Monday, December 11, 2017

Island Inn

For months one of Ocracoke’s most iconic buildings, the Island Inn, has been sitting empty and neglected. A “For Sale” sign fastened near the front door announces that its future is uncertain. Now an ad hoc committee of four concerned islanders, Johnny Giagu, Ed Norvell, Bill Rich (County Manager), and Tom Pahl (County Commissioner), have put together a proposal that could save the building and make it available for community use.

In 1900 James and Zilphia Howard sold the one-acre tract of land to the trustees of "Ocracoke Lodge No. 194 Independent order of Odd Fellows" for use as a "Lodge room or such other purpose as they may deem proper." A two-story wood frame building, the center section of the current structure, was built in 1901. It housed the Odd Fellow's Lodge on the second floor. Soon thereafter two island schools were consolidated to create one public school which was held on the first floor.

Odd Fellows Lodge, OPS Photo, Earl O'Neal Collection

Over the next 117 years the “Lodge,” as it came to be called, was added to and modified. Over the years it variously served the island as a private home, inn, restaurant, coffee shop, WWII officers quarters, and gift shop. In the early to mid-20th century it was the center of community social life. Islanders gathered there for Saturday night square dances accompanied by the music of fiddle, banjo, guitar, and triangle.

On December 7, 2017, the ad hoc committee (the “Island Inn Preservation Committee”) secured a purchase agreement from the property’s current owner which allows the committee 150 days to negotiate additional agreements with adjoining property owners, the Occupancy Tax Board, the Tourism Development Authority, Hyde County, and the Ocracoke Preservation Society.

Immediately Tom Pahl and Johnny Giagu met with the Executive Committee of the Preservation Society to present their proposal. At the meeting on December 7, 2017, the members of the OPS Executive Committee voted to “support the plan brought by the ad hoc committee … and … to work with the ad hoc committee toward accomplishing the goals presented,” which included using $150,000 of OPS’s “Save an Old House” revolving fund as down payment on the property, to accept initial ownership of the property, and to transfer the property, with conservation easements, to “another community entity” in the future.

Still to be negotiated during the 150-day period are funding to pay mortgage payments, demolition of the two badly deteriorated wings, and stabilization of the historic center section. Sale would not be final, nor funds committed, until those details of the project were established.

Although the initial goal is simply to preserve the historic center section of the Lodge, future plans might include turning the building into a visitors center with public restrooms, space for community meetings and gatherings, and “green” areas for picnicking and other outdoor activities.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here:  


  1. Anonymous8:49 AM

    I am so pleased to hear that folks have formed a committee to try to save this historic structure.

    While I understand the desire to preserve and restore the original structure, is there no possible way to save the entire structure? A charming, world class B&B would be delightful? I can't fathom that someone couldn't make this work. Perhaps it could generate revenue for the Historical society. Alas, that would be a major undertaking and require much of the community. Just daydreaming to my self a bit!

    1. For now, efforts will be concentrated on the center, more historical, and better preserved section of the inn. But the focus might expand if that seems feasible.

  2. Anonymous9:15 AM

    You would think the local real estate agent board would Pony up with some funds. as a real estate agent, they benefit greatly in the Long run, from the existence of amenities that serve visitors and clients alike. Happy residents equal happy visitors. Will there be -----a bake sale, car wash, plant sale, magazine drive, benefit music concert, telethon, walk-athon, bowl- a- thon, skate-a-thon, jump rope -a- thon (need to make a headline and good copy for the newspapers) and TV station they like a good visual to air ,---- to raise funds or hey wait, what about a Go Fund Me web page ?? Inn case you want to Help OI ---- good luck sounds like a plan .

    1. Different options will be explored...but probably not a bowl-a-thon.

  3. Anonymous12:11 PM

    How about opening up the teachers education Center that they now have in the old Coast Guard Station put them in there and open the Coast Guard Station + the observation tower to the General Public. You can charge $2.00 or $3.00 a person the tour of the building here the history of the building see old photographs of the building and the surrounding naval ships that were there. Climb the. observation tower, take some pictures enjoy yourself have a good time. Right now it's for the privileged few at taxpayers expense. The public should be able to go in that building and hear the Patriotic history of Ocracokes participation in World War II centered around the Naval Base & the Coast Guard Station.

    1. Anonymous8:37 AM

      If folk are gritting their teeth at the fact the former coast guard center is a teacher conference center please remember spending six hours a day with multiple developing personalities can be draining. There needs to be some incentive for a retreat, workshop to remind the underpaid profession of classroom teacher that we the people the taxpayer of North Carolina, we honor your service to the state serving in the trench er bench war er peace keeping on a daily basis. The US State department should offer training on negotiations, diplomacy, lunchroom trade practices, environmental sanitary disease control, and the like. Anon 12;11 do tell how many volunteer hours in an elementary school have you enjoyed lately?

  4. Anonymous6:52 PM

    going up into the historic coast guard station tower would be a nice highlight to a trip to ocracoke. I'm for it. Good idea there.

  5. Anonymous6:59 PM

    anon 8:37, your my hero...but what's wrong with being a hero in another building. and like anon 12:11 said, OPEN UP THE COAST GUARD STATION TO THE PUBLIC QUIT HOGGING IT, PEOPLE WANT TO TOUR IT! We know how some Ocracokers love love the tourist $$ but hate the tourist...hey charge $$ to do the tour, make a buck, be happy.

  6. Anonymous11:25 PM

    Anon 6:59pm please note anon 8:37 has only enjoyed volunteering in an elementary setting but suffered greatly as a substitute teacher the slings and arrows of high school students.

  7. Anonymous5:21 PM

    No fight here, I am just thinking; butreading all of the above and seeing that the 'Island Inn' at some point was a would be fitting to see it now used to teach teachers. What a history for that building if that happened. Good subjects on this blog-thanks.