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!
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!
In November of 2021, I had the privilege to have some prints accepted into the permanent collection of the Gregg Museum of Art and Design in Raleigh. I submitted 70 images, then museum staff narrowed it to 12.
A 12×17 print of Nacie Peele fishing his pound net is among those in the collection.
You can see all the images and descriptions at:
My house sits on acreage bordering the Pamlico Sound. Much of it is salt marsh that blends into slightly elevated land with natural vegetation, including live oak, red cedar and yaupon holly. I built a home here and have lived on the property for 37 years.
The land was part of the Clarence E. Midgett estate and I have Midgett family members living all around me.
I’ve enjoyed this natural setting and history. Early on I admired a nearby grave. Banister Midyett’s headstone stands just a few feet over my north property line. He was born February 26, 1786 and died May 31, 1841 at the of age 55. He reportedly fathered 18 children. The name of Midgett has morphed into different spellings throughout history, but they all seem to be related. They must have been among the first Europeans to settle Hatteras Island as shipwreck survivors.
Another artifact close to my home is a disintegrating wooden skiff, tangled in overgrowth. There would be some captivating stories if it could talk. It likely belonged to I D Midgett, who passed recently at 92 years. He was a quintessential Hatterasman, making a living on the water as a ferry boat captain and commercial fisherman.
I D’s family built this structure to store fishing gear and as a place to bring in the daily catch. The past few years however, it’s seen very little use. As a local livelihood, commercial fishing has become an anachronism.
This approaching new year will be my 50th living on Hatteras, and the Holidays have always been a favorite time here. Looking back, it’s been a good run. There’s no place quite like it.
After Thanksgiving, things quiet down from the busy season. It’s a time I might walk out on the center line of highway 12, gaze north then south, and not see a single vehicle.
The beach offers a similar experience. There I savor the peacefulness and solitude of Christmastime and the occasional celebratory shell tree.