A Log Cabin on North Carolinaâ€™s Outer Banks 1932
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A Log Cabin on North Carolina’s Outer Banks
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magine North Carolina’s Outer Banks in the 1930s – vast stretches of sand and sea swirl amidst a handful of homes. A lone, rustic log cabin in Kitty Hawk becomes a welcome refuge for tea and family. And along the way, withstands hurricanes and a building boom to become a little piece of history along the coast.
In 1932, this narrow sliver of land on the North Carolina coast likely resembled what Wilbur and Orville Wright saw when they first visited in 1900. These bicycle-building brothers from Ohio would go on to achieve the first-manned flight on Dec. 17, 1903, thanks to the strong winds, remote seclusion and Southern hospitality they found in nearby Kill Devil Hills. The seclusion of the Outer Banks is long gone, except during the winter months, but the winds and hospitality remain as does the sand and sea.
Miss Claudia Sanderlin, a young single woman, built the cabin to serve as a tearoom and lodging in 1932. From her father’s founding of a local church to her brother-in-law’s witness of the Wright brother’s historic first flight, the Sanderlins and the cabin’s history are interwoven with that of the Outer Banks.
This likely was one of the reasons that Sanderlin ventured to Kitty Hawk in the early 1930s. She had family connections in the Outer Banks, as her father Thomas Sanderlin helped to build the first Methodist Church in the village of Kitty Hawk in 1858.
“I am still stunned to find such a ‘rustic’ log cabin at Kitty Hawk,” said Tom Butchko, curator of the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, N.C. “It is so out of typical for what was being built in the Albemarle. Perhaps Miss Sanderlin did think that its appearance would be more charming for visiting tourists to her tea house.”
Claudia wanted the cabin so rustic that it didn’t even have a full bathroom. This budding entrepreneur envisioned opening a tea house complete with old lanterns from the nearby Kitty Hawk Life Saving Station on the first floor with rooms for rent above.
Family helping family Claudia hired her two brothers, Thomas and Oscar, to construct the home. They floated the Cypress logs across the sound and transported them by truck some three miles to the home site that today stands at mile 3.7 in Kitty Hawk at 4150 Virginia Dare Trail.
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The two used a truck owned by Claudia’s sister, Mrs. Mattie Sanderlin Wescott, whose husband reportedly observed the Wright Brothers’ first historic flights and helped them around that time. Learn more on page 7. The brothers hand hewed the logs to fit and used steel rods in the walls to bolt the massive logs from the floor joists to the wall caps. The Sanderlin brothers’ construction techniques have held up well since they finished the home in 1932, even when a September hurricane pounded the coast that same year.
Built to last for family memories The Log Cabin Inn as Claudia called it has withstood more than two dozen hurricanes that have made landfall on the North Carolina coast since 1932.
According to advertisements in The Daily Advance in 1932.
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Unfortunately, the tea house did not do well on the Outer Banks during the Great Depression, and the cabin fell vacant, according to Tom Sanderlin, whose father Oscar helped build the home.
“The beach in Kitty Hawk opened up on Memorial Day and closed on Labor Day, and then you didn’t see anybody around except for a few fishermen here and there,” said Rosemary. “It was very remote. We always looked forward to summer because it started bustling with lots of people coming to rent … and so we worked on the beach. I worked at the local Anderson Supermarket after I turned 16.”
“The road was very primitive blacktop with creosote forms present on both sides,” said Tom, who lived with his aunt for a period of time in the 1930s. “I remember the forms were a great place to get splinters.”
Phil Coffey, is a Richmonder who spent some time visiting the Log Cabin Inn during the 1960s when he started dating Karin Sanderlin.
Claudia left Kitty Hawk to find work in Washington, D.C., for a federal agency job, and Oscar moved to Maryland with his wife, Tom and three other children. “I just have memories of when I came in the summer, when we were dating and later married,” said Phil. “The cabin didn’t In the mid-1940s, Tom moved have air conditioning. It had a screen porch that is now enback into the Log Cabin Inn with closed. You definitely had humidity on a summer night, but you his three sisters and parents, (Continued on page 6) while his father built a house behind Claudia’s tea house. Rosemary, one of Tom’s three sisters, said, “The house was just empty so we moved down and my father started a construction business called Kitty Hawk Wood Products Company. We lived in the log cabin while he was trying to build a house for us behind Aunt Claudia’s.” Tom added, “I remember the Outer Banks was much colder, and the seasons shorter but we were happy. I can remember dragging drift wood off the beach for the fireplace and the salts in the wood would pop and send sparks across the living room. Someone always had to be in the living room when we had a fire in the fireplace.”
The 1950s and 1960s The Sanderlin children – Tom, Susan, Rosemary and Karin (who lost a battle with breast cancer in 2005) all shared fond memories of living in Kitty Hawk.
