Plan would use Windmill Point for fire training

By on June 4, 2010

Nags Head would rather set fire to the old Windmill Point Restaurant than continue to pay for insurance against one.

Once proudly boasting a large collection of memorabilia from the S.S. United States, the building would be used for fire department training under the Board of Commissioner’s latest plan.

That would save about $4,900 in property, liability and flood insurance premiums. It would also solve another problem: Getting rid of a building that nobody seems to want.

The Dare County Tourism Board, which shares ownership of the property, would have to agree to the idea. The town owns 18 percent interest and the tourism board 82 percent.

It would be an incongruous end to a place that lived two lives, once as a store that was part of a vision to recapture an era of windmills and the other as a restaurant that doubled as a museum for what was once heralded as the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic.

Part of its name was the S.S. United States Lounge, where a bar from the old liner was the centerpiece.

An earlier discussion about tearing down the building led to the conclusion that the old restaurant could at least be put to once last good use. A bank holding a loan on the property said it would not stand in the way of tearing it down.

Costs for renovating the building have been estimated at $300,000.

The restaurant, which was owned by Dr. Sarah Forbes, was shut down in 2007. Artifacts were donated to the Mariners Museum and Christopher Newport University in Newport News. The ship itself is moored in Philadelphia and has faced being used for scrap metal over the years.

The windmill behind the restaurant was built as a functioning reproduction of the kind that were common on the Outer Banks in the 18th and 19th centuries. The building and the windmill were originally constructed for Lynanne Wescott in the late 1970s.

Wescott managed local National Park Service shops for a non-profit and had hoped to build a business selling products using grain ground in the windmill and other items related to the era. She sold the property to Forbes in the early 1980s and moved to Phildelphia, where she is now a lawyer.

Plans are to move the windmill at the end of the summer to Island Farm, a restored 19th-century farmstead that will open to the public next week. A preview for local residents is scheduled for Saturday.

At one time, discussion centered on using the property for a convention center. In 2009, the tourist board sought requests for proposals to buy the building, but Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Managing Director Lee Nettles said none of them met the qualifications.

One possibility for the soundfront property is for a multi-use facility. Nettles said that a presentation of a feasibility study is scheduled for next week.

See related story: Another chapter unfolds for Windmill Point’s icon.

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