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Text and photos by Connie Leinbach
Trudy and Wayne Clark’s passion for restoring historic buildings has garnered them the Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit from Preservation North Carolina.
The couple, who have made Ocracoke their home since the early 1990s, are owners of Edward’s Motel, built in the mid-1930s. They received the award at a luncheon Friday (Sept. 30) at the agency’s annual conference.
According to the agency, the merit awards “give recognition to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated a genuine commitment to historic preservation through extraordinary leadership, research, philanthropy, promotion, and/or significant participation in preservation.”
The Clarks have preserved two houses in Everetts, Martin County, one of which was Wayne’s family home, and these projects led Wayne to fund a National Register nomination for the Everetts Historic District, which allowed them and many others to receive historic rehabilitation tax credits.
“That district has about 20 homes and stores,” Trudy said while fielding calls from customers wanting to reserve a room at Edward’s, itself steeped in island history.
Built in the mid-1930s along what is now Sand Dollar Road, the motel was part of “Wahab Village,” owned by the Stanley Wahab, who operated the larger Wahab Hotel, now called Blackbeard’s Lodge and owned by Chip (a grandson of Stanley) and Helena Stevens.
“With Edward’s, we’ve tried to keep everything in the style of the 1930s to 1960s,” she said.
Open the door to any of the rooms, efficiencies or cottages, and those born mid-last century may recognize the retro décor, furniture and items Trudy has taken pains to find and even commissioned new.
Among the retro items are ice buckets on tin trays, paint-by-number art on the walls and wind-up Baby Ben alarm clocks on the bedside bureaus.
“People don’t know how to use those anymore,” Trudy said with a laugh.
There are also modern flat-screen televisions along with updated bathrooms and kitchens, though these rooms reflect the older décor with tile designs or counter tops.
“It’s all the trend,” she said about the 60s-era decor.
Trudy remembered the first time she had been to Ocracoke—while passing through at the age of 12 on an Outer Banks drive with her parents.
“It was a vivid memory,” she said. “I saw an old fisherman on the dock and a wild pony on a dune. It just stayed in my mind.”
It wasn’t until 1975, when Wayne told the family he was taking them to “somewhere that y’all will love,” that she returned to Ocracoke.
After that, family vacations were spent on Ocracoke.
During a visit in 1989, they decided to buy a house and visited the Gaskill House, built in the late 1940s, down Live Oak Road off Lighthouse Road.
“I peeped in the window and said, ‘If we can’t get this one I don’t want one,’” Trudy said. “I saw the old sofas and the colors. Every room was painted a different color. They did that back then.”
Ocracoke’s historic district has boundaries but not the kind of restrictions historic districts elsewhere have.
“We’ve retained the historic aspect—the original windows, the chimneys, the layout of the yard with the cedars, the interior colors and what everything was made out of,” she said.
By happenstance one day in 1996, the Clarks happened upon Edward’s, though it was hidden from view by overgrown shrubbery.
“When I saw it, I fell in love with it,” Trudy said. “I saw so much potential.”
Since then, the Clarks, their son, Bert, and his wife, Sara, have restored and improved this vintage piece of Ocracoke along with several other island homes called “The Duck Cottages,” also along Live Oak Road.
“Trudy is so proud of her efforts with the renovations both at the motel and the Duck Cottages,” Wayne said. “She up-fits the old as well as makes the new look old.”
Last year, Wayne and Trudy received a historic preservation award from the Ocracoke Preservation Society for the work they did restoring their rental, the Fleig House, also in the mid-last century style, with help from Tom Pahl, owner of Landmark Building and Design, a company that specializes in remodeling and historic restoration.
Preservation North Carolina, founded in 1939, promotes and protects the buildings and landscapes of the state’s diverse heritage.
To read about the Clark’s historic house on last December’s historic house tour by the Ocracoke Preservation Society, click here.