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Southern Shores Flat Top Cottages

Flat Top Cottages of Southern Shores

When you think about Outer Banks architecture, you likely imagine pastel-colored beach houses with expansive, wrap-around porches, sitting atop wooden pilings.  But in the mid-20th century, a different type of vacation home was popular.  Known as flat-top cottages, they are characterized by their no-pitch roofs and clean, mid-century modern lines.

Flat Top Cottage Aycock Brown
Flat top cottage in Southern Shores, circa 1955. Photo by Aycock Brown, courtesy of North Carolina Modernist Houses

Frank Stick, an artist and conservationist, is credited with designing the flat-top cottage.  Stick studied at the Chicago Art Institute and his paintings appeared on covers of popular magazines like Field and Stream and the Saturday Evening Post.  In 1929, he and his family settled on Roanoke Island and helped to establish the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.  Stick also played a vital role in establishing Cape Hatteras National Seashore as the United State’s first national seashore, which protects significant portions of OBX barrier islands.

Flat-top cottages David Stick and Frank Stick
Frank Stick (right) with son David Stick (left). Image courtesy of North Carolina Modernist Houses

After World War II, Stick turned his attention from painting and philanthropy to architecture.  In 1947, he bought 2,800 acres north of Kitty Hawk, including four miles of Outer Banks oceanfront.  Timber was scarce due to the war, so Stick chose to build with concrete blocks made of local sand.  Inspired by island-style homes in the Florida Keys as well as the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the home facades and floor plans are clean and simple. The flat roofs feature extended overhangs, which offer shade, while the large windows let in ocean breezes.  Many of the cottages feature local juniper-wood paneling, ceiling beams, and hurricane shutters.

Flat-Top-Green-Marie-Walker
Flat-top cottage. Image by Marie Walker, courtesy of My Outer Banks Home

Stick built 80 of these homes in a community called Southern Shores, which was incorporated as a town in 1979.  Currently, less than half of the original flat tops still exist.  Some were damaged by hurricanes, but most were replaced by multi-story vacation homes as owners’ tastes and needs changed.  The flat top cottages that remain are treasured by their owners as important parts of OBX history and iconic examples of mid-century architecture. 

Each year the Southern Shores Historic Flat Top Cottage Tour takes place in April.  Click the link to purchase tickets.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

 

Build a Custom Home

5 Reasons to Build a Custom Home

There’s something special about walking over the threshold of a home you designed yourself.  Just like Cinderella’s slipper, a custom built home fits your lifestyle and your needs perfectly.  

While there are numerous reasons to purchase a pre-owned home, today’s newly-constructed and built-to-suit homes offer more benefits than ever before.  So these are the top five reasons to build your own custom home:

Design your dream home 

A home built before 1990 is unlikely to reflect the current needs and desires of most home buyers.  Modern trends such as open floor plans, resort-style bathrooms, professional-grade kitchens, and home theatre rooms just don’t exist in most older houses.  So the biggest benefit of building a custom home is your ability to design it to be exactly what you want.  

Open floor plan in custom home
Open floor plan and vaulted ceilings in a custom home built by the Coastal Cottage Company

“Green” products and construction  

Building codes require higher energy efficiency standards than ever before, which translates to lower utility bills and less impact on the environment.  New homes now feature tighter-sealed building envelopes, energy efficient windows, thicker insulation, and better air filtration which can alleviate symptoms of those who have asthma or allergies.  New construction also allows homeowners to take a whole-house approach rather than adding in elements piecemeal, saving significantly more money in the long run.

Lower maintenance and fewer surprises  

We’ve all heard horror stories of older homes that passed inspection but then a year or two later, the roof leaked or the HVAC needed to be replaced.  New construction has fewer of these costly surprises.  Not only are improved construction methods and cutting-edge engineering implemented, but you also get to choose the best building materials and appliances you can afford.  And many of these elements come with warranties and other guarantees, such as 30-year roof warranties.

Reasons to Build a Custom Home

Improved safety

More stringent building codes and advancements in technology mean that new homes tend to be safer. Hard-wired smoke detectors, garage doors with infrared beams, air conditioners with environmentally-friendly coolants, and materials with fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) keep your family healthier and safer.  Safety is especially important when building near the coastline.  Building a custom home allows you to take advantage of the latest innovations in high-wind zone home design and construction.

