• STEP BACK
    IN TIME...


    at Whalehead...into an era
    of gracious mansions,
    hunting parties, a timeless
    Corolla Village and
    unforgettable people.

Whalehead


Historic Corolla Village

Down the road from the Whalehead, Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, is an old village where much restoration has occurred. While modern conveniences, vacation homes and attractions have steadily sprouted up all around Historic Corolla Village, it has managed to maintain a quiet air of authenticity, thanks largely to the restoration and preservation efforts of Doug and Sharon Twiddy, local residents. A stark contrast to the more newly developed areas of the Outer Banks, Corolla has more nationally recognized historic buildings than any other area of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, all within a 100+ acre area. Many of these restored structures now house quaint shops and restaurants, and the quiet village itself is a very pleasant place to explore.

Having recognized the close cluster of historic treasures in the village, the Twiddys’ desire to save the deteriorating structures, while enhancing visiting vacationers’ experiences, started to become a reality. One by one, owners of the old homes began to approach the Twiddys, having heard of their preservation work and desire to extend it into the village. And, one by one, the Twiddys purchased these homes and began to reinvigorate both the buildings and Corolla Village.

Having recognized the close cluster of historic treasures in the village, the Twiddys’ desire to save the deteriorating structures, while enhancing visiting vacationers’ experiences, started to become a reality. One by one, owners of the old homes began to approach the Twiddys, having heard of their preservation work and desire to extend it into the village. And, one by one, the Twiddys purchased these homes and began to reinvigorate both the buildings and Corolla Village.

Corolla Village History

Originally using the area as their hunting and fishing grounds, Native Americans occupying the Currituck mainland dubbed the northern portion of the barrier island now known as the Outer Banks “Currituck,” meaning “land of the wild goose.” Millions of ducks and geese heading south each fall were said to have detoured to Currituck’s shores to feed on the wealth of aquatic plants. Europeans eventually settled the area in the 1600s, also residing largely on the mainland as the Currituck Outer Banks was only accessible by boat.

By the mid-1800s, there were several – albeit small and isolated – communities along the northern Outer Banks. There was Poyners Hill (situated between what is now Duck and Corolla) and Jones Hill, a.k.a. Whalehead or Currituck Beach (now known as Corolla). To its north was Seagull (near Penny’s Hill in what is now commonly known as the four-wheel-drive area) and Wash Woods, which was just north of the Virginia line in what is now False Cape State Park.

In 1874, the US Life-saving Service established the Jones Hill Life-saving Station (later known as the Currituck Beach Life-saving Station) just east of the current Currituck Beach Lighthouse site. The station was manned by seven local men, who lived there while their families set up homes in the surrounding village. Establishment of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in 1875 contributed several more village residents as lightkeepers, and their families took up residence. The secure government jobs provided by the Lighthouse and the Life-saving Station encouraged strong and steady growth.

It is believed that more than 200 people lived in Corolla village in 1890. Original residents were self-reliant. Their modest lifestyle was supported by way of fishing and hunting. They planted gardens and raised livestock to keep their families fed. Shipwrecks provided a plethora of goods and supplies that washed ashore. Trips by boat to the mainland were made to sell fish and fowl, stock up on supplies and to visit family and friends. Wealthy hunters visiting Corolla’s shores (often referring to the area as a sportsman’s paradise due to its abundance of waterfowl) were in need of hunting guides, and the villagers gladly – and expertly — obliged.

In 1892, a Harper’s Weekly article described Corolla: “If there were any spot on earth that one would expect to find untenanted, it surely would be this stretch of sand between ocean and sound. …Yet, there is a hardy race who has lived here from father to son for over a century. They exist entirely by hunting, fishing, rearing cattle and acting as guides.”

By 1895, Jones Hill was busy enough for its own post office. Known for often changing the locally established names of Outer Banks villages, the Postal Service prompted villagers to submit their suggestions for the village’s official name. It has been said that Jones Hill and Currituck Beach were being considered, and they were looking for other suggestions when — no doubt inspired by the abundance of wild flowers in the village — mention that the inner part of a flower is called a “corolla” piqued their interest. This name was officially submitted and selected by the Postal Service, permanently establishing Corolla as the village’s namesake.

Soon, Corolla was large enough to support a church and schoolhouse. In 1905, Currituck County provided a teacher and text books, enabling all local children to attend one school rather than being split up amongst several small independently run schools. The nearest public school was several miles across the sound, which presented the obvious difficulties of water transportation and safety. To travel by land to the nearest school would require a round trip of 70 miles.

In 1922, other work opportunities developed when Edward and Marie Louise-Bel Knight used their wealth to build a hunt club. It was originally known as Corolla Island and now as Whalehead. Local men were hired as both caretakers and hunting guides.

In later years, while the Depression oppressed the rest of the country, villagers were able to survive off the land and sea. World War II ushered in yet another change to village life. Whalehead was leased by the US Coast Guard as a training base, bringing hundreds of sailors to the village. Barracks and support buildings were established around the village and on the beach near the Coast Guard Station (what was the Life-saving Station). The village swelled with its new population of servicemen, and the local church, general store and post office were teeming with activity. The schoolhouse was extended to accommodate more students and a lunchroom. In the 1940s, the village population peaked at almost 1,000 year-round residents.

Close association with the Coast Guard also proved to be precarious. German U-boats skimmed the shores of the Outer Banks, forcing locals to adjust their routine. Windows were darkened and headlights were forbidden when driving on the beach at night.

After the war, however, the village population dwindled. Some believe that depletion in waterfowl population and changes in migration pattern also contributed to families leaving, as many made their living as hunting guides. Many residents moved to the mainland in search of jobs. Many of the historic structures sat dormant and fell into serious disrepair. The lighthouse, electrified in 1938, required only one caretaker rather than several keepers. While electricity was introduced to village homes in 1955, population dipped to its lowest in the late 1950s. With only three families residing in Corolla, the schoolhouse closed due to lack of students. Whalehead no longer hosted gaggles of eager hunters but was used as a boys’ school, Corolla Academy, during the summer and later became a rocket fuel testing facility. By the 1970s, only 15 people lived in Corolla. Infrequent use of the dirt path leading north to Corolla rendered it virtually impassable. Whalehead and Lighthouse buildings stood crumbling.

While Corolla appeared to be deteriorating, residents and adventuresome vacationers found the rugged coastal terrain positively alluring. Vacationing Virginians made the trek to Corolla by way of the beach, and more southerly serenity seekers drove up the beach from Duck. In 1974, US Fish and Wildlife gated the Virginia border to protect Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge from excessive traffic and keys were only distributed to Corolla residents. In 1975, a private road was built from Duck to Whalehead by developers, also manned by a guard gate at its threshold and accessible only by property owners. There was no public paved road to Corolla. In 1979, a new ribbon of public asphalt extended into Duck village, ending after what is now Sanderling. Finally, in 1984 the southern-most guard gate was removed when the state commanded maintenance of the road. The paved road was extended from Sanderling north through Corolla village, connecting to the previously paved section through The Villages at Ocean Hill and ending just on the cusp of the four-wheel drive beaches, as it remains today. The NC/VA border remains gated. Only a few Corolla residents having a grandfathered key are able to drive through the gate.