Happy Monday Morning wishes to you from the Outer Banks where this past Saturday we had the experience of a lifetime. The new bridge to Hatteras Island from the Northern Outer Banks is nearly complete and prior to its opening everyone had the opportunity to walk or bike on the new structure.
Evacuation Order to be lifted this weekend
Hurricane Florence Upate #6 (Final Update)
Dare and Currituck Counties remain under a Hurricane Warning and a Storm Surge Warning that officials anticipate will remain in place through late today or Saturday due to the slow movement of Hurricane Florence.
On Friday morning Hurricane Florence is came ashore in the Wilmington, North Carolina area, but strong effects of the storm were being felt all along the Outer Banks.
Rain bands are continuing to affect the northern beaches of the Outer Banks, winds are strong and steady, waves and tides are running higher than normal at this time, and ocean over wash is being experienced in several areas of the Outer Banks. Highway 12 on Hatteras Island has been closed from the Bonner Bridge south due to significant ocean over wash in that area. Intermittent rain is predicted to affect our area through Friday as will windy conditions.
A Tropical Storm Warning, Storm Surge Warning, A State of Emergency, and a Mandatory Evacuation, a Flash Flood Watch, and a Tornado Watch continue to be in place as of this morning.
This morning the Bridges that provide access to the Outer Banks have closed access to anyone other than essential personnel with a specific pass issued by the Emergency management of either Dare or Currituck Counties.
The Outer Banks Blue office is closed until the Mandatory Evacuation is lifted.
All guests scheduled to arrive on Today, Saturday and Sunday of this week should not travel to the Outer Banks unless and until they hear directly from Outer Banks Blue that roads are safe to travel on, and that their property is indeed undamaged and able to accommodate them. Please let Outer Banks Blue be your source of information regarding the rental of your property.
Many of our employees have evacuated the area which limits our ability to provide the services that our owners and guests have come to expect so we continue to ask for your patience as things return to normal over the next few days.
Once the mandatory evacuation order we will begin the process of preparing properties for any arriving guests.
Our office is going to be closed until the evacuation order is lifted.
We will provide another update when the evacuation order is lifted or on Saturday morning by 9:00 AM
On Thursday morning Hurricane Florence was still some 200 miles from the southeast coast of North Carolina, but effects of the storm were being felt all along the Outer Banks.
Rain bands are beginning to affect the northern beaches of the Outer Banks, waves and tides are running higher than normal at this time. Wind is strong and steady and making uncomfortable conditions. Steady and heavy rain is predicted to affect our area through Friday as will windy conditions.
A Hurricane Warning, Storm Surge Warning, A State of Emergency, and a Mandatory Evacuation continue to be in place as of this morning. A Flash Flood watch is also now in place.
As of 8:30 this morning the Bridges that provide access to the Outer Banks have closed access to anyone other than essential personnel with a specific pass issued by one of the local emergency control groups.
Our focus now turns to the guests that are scheduled to arrive on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this week. If the projected path of the storm is accurate it would appear that the impacts on our area may be less than originally expected and we may be able to get back to normal business by the first of next week.
We expect the mandatory evacuation to remain in effect for the next few days. Arriving guests should not plan on coming to the Outer Banks until you hear from Outer Banks Blue directly advising that the evacuation order has been lifted, and that your specific property is ready for your arrival.
Arriving guests should keep in mind that gas supplies are extremely limited, basic needs provided through local stores are unavailable at this time (Bread, water, ice, milk, eggs, etc.), and conditions are not conducive to a relaxing vacation at this time. In addition all of our properties have been prepped for the storm so pools are turned off, outdoor furniture is stacked inside houses, items are tied down, and many of our houses are boarded. Please give us the opportunity to prepare for your arrival before coming to the beach!
Your patience is appreciated as we work though this process. Many of our employees have evacuated the area which limits our ability to provide the services that our owners and guests have come to expect.
Our office is planning on being open at least part of the day on Thursday.
We will provide another update on Friday morning by 9:00 AM (Weather Permitting)
As of 7:00 AM today a state of emergency and a mandatory evacuation are in effect for the entire Outer Banks. The Currituck County and Dare County Control groups have issued a directive to all visitors and residents to evacuate the Outer Banks effective 7:00 AM today in advance of the approach and landfall of Hurricane Florence. Hatteras Island visitors were requested to leave beginning at noon yesterday
All Properties managed by Outer Banks Blue are affected by this order.