No renovation costs  

Pre-owned homes can be modified to meet your standards, but each alteration will cost you.  While changing paint colors and cabinet hardware might not be a big deal, removing walls or laying down new hardwood floors definitely are.  For example, the average kitchen renovation costs between $20,000 and $40,000!  So it’s not unusual for a custom home to actually be more economical than an older home that requires extensive renovations and repairs.  

Custom homes offer the latest designs and the safest construction methods, all tailored to your family’s lifestyle.  Why endure the stress and cost of renovations when you can enjoy a home that fits you like a fairytale glass slipper?  

We’d love to talk with you about making that fairytale a reality.  


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Nags Head Cottage Row

Nags Head: Cottage Row

The Outer Banks have been delighting visitors for over 100 years, but Nags Head is the original tourist attraction.  

Perquimans County plantation owner Francis Nixon is credited with starting the summer vacation tradition with his family in 1830.  The idea spread to other families living across the Roanoke Sound who were seeking an escape from the inland heat.1    

At the time, the ocean air was thought to relieve the “yellow chills” brought on by malaria which was prevalent on many plantations.  So when summer arrived, entire households — including livestock — would move to Nags Head.2   Hotels were built for the onslaught of tourists as early as 1838 and by 1850, visitors could walk along a boardwalk, dance under a pavilion, and even enjoy a bowling alley!3 

Boat Arriving in Nags Head with tourists
Image courtesy of the Town of Nags Head

The first oceanfront cottage was built around 1855 by Dr. W.G. Pool of Elizabeth City, who bought 50 acres for $30.  It’s said that Pool then divided the land into lots and sold them to the friends of his wife for one dollar each so she’d have companionship while at the beach!  By 1885, 13 cottages were built.4  

In the early 1900s, self-taught carpenter Stephen J. Twine repaired and enlarged many of the original summer houses.  Then between 1910 and 1935, he built cottages that would come to represent the Nags Head style of architecture.  These homes formed Old Nags Head Beach Cottage Row, which is now a National Historic District.

According Marimar McNaughton, author of the book Outer Banks Architecture, the Nags Head style is a blend of the original Outer Banks structures and the Arts & Crafts bungalow popular in the early 1900s.  The cottages’ timber-framed exteriors were clad in shingles or weatherboard and topped with gabled roofs with dormers. They also featured wrap-around, single-story porches with built-in benches, wooden storm shutters, and breezeways. The porches, windows, and doors were all strategically designed to maximize cross breezes off the ocean.  With these homes, each design element had a purpose.

Nags Head Unpainted Aristocracy
Image courtesy of Our State Magazine, Emily Chaplin, & Chris Council

Only six of the original cottages remain today.  They are rustic, weathered, and practical, yet elegant in their simplicity, inspiring the moniker the “Unpainted Aristocracy.”5  After sheltering generations of families and enduring over 100 years of storms, they melt into the sand and seagrass that surround them, as if they have always been there.   


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Old Christmas in the Outer Banks

Old Christmas in the Outer Banks

Add this to the lengthy list of “reasons to love the Outer Banks”:  residents celebrate not one, but two Christmases (and, no, it’s not Christmas in July).  In January, when most Americans are taking their fir trees to the curb and boxing up decorations, many folks in North Carolina prepare for a second party called “Old Christmas.”  

What Day Is It?

Old Christmas (also known as Twelfth Night) has a long and fascinating history.  In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar, which was ten days ahead of its predecessor, the Julian calendar. This change was slowly communicated across Europe.  Not surprisingly, many people were ignorant of the change while others refused to recognize the new calendar, so it was common for people to disagree about what day it was.  Often, resistance to the new calendar was inspired by religion.  Roman Catholic nations transitioned to the new calendar the year it was announced, while many Protestant and Orthodox nations hesitated. This meant, for example, that England was ten days ahead of France and celebrated Christmas on different days.

