feet from the shoreline, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse resumed its longtime duty of serving as a sentinel on the southern shores of the Outer Banks and continues to provide warnings to mariners brave enough to navigate the Diamond Shoals to this day.

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At a height of 210 feet, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. From the third Friday in April through Columbus Day, visitors can climb 257 steps to the top of this Outer Banks landmark, where they will be treated to unparalleled 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound and the villages that surround this historic structure located in the heart of Hatteras Island.

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The Legacy of the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk

While just about every American, young and old, knows that the Wright brothers achieved the first successful airplane flight, many are likely unaware that this flight took place in the Outer Banks.  Considering the brothers lived in Ohio, why did they select Kitty Hawk, NC for their flying experiments?  To answer this, we must go back in history to when Wilbur and Orville were young.

The Influence of Family

The brothers were born into a family of abolitionists, temperance movement supporters, and active members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.  Their parents were firm believers in intellectual pursuits and encouraged their children to become well educated.  

Milton Wright, Wright brothers father
Milton Wright. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian

 

Susan Wright, Wright brothers mother
Susan Wright. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian

Wilbur and Orville’s mother Susan was especially unusual for a woman in that time period.  She studied literature at Hartville College in Indiana, where she met her husband Milton, and also had considerable mechanical knowledge learned from working closely with her father in his carriage shop.  She built toys for her children and even her own household appliances.  It was Susan who Orville and Wilbur turned to when they needed advice on their flying machines.

The brothers had a variety of individual talents, skills, and personality traits that complemented one another.  Wilbur Wright, of the Wright BrothersWilbur was intellectually motivated, excelled in school, had an extraordinary memory.  His young adult life was especially shaped by an accident when he was 13 years old that left him with lingering heart and digestive complications. A former athlete, his health problems resulted in depression and he isolated himself until he and his brother began working on their aeronautical research.

Orville Wright, of the Wright BrothersLike his brother, Orville was incredibly intelligent and inquisitive.  He was energetic, mischievous, and a practical joker, despite being painfully shy.  He enjoyed conducting experiments, building new inventions, and dismantling things to see how they worked.  Of the two, Orville more closely fit the stereotype of the innovator and scientist.  But Wilbur became the more public figure as he was a gifted speaker and not shy like Orville.

According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, relying on each other’s strengths and compensating for each other’s weaknesses was crucial to the brother’s invention of the airplane. Neither probably could have achieved alone what they did together.  They also were influenced by their only sister Katharine. Katharine Wright, Wright brothers only sisterLike their mother, Katharine pursued her educational and career goals, graduating from Oberlin College and becoming a high school teacher.  Katharine, Orville, and Wilbur had a very strong bond and were more interested in their intellectual pursuits than finding partners and settling down.  None of them ever married.

Dayton, Ohio and Bicycles

The Wright brothers credited growing up in Dayton, OH as stimulating their interest in aeronautical engineering.  In the 1890s, Dayton was a hub for manufacturing and industry, making it a place humming with technological innovation.  This environment, along with their parents’ support, encouraged the boys to tinker and explore.  The brothers’ first experience with flight occurred in 1878, when their father gave them a small rubber band–powered toy helicopter designed by French aviation pioneer Alphonse Pénaud. Intrigued by the toy, Orville and Wilbur made several copies of it in varying sizes.  Their fascination with mechanics continued as they grew and as young men, they established a printing press followed by a bicycle repair shop and factory. These enterprises funded their aeronautical experiments.

While many factors contributed to the Wrights’ success with flight, their familiarity with bicycles played an influential role.  According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, understanding the importance of balance, the need for strong but lightweight materials, the role of aerodynamic shape to combat wind resistance, and the chain-and-sprocket system for propulsion are a few of the lessons they learned from bicycles that would prove essential to their flying experiments.

The Brothers Arrive in Kitty Hawk

The Wright brothers concentrated their early research on simple hang gliders, following the path set by earlier inventors.  They were especially influenced by the German flight pioneer Otto Lilienthal, who made nearly 2000 brief flights in 16 different gliders between 1891 and 1896.  The brothers built upon Lilienthal’s research and between 1899 and 1905, they built and tested many airplane prototypes. The 1900 glider was the first piloted aircraft and was also the first to be tested in Kitty Hawk, NC.

The Wrights needed a number of specific conditions in order to test their glider.  First, they needed steady winds.  Second, they needed a wide-open space with limited obstructions.  Third, they needed something from which to launch their glider, such as high sand dunes.  Lastly, they wanted a place to experiment in peace without a lot of onlookers.  Kitty Hawk fit these requirements perfectly.  