Rosemary said, “We lived in Kitty Hawk from age 5 for me until I graduated from Manteo High School in 1961. Actually, my father moved away in ’59 because he got a job in Roanoke, Va., but my mother stayed because they wanted me to finish high school with my friends. My father kept commuting back and forth from Roanoke to Kitty Hawk. Then my younger sister ended up starting ninth grade in Roanoke.” During this time, Claudia, who continued to work in Washington, D.C., rented out The Log Cabin Inn and three adjacent summer cottages that she acquired. Rosemary and her mother made extra money by cleaning out the ocean-side cottages in between guests’ stays during the vacation season. “My aunt advertised in The Washington Post since she was working in D.C., and she booked everything from her address there,” said Rosemary. “Most of the visitors were from the Washington and Maryland area. “We had certain people who came back year after year to stay in the log cabin,” added Rosemary. “They were just in love with it. 3
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What’s the cabin like today? From the moment you first see the exposed log beams in the front room of The Log Cabin Inn you can feel its rich history. This unique vacation home, which is popular with couples for honeymoons and anniversaries, features a cozy style and modern amenities for a pleasurable stay.
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Guests to the cabin can enjoy: a
beautiful ocean view and beach access directly across Beach Road,
bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms,
a relaxing sunroom,
a modern kitchen with stainless steel kitchen appliances,
an enclosed outdoor shower with private dressing area,
a washer and dryer,
a hot tub, and
a fully furnished private courtyard with bar, outdoor kitchen and gas grill.
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ms in rich with a cozy
This Outer Banks honeymoon cottage is perfect for couples of all ages.
What historians say about The Log Cabin Inn “I do remember that particular house. It was an anomaly in that it was more the sort of Rustic Revival style that you expect to see in the mountains, rather than at the beach. Although there was some Rustic Revival in the immediate area – Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island comes to mind.”
Penne Sandbeck An architectural historian who surveyed buildings on the Outer Banks in 2001, including the Log Cabin Inn
“Such dwellings (like the Log Cabin Inn) were just not built in the Albemarle that I know of, so this house, even as altered in 1972 and later, was still unique in the Albemarle until the current ‘log’ craze that began in the 1970s-1980s.”
Tom Butchko Curator, Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, N.C. 5
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The 1950s and 1960s
Robert “Popeye” Wynn, portrayed in the Band of Brothers book and HBO series
(Continued from page 3)
had the breezes from the ocean coming up there.”
Robert and Marion Wynn, the second owners of The Log Cabin Inn, brought history with them when they began vacationing at the Outer Banks in 1959. One of the 101st Airborne made famous by the book and mini-series Band of Brothers, Robert “Popeye” Wynn bravely served his country on the French sands of Normandy, battling German fire.
Coffey described the vacation cottage as “very rustic and neat.” “It was very livable,” he added.
As a paratrooper in Easy Company, the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, Popeye stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944. He was wounded during the invasion and thought he had been left for dead. Fortunately, he was saved by a fellow “brother” and recuperated in a British hospital before returning to battle.
Marion and Robert Wynn of Richmond, Va., bought the home on July 10, 1972, to create their own vacation memories for their daughters Dawn, Candace and Sandy.
The Log Cabin Inn continued as a vacation rental home until 1972 under the watchful eyes of Claudia and her sister Mattie.
From one family to another
Claud 20, 19 10th
“We’d been all over the Outer Banks looking for houses. We were out riding around one day, looking, and we just decided maybe we’d just buy some land,” said Marion. “We’d already bought a couple pieces of land down there. We’d bought two lots right down the road from the cabin, and then we came back up the road, and we saw this sign that had just about fallen down that said ‘For Sale.’ We went up to the door and asked the lady about it.” Marion still remembers the first time she saw the home. “When Miss Claudia opened the door, and the sunlight came in the back, I told the Lord, ‘This is for me.’ Some friends had tried to buy the cabin from Miss Claudia, but they couldn’t persuade her.”
Popeye’s war stories are memorialized thanks to historian Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book Band of Brothers. The book led to the acclaimed Home Box Office (HBO) 10-part Band of Brothers miniseries that detailed the experiences of E Company (“Easy Company”) of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.
The Wynn family quickly fell in love with the home’s unique architectural character. “We loved the logs,” added Marion. “From the day that we opened the doors and saw the logs we loved them. Everyone just loved it (the cabin) and they never believed it was as nice as it was on the inside.
The HBO series covered Easy’s basic training in Georgia to airborne landings on the beaches of Normandy to other key battles and ultimately to the end of the war. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks served as executive producers.
“We went just about every weekend for a long time and then as our kids got older, we didn’t go as often. The children used to sit on the front porch and watch the cars go by, and there weren’t a lot of people there when they were little.”
Popeye, described by his daughter Dawn as “a great storyteller,” was among the first soldiers interviewed for Band of Brothers; however, he didn’t talk much about the war with his family. Popeye grew up in South Hill, Va., and worked in a Norfolk Naval shipyard after high school. He enlisted in the paratroops in 1942 and completed basic training at Toccoa, Ga.
Dawn Malone, one of the Wynn’s daughters and the current owner of the cabin said, “One of the conditions Miss Claudia had to the sale was that my parents had to cover the logs as the cabin had started to have damage on the northeast side from years of exposure. The house was full of antiques. Many were painted.”