Old Christmas Day

It wasn’t until 1752 that Great Britain and her colonies transitioned to the Gregorian calendar.  And by this time, the gap between the calendars had increased to 11 days (because it takes the earth 365.2422 days to complete its orbit around the sun, which amounts to 11 minutes and 14 seconds added every year).  To finally get the British people in sync with Europe, Parliament ordered that September 2, 1752 be followed by September 14, 1752.  From the perspective of the Brits accustomed to the Julian calendar, this moved Christmas day from December 25th to January 5th.  Thus, January 5th became known as “Old Christmas Day.”  With subsequent shifts in our calendar, Old Christmas has been celebrated between the 5th and 7th of January.

 

Old Christmas in the Outer Banks
Rodanthe residents celebrating Old Christmas with “Old Buck.” Image: Ben Dixon MacNeill

 

So how does this relate to North Carolina?  One story is that Great Britain didn’t clearly communicate the calendar shift to their colonies in the Americas, so folks in the Outer Banks continued to celebrate holidays according to the Julian calendar.  Another story is that the colonists knew, but simply refused to comply.  Eventually, however, the Gregorian calendar became standard in America and we synced back up with Europe.  But the tradition of Old Christmas remains.

Old Christmas in the Outer Banks
Children with “Old Buck” and the customary drummer who announces his arrival. Image: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library

 

Oysters and Old Buck

So between the 5th and 7th of January, residents of the Outer Banks celebrate this strange bit of history with oyster roasts, caroling, and spending time with neighbors and family.  A custom unique to the area is the appearance of “Old Buck,” a ghost bull who hides in the woods on Hatteras Island and only appears at Old Christmas. The appearance of Old Buck is rooted in customs of Medieval England, which included a performer who rode a hobbyhorse during Christmas celebrations.  This creature, “powered” by two people camouflaged under cowhide and fabric, leaps and prances its way through the community delighting both the young and old.  

So if you happen to visit the Outer Banks at the beginning of January, head over to Rodanthe on Hatteras Island, known as the best place to celebrate Old Christmas.

Happy Holidays!


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Drawer Joints

Kitchen Drawer Joints and Slides

Great kitchens are both beautiful and functional.  But the best kitchens are designed around each homeowner’s unique needs.  Island or no island?  Open shelving or cabinet doors?  Granite or quartz countertops?  Electric ceramic or gas burner stovetop?

With so many options, it’s easy to overlook something as basic as kitchen drawers.  But think about how frequently your drawers are used and how much wear and tear they experience.  Thus, choosing high quality drawer construction is key to designing your dream kitchen.

In a previous post, we discussed the importance of choosing solid cabinetry materials, so we won’t belabor that point.  Instead, let’s focus on another essential element of quality cabinetry construction: drawer joints.

Drawer Joints

There are a variety of joinery techniques and many ways to combine them in order to construct a drawer.  As with most aspects of homebuilding, each technique has its strengths and weaknesses.  According to Bill Hylton, master carpenter and author, the strongest joint needs to be between the front and sides because that area experiences the most impact.  Dan Cary, from Woodworker’s Journal, concurs:  “when suddenly opened, the corner joints are pulled and when closed, the abrupt stop puts several pounds of stress on the joints, especially on the front.”  After years of pushing, pulling, and slamming, your drawers can begin to come apart.

Drawer Joints
Box joint, Image: Startwoodworking.com

Two of the strongest options are box joints and dovetail joints.  A box joint (also called a finger joint) is a corner joint with interlocking pins that are cut at 90 degree angles.  In contrast, a dovetail joint uses wedge-shaped pins.  

Drawer Joints
Dovetail joint, Image: Finewoodworking.com

Both types provide a large area for gluing and the interlocking pins provide a lot of support.  According to Lee Valley Tools, for hundreds of years, dovetailed drawer joints were valued because they provided a form of mechanical lock when glue failed. With today’s much stronger and more durable glues, the joint has become more decorative than functional but is still a favorite of carpenters and homeowners alike.  However, drawers with dovetail joints can be more expensive because, even with the help of modern equipment, more skill is required to construct a finely made dovetail joint.