The glider being flown as a kite in Kitty Hawk in 1900
The glider being flown as a kite in Kitty Hawk in 1900. Image courtesy of The National Park Service

At the time, Kitty Hawk was a tiny coastal fishing village of approximately 300 people with ideal average wind speed at 15 to 20 mph.  The Kill Devil Hills, located four miles south of town, provided massive dunes from which to glide, and an abundance of sand to cushion crash landings. While Kitty Hawk was ideally suited for their experiments, it was not without challenges.  The weather was often unpredictable with sudden squalls and constantly shifting sands.  But the brothers persevered.

Before making piloted glides, the Wrights always tested their gliders by flying them as kites. “Kiting” provided valuable data on lift and drag, and enabled them to get a feel for the controls.  Unfortunately, their 1900 glider only produced about half the lift they predicted, so it was back to the drawing board in Dayton, OH.

Wilbur Wright laying prone on glider just after landing in Kitty Hawk in 1901
Wilbur Wright laying prone on their glider in Kitty Hawk in 1901. Image courtesy of The National Park Service

The brothers returned to Kitty Hawk year after year, each time with an improved aircraft.  After collecting massive amounts of data, building a wind tunnel to test models, and over 200 wing designs, the brothers designed the successful 1902 glider.  Orville and Wilbur made between 700 and 1000 glides, some reaching 600 feet in the air.  This success invigorated them and they immediately started working on a powered airplane.

In 1903, they again returned to Kitty Hawk ready to test their aircraft, which they called “The Flyer.”  The first attempt was unsuccessful but the second attempt resulted in a 12-second flight — the very first piloted airplane flight.  The brothers alternated as pilots, and by the end of the day, their airplane had made an impressive 852-foot trip in 59 seconds.  The brothers filed for a patent in March 1903 and it was finally granted on May 22, 1906.

The Wright Flyer lifts off for the first time in Kitty Hawk in 1903. Orville is on board with Wilbur running alongside.
The Wright Flyer lifts off for the first time in Kitty Hawk in 1903. Orville is on board with Wilbur running alongside. Image courtesy of The National Park Service

The Wright Brothers’ Legacy

While Orville and Wilbur had achieved flight, their airplane was not exactly practical.  To successfully market their creation, they had to demonstrate it could turn, fly for longer periods, and fly over more varied terrain than Kitty Hawk’s sand dunes.  By the fall of 1905, the Wrights had built their third powered airplane and on October 5, Wilbur circled a field 30 times in 39 minutes. The brothers had finally proven that flight could be stable and practical.

Interestingly, Orville and Wilbur did not initially do much to popularize their success.  They didn’t fly publicly until 1908, when they started a European tour.  This caused them to become overnight celebrities.  They met with English royalty, were honored with parades, received the Legion of Honor award, and were caricatured by the media.  Both men disliked the attention, but if they were going to sell their airplane, they had to endure it.

The Wright Company secured numerous contracts with the U.S. military, selling The Flyer to the Army in 1909 and the Wright Model B to the Navy in 1911.  They produced a variety of designs until Orville sold the firm and retired in 1915, three years after Wilbur’s premature death.

The Wright brothers’ impact on the 20th century is beyond measure.  All successful airplanes have incorporated the basic design elements of the 1903 Wright Flyer.  Their inventions had an immense impact not simply on the military but on the entire culture, including technology, art, and literature.  They also became an integral part of the Outer Banks’ long history.  In commemoration of their accomplishments, a 60-foot granite memorial was erected in Kitty Hawk in 1932, which you can visit today.


 Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Furring strips are vertical pieces of wood that create a ventilation cavity when placed between the insulation and siding. They are part of an overall rainscreen system preventing moisture from damaging a home.

The Importance of Rainscreen Systems

While we all want a home that is comfortable and beautiful, we also want a solid structure made of durable materials that will last for years to come.  But the durability of our homes is threatened by environmental factors, especially wind, rain, heat, and humidity.  Incorporating a high-performance rainscreen system will help protect your home from the damaging effects of moisture.

What is a rainscreen?

A rainscreen is not actually an individual product, but part of a wall construction system.  Its overall purpose is to protect the wall sheathing from moisture that gets past the siding.   Rainscreen systems typically consist of the following components:

  • Exterior cladding (siding)
  • Ventilation and drainage cavity
  • Insulation
  • House wrap (drainage-plane material)
  • Air barrier
Rainscreen is an wall construction system that prevents moisture from damaging a home's wall sheathing.
Diagram of rainscreen system. Image by Tom Diamond and Garland Industries 

Perhaps the most important component is the ventilation and drainage cavity which provides space between the siding and the house wrap. This space is typically created by applying vertical furring strips (called strapping) over the drainage-plane material. The siding is then nailed to these wood strips.  

