Category Archives: buildings

Out of Order

Since being constructed in the sixties, Rodanthe Pier has long been a vantage point during  storms. This image dates back to the Fall of 1999. After a series of poundings from the ocean, including Hurricane Dennis, much of the pier had collapsed. The pier house was completely destroyed. These gentlemen weren’t locals, but may have fished there at times.    

I don’t think pay phones exist around here any more and this particular one may have been one of the last vestiges of that technology. Needless to say, the pier was closed and the phone didn’t work. I can only imagine the many folks that used this telephone. Surfers called their friends if the waves were good, or teenage girls huddled around it talking to friends.

Remnants of the original pier house was strewn all over the beach. Bobby and Dickie Ferrell had built it with cypress from their Currituck sawmill. The weathered siding was still beautiful. I salvaged many of those boards and saved them for projects around my house.

Much shorter than it used to be, that old pier has been rebuilt and repaired constantly. Not only has it been a fishing experience but a social one as well. Its battle with the sea continues.

Les and Elsie’s Place

The May 15 edition of Island Free Press reported a whale skull washing up on the beach in Salvo. It reminded me of a home there years ago, with a similar find decorating the front yard.

Leslie and Elsie Hooper’s home was perhaps a hundred feet off of Highway 12. I didn’t know what the unusual yard ornament was until being told by their son Jimmy, with whom I worked on John Luke’s crew, building cottages. The sun-bleached whale skull was huge and must have taken the village to remove it from the beach.

In 1975 something about it appealed to me, enough to stop and take a picture. I adored the simplicity of the house, the yard with a fenced in garden, the old wagon wheels and fig trees. I also adored the family living there. The village had more of a rural feel back then. 

Les and Elsie were active in the community, involved in church, the volunteer fire department, fish fries and bake sales. She made the best pineapple upside down cake, and  Les was a ferry boat captain for NCDOT. To say the family had deep roots here is an understatement. 

The house built from the timbers of shipwrecks was destroyed when Hurricane Irene damaged it beyond repair. For details see the link below.

Miss Elsie’s Place



Old Darkroom

In 1977, I moved from a rented mobile home in Salvo to a house in north Rodanthe. It was spacious and located on highway 12. It marked the start of a new life for me. I installed track lights in the living room, and painted my name on a sheet of plywood to post in the front yard. The best part was having a 14×16 utility room where I built a huge darkroom. I blacked out the windows and made a long sink with epoxy. I’d print any time, day or night. Since it had a window-mounted air conditioner, I occasionally slept there on hot summer nights.

That phase brought years of enjoyment honing my craft, surfing and meeting people. Rent was $150 a month. Visitors showed up to buy photographic prints, so it became a way life.

In March of 1980 there was a blizzard backed with hurricane force winds. I kept cozy burning driftwood in a wood stove. With Hurricane Gloria approaching in 1985, I made my only evacuation from the island. Upon returning I discovered some tide had come in the house and there were dead fish in the yard. I lived there 10 years until 1987 when I built my place in Waves.

Fast-forward to 2011, Hurricane Irene devastated our town with 10 feet of storm surge from the Sound. In the aftermath, I watched an excavator demolish the building that was once a big part of my life. There must have been 4 feet of water inside. I peered into the last room about to go down, my old darkroom!

Another Casualty

Yesterday I heard about a cottage going down along the Rodanthe oceanfront. It was not totally unexpected, especially due to the adverse weather and big surf. By the time I arrived on the scene at East Point Drive, the house had already collapsed with debris strewn along the beach.

When it was built over 45 years ago, the house was 3 lots back from the ocean, behind a vegetated dune. It was a typical modest beach box. For decades it was owned by the same family and passed down a few generations. I don’t know if the same family still owned it, but doubtless there were many great times and memories there.

Along the Rodanthe oceanfront, more than a dozen other cottages are at risk.

It’s hard to evaluate which ones will be next. They’re pins waiting to be knocked down at a bowling alley, or sitting ducks if you will. Nothing will protect them, other than relocation.

The debate dealing with this goes on, but there are clearly problems with the permitting and insurance processes. Then there’s always the caveat, buyer beware!



The Breakthrough

Tropical cyclones are better experienced from a distance. Earlier this month Hurricane Earl, hundreds of miles out to sea, swept by. High seas churned up and washed through in expected areas.  The S-curve originally paved a bit straighter, has long been notorious for ocean over-wash. The S configuration is due to the fact, it has been relocated westward so many times. Arguably it has been one the most expensive sections of road to maintain in the state.

With the new bypassing bridge opened, traffic will no longer need the traditional route.

Since the S-curve was abandoned, this was the first time an over wash has broken through the spot that has been repeatedly dug out, rebuilt and reused. This time that won’t happen, ever again.

Road signs are still in place with the asphalt surface buried under accreted sand.

Hundreds of sandbags were of little help against the power of the sea. As part of the bridge agreement they, along with the roadbed, will be excavated and removed.

For over 30 years Mirlo Beach has been a fantasy development that is becoming another victim to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Oceanfront property owners in dire shape, have gotten permission to move their houses west toward a street no longer needed. At the very best, it should give them a few more years to ponder their options.

Meanwhile, the Black Pearl stands stoically defiant in nature’s grasp.