Drawer Joints
Left: Rabbet, Right: Dado, Image: DIYadvice.com

Another strong option that requires less skill to make (and therefore can be cheaper), is the dado-and-rabbet method of joinery.  A dado is a three-sided slot cut into the surface of a piece of wood.  A rabbet is two-sided and open to the edge or end of the surface into which it is cut. The dado-and-rabbet joint locks together, providing strength and stability, without the intricate cutting required by dovetail drawer joints.

There are many other types of joinery that will help your drawers last.  Ultimately, you want to avoid the simple butt joint, which is the weakest form of joinery, as well as stapled drawer fronts.  Both will likely cause your drawers to split, crack, or fall apart much too soon.  For a fantastic explanation of drawer construction (and lovely illustrations), check out this excerpt from Bill Hylton’s book Chest of Drawers

Drawer Slides

Now that you understand the importance of solid drawer joinery, let’s explore slides which help drawers open and close smoothly. Drawer slides typically are made of stamped metal and operate with plastic or metal ball bearings.

Drawer Joints
Side-mount slides, Image: Rockler.com

When choosing a drawer slide it’s most important to consider load ratings which range from 50-pound to 100-pound capacities.  Drawers that will hold heavier items, such as utensils or dishes, should use slides with higher load ratings.  

You should also consider how far the drawer opens.  According to Elizabeth Beeler from HGTV, quality drawer slide options range from three-quarter-extension slides that allow most of the drawer to be pulled out, to full-extension slides which allow access to the entire drawer. Under-mount slides are more costly than side-mount slides. However, they also tend to warp and sag less, which saves on repairs down the road.

Drawer Joints
Undermount slides, Image: Rockler.com

Make sure the slides you choose are produced from heavy-duty materials that won’t rust over time and have easy-gliding rollers or ball bearings. When testing models, open drawers fully to ensure they move smoothly and quietly, and that they don’t tilt or feel unstable when fully extended.  For more great advice on quality cabinetry, check out HomeStyleChoices.com published by engineer Rob Levesque.

Finally, if you’re seeking a worth-the-investment upgrade, look no further than self-closing drawers.  Sometimes called soft-closing or feather-touch, these slides retract with a gentle push and include shock absorption that prevents drawers from slamming shut.  Not only will this save your eardrums but will also reduce the stress placed on the drawers, increasing their longevity.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company 

Mystery of the Lost Colony

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy family, food, and football.  But life for the first English settlers was not always so festive, especially for the members of the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island.  

What Do We Know?

On June 22, 1587, John White and 118 English colonists arrived at Hatteras Island.  They quickly decided the area was not suitable for settlement and migrated around the Pamlico Sound to Roanoke Island.1  This group was the third of Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions to arrive in North Carolina but the first attempt at settlement.  Day-to-day life for the 90 men, 17 women, and 11 children must have been difficult as they attempted to farm the land and interact with the Native inhabitants.2   John White soon needed to return to England for supplies but, due to the Anglo-Spanish War, could not get back for three years.3   

He finally arrived at Roanoke Island in 1590 but found the settlement completely deserted.  Not a single person remained.  The only traces left by the colonists were mysterious words “Cro” and “Croatoan” carved into a tree and gate post.4  What were the settlers trying to communicate?  Did they leave the island?  Did they die from an epidemic?  Research conducted by Dennis Blanton from the College of William and Mary and David Stahle from the University of Arkansas may illuminate the mysterious disappearance of the Lost Colony.

The Mystery of the Lost Colony
John White discovers the word Croatoan carved on the Roanoke fort gate post. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 Is the Truth in the Trees?

According to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Blanton and Stahle looked at the rings of centuries-old cypress tree trunks along the rivers of the Virginia-North Carolina border. Every year, trees grow by adding layers of wood cells.  The width of the tree ring indicates how much the tree has grown in a particular growth season.  The wider the ring, the better the conditions for growth. The research team discovered the tree rings were significantly smaller than average during the years 1587-1589.5  This discovery, along with other environmental data, indicates the settlement of Roanoke Island coincided with the worst drought of the past 800 years!6  

Has the Lost Colony Been Found?

Historians hypothesize that the colonists dispersed, searching for more hospitable environments, perhaps trying to cohabitate with Native American tribes.7  Some scholars believe the colonists traveled 50 miles south to Hatteras Island, then known as Croatoan Island.8  Is that the reason Croatoan was carved into a gate post at the site of the original colony?  Were they trying to tell John White where they had gone?

