A Look Back in Time: Historic Nags Head Vacation Homes
The Outer Banks of North Carolina has been a place for families to escape everyday life and relax on the beach since the 1800s. By the early 1900s, the Outer Banks began to truly develop as a tourism hot spot with the addition of a new paved road running from Kitty Hawk to Nags Head and bridges connecting the beach with the mainland. Prior to the construction of these bridges, visitors would travel by boat from Roanoke Island into Nags Head when they came for vacation. Around this time, more hotels and private family vacation homes began to pop up. Many of these original homes can still be found along the coast — and you can stay in one for your next beach vacation!
Photo Courtesy of Doug Peltz
Village Realty is proud to manage several historic homes in Nags Head, each home offering a unique vacation experience that will help you step back in time to when life was much simpler. Many of our historic homes are part of what is known as “Old Cottage Row” in Nags Head, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places for over 40 years. The first of the homes were built in the 1800s; many were built from wood washed up on the shore from shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina. You can’t miss these oceanfront cottages while driving down the beach road, boasting wide wraparound porches, cedar shingles, gable roofs and propped shutters. Thanks to the dedication and preservation efforts of the families who own the cottages, these homes have withstood the test of time and weather but still stand strong on our shores.
Looking around inside these homes offers a peek into what life was like in the early 1900s. The Fred Wood Cottage (JR0639) was built in 1936 by Fred Wood Senior, who was the president of a lumber company in Edenton. Fred also used his skills to build wooden surfboards for his children to play with in the surf; one of the boards is now displayed on the wall in the dining room! Staying in this home for your vacation offers a glimpse of what it was like when the Wood family would disappear to the Outer Banks for the summer many years ago. In a time where there was no air conditioning, the Wood family added a cabinet in between the kitchen and dining room that can be opened to allow the ocean breezes to circulate through the home. Your family will enjoy spending time relaxing and taking a break from the sun on the wide, covered porches that encircle the house. This beautiful historic home will help you step back in time, relax and reflect. I had the pleasure of meeting Fred Jr. and when I asked about his favorite memory of his summers spent in the home, he got the biggest smile and recalled a time when he and his friends paddled out to a sandbar in a canoe and were flipped over by a huge wave.
Built during The Great Depression, the Fourth Estate Cottage (JR19) originally belonged to a group of newspapermen from all over North Carolina. About.com states “The fourth estate is a term that positions the press (newspapers) as a fourth branch of government and one that is important to a functioning democracy.” One member, Daniel Victor Meekins of Manteo, founded The Coastland Times, the paper of record in Dare and surrounding counties. This home has survived many weather events, including the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 and Hurricane Isabel of 2003. Thanks to the families that have owned the home, you can still enjoy the unique contents and artifacts that have remained with the cottage. This oceanfront cottage has been welcoming guests with its cozy cottage feel since 1935 and still has the Old Nags Head charm. The current owners are hopeful that their home creates a memorable experience for all guests: “May your time spent here with your family and friends and the lasting memories that you take away from this place help to form some of the best chapters in your story.”
Probably one of our most remarkable historic homes on the Outer Banks is the Stinson Ranch (JR521). This home was originally built on the sound side of Nags Head in the early 1900s on a plot of land sold for just $50.00! Due to erosion of the shoreline over time, the lot has been submersed by rising water levels. The original structure was destroyed in Hurricane Irene in 2011, but the owners built an exact replica to carry on the history of Old Nags Head that is indeed a “step back into history” with photos and objects to honor the former cottage. Now the cottage sits high on pilings above the Albemarle Sound, offering panoramic sunset views and a whole new meaning to a waterfront vacation. This home is just steps above the water and offers plenty of outdoor space for your family to enjoy. Swimming, fishing, kayaking or just sunbathing on the deck — there is never a lack of things to do at this cottage! A stay in the Stinson Ranch promises visitors “a relaxing retreat from the complexities and rigors of contemporary life.”
Although some of these homes are still owned by relatives of the original owners, others have just taken on the experience of owning a historic home. The owners of Ridge Retreat II (JR1517) recall that when they purchased the home in 2017 it still had no heat, air conditioning, or even an indoor shower. The cottage has since undergone a renovated kitchen, the addition of two indoor showers as well as updated electrical wiring and heating/cooling systems. Other than these updates, this 5-bedroom cottage is all original and still holds that old charm! This home located in the heart of Nags Head, right across the street from Jockey’s Ridge, offers plenty of outdoor spaces for your family to enjoy the ocean breeze and to make unforgettable memories.
The Historic District of Nags Head is one of the few areas that retains its original character with these cottages. Originally known as the “Kemp D. Battle Cottage,” Tankard (JR0635) will take you back to a time when life wasn’t so fast- paced. This oceanfront home, built in 1930, offers modern updates while still allowing you to experience a trip back in time. Sit out on the wide, expansive covered porches that overlook the beach or lay in the hammock for true relaxation. The best part about this cottage… your four-legged friend can enjoy it with you! Tankard is one of our only historic homes that is pet friendly (dogs only), so you can bring your furry friend along while experiencing a truly magical stay in this oceanfront cottage.
The Frank Wood Cottage (JR40) is our largest historic home with 7 bedrooms and plenty of space for your family to relax indoor and outdoor! History pours out of this cottage built in 1923 by Elizabeth City carpenter, Stephen Twine. The owners are dedicated to keeping the home as close to original condition as they can, while still adding modern conveniences to help make visitors comfortable. They recently did a kitchen remodel during which they had the cabinets custom built and matched the floors and ceilings to the original floors and ceilings in the home. You will see many items during your stay that take you back in time, including an antique fire extinguisher grenade hanging on the wall. There are many distinctive features of this home, like the way the corners of the porch project to provide additional shade from the sun and the propped shutters that allow ocean breezes in. This home has been used as a summer home since the late 1920s and holds plenty of memories of exploring the beaches, swimming in the ocean and conversations with friends and family. A stay in this home allows you and your family to make your own memories of the beautiful Nags Head shores as they did nearly a century ago.
Our other pet-friendly historic home, It’s Beach Time (JR41), has all the upgrades you need while still holding onto the old historic charm of days gone. Relax in a rocking chair on the wide decks or walk down to the beach on your own private walkway. There is plenty of room for everyone in this home, including a bonus room and separate private bungalow at the front of the property with a king bed and full bath. The cottage is within walking distance to Blue Moon Beach Grill and plenty of other shops and family-friendly activities.
No matter which home suits you and your family’s needs, booking a historic home is guaranteed to take you back in time to when Nags Head first emerged as a summer vacation destination. Each of these homes offers a unique experience and a different way to enjoy the beautiful Outer Banks. Whether it’s an oceanfront oasis or a sound front hide-a-way, a stay in one of our historic homes will be unforgettable. View our collection of Historic Homes and book yours today!