Furring strips are vertical pieces of wood that create a ventilation cavity when placed between the insulation and siding.  They are part of an overall rainscreen system preventing moisture from damaging a home.
Furring strips. Image by Ryan McCoon and Habitat for Humanity

Newer rainscreen products, such as Slicker, achieve the same effect by using a three-dimensional matrix with vertical channels.  These products come in a roll and are laid over the entire surface of the wall, providing a continuous space for drainage and drying.  When compared to a product like Slicker, wood strapping is generally less expensive from a material cost but is more expensive to install from a labor standpoint. Other drawbacks of strapping include the creation of hot spots along studs and trapped moisture from wood-to-wood contact, which can lead to reduced air movement and a greater potential for mold.

Slicker rainscreen provides three-dimensional matrix with vertical channels to provide a continuous space for drainage and drying.
The Slicker matrix provides airspace and vertical drainage channels across the entire wall. Image by Benjamin Obdyke/Slicker

Why would you want a rainscreen?

A rainscreen is important because the ventilation cavity promotes residual water drainage and airflow.  Any moisture held in the siding, or that seeps underneath due to wind-driven rain, will diffuse and evaporate.  If there are ventilation openings at the top (as opposed to only a weep holes at the bottom), the rainscreen provides a path for rising air.  According to homebuilder Martin Holladay, research shows that this type of ventilation is a powerful drying mechanism.   Because airflow is promoted, rainscreens have the added benefit of keeping your siding cool which prevents premature failure.

Homebuilder Mark Averill Snyde suggests the airspace provided by a ventilation cavity is especially important to prevent “capillary action.”  He compares this process to a grade-school science experiment during which a stalk of celery is placed into a glass of colored water and the water is observed to move quickly upwards. The same thing can happen to homes without proper ventilation and house wrapping. 

An example of capillary action, where water is drawn quickly upwards. Rainscreens help to prevent this.
An example of capillary action, where water is drawn quickly upwards. Image from Wikipedia.

Isn’t house wrap sufficient?

Some builders and homeowners believe house wrap (such as Tyvek, Typar, and #15 or #30 felt) provides a sufficient barrier.  But for many homes, especially those in wetter climates, it’s not enough.  The primary function of house wrap is to drain water that penetrates the siding through leaky joints or capillary action.  However, house wraps lose their water repellency over time and do very little to reduce air infiltration due to heavy winds.  Once water penetrates the house wrap into a wall, peeling paint and rotten siding often follow.  According to Joseph Lstiburekis from Building Science Corporation, back-priming wood cladding and trim and adding a ventilation cavity reduce the impact of moisture.

In addition to a rainscreen system, other methods to protect your home from water damage include:

While a rainscreen system is important for most homes, it is especially vital in climates that are wet and hot.  Some experts advise rainscreen installations for all houses in areas with an average annual rainfall of 50 inches or more.  Many coastal areas get that much rain each year, so if you’re planning to build a beach home make sure you discuss rainscreens with your contractor.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Beautiful pergola in a forest-like backyard. Make the most of your outdoor space.

Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space

Summer has officially arrived and for many homeowners that means long days spent in the backyard.  Outdoor living will be even more enjoyable if you create your own personal oasis that is both functional and beautiful.  So what follows is The Coastal Cottage Company’s top five tips for making the most of your outdoor space.  We’ll especially focus on patio areas because they are one of the most desired features for new homebuyers.

Prioritize Comfort

We take pride in our homes and often spend a lot of time decorating and remodeling the interior.  But we typically don’t think as much about our outdoor spaces.  Rusted patio furniture, mildewed cushions, and splintered decks are not inviting.  So when designing your patio, focus on comfort.  What would encourage you and your family to spend more time in your backyard?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Choose outdoor seating that is as comfortable as your indoor furniture.  You are no longer limited to the plastic cushions from your childhood that made you feel hot and sweaty!  
  • Lay down outdoor rugs to make being barefoot on wood or cement feel more comfortable.  There are so many options, including sisal, bamboo, and canvas.  For inspiration, check out this collection by Houzz.com.
  • Screen in your porch or deck to prevent pesky bugs from bothering you and your guests.  If you have a wood deck, don’t forget that bugs can get in through the cracks between planks.  Consider stapling screening to the underside of the floorboards or lay down a heavy outdoor rug.
  • Comfort is not limited to how your outdoor space feels, but also how it looks.  Boring concrete slabs, dead plants, and beige cushions do not encourage you to linger.  Use your outdoor space as an opportunity to be creative and integrate styles you never would inside your house.  For example, paint concrete a vibrant color.  Choose wicker furniture or Adirondack chairs rather than the typical plastic furniture.  Incorporate funky patterns like chevron or stripes.  The sky’s the limit!
Back porch overlooking pool with built-in grill. Make the most of your outdoor space.
What does your dream backyard look like? This outdoor space was designed and built by The Coastal Cottage Company.

