December 14, 2010

UPDATE….The fate of Ocracoke’s Island Inn is still unknown


Ocracoke’s historic landmark, the Island Inn, went up for public auction on the steps of the Hyde County Courthouse on Oct. 21. The owner of the inn, Branch Banking and Trust, received no acceptable bids, so the company placed a bid itself and bought it back.

The bank is expected to put the property on the real estate market soon, and many who have fond memories of the inn wonder what its fate will be.

The Island Inn, formerly known as the Silver Lake Inn, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the oldest inn on Ocracoke, built in 1901 by Charlie Scarborough. The well-known Ocracoke carpenter built the central structure using, in part, salvage from shipwrecks. Its first floor was used as a one-room schoolhouse until 1917, and its upstairs as the Oddfellows Lodge.

It was moved across the street, added onto and served as a private home, the Wahab Coffee Shop, a dancehall, barbershop, and ice cream parlor. During World War II, it became the Naval Officers’ club, the "Crow’s Nest." More recently it has provided lodging for many a visitor to Ocracoke Island, and its restaurant has been a favorite dining place. It even has its own ghost, -- known as Mrs. Godrey -- who some claim haunts the place.

 Ocracokers and Island Inn visitors share the fear that the building, which is in need of a good deal of work, might be torn down. They think such an action would be a great loss to the community.

Many Ocracokers would like to see the property continue its traditional use as an inn and have the restaurant reinstated.

Another possibility is having the community purchase the Island Inn to be used as a public building. Funds for this are tight but, according to Robin Payne, president of the Ocracoke Foundation, “The community could benefit greatly from these larger historic properties, especially the ones with green space.  I look at them and see an income stream for the community while at the same time providing outdoor space for the local kids, tourism events, small businesses, saving a historic structure, housing, retaining green space.”
“It certainly has a long history here,” says Ocracoker Gene Ballance, a former Hyde County commissioner. “I would hate to see it torn down. Maybe it could be modified for something else. They’ve saved some other old buildings here...I’m hopeful."
Bill Jones, president of the executive committee at the Ocracoke Preservation Society, (OPS) says "Speaking on behalf of OPS, we hope it can be preserved.”

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