Unfortunately, Popeye passed away in 2000, before the HBO series premiered in 2001, and wasn’t able to see actor Nicholas Aaron portray him. However, his family traveled to Utah Beach, Normandy, for the series premier. A September 2001 Outer Banks Sentinel article stated, “As Wynn and his buddies fought across Europe, eventually partying and drinking champagne at Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and driving around in the Fuhrer’s Mercedes Benz, their stories became sad, but heroic tales for the ages.”
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The Wynn family used the cabin as its family vacation home exclusively until 2000, when Marion passed the property on to her daughter Dawn.
Over the years, Popeye invited many of his Band of Brothers to the peaceful retreat of his beloved Log Cabin Inn. 6
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Miss Claudia’s connection to the Wright brothers Claudia never married, but her sister, Matilda Lee “Mattie” Sanderlin, did marry Robert Lee Wescott Sr., on Aug. 20, 1919. It was Robert Sr.’s third marriage. Mattie had one son, Robert Lee Wescott Jr., who was his father’s 10th child. Robert Sr. reportedly had a clear vantage point to observe the Wright Brothers’ first flights on Dec. 17, 1903, as he was watchman at the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station, according to a fall 2000 article published by the First Flight Society. Robert was “most likely positioned on the watchtower platform atop the station.” According to the article by Bill Davis, a former mayor of Kitty Hawk and retired National Park Service historian, “The Wright camp was a mile or less from the station and with the aid of a spyglass he could have easily observed the work of preparing the craft for flight, as well as the flights themselves.”
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According to the First Flight Society, Robert, Claudia’s brother-in-law, was one of the seven observers of the Wright brothers’ first flights. Candace Wynn McKinley, one of the daughters of the second owners, said, “Miss Claudia’s sister, Mattie, had a son, Robert L. Wescott, Jr., whom I became friendly with over the years after my husband and I purchased a beach lot from him. While vacationing at the log cabin each summer, I would take my son to his home in the village of Kitty Hawk. He had built himself a new home on the property next to his mother’s old farm-style house after he returned from living in Texas in the late 1970s.
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“Bob had horses, a pony, chickens and ducks, which were very interesting to my young son. Anyway, Bob would tell me about his father, who worked with the Wright Brothers during the time of the first flight. He had a diary that his dad kept throughout those years. I have no idea where that ended up but it seems like I remember Bob saying he might donate it to the local historical society. If he never got around to it, the family may have the original.”
A Navy plane crash in the dunes in front of the cabin Tom Sanderlin remembers the wreck of a U.S. Navy plane in front of the Log Cabin Inn as a young boy. The Douglas AD/A-1 Skyraider evidently lost power after a target practice south of Ocracoke and was returning to Oceana Naval Air Station at Virginia Beach, Va. “The pilot got out safely from a very unbelievable crash landing,” remembered Tom. “The Navy eventually hauled the plane back to Virginia on a flat bed truck. The wings and tail were removed and away they went.”
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Kitty Hawk – origin of the name The origin of the name Kitty Hawk remains a bit of a local debate. Most historians agree that it is a Native American name for this area. The word originally appeared on English settlers’ maps as “Chickehawk” or “Chickahawk” in the early 1700s. A common belief concerning the name Kitty Hawk is that it originated from the local Native Americans’ name for hunting geese. Starting as “Killy Honk,” the name, over time, emerged as “Killy Hawk,” “Killy Honk” and eventually “Kitty Hawk.” Others believe the name was derived from the abundance of mosquito hawks frequently seen throughout the area and originally called “Skeeter Hawks.” This also, in time, became “Kitty Hawk.” Early maps reportedly named a local Indian area “Chickehauk.”
A ghost, a spirit or just the wind?
According to The Daily Advance, the Elizabeth City, N.C., daily paper in 1932:
J an. 4 - Emergency economic plan: Congress urges quick passage
Jan. 19 - 125th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s birth celebrated.
J an. 22 - President Hoover urges Congress to quickly pass emergency economic plan.
“Over the years, visitors have heard strange sounds like the upstairs floor boards creaking when no one is upstairs or the phone will randomly ring and no one is there.”
J an. 30 - Chinese to declare war - Americans to be ready to leave Shanghai.
“One recent visitor noticed one of many antique decorations suddenly start moving when they were in the upstairs bathroom,” she added. “Perhaps it is just the wind or Miss Claudia stopping by to greet visitors in the home that she loved so much. Whatever it is, it definitely is a friendly ghost.”
May 12 - Lindbergh baby found dead.
ay 21 - Amelia Earhart Putnam first woman to fly across M ocean alone.
ay 26 - Orville Wright visits Kill Devil Hills to see memorial M to self and brother Wilbur.
J une 9 - Guests flock to new hotel at Nags Head, “LeRoy Seaside Inn” with 60 rooms.
J une 30 - Resorts pop up in Kitty Hawk area in 1930s as a result of bridges and roads being completed.
Dawn Wynn Malone, the current owner of The Log Cabin, believes that perhaps the spirit of Miss Claudia Sanderlin remains in her home.
4 - First new Ford V8 Model 18 arrives in Elizabeth City; Has temperature control inside and is designed for greater rider comfort.
Learn more about renting The Log Cabin Inn at www.outerbankshoneymooncottage.com.
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