Think Durable

While comfort and style will encourage you to use your outdoor space, choosing durable materials will allow you to enjoy the space longer.  Wind, sun, rain, and sand can all have ill effects on furniture.

  • Look for weatherproof furniture and accessories that can resist mildew, fading, rotting, and rusting.  
  • For furniture, plastic is durable but fades easily in direct sunlight.  While wood also fades over time, the weathered appearance is actually attractive (unlike faded plastic).  Hardwoods (such as teak, cedar, and redwood) tend to be the most durable and long-lasting, especially when regularly treated with protective oil or sealant.
  • For a more modern or industrial look that is lower maintenance, aluminum furniture will not rust or fade.
Beautiful home with pool and patio. Make the most of your outdoor space.
This home features a lovely pool deck with patio furniture, chimenea, and pergola. Home designed by The Coastal Cottage Company.

Create Drama with Lighting

Effective lighting can make your outdoor living space safer and more aesthetically-pleasing.  Depending on the types of lights you use and their placement, you can transform your backyard into a romantic or magical getaway.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Use uplighting to highlight trees or architectural details.  Uplighting involves placing lights below a focal point, such as a spotlight at the base of a tree, pointing upwards towards the branches.
  • Illuminate walkways, rails, and steps with landscape solar lights which will help prevent people from tripping in the dark.  Using solar lights will also help you reduce energy costs.
  • Hang string lights to set an enchanting tone.  Lanterns hanging from trees also add a bit of whimsy to your backyard.  Nylon lanterns provide a much more durable option than traditional paper.
  • Fire pits are another way to add both lighting and coziness to an outdoor space.  Fire pit tables are a great option for a smaller space and double as a piece of useful furniture. Those who like a DIY project can make their own pits using fire brick, which is designed to withstand high temperatures. Another popular and attractive option is the chiminea, which is an outdoor fireplace that has a short chimney. Whatever type of fire pit you choose, it’s a good idea to consult local fire codes to make sure it’s legal to have an open fire in your community.
Uplighting trees. Make the most of your outdoor space.
An example of uplighting. Image by Stoneworx: http://stoneworxpa.com/

Give Yourself Some Privacy

Most of us live in close proximity to others. But even when you enjoy your neighbors, you still want privacy when relaxing in your outdoor space.  Try these tips to create a private hideaway:

  • Install an awning, canopy, or pergola. Not only do these provide shade, they also can block the view of neighbors looking down on your backyard from a second story.  As an added benefit, awnings made of polycarbonate panels block UV rays, better protecting your skin and eyes.
  • Add some outdoor drapery panels to your patio or balcony. Waterproof sailcloth is a great choice.  If you don’t already have an overhead option for attaching a curtain rod, consider using a very simple wood frame to hang them on.
  • Trees and shrubs are often the best option for providing a privacy screen.  Make sure you consult an expert when choosing the type and placement of trees as many varieties grow quite large.  The Arbor Day Foundation provides useful advice.

Maximize the View

Whether your backyard overlooks trees and grass or ocean waves, it’s important to make the most of your view.  Simply being in nature has been shown to have numerous health benefits, so take advantage of your outdoor space.  Try to remove as many barriers between you and your view so you can soak up maximum scenery.

  • For example, steel-cable or clear-glass railing systems take a minimalist approach while still complying with safety codes.
  • You could even consider eliminating the railing altogether (if building codes permit and you don’t have small children).
  • Pocket doors can open an interior room to the outdoors, creating an open-air retreat.  If considering this option, make sure you account for wind, bugs, and sea spray if you’re by the water.
  • Louvered shutters are another option that provide more privacy and protection from bugs, but can easily be opened to reveal your spectacular view.
Maximize your view. Make the most of your outdoor space.
Who wouldn’t love looking at this view everyday? Home designed and built by The Coastal Cottage Company.

We hope these ideas inspire you to invest in your backyard and create a space you and your family will enjoy spending time in.  And if you’re selling your home, keep in mind that 83% of homebuyers indicate having a nice patio is a desirable, even essential, feature.  So let’s pledge to make the most of our outdoor spaces this summer and design the oasis we’ve always wanted!


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for The Coastal Cottage Company

The restored Chicamacomico Life-Saving Service Station

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

The U.S. Coast Guard has a rich history of military service, law enforcement, and maritime rescue.  It is currently the world’s twelfth largest naval force and enforces U.S. law in 3.4 million square miles of coastal water.  These impressive statistics make it hard to believe “The Guard” had humble beginnings connected to the Postal Service.  Yep, you read that correctly — the Postal Service!

