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Monday, April 6, 2015
Seagull Drive: A retrospective in pictures
       Uncle Jack first became acquainted with Seagull Drive in South Nags Head back in the early 80's when he regularly visited a friend from New Jersey who for several years rented the house known as Goosewing 20 on the west side of Seagull Drive for a couple of weeks each summer. On one of those occasions he attended an Open House at a brand new house on the ocean front directly across the street from Goosewing 20. Uncle Jack's friend asked the house's owner how long he expected to be able to enjoy his new treasure, which query was received with total incomprehension by the askee. He didn't have a clue that the beach in front of his beloved "Pair-a-Dice" was disappearing at a frightful rate. (A very few years and several storms later the owner wisely decided to have the house moved to safer ground on the west side of Old Oregon Inlet Road).
       It wasn't until after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 that Uncle Jack began taking pictures of Seagull Drive and the beleaguered cottages that lined the east side of the street as they suffered one indignity after the other from Mother Nature in the decade that followed. The Town of Nags Head and the owners themselves fought valiantly to keep Seagull viable after successive storms tore up the street and battered the houses, exposing septic systems and cutting them off from water and electricity while undermining the foundations of some of them.
       In early 2004, using funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) the Town built a ten-mile-long artificial dune (berm), part of which was designed to protect the newly reconstructed Seagull Drive which Isabel had destroyed. (See pictures). The berm, made of sand brought in on trucks from borrow pits in Currituck County, washed away in short order along with most of the rebuilt street.
       Huge sandbags were then employed to try to stave off the inevitable for a few years and then, in the summer of 2011, a beach replenishment program widened all the beaches in Nags Head at a cost of more than $30 million. The newly widened beach in front of the Seagull cottages gave new hope to the owners who began to repair some of them for possible use or sale. Alas their replenished beach soon washed away and the cottages were condemned by the Town after once again losing their septic systems, water and power.
       The Town and the owners then engaged in a prolonged legal battle over the disposition of the houses which ended in March when the Town agreed to buy the houses before tearing them down. In one way Uncle Jack will be happy to see them go as they have become an atrocious eyesore in otherwise lovely South Nags Head, and a hazard to beach users in that area. On the other hand he has enjoyed having them to photograph as icons in the endless struggle of man versus Mother Nature at the oceanfront. He will miss them.

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The Great Berm at Seagull as it looked shortly after completion in the spring of 2004. The replacement road is on the left and the view is to the north with the troubled cottages at the right in the distance.

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Seagull Drive looking south with the Great Berm still in place in the spring of 2004.

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Going, going.... By January 2005 most of the Great Berm was gone. This walkway, built a year earlier, had very little sand under it by this time and the ocean was attacking the new street again.

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By December 2005 there was no trace left of the Great Berm and most of the reconstructed Seagull Drive was gone. The sandbags helped a little to preserve what was left of the road.

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Looking south on Seagull in December 2005. The large yellow house at the left known as "Gray Eagle" was soon moved to a safer location on the other side of Old Oregon Inlet Road. Goosewing 20 is the house with the row of vertical white-trimmed windows.

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By May 2006 successive storms had done considerable damage to the oceanside cottages, all of which had been condemned for want of working septic systems and general dilapidation.

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In 20ll the battered cottages got a new lease on life with beach replenishment but the new beach was narrower in front of Seagull than in other parts of Nags Head because these buildings were in the water most of the time before replenishment.

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By September 2014 at least one house had been repaired and was on the market in spite of the rapidly diminishing beach in front of it and the rather shaky appearance of its neighbors.

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By February 15, 2015 storms had again uncovered septic systems and once again the houses were often standing in the surf. In March 2015 the Town of Nags Head purchased all but one of the remaining Seagull cottages and will tear them down.

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Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for information about how to rent this delightful home in South Nags Head. A few choice weeks in 2015 are still available. Senior citizen friendly with only 7 steps up and all rooms on one floor. Close to the beach.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:59 AM

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After retiring in 2005 after 35 years as owner/operator of Yellowhouse Gallery and Annex on the Beach Road in Nags Head, Uncle Jack, accompanied by Mrs. Uncle Jack (a.k.a. Susan), commenced to travel extensively. This blog is a chronicle of their ramblings around the U.S. (in their redoubtable Mini Cooper convertible) as well as visits to England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Malta, interspersed with lengthy stays in South Nags Head and Baltimore between trips. He took a lot of pictures along the way, many of which are posted along with each blog entry.
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