History of the Island Inn
In 1900, James and Zilphia Howard sold the one-acre tract of land to the trustees of “Ocracoke Lodge No. 194 Independent Order of Odd Fellows” for use as a “Lodge room or such other purpose as they may deem proper.” Odd Fellows lodges were first documented in 1730 in England. As an organization, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows aims to provide a framework that promotes personal and social development. Lodge degrees and activities aim to improve and elevate every person to a higher, nobler plane; to extend sympathy and aid to those in need, making their burdens lighter, relieving the darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form, and to be a great moral power and influence for the good of humanity. Some notable members have been: William Jennings Bryan, Charlie Chaplin, Wyatt Earp, Charles Lindbergh, Presidents Grant, Harding, Hayes, McKinley and FDR.
The two-story wood frame building, the center section of the current structure, was built in 1901. It housed the Lodge on the second floor and soon thereafter the two island schools consolidated to create one public school which was held on the first floor.
The Lodge was built between two tidal steams or “guts” that flowed from Silver Lake harbor (originally known as Cockle Creek). Foot bridges allowed passage from one side to the other. When a new school was built in 1917 (on the site of the present day schoolhouse) the Lodge was disbanded and the building sold as a private residence.
Both “guts” were filled in during World War II when the US Navy appropriated land near the Coast Guard Station for the naval base, and dredged the harbor to accommodate their large draft vessels. Quarters for Naval Officers, called “The Crow’s Nest” were situated on the upper floor of the Lodge.
Photo courtesy: The Earl O’Neal Junior Collection
After World War II, side wings were added to create one of the island’s first modern hotels, the Silver Lake Inn. It had indoor plumbing, electricity, and a modern kitchen and dining room. Every Saturday night, the Inn was the social center of Ocracoke Village when it was used for island square dances often accompanied by the fiddle, banjo, guitar and triangle.
After the war, Stanley Wahab moved former Navy barracks to his property, and attached them to the building. He now called his enterprise the Silver Lake Inn. Some years later, Doward Brugh purchased the property, and re-named it the Island Inn. Various owners, including Bill and Ruth Cochran, continued to operate the Inn as a popular destination for Ocracoke visitors.
1950’s Silver Lake Inn price schedule was advertised as Harbor Front, Daily rates; Single $2.50, Double $4.00, Weekly Single $15.00, Double $21.50. Meals in Coffee Shop, Furnished Suites with Kitchenette, Gas, Electricity and Refrigerator, Daily $6.00 & up, Weekly $30 & up.
Photo courtesy: The Aycock Brown Collection
Later, Larry Williams, whose mother was a Wahab, owned the Inn in the 1980’s. Local legend holds that a benign ghost, Mrs. Godfrey, still haunts the older section of the Inn. Supposedly Room 23.
The story goes, as per Philip Howard, that a guest had collected a number of shells on the sound side of the island. She lined them up on a shelf in her room, then went out sightseeing with her husband. On their return one of the shells had mysteriously been moved.
This happened several times. The guest had heard stories of Mrs. Godfrey's impish behavior, and was spooked. When she found the shell moved again she accused her husband of playing tricks on her. He denied it. Finally convinced that her husband was not the culprit, she slept uneasily that night. When she awoke at 2 a.m. and saw the shell on the floor she immediately called the front desk, and demanded to be moved to another room, one that was not haunted. Of course, the inn was full, and there were no spare rooms. The guest stayed awake the rest of the night.
In the morning light she noticed the shell moving across the floor. Spindly legs extended from under the shell. The hermit crab was marching around searching for salt water.
Embarrassed, the inn's guest reported the solution of the mystery to the front desk...and returned the hermit crab to its home in the sound.
By 2010, personal, financial and banking issues sent the Island Inn into foreclosure and an extended family member purchased the inn; but by 2015, it was on the market again.
In 2018, the Ocracoke Preservation Society purchased the Island Inn and property with the help of Hyde County and the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board.
The structure was slowly lifted to 5 feet the week of April 26, 2021. The contractors will leave it at this height for now so that work can be done underneath. After this has been completed, the workers will return and begin the process of raising it to 14 feet in preparation for the pilings. It is a slow, tedious process, especially with a building built in 1901. After the pilings go in, the building will be lowered to approximately 5 feet above the ground again. Then the restoration process will begin on the building.
Part of Ocracoke Preservation Society’s mission statement is: Encouraging, assisting, advising, and participating in the identification, preservation, and restoration of significant structures, buildings, districts, objects of local interest, historic charm, distinctive character and natural endowments of Ocracoke Island. This is why we are so dedicated to this project. We felt that this structure was an important part of the island history in so many ways.