It all began in 1790.  At the request of Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, Congress established the Revenue Marine, which was responsible for collecting customs duties in the nation’s seaports.  In 1848, the Revenue Marine had the Life-Saving Service added to its responsibilities.  Around this time, the Treasury Department realized they were paying too much to rent spaces used by government entities.  So the decision was made to fund the construction of Post Offices and other government buildings, including life saving stations along the coast.  The first stations were run primarily by volunteers with no one in charge and no one receiving proper training.  In fact, most of the early crewmen were political appointees and Postal Service employees!  The U.S. Life-Saving Service Logo

The lifesaving system managed to continue with this lack of structure and training until the 1850s when Congress appropriated more funds to pay the salaries of full-time keepers at each station and superintendents to supervise.  But keepers still had to wrangle volunteer crews to help when ships were in distress!

Things changed in 1871 when Sumner Increase Kimball, a lawyer from Maine, was appointed the chief of the Revenue Marine Division. He succeeded in gaining funds to employ crews of surfmen and build new stations.  He also drew up regulations, established crew performance standards, and set station procedures.

Sumner Kimball who became chief of the Revenue Marine Division and was responsible for professionalizing the Life-Saving Service
Sumner Kimball. Image courtesy of Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site

By 1874, Life-Saving Stations were being built in North Carolina. One of these stations was Chicamacomico, pronounced “chik-a-ma-COM-eh-co,” which is an Algonquin Indian word meaning “land of shifting sands” or “sinking sands.”  Sinking sands is an apt description because the construction process was not a smooth one!

Building was supposed to begin in 1871, but was quickly stymied. The contractor began work without proper materials, the winter weather interfered with progress, and the laborers walked off the job claiming deplorable work conditions. The original contractor even threatened the foreman with a gun, claiming he was responsible for the abandonment of the crew.

In 1874, a second contractor was hired and construction progressed more smoothly.  The station was commissioned on December 4, 1874.  Over time, violent storms damaged the original structure beyond repair, so a new station was built in 1911 and still stands today.

According to James Charlet, site manager of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site and Museum, the station employed up to eight lifesavers and one keeper, all of whom worked six days a week and spent Sundays on call.  They endured a grueling daily regimen of drills and if a crewman wanted a day off, he had to give 30 days notice and pay for his substitute’s wages!

Typically aided by only ropes and a wooden rowboat, the rescues these men performed were heroic.  One of the most famous rescues was of the British Tanker Mirlo in 1918. The Mirlo was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the coast of Rodanthe. Carrying a massive amount of oil, the tanker immediately caught fire.  Six Chicamacomico crew members launched their wooden boat from the beach, and paddled five miles out to where the crew was stranded. The life-saving crew made multiple trips to rescue as many sailors as they could.  After six and a half hours, the crew had saved 42 of the 51 British sailors.  As a result of this rescue, the six crew members received The Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor. This medal of valor had requirements so high that only 11 people total have ever received it.  Six of them were stationed at the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station.

The restored Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station
The restored Chicamacomico Station. Image courtesy of Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site

 

By the mid-20th century, with the development of more reliable navigational aids, helicopters, and more powerful boats, the life-saving stations had become obsolete. The Chicamacomico Station was decommissioned in 1954 and in 1959, the 1874 Station was moved closer to the 1911 Station by the National Park Service.  After that, the Station’s buildings lay abandoned for years.  But in 1974, the Chicamacomico Historical Association (CHA) was formed and attempts were made to purchase and restore the Station.  It wasn’t until 2002 that all buildings were deeded to the CHA.

The station is the largest and most complete U.S. Life-Saving Service station in the country, with every building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also one of the only original 1874 stations that is open to the public and one of the few stations with all of its original buildings intact.  

Beach Apparatus Drill at Chicamacomico Life-Saving Service Station performed by U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard performing the Beach Apparatus Drill. Image courtesy of Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site

 

Chicamacomico is also the only station in the country that is open as a museum, usually from April to November.  The most popular museum program is the weekly Beach Apparatus Drill performed by active members of the U.S. Coast Guard. Chicamacomico is the only life-saving station that still offers a demonstration of this drill, a routine that was required to be practiced weekly by all crewmen in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This drill serves as a reminder of the Coast Guard’s humble roots and honors the Postal Service employees, fishermen, and other volunteers who risked their lives every day.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

The key to attracting renters to your vacation property is to balance comfort and style, designing a retreat that people dream about living in.

Design Tips for Vacation Home Rentals

The vacation rental market has exploded in recent years.  After the economic downturn in 2008, many owners decided to rent their properties rather than sell.  Around the same time, Airbnb was established, and they now boast over two million listings worldwide!  With so many vacation home rentals entering the market, owners must design properties that stand out from the rest.

Unfortunately, many owners either don’t invest in interior design or create spaces that they would like (but may not appeal to others).  The key to attracting renters to your vacation home is to balance comfort and style.  As interior designer Mercedes Brennan argues:

“People do not want a home away from home on vacation.  Absolutely not.  What they want instead is the home they wished they had away from home.”  

