Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beach Sticks

It was nice to get a full two days of Spring before the temperature went back up to 98 degrees. As weekenders crowd the Atlantic City Expressway and head "down the shore" (a grammatically incorrect statement I refuse to utter without quotes), I'm itching for a shore with which I am far more familiar. As much as I appreciate Philadelphia's easy access to the ocean, there are few coasts in the country as breathtaking as North Carolina's Outer Banks and its southern counterpart, Cape Fear.

It isn't just the crowds, or lack thereof. From Currituck to Holden Beach, the Carolina coastline has achieved an international reputation for its unspoiled beauty and is no stranger to a bustling rental season. But while the Jersey Shore, Long Island, and the Capes of Massachusetts enjoy a survived Victorian and Colonial infrastructure, they carry with them the burden of history.

Mother Nature repeatedly proves the Outer Banks uninhabitable, and in doing so makes it a very desirable place to be. You, as much as its architecture, are at the will of the gods. You won't find life guards. You won't pay to go on the beach. You won't find shingled beach houses from the 1890s. 

What you will find is a place where nature reigns supreme and the built environment is secondary at best. You will find freedom, but also its consequences. Beaches are held in place by dunes covered in sea grass, nature's way of preserving its coastline. Sand dunes have engulfed streets, homes, and even an amusement park, with no choice but to submit to the wind.

A house built in the 1980s is considered old on Carolina's coast. Built atop sandbars that shift with hurricanes, erecting a house is a gamble. 

Architectural history in this region is reserved for lighthouses, which is why it was so surprising that when the rental, Serendipity from the movie Nights in Rodanthe, was condemned and nearly swept out to sea, someone actually stepped forward to save it.

Serendipity's having succumbed to North Carolina's brutal nature was what had made it such an attractive building for the film. The coastline had moved beyond the foundation of the house since it was built in 1988, leaving it on the ocean side of the grassy dunes. It was a scene made for a movie, unfortunately the drama of its position left it to face the inevitability of hurricane season.

But something about that house was special. With a river of ocean water running between its stilts, being beaten by 130mph winds, it never moved, not even a little. It continued to greet visitors to the village of Rodanthe. Towering over the ocean, it was the first house one would see. 

Dare County finally imposed a nuisance violation on the owners of this Hollywood star after Hurricane Ida heavily damaged both the village and the house, sweeping several others out to sea. It seemed that Serendipity's end was no longer at the will of nature, but in the hands of Man.

Luckily Serendipity prevailed. Ben and Debbie Huss of Newtown, NC purchased the home on January 4th, 2010 and on January 18th, successfully completed the move of the 83,000 pound house to its new location on Highway 12 where it will continue to greet visitors to the Cape Hatteras town of Rodanthe. 

That is until it needs to be moved again.

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