The mystery was further compounded in 2012 when the British Museum uncovered a tantalizing clue on one of John White’s maps.  Using X-ray spectroscopy, a four-pointed X or star was uncovered underneath a paper patch that had been secured on the map.  The X marked a spot at the western end of Albemarle Sound near the outlet of the Chowan River, which corresponds to an area White mentioned in testimony he gave after returning to the colony.9

Map of the Lost Colony
A paper patch on the map covers an X shape, visible when backlit, that might be a “lozenge”, a symbol that represents a fort. Image from the Trustees of the British Museum.

The James River Institute for Archaeology and the First Colony Foundation, as well as British archaeologists, have been excavating sites near the Albermarle Sound attempting to find traces of the settlers.  While they have discovered artifacts dating back to the 16th century, there isn’t yet enough evidence to say for certain that the colonists ended up there.  It’s possible we will never know exactly what happened to the “Lost Colony” but scholars will persevere.  As Eric Klingelhofer, professor of history at Mercer University, said:

“We need to know more.  This whole story is a blank — a blank page, a blank chapter of history, and I think archaeology is the only way to come up with answers.”10


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Cabinet Boxes: Particle Board vs. Plywood

The Coastal Cottage Company’s last post focused on choosing a design for your kitchen cabinets – Shaker, inset, flat, or beadboard.  When building or remodeling, figuring out your style is the fun part.  But as important as style is, cabinets are worthless if they aren’t made of sound materials.  

Particle Board or Plywood?

One of the most important considerations to ensure your kitchen cabinets will survive typical wear and tear is choosing the right material for your cabinet boxes.  Because the box is mostly hidden, folks often don’t worry about its construction.  But much like your skeletal system keeps you upright and stable, the box keeps your cabinets sturdy.  Think about the abuse cabinets endure — they’re weighted down with dishes, their drawers are slammed, and their doors are kicked.  Thus, cabinet boxes must be strong.

Typically, homeowners choose between plywood and particle board.  Each has its own benefits and weaknesses but, generally speaking, plywood is considered the better option.

What’s the difference?

Particle board (sometimes called “furniture board”) is a wood product manufactured from wood chips, sawmill shavings, or sawdust, and a synthetic resin, which is compressed.  In contrast, plywood is made of thin layers of wood veneer, called “plies,” that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated 90 degrees.  This alternation of the grain is called cross-graining and has several important benefits: it reduces the tendency of wood to split when nailed; it reduces expansion and shrinkage; and it makes the strength of the panel consistent across all directions. There are usually an odd number of plies which helps to reduce warping.

Cabinet Boxes: Particle Board vs. Plywood
7-ply spruce plywood. Image from Wikipedia.

But not all plywood is created equal.  Jim Mallery, from Old House Web, recommends the following:

  • The wood should have many thin plies — at least 7-ply for ¾-inch plywood (including the veneer), but you can go as high as 13-ply.
  • When you look along the edge of the plywood, you should not see any voids or gaps in the plies.
  • And if you see any warping in a sheet of plywood, it is not suitable for cabinetry.

According to Kelly Gallagher, of Boston Building Resources, particle board quality depends on the size of the particles, the glue that holds it together, and the density of the board. Smaller particles make the board denser and heavier while polyurethane resin makes it more moisture resistant. One of the best kinds of particle board is medium density fiberboard (MDF), but it can be very heavy, making it difficult to hang large cabinets.

Cabinet Boxes: Particle Board vs. Plywood
Particle board of different densities. Image from Wikipedia.

How do you decide?

The biggest strengths of particle board are its lower price and smoother finish, but plywood tends to be more durable, less susceptible to moisture, and holds glue joints better.  When deciding, consider your budget and even ask your contractor if it’s possible to use both.  For example, choose plywood for areas where there may be more moisture (such as around the sink and next to the dishwasher) or use particle board just for shelves.  Whatever your decision, select the highest quality materials you can afford to ensure your cabinets will last for years to come.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company 

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles

The Four Most Popular Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles

The holidays are quickly approaching. This means our kitchens will experience an increase in traffic as we host parties and welcome family into our homes.  This is also the time of year we complain about our kitchens and dream of spaces more amenable to entertaining.  The Coastal Cottage Company is here to help, whether you’re considering a remodel, building a vacation home, or just writing a wish list for the future.  This month and next, we will feature posts to help you achieve your dream kitchen!