In order to rise above the competition, you must provide the kind of vacation retreat that people dream about living in.  After all, vacations are precious and people want to feel pampered.

Here are the Coastal Cottage Company’s top five tips for designing vacation home rentals that will draw in vacationers:

Timeless Design

Too often, vacation home owners decorate according to their tastes and preferences.  But it’s unlikely you’ll be staying in your property very often (at least that’s the hope if you want to make a profit!).  Therefore, focus on classic, timeless design.  According to Andy Moore of Gulfcoast Property Management, “while interior design trends will come and go, your rental properties will not need remodeling for many years when you successfully start with a timeless look.”

Now, timeless does not mean boring!  Adding character and style is important.  But avoid choosing styles that are overly ornate, trendy, or offbeat.  While you may love the look of Roman columns and marble statuary, your guests may not share your vision!

Use classic and simple designs in your vacation home rentals, such as this dining room in rustic wood and cream color.
Incorporate classic and simple style, such as in this dining room. Home designed and built by the Coastal Cottage Company.

Local Design

One way to add character to a vacation home rental is to infuse local culture into the decor.  Your guests have chosen the location for a reason, so find ways to incorporate its history and atmosphere.  Shop in local stores for items that can only be found in the region, such as building materials, flowers and greenery, artwork, books on the history of the area, tasty treats, or luxurious bath products.  This is a simple but fantastic way to help guests feel like they are experiencing the local flavor without even leaving the house! 

Durable Design

With so many people coming and going, vacation home rentals can suffer a lot of wear and tear.  For beachfront properties, this is especially true as sand gets everywhere, air conditioners run constantly, and families with children often are renters.  Hardwood and tile floors are much easier to maintain than carpeting, while throw rugs can warm up a space and be tossed into the washing machine.  For countertops, quartz and granite are both sturdy and stylish.  Avoid materials that scratch easily such as soapstone and laminate.  While you don’t want your rental to feel institutional, you do want it to last without frequent repairs. 

Decorate to reflect the location of your vacation home rentals, such as this bedroom with rustic wood and green walls. Home designed and built by the Coastal Cottage Company.
Decorate to reflect the location, such as this bedroom with rustic wood and green walls. Home designed and built by the Coastal Cottage Company.

Luxurious Design

Vacations are intended to be relaxing and pampering, something that transports guests away from the mundane.  So while durability and timeless design are important, your property should look and feel like a retreat.  Focus on comfort and try to anticipate your guests’ needs.  For example, provide plenty of high quality linens, rainfall shower heads, plush rugs, and throw blankets.  Depending on your budget, consider adding unique elements that will make the property memorable like a cozy reading nook or extravagant outdoor kitchen.  If you’re on a tight budget, small details can lead to a high return on investment.  For example, install lighting dimmers, provide eco-friendly bath products, or add electrical outlets with USB ports to charge mobile devices.

Kitchen Design

Often, guests choose vacation homes over hotels for the extra amenities they provide.  One of the top five amenities that motivate guests to book a property is the kitchen.  Cooking is a fantastic way for vacationers to save money and spend time with the friends or family they’re traveling with.  So if you’re deciding where to spend your money, the kitchen is a good bet.  As interior designer Mercedes Brennan said, people want to stay in a home they wish they had, so adding a luxurious kitchen can be a good investment.  If pricey upgrades are out of the question, ensure you have provided everything guests will need to cook and enjoy a meal.  For example, provide small appliances like blenders, utensils like can openers, seating for multiple people, even cookbooks that feature local cuisine.

Provide a kitchen that has everything your guests will need, especially enough seating.
Provide a kitchen that has everything your guests will need, especially enough seating like at this fantastic counter. Home designed and built by the Coastal Cottage Company.

We hope these tips will help you design a vacation property that looks like it belongs in Condé Nast Traveller and puts you on track to get more bookings!  And if you’re interested in building a vacation home to rent (or to enjoy yourself), we’d love to chat with you!


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Nags Head Casino Postcard

Remembering the Nags Head Casino

When you think of the Outer Banks, it’s likely the beautiful beaches are first to come to mind.  A popular attraction for rock and roll musicians is not as likely to be imagined.  But ask any local over the age of 50 about the Nags Head Casino and you’ll be regaled with stories of legendary music acts and dancing the night away.

Originally built as a barracks in the early 1930s for the stonemasons who constructed the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Nags Head Casino was purchased in 1937 by G. T. “Ras” Wescott.  The two-story building housed duckpin bowling lanes, pool tables, and pinball machines on the first floor while a bar and expansive dance floor occupied upstairs.  Ras was known for his special care of the wood dance floor, waxing and buffing it each day.  To preserve it, he asked patrons to remove their shoes and dance barefoot.  With the top-floor shutters open to the ocean breezes and young people grooving barefoot, the Casino was the epitome of summer fun.   

