The Outer Banks is famous for blue skies and bright golden sun. Yet, every once in a while, storm clouds do gather, and rain comes pouring down. When that happens, don’t worry. You and your family can still have a blast with kid-pleasing indoor activities. In fact, the occasional rainy day gives you a great chance to see the OBX from a fresh new angle. Check out rainy day options like these, all child-safe and family-approved.
However, neither the beauty of the grounds and building nor a tour of the home—highly recommended—tell the full story of the Whalehead Club.
The Couple That Built The Whalehead Club
Edward Collings Knight, Jr. was the son of Edward Collings Knight who patented a sleeping car for trains. Knight the elder sold his patent to the Pullman Company. The family also had investments in sugar refining and transportation.
Most accounts suggest Edward, Jr. was better at spending money than making it.
Marie-Louise LeBel was a French-Canadian woman, 12 years younger than Knight. Wealthy in her own right when she met her husband, she was noted for throwing gala parties and being a fierce advocate for women’s rights.
Why Build a 21,000 Square-foot Mansion in Corolla?
Edward loved hunting, and as it turns out, so did his wife. Unfortunately she could not hunt on the Outer Banks at a time when the waterfowl hunting on Currituck Sound was legendary.
Founded in 1874, the Lighthouse Club occupied the land the Whalehead Club does today and Edward had been to the club a number of times, but their strict prohibition against women kept his wife away.
In 1919 the club dissolved and the land was sold to investors who planned on selling the property. Knight bought the property in 1922—approximately 2200 acres.
It Took Three Years To Build
Construction on the building began in 1923 and continued until 1925. There were a number of reasons for the lengthy construction. Almost everything had to be shipped in and the only way to get it to Corolla was by boat across the Currituck Sound. The complexity of the project certainly added to to the time.
However, if there is one overarching reason for the time spent to build the cottage—as the Knight called it—it was that construction was only permitted when the couple were on hand to personally oversee what was happening. The Knights wintered in Corolla but were not permanent residents.
When it was completed, the cost was $383,000—that’s around $5.4 million in today’s dollars.
The Original Name Was Corolla Island
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wilbur and Orville Wright, self-taught mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, came to Kitty Hawk and changed the world when they invented the first successful airplane in 1903. At the museum and memorial in Kitty Hawk, visitors can walk up the steep hill to see where the brothers made history with their first flight. In fact, the First Flight Centennial Pavilion has a fascinating review of aviation technology that you won’t want to miss.
Roanoke Island Festival Park
Roanoke Island Festival Park serves as a Wayback Machine for the Outer Banks. The first English settlers arrived on the islands as early as 1500, during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor. The park is an indoor and outdoor interactive complex of exhibits and activities that explain what life was like on the barrier islands during its days as a British colony.
Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station
Don’t overlook this museum with the funny name. Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station and Museum is one of the most popular and beloved museums in the Outer Banks. The Lifesaving Station honors the men who worked the lifesaving stations along the seashore. These men rescued hundreds of shipwrecked sailors over the years. Their journals, uniforms, gear, and primary residence are on display.
Ocracoke Preservation Society
The Ocracoke Preservation Society is housed in a historic home known as the David Williams House Museum. Built in the late 1800s, the home was restored by the Ocracoke Preservation Society so that visitors could see what life was like for Bankers in the 19th century. There’s even a documentary about the “Ocracoke Brogue,” an accent particular to those born and raised on Ocracoke.
One of the real delights of the museum is the summer Porch Talks. Wander up to the porch, take a seat on the steps, and listen to local experts recount the legends, mysteries, and exciting tales of the Outer Banks.
Outer Banks History Center
On the grounds of Roanoke Island Festival Park, you’ll find the wonderfully academic Outer Banks History Center. If you are a history buff, a science nerd, a weather bug, or if you trace your roots to the Bankers, you will enjoy getting lost in this facility. The center is home to more than 300,000 documents, photos, maps, and books about the Outer Banks, some dating back to the 1500s.
Corolla Wild Horse Museum