All guests in residence were contacted yesterday and advised of the requirement to leave and not plan on returning. All guests that still remain in properties will be followed up with this morning. Guests that are expected to arrive this weekend are advised not to come until they hear from us directly about travel conditions and any property damage.
Florence continues to be a very powerful hurricane and is expected to be the strongest Hurricane to ever hit the coast of North Carolina. While the majority of forecast tracks predict the storm will make landfall on the southern coast of North Carolina, the storm is still more than 1000 miles away and even a slight change of direction over the next two days could bring the storm over our area.
Outer Banks Preparing for Florence
At noon today The Dare County Emergency Control Group a mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island was issued for residents and guests. A follow up order of a mandatory evacuation of the rest of Dare County has been issued beginning at 7 AM tomorrow (9/11/18). All visitors on the Outer Banks should make preparations to leave the area.
Hurricane Florence is a very strong and dangerous storm.
Forecast models show Hurricane Florence to be on a track that would make landfall in the Wilmington, NC area, even if that is the case the Northern Outer Banks would experience tropical storm force winds, heavy rains, threat of tornadoes and significant Ocean over wash.
Even a slight change of course have the storm bring direct and catastrophic impacts to the Outer Banks.
While we regret the storm has impacted vacations, we urge all guests in residence now to heed warnings and exit the area as the local authorities have requested. Safety is our top priority.
Guests that are set to arrive next weekend (9/14, 9/15, 9/16) should wait for contact from Outer Banks Blue before coming to the beach as access to the Outer Banks may be blocked depending on the damage done by the storm. Your patience is appreciated. We will be using a texting system to ensure you have up to date information from us regarding the impacts of the storm so please be sure we have your correct cell phone number to provide you updates regarding the storm.
Another update will be posted here at 9 AM on Tuesday, September 11th.
There Was Nothing Like the Nags Head Casino
There are Outer Banks places that have become legendary over the years. Perhaps no longer a part of local life, yet the tales linger.
If there is one place that would seem to fit that description it is the Nags Head Casino.
There is nothing left of it now. Kitty Hawk Kites and Jockey’s Ridge Crossing occupy the space where it once stood. Perhaps it’s fitting that a business promoting family fun and the Outer Banks now occupies the site where Ras Wescott once had his business.
In it’s heyday, the 1940s through the 1960s, there was nothing else quite like the Nags Head Casino. Downstairs it was all about families. There was a bowling alley, an arcade, candy, soda and snacks.
But upstairs, that’s where the legend of Nags Head Casino was created. The floor was buffed to a high sheen, often by Ras himself, and no one…no one… wore shoes when dancing. Or on the second floor. And the music, that’s why people kept coming back.
The biggest names in jazz, swing, pop and rock ’n’ roll came to the Outer Banks; their names reading like a who’s who of the their time.
Artie Shaw, one of the finest clarinetists of the swing era played the Casino. Fats Domino was there, Count Basie and his Barons of Rhythm made the trip. In the 1960s Bill Deal and the Rhondels came a number of times.
On the cusp of fame, Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps played to the Casino in June of 1956. Largely forgotten now, Vincent was a pioneer in rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll.
Perhaps the biggest name to grace the Casino’s stage was Satchmo—Louis Armstrong, on July 12, 1958.
The Casino began life as a dormitory housing workers for the Wright Brother Memorial
It took a full year to build the Monument. Construction began in the fall of 1931 and was completed in November of the following year. The 60’ constructed from North Carolina granite required skilled stonemasons and the workers needed a place to stay.
When the workers left, the building became a dormitory for Depression era WPA (Works Progress Administration) workers who were creating a dune line along the Outer Banks.
By 1937 the building stood vacant, and local businessman Ras Wescott saw an opportunity and bought the property.
It was at first a soda shop and snack bar, but then Ras added duckpin bowling and an arcade and the following year, 1938, the upstairs became a dance hall.
Booking mostly regional acts at first, the popularity of the Casino expanded, but what seems to have really sparked its growth was WWII.
What is now Dare County Airport was used for flight training by the Navy and submarine patrols. Coupled with the explosive growth of servicemen at Hampton Roads and a slightly improved transportation system, the Casino became a popular night spot.
That popularity came with a price. Local residents who were around at the time recall tensions between servicemen and locals. There is evidence of that.
The July 21, 1944 edition of the Dare County Times, the predecessor to the Coastland Times, reported, “The entire court of Judge Baum…was taken up Tuesday of this week with cases arising out of drunkenness, nearly all of them at the Nags Head Casino where drunks are wont to congregate.”