Nags Head Casino Birds Eye View
Bird’s eye view of the Casino. Image courtesy of Outer Banks Beachcomber Museum: www.oldnagshead.org

During the 1930s and 1940s, big band music reigned, drawing crowds of up to 1000 people to the Nags Head Casino!  During this time, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman are a few of the acts who played.  As doo-wop, Mowtown, and rock and roll gained popularity in the 1950s and 60s, bands like The Platters, Fats Domino, The Four Tops, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, and The Temptations entertained.  According to Carmen Gray, founder of the Outer Banks Beachcomber Museum, “anybody who was anybody played at the Casino.”  Until the 1970s, bands continued to make the trek to Nags Head to put on a show.  And on nights when no band played, a Wurlitzer jukebox provided the music.

Nags Head Casino Music Poster for Johnny Alligator

Unfortunately, the fun came to an end when Ras Wescott sold the building in the mid 1970s and soon after, the roof collapsed during a winter storm.   Jockey’s Ridge Crossing shopping center now occupies the site of the beloved Casino.  But Nags Head locals still reminisce about the raucous music, 25 cent PBRs, Wednesday night boxing matches, and walks on the beach after a night of dancing.  For their generation, it truly was the place to be for both patrons and musicians.  Bill Deal, from The Rhondels, remembers that “it was always packed. We never worried about having a crowd.  The Casino certainly opened doors for a lot of groups. If you played the Casino, you’d made it.”  For many, the time, the place, and the music will never be replicated, but the Casino will always be remembered.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

V-zone

Laying Concrete in V-Zones

During a hurricane, Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with.  The intense precipitation, flooding, and high winds strip materials from buildings, including siding, roof shingles, doors, and windows.  These airborne debris are a major contributor to home damage and human injury.  Therefore, when building on the coast, it’s imperative that your home is compliant with V-zone building codes.  One building material to be very careful with is concrete.  

V-zone
Large pieces of broken concrete can damage buildings and harm people. Image by Mark Wolfe, courtesy of FEMA

Forceful waters and high velocity winds can cause concrete slabs to hydroplane, flip, or break into large chunks that could damage buildings and injure, even kill, people.  As a result, building codes require such slabs be of frangible concrete.  This means they are designed to break into smaller pieces which will sink rather than travel.  So when constructing driveways, pool decks, and patios, it’s important your contractor follows these guidelines:

  • No reinforcement should be used
  • Slabs should not be thicker than four inches
  • Slabs must remain structurally independent of the building
  • Control joints must be spaced at 4-foot squares to encourage even breaking

When laying cement in V-zone areas, proper control joint spacing and depth are essential.  According to the Portland Cement Association, placing control joints in the concrete surface at strategic locations creates weakened planes allowing the concrete to crack evenly.  Spacing the control joints at 4-foot squares ensures the concrete will break into smaller pieces which will cause less damage during hurricanes.

Control joints may be tooled into the concrete surface at the time of placement or they may be sawed into the hardened concrete.  Regardless, control joints should be cut to a depth of ¼ the slab thickness.

V-zone
Control joint. Image courtesy of Portland Cement Association.

Not only is this control joint approach safer, it also produces a more aesthetically pleasing appearance since the crack forms below the finished concrete surface. This method can reduce the amount of hairline cracks on the surface of the cement.

So, when building your vacation home or remodeling to add a backyard oasis, make sure you only work with licensed contractors who are familiar with V-zone construction and the importance of cement control joints.  If you’d like to learn more about concrete, check out our post about reducing surface cracking.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Spend a Night in Rodanthe

Movies transport us to other worlds, allowing us to live vicariously through the characters. If you’ve always wanted to be a globetrotter, James Bond takes you from Cuba to China to Czechoslovakia.  If you’ve ever wondered what Mars might be like, The Martian transports you there.  And if you wish you could visit the Outer Banks, look no further than Nights in Rodanthe.  Based on Nicholas Sparks’ book, the characters played by Diane Lane and Richard Gere fall in love when they team up to protect a very special Outer Banks home from a storm.  

This home has a fascinating story to tell.  Built by Roger Meekins in 1988 on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the home was originally called Serendipity.  At the time, there was more than 400 feet between it and the ocean.  But as the years passed, the sand eroded, and the tide encroached.  In 2009, Hurricane Bill damaged the home, destroying its septic system and HVAC.  The second owners, Michael and Susan Creasy, wanted to sell but the extensive repairs kept buyers at bay.  It soon slipped into such disrepair that the county wanted to condemn it and after each storm, residents wondered if it was still standing.  Hope for Serendipity seemed far away until fans of Nights in Rodanthe, Ben and Debbie Huss, saved the property in 2010.