First, let’s talk cabinetry.  Cabinets are more than utilitarian; they’re the face of your kitchen, communicating style and personality.  They’re also something that can be changed without completely remodeling.  New cabinet doors and fixtures can invigorate a tired kitchen, but the number of options is overwhelming!  So here are four of the most popular kitchen cabinet door styles to get you started.

Shaker

Shaker kitchen cabinet doors get their name from the Shaker furniture style characterized by clean and functional design.  According to Gabrielle Di Stefano, contributor at Houzz.com, Shaker cabinets are made using rail and stile construction (four pieces make the frame and a single flat panel sits in the center).  

Rail and Stile: Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: Robert Robillard, from A Concord Carpenter


This style has been popular for decades due to its versatility and simplicity.  Homeowners can choose from a variety of finishes.  If you want a more contemporary look, a painted finish looks fresh.  Or, use a glass insert for the center panel.  For something more “shabby-chic,” consider a burnished finish or maintain the natural woodgrain for a rustic style.  Check out this photo gallery for inspiration:
http://www.houzz.com/shaker-style-cabinet-door

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Inset

The inset style is characterized by the doors sitting inside the cabinet frame, as opposed to resting outside the frame.  This style is very attractive, but also tends to be the most expensive option because it requires extremely precise measurements to ensure the door sits perfectly inside the cabinet frame with enough room for the wood to expand and contract.  

According to Shane Inman, principal interior designer of The Inman Company, inset doors with exposed hinges is often a nice combination.  Homeowners can choose hinges that reflect the style of the kitchen, but keep in mind that it will add an additional cost (in contrast, hidden hinges are often included in the price of the cabinet box).  This photo gallery includes beautiful examples of inset cabinets with exposed hinges: http://www.houzz.com/inset-cabinets

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: Stonebreaker Builders & Remodelers

Flat

Because there are no frames or inset panels, flat cabinet doors look clean and minimalist, making them especially attractive in contemporary homes. Flat doors typically come in wood or laminate, with a variety of colors and finishes to choose from.  Some homeowners avoid cluttering their cabinet surfaces with hardware while others choose modern options like stainless steel or brushed nickel bar pulls.  Check out this gallery for examples: http://www.houzz.com/flat-cabinet-door

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: LDa Architecture and Interiors

Beadboard

If the flat kitchen cabinet style is just too plain, you may like the look of beadboard.  Beadboard is made of rows of vertical planks with an indentation or ridge–known as a “bead”–in between each plank.  This gives the cabinet door texture and looks fantastic in country farmhouse or cottage style kitchens.  It can look crisp and cheerful when painted or rustic when the wood is left more natural.  Peruse this image gallery for ideas: http://www.houzz.com/white-beadboard-kitchen-cabinets

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: The Coastal Cottage Company

Shaker, inset, flat, and beadboard are a few of the most popular styles of kitchen cabinet doors.  Each reflects different interior design styles and even homeowners’ personalities.  What style would go in your dream kitchen?


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company 

Whalehead Club

Haunted Happenings at Whalehead Club

With Halloween just around the corner, the Coastal Cottage Company brings you a spooky edition of Throwback Thursday!


The Outer Banks has a fascinating history full of pirates, deadly storms, shipwrecks, and even a Lost Colony.  Given its moniker “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” it’s no surprise that the area is haunted by restless spirits.

In a previous post, the Coastal Cottage Company showcased the beautiful Whalehead Club on Currituck Sound, Corolla.  But there’s more than stunning grounds and Art Nouveau decor at Whalehead.  While enjoying the elegant woodwork and Tiffany lighting, guests may also get a sense that they’re not alone. Visitors, guides, and volunteers have reported hearing sounds coming from empty rooms, such as doors banging and muffled voices, as well as the Otis elevator mysteriously moving on its own.  Other visitors have reported smelling cigar smoke in the room where the portrait of Edward Collings Knight, Jr, the original owner, hangs.  The supernatural presence at the Whalehead Club is so strong that the Coastal Paranormal Investigations group visited the mansion in 2009.