Included in that report is a “young Colington man jumped up and without provocation, hit Chief Officer Blackman of the Naval Shore Patrol…”
Wescott, though, took pride in creating what he considered a wholesome place of recreation. The downstairs was very family oriented, and children were not permitted upstairs.
There were bouncers, and when needed, Ras would blow a whistle he had around his neck. Legend has it that when things got tense, patrons would leap out of the second floor windows to the sandy ground below rather than face the bouncers. There are no reports of anyone getting injured jumping to safety.
When there was real trouble, though, Donnie Twyne would have been called. Twyne, the first Chief of Police for Nags Head, began his career in law enforcement as a Dare County Deputy. Before he was a policeman, Donnie was a boxer, and as a number of the Casino’s more rowdy customers discovered, he backed down to no one.
Ras experimented with different ways to bring people to his business. For a while, in the 1950s he sponsored weekly boxing matches.
For the most part though, anyone going to the Casino had a good time—that is the overwhelming memory of everyone who recalls being there. That and the floor.
It’s unclear why Ras began waxing and buffing the dance floor, but he did and shoes were absolutely prohibited. There was even a place to check shoes, much like a coat check.
By all accounts, Ras loved swing music and dance music, but as musical tastes changed so did the groups he needed to book. He brought some good groups to the Outer Banks in the 60s, but not the big names he had managed to book a decade earlier.
The 1962 Ash Wednesday Storm damaged the building and it took weeks to repair—lost time for Wescott who always opened in March.
By the end of the decade, attendance was declining. Wescott, his health declining, sold the building as the decade of the 70s began. Soon after he sold the building, a storm damaged the roof and the building was demolished to make way for the new Kitty Hawk Kites Store and Jockey’s Ridge Crossing.
On the other hand, the active pursuits the islands have to offer are truly outstanding. Whether kayaking and kiteboarding or sailing and surfing, there are as many ways to have fun in the Outer Banks as there are hours in the day.
There’s no reason you can’t enjoy both. In fact, it’s that unique combination of scenery, simplicity, and adventure that keeps the Outer Banks on “Best of” lists year after year. Recently the Outer Banks landed on several award lists, including “The South’s Best Island” and “Best Family-Friendly Beach.” Here are some of the awards we’ve been honored to receive recently:
Southern Living: The South’s Best Island
This year, Southern Living Magazine named the Outer Banks as “The South’s Best Island.” In their search for the perfect escape, the magazine polled readers about their favorite islands. Winners had to have everything necessary for a comfortable vacation without so much luxury that it spoiled the sense of being on an adventure.
“This narrow spit of sand looks as if it were tugged out into the ocean from North Carolina’s mainland, leaving Pamlico, Currituck, and Roanoke Sounds behind. Rent a house and stay for a week to explore Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Islands,” Southern Living writes. The magazine praised the islands of the Outer Banks as much for what they don’t have — namely flashy boardwalks and loud bars with neon signs.
Dr. Beach: #3 Best Beach in the United States
Every year beach lovers wait for Steven Leatherman (a.k.a. Dr. Beach), one of the world’s top coastal experts, to release his findings on the best beaches in the country. He uses 50 criteria to rank U.S. beaches, including beach width at low tide, softness of sand, wave size, cleanliness, abundance of wildlife, and views.
This year Dr. Beach chose Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach in the Outer Banks as the #3 beach in the United States. “Ocracoke, once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, is still a special place — it is my favorite getaway beach,” Dr. Beach says. “Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country. Big surf dominates in late summer, so families with children may want to come earlier in the year. Don’t expect to play golf or stay at the Ritz; the main pursuits are swimming and beachcombing.”
USA Today: One of 10 Best East Coast Beaches
Readers of USA Today voted Cape Hatteras as one of the top 10 beaches on the East Coast. They love the waves and beautiful scenery, but they also love Cape Hatteras for the abundant crabbing and exhilarating kiteboarding. Regular visitors to Cape Hatteras return for the laid-back vibes, well-preserved ecology, wide-open spaces, and uncrowded shoreline. Favorite places to hang out on Hatteras Island are Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, the lighthouse at Buxton, and Frisco Beach.
Family Vacation Critic & TripAdvisor: Top Family-Friendly Beach
After the Civil War, sport hunters from the North began to trickle in, attracted by the large migratory bird populations that moved through the Atlantic Flyway. Fishermen followed the hunters, eager to fish the teeming waters and inlets of the Atlantic. Locals, who were eking out a difficult existence logging or fishing, realized there was money to be made from tourism.