Moving the Inn at Rodanthe
Transporting Serendipity to its new location. Image courtesy of Hooked on Houses: www.hookedonhouses.net

The first task was to move the property farther from the ocean to prevent high tides and hurricanes from further damaging it.  According to Richard Adkins of WRAL, the house was lifted off its foundation, placed onto a trailer, and transported seven-tenths of a mile down N.C. Highway 12 to its new location.  The house was raised several feet higher than it had been and the pilings were dug 16 feet down for greater stability.

Inn at Rodanthe
Serendipity, now the Inn at Rodanthe, restored and reborn! Image courtesy of Sun Realty: www.sunrealtync.com

Ben and Debbie are such fans of the movie that they made every effort to replicate the set. According to Irene Nolan of the Island Free Press, the Husses watched the film dozens of times and worked from enlarged still photographs.  They added the iconic blue shutters over the windows, painted the beadboard cabinets a vibrant aqua, and filled the home with antiques, including a 1918 Adler organ similar to the one in the movie.  

The Inn at Rodanthe kitchen
The renovated kitchen. Image courtesy of Sun Realty: www.sunrealtync.com

According to Hooked on Houses blogger Julia Sweeten, they remodeled the kitchen to look just like the one Diane Lane cooked in, tracking down the same wallpaper used in the movie.  But even more wonderful than their renovations is the Husses desire to share Serendipity with others by making it available to vacationers.  So come to Rodanthe to take in the spectacular oceanfront views and enjoy Ben and Debbie’s loving attention to detail!

The Inn at Rodanthe porch swing
Enjoy the porch swing and the sunset at the Inn at Rodanthe.  Image courtesy of Sun Realty: www.sunrealtync.com

Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Concrete Crack Prevention

Concrete Crack Prevention

Concrete is appreciated by both builders and homeowners for its strength, versatility, and affordability.  But if you’ve ever had a concrete driveway or patio, you know the frustration of discovering cracks where the surface was once smooth and pristine.

Despite its many benefits, given enough time, all concrete will develop cracks.  But there are methods for reducing the extent of cracking.

So why does concrete crack and what can you do about it?

Too Much Water in the Concrete Mix

While water is necessary to create a pourable mix, sometimes too much water is added.  This becomes problematic because the more water added, the more shrinkage occurs as the water evaporates.  Shrinkage causes the concrete to pull apart, creating fissures.

To reduce the amount of cracking, make sure you know the advised water to cement ratio for the grade being poured.  A knowledgeable contractor will recognize that while it may take more effort to pour a stiffer mix,  a lower water to cement ratio results in less cracking and greater durability.  If you’d like to calculate the proper water to cement ratio, the Concrete Network provides helpful information. 

Rapid Drying

While you don’t want a mix that is too wet, you also don’t want to allow the concrete to dry too quickly.  The shrinkage caused by rapid drying results in greater cracking, so it’s important that the cement is cured.  Ask your contractor how he/she intends to cure the cement, as there are a few methods.  The most common is to flood or mist spray the concrete.   When this is done for seven days, the resulting slab will be about 50% stronger than an uncured slab. 

Lack of Control Joints

Control joints are planned cracks that permit concrete to expand and shrink as temperatures change.  According to builder Tim Carter, properly placed control joints allow you to influence where and how your concrete cracks rather than leaving it to chance.   Ask your contractor about the joints he/she intends to cut to ensure they are deep enough, spaced properly, and cut at the right time (typically within 6 to 12 hours of pouring).

Concrete Crack Prevention
Control joints in concrete slab. Image courtesy of ConcreteNetwork.com

Insufficient Subbase and Subgrade Support

Many homeowners assume that concrete is strong enough to support itself but slabs need foundations much like houses do.  According to Matt Clawson, contributor at Houzz.com, driveways that bear heavy loads will require thicker slabs and more reinforcement than backyard patios.   There are a few levels of support that can be used beneath concrete slabs.  The subgrade is compacted soil; the subbase is a layer of gravel that sits on top of the subgrade; and the base course is the layer of material directly underneath the slab or vapor barrier.  

Concrete Crack Prevention
Levels of concrete slab support. Image courtesy of ConcreteNetwork.com

According to the American Concrete Institute, slabs should, at minimum, rest on a uniform and well-compacted subgrade.  However, soil quality must be considered.  If the soil is too wet, doesn’t drain well, or is not easily compacted, then additional support may be needed.  A subbase and base course can provide a more even foundation as well as reduce the amount of groundwater that seeps up into the slab.  Also, depending on how much weight will likely sit on top of the slab, steel rebar or fiber-reinforced concrete may be recommended.

While you cannot prevent all cracks, having a better understanding of the mechanics of concrete will allow you to ask your contractor the right questions.  Experienced professionals should be able to answer your questions and articulate a plan to reduce cracking.

Stay tuned for our next post about laying concrete in zones vulnerable to flooding and high winds! 


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company