The Nags Head Beach Cottage Row Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places for almost 40 years. The first of the 36 homes began construction in the mid 1800s, many before the Civil War. Most homes began as shacks, built from wood scavenged from the beachfront, leftover from shipwrecks. Since that time though, most of the homes have undergone major renovations.
Today, a few of those original cottages are still holding historic court on the coast and the stories and memories of the lives lived in them are being passed down from generation to generation.
Nancy Rascoe, Author of “The Sandy Banks Live On”
[President Roosevelt] came down to Nags Head. . .and we were two doors over at the Nixon cottage and we watched from the dining room. . .You need to know the old stories, and you need to know your young stories.
Nancy Rascoe has been coming to Nags Head since she was six months old, staying with her grandmother at Nixon cottage in her youth. Now, she spends summers at Rascoe cottage.
“I think that God gave this wonderful, beautiful stretch of sand for everybody to draw close together,” Rascoe said.
The stretch of sand she’s referring to is home to Nags Head Beach Cottage Row. Today’s occupants of the cottages on the row have likely been connected to the area for most of their life. These cottages, among the oldest on the coast, have stayed in families for generations.
Nancy Rascoe has written a book, “The Sandy Banks Live On,” on the area and its rich history, as well as her family’s rich history as part of the historic row. The beachfront area holds memories old and new for her, including one memory of watching President Roosevelt make a visit to a cottage not far from her family’s own.
“They came down to Nags Head and he took them over to Miss Maddie Buchanan’s cottage, and we were two doors at the Nixon cottage and we watched from the dining room; watched him come into the cottage,” Rascoe said. “You need to know the old stories, and you need to know your young stories.”
Sisters Georgia Sullivan and Margie Worthington stay in cottage row’s Outlaw cottage, a house that was built in 1885 by their great-grandfather Captain Edward Ralph Outlaw who was in the Confederate army.
“He cut the timber for this cottage up on the farm that we still own in Bertie county. This was the last of the 13 original cottages to be built over here,” Worthington said.
Outlaw cottage is the youngest on the row, with the oldest cottage being Spider Villa, founded in the 1840s.
Sullivan speaks on the “magic-like” historic atmosphere that thrives in the cottages on Beach Cottage row.
“You get to know the generations in a way that was like the old days here, where you weren’t on your phone; you weren’t doing those other things. You’re just focusing on this place,” she said. “But there’s magic here too in these old houses. You feel the people who came before you.”