A grassroots hospitality industry sprang up in the form of food stands, tour guides, and basic lodgings. Interestingly, the hardscrabble past of the Outer Banks kept simplicity high on the list of values for locals, and that began to attract stressed-out Industrial Revolution moguls.
Tourism saw a sharp uptick in the 1920s, when vacations near the sea became an obsession for wealthy (and overworked) Americans. Edward Collings, a New England industrialist, was the first to build a massive beach home, Whalehead, in Corolla. At 21,000 square feet, Whalehead hosted so many glamorous parties that it became a private hunting club. (Today it’s a museum.)
In 1927, President Herbert Hoover visited the Outer Banks to dedicate the Wright Brothers National Memorial and recognize the 25th anniversary of flight. In 2003, President George W. Bush attended the Centennial of Flight celebration at the memorial, accompanied by celebrity aviation enthusiasts such as John Travolta.
As word got out about the peace and seclusion of the Outer Banks, the vacation industry grew, and locals reacted by refining their shops and accommodations. Roads were installed through the woods and trails, a dunes system implemented to protect beach homes, and bridges began to span the islands.
Since the Outer Banks has a long history as a safe haven and private respite for the rich, famous, and stressed out, modern dignitaries and celebrities are frequently spotted walking the beaches, shopping at small groceries, or enjoying watersports just like everyone else.
The Outer Banks’ most beloved celebrity resident was actor Andy Griffith, famous for his roles on The Andy Griffith Show, A Face in the Crowd, and Matlock, to name a few. Andy lived on Roanoke Island and was often seen at the Ace Hardware, local restaurants, or the Island Pharmacy.
Other TV and movie megastar sightings include Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael J. Fox, Whoopi Goldberg, Lynda Carter, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Costner, and Rob Lowe. Ed O’Neill of Modern Family and Married with Children fame is a frequent sighting when he visits family here.
Richard Gere and Diane Lane were regulars around town when they filmed Nights in Rodanthe. In 2008, Jon and Kate of Jon and Kate Plus 8 filmed an episode of their show in Corolla.
Famous musicians are also frequent visitors to the Outer Banks. Tim Reynolds of Dave Matthews Band fame has a house in the Outer Banks and occasionally can be found playing casual gigs at local bars. Other rocker sightings include Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.
NASCAR drivers such as Sterling Marlin, Ward Burton, and Jeff Burton have been known to slow down in the Outer Banks. Dignitaries also love the anonymity of the Outer Banks. Melinda Gates has been seen vacationing here, as well as astronaut Michael Collins and President George Bush, Sr. The Outer Banks still attracts industry giants. You may just see the CEO of Popeye’s, Papa John’s, Dollar Tree, or Best Buy kicking back on the beach.
No discussion of celebrities on the Outer Banks would be complete without covering the legend of Tom Cruise. For years, rumors that Tom Cruise owned a secluded house on the Outer Banks have vacationers guessing.
Some locals say it’s a tall tale made up by time-share companies; others say he did shop for a house here many years ago but never bought. Either way, the story took on a life of its own. Despite the fact that sightings pop up on message boards every year, it’s unlikely that Tom Cruise owns a house in the Outer Banks. (If he does, he’s a master of stealth.)
The Outer Banks have been a peaceful playground for the rich and famous since the 1920s. For some celebrities, the islands are convenient to East Coast homes or family connections, for others the natural beauty, warm ocean breezes, and laid-back vibes are an irresistible antidote to hectic Hollywood life. What should you do if you see a celebrity vacationing in the Outer Banks? Just smile, wave, and play it cool.
Malaria was rampant in the coastal plain of North Carolina, and at that time, it was believed malaria was caused by the warm, damp bad air of the swamps and wetlands that surrounded farms and cities.
It seems that Nixon, breathing the fresh, salt air of the Outer Banks, was convinced that Nags Head was a safe summer haven for his family. Other plantation owners and wealthier members of North Carolina society followed Nixon to the shore.
It is an interesting, and sometimes overlooked fact about the Outer Banks—that Nags Head was one of the first tourist destinations in the United States.
The reason for Nixon and others for choosing Nags Head as a summer getaway was different than in the Northeast where a burgeoning middle class population was seeking a way to get away from the city and spend time with family. The results, however, were the same.
So many visitors were to coming to Nags Head that in 1838 the first Outer Banks hotel was constructed. Like the village and the summer homes, the hotel was located on the Roanoke Sound.
