Sunday, June 12, 2016

Return to Windmill Point of Nags Head

Windmill Point, 2016. Just a decade ago, a windmill would have
dominated this view.

Short story short, I went to the Outer Banks for vacation. And I found myself out on Windmill Point, the fabled former SS United States mecca.

For those who didn't read the overview of Windmill Point in my post about the ship's bell, here's a brief recounting: Windmill Point Restaurant was owned by SS United States collector Dr. Sarah E. Forbes. She decorated the whole place with furniture and artwork from the ship. Outside the restaurant was the Point's namesake windmill. Over the decades, both windmill and restaurant became local icons. In 2007, the restaurant closed. The property was bought by the Dare County Tourism Board and the town of Nags Head. In 2011, having found no one to use the building, they let local firefighters purposely burn the building down to practice their fire skills.

I put aside some time during my vacation to find the old point. As the restaurant's still-active website states, it was located at milepost 16.5, 158 on the Bypass in Nags Head.

The property is now called The Soundside. It is "one of the largest event sites on the Outer Banks." The Windmill Point property was combined with an empty northern lot, offering almost 10 acres of outdoor event space. On the morning I was visiting, they were getting ready for the last day of the OBX Brewfest. Luckily for me, the festival was using the other side of the property, with the Point's side as overflow parking.

OBX Brewfest 2016 at The Soundside

Windmill Point is now a grassy field. Nowhere is there any mention of a windmill or a point. There is mention of a restaurant, but only because there is one next door.

Facing the Roanoke Sound, towards what once was
the front of the Windmill Point Restaurant and parking lot.

So what remains?

I'm actually a little proud, I did find something on property. Pieces of the restaurant's parking lot asphalt are still there!

Bits of asphalt in the grass at former Windmill Point

Better known and more exciting than asphalt, the windmill of Windmill Point was saved from destruction. It moved in 2010 to Island Farm, an outdoor living museum on 19th century coastal farming.

Windmill Point's windmill at Island Farm

And, of course, all of the SS United States memorabilia was removed before the building burned. That all exists, with most of the collection going to the SS United States Conservancy.

Visiting the Point, I wish I had gone when the restaurant was still there. It felt like I was trying to find a fleeting glimpse of a ghost. For a place that was/is so revered by Big U aficionados, it felt physically very blank and empty.

(Is it fitting/ironic that once the fireproof ship's artifacts were gone, the wooden restaurant went out in a blaze of glory? Like only the most worthy structure to hold these items can stand the test of time?)

The Windmill Point Restaurant was as much a celebration of the ship's legacy as it was its first museum. It was filled with love, laughs, and lobster. Now, it only exists in the minds and memories of those who visited so long ago. May we toast to the good times that were had on the Windmill Point.

Roanoke Sound from former Windmill Point

No comments:

Post a Comment