Southern Shores Flat Top Tour brings back memories

By on May 1, 2022

Breezeway at the Knight Cottage. The breezeway with a small attached living area is rare among flat top homes. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
With 711 tickets sold to the Southern Shores Flat Top Tour, this year’s event set a record for attendance.
The Edith Pitkin Cottage “Pink Perfection.” Designed by Greensboro architect Edward Loewenstein, it is unique in not being built and designed by Frank Stick.
Ellie Doyle, original owner of Sea Breezes. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
Richard “Shep” Webb, son of the original owner of the Price Cottages. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
The Outer Banks Community Foundation on Skyline Drive. Tour funds are used to maintain the OBCF building. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
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The Southern Shores flat top homes are icons of a different time, a time when a beach cottage was unpretentious with two or three bedrooms, perfect for a family vacation.

That was what Frank Stick had in mind when he designed his vacation homes for the 2,900 acres he had purchased north of Kitty Hawk. Constructed using concrete blocks, with the early buildings using sand from the beach and juniper (a local wood with the best price), the homes were simple and inexpensive to build.

The Southern Shores Historic Flat Top Tour on Saturday April 30 highlighted how remarkable the Frank Stick design was. The unassuming concrete block homes with their clean lines and flat roofs stand out among the eight-and ten-bedroom homes that tower over them.

This year marked the fourth Flat Top Tour. They had been occurring every two years, but COVID got in the way and the last one was in 2019. Perhaps it was the delay, or just that people just wanted to get out, but more folks than ever toured the 13 homes this year.

At the Clark Cottage on Wax Myrtle Trail, one of the locations where tickets were sold, the line at 1:00 p.m., when the tour began, was already out to the street. For Sally and Steve Gudas, who have been organizing the tour since its inception in 2013, the turnout was a wonderful surprise.

“Wow!” Sally wrote when asked about that on Sunday morning. “We sold 711 tickets. In 2019 it was only 450.”

Although based off the same design, the homes show a wide diversity in appearance. Some seem to ramble across the landscape. Others still have the original design concept with crisp, clean lines and the brightly colored exteriors that were also an important part of the finished homes.

Perky Falconer was four years old when his parents bought a house and lot on Wax Myrtle Trail in 1955. He is one of the few original owners of a flat top still remaining, and his memories of spending summers growing up in Southern Shores paint a picture of a time before live oaks and foliage took root in the sand dunes.

“We roamed the hills. There were ponds back here that had nasty creepy things in them. The hills were all just sand and sea oats. A few sand spurs, but not enough to keep you out,” he remembered.

Sea Breezes on Ocean Boulevard was, at one time, a flat-top duplex with each side having two bedrooms, a bath, kitchen and living room. When the owner of the south side of the duplex moved, the Doyle family purchased it, took part of the wall out and created a vacation home where parents, children and their friends could visit.

Ellie Doyle, the original owner, sits on a couch in the living room as her daughter, Mary Thomas, talks about coming to the Outer Banks in the 1960s.

“We came down here with a whole station wagon full of kids from high school. Nobody had lights on at night so you could actually see the Milky Way…It felt like you could reach and touch the stars they were so close,” she recalled. “Or when the plankton was out, when we kicked the sand, it would be like thousands of stars. You can’t get that kind of experience now. We used to fish every morning and every night, and you could catch breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

For the children of Ellie Doyle, passing on those memories are important. The family rents the home, but as youngest daughter Ann Coon notes, the memories will only happen if a family can afford it.

“We keep our rental prices low. That was always a philosophy of my mother. She remembers what it was like to be able to afford a vacation when you have a bunch of kids. So this is a small cottage and it’s perfect for a smaller family,” she said.

Not all the memories are happy. The Price Cottages—it’s the only flat top on the tour with more than one cottage on the property—is now owned by the Price Family. But Shep Webb, the son of the original owner, stopped by for the day. Most of his memories recall the joys of childhood, but he also has a vivid memory of one of the most destructive storms in the history of the Outer Banks.