The hotel was, evidently a very good investment. By 1851 it boasted over 200 rooms with detached cottages. A wharf extended far out into the sound, and there was scheduled steamboat passenger service to the resort. To get to the ocean, the hotel offered a boardwalk and a tramway with horse drawn carts to take visitors to the beach. The hotel also featured a dance hall and dining room.
Nags Head as a town was thriving, There was a general store, and the population, traditionally subsistence farmers, hunters and fishermen, had a ready market for their goods.
Then the Civil War came.
Although not widely known, the first Union victory of the conflict occurred on the Outer Banks. In August of 1861, northern forces seized Ocracoke and Hatteras Village, gaining control of access to the waters of the Outer Banks sounds. Oregon Inlet was not considered navigable at that time, so control of the southern Outer Banks inlets was a strategic necessity.
Confederate General Henry Wise established his headquarters at the Nags Head hotel, but as Union forces approached and it became apparent they could not be stopped, he moved his command and burned the hotel to the ground to prevent its use by his enemy. Union forces seized the rest of the Outer Banks and Roanoke Island by February of 1862.
After the Civil War, tourism in Nags Head quickly rebounded. The hotel was rebuilt and visitors were once again flocking to the beach town.
But a change was occurring and that change is very much a part of the Outer Banks of today.
Soon after the Civil War ended, Dr. W.G. Poole, an Elizabeth City physician, purchased some beachfront property and built a house. Wanting some company for his family, he sold adjoining lots to his friends. The story is told that he sold the lots for $1.00 to entice his neighbors to build on the beach. Whether that is true is difficult to say, but there is no doubt that the first owners of beachfront homes built on the Outer Banks were from Elizabeth City.
Some of those homes have survived and are what has come to be known as the Unpainted Aristocracy of Nags Head. The homes are considered historically significant and comprise the Nags Head Historic District.
The shift to the beach front had profound implications. The new Nags Head Hotel burned to the ground in 1903, and no attempt was made to rebuild it.
As important as the shift was from the sound to the ocean, connecting the Outer Banks to the rest of the world was even more important.
In the 1920s North Carolina began building a road along the ocean from Kitty Hawk to Nags Head. At that time, though, there were no bridges connecting the road to anything else. Later in that decade that changed. It is unclear if the bridge that is now the Washington Baum Bridge connecting Outer Banks to Manteo or the precursor to the Wright Memorial Bridge was first. Both seem to have been built about the same time.
The predecessor to the Wright Memorial Bridge was…unique. A wooden bridge built by private investors, it was a toll road. The bridge rested low in the water, so low that it was frequently impassable because waves would wash over the deck. Because it was wet so often, the surface was slippery and treacherous. Yet it was a direct connection to the rest of northeast North Carolina and Hampton Roads, and even during the Depression, the Outer Banks experienced some growth, although it was very slow.
One type of business that did thrive were nightclubs and dance halls. The Nags Head Casino was by far the best known.
The building began its life as a dormitory for workers building the Wright Brothers Monument. After the workers left in 1932, local entrepreneur Ras Wescott purchased the building. The downstairs was turned into a soda fountain and bowling alley. Upstairs was a dancehall with a perfectly polished floor where no one was allowed to wear shoes. Some of the biggest names in big band and jazz came to the Casino, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Artie Shaw. When the music shifted, Fats Domino and Bill Deal the Rhondels among others made the trip to the Outer Banks.
The Casino survived until the early 1970s when storm damage and an ailing Ras Wescott sealed its fate. The Nags Head Kitty Hawk Kites Store now occupies the site of the Casino.
Other changes were occurring, and the post WWII boom and growing baby boomer families were at the heart of the change.
In 1947 Frank Stick, the father of Outer Banks author David Stick, with some partners purchased 2600 acres of swamp, maritime forest, and barren beach just north of Kitty Hawk. He believed that returning servicemen, as their families grew, would want a home to come to for a vacation on the Outer Banks. The design for the homes would be based on a simple concrete structure he had seen n Florida. Local materials would be used to keep costs down. Beams and woodwork would be juniper—a plentiful local wood at that time—and sand from Outer Banks beaches would be used for concrete.
Those simple concrete homes are the classic Southern Shores flattops. And as evidence that local sand was used for the concrete, many of the homes have various local shells embedded in their walls.
The flattops sparked a building boom, and although other areas of the Outer Banks were also enjoying a surge in vacation home construction, the concept behind the Southern Shores flattops holds an important place in the history of tourism. It was one of the first planned resort towns.