Outer Banks Beachcomber Museum ready to make a move

By on October 26, 2017

The old store is in Nags Head’s historic district. (OBBM)

Located on the Beach Road in Nags Head, the Mattie Midgette Store has been a part of Outer Banks life since 1932. Now home to the Outer Banks Beachcomber Museum, the building houses a treasure trove of sea glass, fulgurite and flotsam that its original owner, Nellie Myrtle Midgette, collected over the years.

As a museum, though, the location has always been a problem. Parking is inadequate, with room for four or five cars on the property, forcing any overflow alongside the Beach Road.

As a consequence, the museum rarely opens.

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“We open maybe 20 times a year,” Chaz Winkler said. Winkler and his partner Dorothy Hope are the owners and operators of the museum.

Although there are still some hurdles to cross, Winkler and Hope are confident they will be able to move the building to nearby land that will give them the space they need to open year-round.

The land is about 150 yards to the southwest along U.S. 158. The new site is about four times larger than the current location.

They have been hoping to move the building for some time and felt the the new location, which was once pasture land for the Hollowell Hotel, would be ideal for them. Knowing the land would be up for auction, Winkler and Hope took action.

The new site is on U.S. 158. (Beachcomber Museum)

“We beat on doors. We made phone calls,” Winkler said. “This was set up before the auction (when) we bought the lots.”

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“We financed the new property with the equity we have in this property through an intermediary who has ties to the district,” Hope explains. “They plan to hold on to it as far as I know,” she adds.

The move is something the town of Nags Head would like to see.

“It’s of benefit to the town and its history and culture,” Town Manager Cliff Ogburn said. “I want my kids to go in there and know what it was like.”

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Having a new location is only the first step. The structures have to be moved, which Winkler estimates will cost more than $200,000. To finance the move, the Beachcomber Museum is turning to crowdsource funding using Indiegogo.

Moving structures — there is second home in the back that is also part of the property — is one piece of the puzzle. The buildings and property are registered on the National Register of Historic Places, and moving a historic structure can change its designation.

Chaz Winkler. (Kip Tabb)

The Mattie Midgette Store has been moved before, according to Scott Power, regional director of the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office. Built in 1914 and originally located on the soundside, the buildings were relocated to accommodate a growing tourist trade in 1932.

“The store was placed … (there) in order to serve the growing number of cottages that now make up the Nags Head Beach Cottage Row Historic District,” Power wrote in an email. “So it was the development of the summer tourist (and) vacation trade that precipitated the relocation.”

In this case, location and architecture have contributed to the designation Power notes. “So, yes, location is very important, as well as the architecture (and) design,” he wrote.

“With that said, properties can be relocated and maintain … their significance as long as certain criteria are met which have been established by the National Register program.”

Dorothy Hope with a museum visitor. (Kip Tabb)

Realizing that moving the museum could change its designation, the couple started the process of retaining the historic designation as soon as they could.

“Chaz was astute enough to find the requirements online before I could send them to him so he knows what the requirements are,” Power wrote.

There is no specific timetable for when the move will occur, but Winkler is optimistic, looking to a time when the Nellie Myrtle Midgette collection will be available for the public to view at any time.

“The plan is to open full-time. And to work the shoulder season. On a small level we would be able to stimulate some visitation in spring and fall,” Winkler said.

Visit the Indiegogo website »

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Comments

surf123

Thursday, Oct 26 9:07 am

The move to the new location and extended hours is great news. If you have not been to see the museum it is a worthwhile visit.

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