“The Ash Wednesday Storm in 1962 in March. We lost the whole front of the cottage,” he said. “One of the few times I’ve seen my mother just burst into tears and lean on my father’s shoulder. It was just awful. Everything was against the front windows. The piano was up against the window, the couch was up against one of those, a bar that used to be dividing the living room from the dining room. Basically everything just came this way.”

There were once about 300 flat top homes in Southern Shores; there are perhaps two dozen left standing now. Some, like the Gudas’ Clark Cottage, retain the look and feel of its 1954 construction. Others, like the Mackey Cottage, have had an annex added.

Unique among the homes on the tour, the Edith Pipkin Cottage, Pink Perfection, is a flat top cottage that was not designed by Frank Stick. Greensboro architect Edward Loewenstein designed the home. With the hallway leading to the south facing bedrooms at an angle to the living room, it is truly different than any other home on the tour. Loewenstein apparently placed the bedrooms at an angle to take full advantage of the dominant summertime southwest winds.

Funds from the Flat Top Tour are used to maintain the Outer Banks Community Foundation flat top on Skyline Drive. Perhaps the first flat top built in the dunes instead of on the beach, the building was donated to the Community Foundation in 2007 and is now the organization’s office.

As MaryAnn Toboz, Development and Communications Manager for the Community Foundation, explains, the funds collected from the tour play an important role in helping the foundation with its mission of serving the community.

“The monies are collected and some minor expenses are paid. The rest goes to the Flat Top Preservation Fund, the fund established for this particular for this building,” she said. “It really supports the Community Foundation’s philanthropy. It allows us to keep this cottage maintained. So we don’t have to spend the money doing this and our money can keep going out into the community.”




County Dare, North Carolina
Dare County Tourism Board

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Visitors Bureau will hold a public meeting to review the plans for an Outer Banks Event Center. The meeting will take place on Monday, June 6, 2022 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Keeper’s Galley building at Haven on the Banks, 115 Dove Street, Nags Head North Carolina 27959.

Still in the conceptual phase, the Event Center is intended to provide suitable and flexible space for year-round events, concerts, sports, meetings, smaller tradeshows, galas and any number of other uses. Learn more about the benefits for visitors and residents and how the Event Center is planned to complement the new Soundside boardwalk that is being designed.

Staff will be on hand to answer any questions. For additional information, please visit our Event Center FAQ page.



  • Kathy

    The traffic was horrendous so I only got to see two flat tops! Next year maybe trolly service with a few stops to folks could walk to the open houses on the tour! I escaped unscathed 😎

    Sunday, May 1 @ 12:36 pm
  • David Morris

    A very nice article, but I have one quibble: an 8- or 10-bedroom building that no one lives in is not a “home.” Those are unstaffed hotels or boarding houses, not homes.

    Sunday, May 1 @ 7:58 pm
  • surf123

    I have done other “tour of homes” events and parking is an issue and traffic just compounds it. I think the last one I did which was Fall 2019 and while traffic was not an issue parking was. This event probably would be better if done in late Fall or much earlier Spring just to get the traffic out of the recipe.

    Monday, May 2 @ 8:37 am
  • RAJ

    David you are right on that these places here our towns simply call “homes” or “single family homes” couldn’t be further from the truth. What a joke to refer to these places as 8 and 10 bedrooms. How about the truth that some now have 20 or 30+ bedrooms. Unstaffed hotels are what they are. A pox on OBX!

    Monday, May 2 @ 8:49 am
  • Tama Creef

    In 2018, The Friends of the Outer Banks History Center embarked on an ambitious campaign to document as many of Frank Stick’s surviving flat top homes as possible. Thanks to Architect Christopher Nason, who donated his time, the home-owners, and many donors who supported the project, a digital collection is being created that includes photographs and floor plans along with as much historical background as we could gather. The information will be preserved at the Outer Banks History Center in Manteo for research by anyone who is interested in learning more about these treasures.

    Monday, May 2 @ 10:05 am
  • Sally Andrews Gudas

    Thanks so much for the great story coverage and photos of the tour, Kip!

    Monday, May 2 @ 4:19 pm