Posted on 4/12/2014

The Flat Tops of Southern Shores

Interspersed between five, six and seven bedroom rental homes in Southern Shores are basic, square cinder block homes. TheyâåÛåªre called flat tops and they are a vanishing tendril to a different time on the Outer Banks.

First conceived by artist Frank Stick to give added value to properties he was selling in partnership with his son, David and others, at one time there were almost 300 of them. Today there are perhaps 30 left.

They were simple in design, inexpensive to build yet have withstood the ravages of the years remarkably well--perhaps because almost all of the materials used in them were native to the Outer Banks. Built as an everymanâåÛåªs vacation getaway, Frank Stick saw the cottage as an added incentive to buy the property he was developing on the north end of Kitty Hawk.

The use of juniper for the beams and woodwork and Outer Banks sand to cast the concrete was all about keeping costs down, according to David Stick. In a 2004 interview, he mentioned that juniper was used because there was a lot of it around the Outer Banks in the 1940s and 50s. He also noted that builders werenâåÛåªt too selective on the sand they used for the mortar in the concrete. Shells imbedded in the blocks are a regular feature of the concrete used for the homes.

The flat tops are a marvel. Light and airy inside, the juniper paneling and exposed beams suggest an opulence that was never a part of the original concept.

Unfortunately they are disappearing. Generally two and three bedroom cottages, with a very rare four bedroom occasionally, property values have become so high that when a new owner buys the property, they cannot afford to keep the house and it must be torn down to make room for a seven or eight bedroom home to pay the mortgage.

The Southern Shores Historic Flat Top Cottages had their annual tour today. Could not have asked for better weather, it was incredibly well attended and it was very enjoyable. Look for it in April of 2015--itâåÛåªs a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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