Sharing the Love Historic Flat Top Tour draws close to 1000 people

Published 5:20 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Nearly a thousand people flooded the streets of Southern Shores for the 6th Historic Flat Top Cottage Tour on April 27, 2024.

The tour featured fourteen cottages from the 1950s and 60s, designed by artist and developer Frank Stick. In 1947, Stick acquired land that is now Southern Shores, and began the work of platting lots and overseeing the installation of roads.

But in the Outer Banks, perhaps he is most remembered for the design and erection of flat top cottages, modeled after the buildings he’d admired in Florida.

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Flat tops – which actually aren’t flat on top, but have a slight pitch to allow water run off – were created to fit in with their environment. Historian Tama Creef said, during the dedication of the flat top the Town of Southern Shores purchased at 13 Skyline Road, that Stick built flat tops “for the everyman” that were affordable and used readily available materials.

In Southern Shores, that meant lots of cement blocks. A traditional flat top has a cement block construction, softened by quaint shutters and overhanging soffits. The interior boasts wood paneling, mostly juniper or pine, giving the homes a fresh and uniquely welcoming scent.

For Elizabeth Mackey Compton, one of five children who grew up vacationing every summer in the flat top at 218 Ocean Blvd., the cottage is her “happy place.”

“I just feel at peace as soon as I drive up the driveway,” she said. “I leave everything behind. It’s just a whole different mindset here.”

The home has never had a television. Instead, visitors (all friends and family) find their entertainment from the ocean breezes, the warm sunshine through the windows, and the sunsets from atop the dune.

Some flat tops on the tour retain the look and feel of the 1950s, while others have undergone major renovations. Some are rented nightly or weekly, while many others are enjoyed solely by the owners. One flat top on the tour is for sale, while others will be passed on to future generations.

What connects these varied cottages together is really more of a feeling you have when you walk into one. There is a lightness that passes through the cement blocks. The air is cool. You can breathe a little deeper and a little slower. The ocean pace of life – predictable, refreshing, calming – surrounds you in a flat top home.

Lori Williams of Kill Devil Hills attended the tour with her husband Scott to observe the structure and design of the homes. “I’m an architecture buff,” she explained. “This is my favorite time period and I’m excited to be able to visit these homes.”

Donna Scibelli of Virginia Beach said she has always admired flat top cottages, and she was thrilled to get a chance to see the interiors. “This is such a wonderful event!” she remarked.

Of the 100 or so flat top cottages that were constructed in Southern Shores in the 1950s and 60s, only about 25 remain. Many others have been torn down to build larger homes. The Southern Shores Historic Flat Top Owners Network presents the tour to draw attention to these beloved cottages that at one time defined development in Southern Shores.

By showcasing these homes, the organization hopes to encourage preservation and celebration of the remaining flat tops in Southern Shores, and the memories that go along with them.

Proceeds from the tour benefit the Outer Banks Community Foundation Flat Top Preservation Fund.