Whalehead Club
Image courtesy of Visit Whalehead and Whalehead Preservation Trust


Michael Lay, from the
Outer Banks This Week, tells a popular story about a Whalehead ghost.  After the original owners passed away, Whalehead served a number of purposes including as a site for rocket fuel tests conducted by the Atlantic Research Corporation.  Employees and their families often stayed on site over the weekends and one night, a company employee and his wife were awakened by the bathroom door creaking.  Thinking a draft was causing the noise, the husband got up to more securely shut the door. On his way back to bed, he stepped around a figure in the dark, assuming it was his wife who had gotten up to help close the doors and windows.  But when he climbed into bed, his wife was fast asleep!  Who was the figure he passed in the doorway?

While no grisly murders or horrific deaths occurred at Whalehead, there’s definitely an unexplained supernatural energy.  What we do know, according to Whalehead guides, is that the Knights visited their home in October 1933, like they did every year, but left abruptly three weeks later and never returned again. . .

Want to hear more spine tingling stories?  The Whalehead Club offers two ghost tours: The Daylight Ghost Tour (appropriate for children) and the Moonlight Legend, Lore, and Ghost Tour (held after dark with lanterns).  These special tours are seasonally available and can be reserved in advance by calling 252.453.9040 ext. 226, or by purchasing tickets on site.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Jockey's Ridge Dune

The Shifting Sands of Jockey’s Ridge

This installment of Throwback Thursday is all about the mysterious natural landmark Jockey’s Ridge.  

We hope you’ve been enjoying our Throwback Thursday series and will join the Coastal Cottage Company again next month!


If you lived on the Outer Banks in the 1970’s, you may remember a putt putt golf course near Jockey’s Ridge with playful hazards like an octopus, cobra, and sand castle.  Visitors today may never see that golf course, not because it was torn down, but because it was completely buried by sand.  

Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast, ranging in height from 80 to 100 feet.1  The dune is “living” because maritime winds shift the sands approximately nine to twenty feet per year, constantly changing its shape and size.2  The legends surrounding Jockey’s Ridge have kept both locals and visitors entertained as they contemplate what the sands have gobbled up over the years.

Jockey's Ridge Sand Castle from Putt Putt Golf Course Covered by Sand
The castle hazard from the old putt putt golf course that now lays hidden beneath the sand. Image by Jeff Shelf.

During the early 19th century, Nags Head was a popular vacation destination for folks wanting to improve their health by taking in the salt air.  The Nags Head Hotel was the center of social life, offering guests dancing, fine dining, and strolling the boardwalk.3   Unfortunately, the Civil War took its toll on the grand structure.  The Confederate army used the hotel as a headquarters, eventually burning it to prevent Union forces from utilizing it.  According to Phyllis Cole from the North Beach Sun, some locals claim the remains were buried by the sands of Jockey’s Ridge, but others argue the hotel was too far from the base of the Ridge for that to be possible.4  We may never know if more than sand lies within the dunes!

According to geological research conducted at North Carolina State University, the dunes doubled in size between World War I and the early 1950’s but have shrunk in recent decades.5  Despite becoming smaller, in 2003, the state had to move sand from the southern edge of the dunes because homes were at risk of being buried.  Given the strength of northeastern winds, you may be wondering why the sand doesn’t completely blow away.  Park Rangers explain that the dunes’ sand particles hold moisture throughout the year and while the sun dries the top layer, the inner layers of sand stay wet. The high winds blow the top, dry layer off, but the wet layer below stays put.6  

Jockey's Ridge State Park Large Dune
Hiking the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1974, the dunes were declared a National Natural Landmark and a year later, the funds were appropriated for Jockey’s Ridge State Park.  Today, the park encompasses 420 acres and includes a visitor center, museum, nature trails, and 360-foot boardwalk.  For adventure lovers, sandboarding, hiking, and hang-gliding are all available.  So if you’re climbing the dunes, and the wind is just right, don’t be surprised if you see the tip of a sandcastle or octopus tentacle peeking out of the sand. 


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company