For anyone visiting the Outer Banks in the summer, it seems like a thriving beehive of a community; the beaches are filled with thousands of people, the roads are clogged and businesses are booming. Yet, once the busy season winds down, the Outer Banks is actually a small and tight knit community, and like similar small communities, one can meet some of the most unique and memorable people in day-to-day interactions.
For the Outer Banks, David Stick was one of those remarkable people. He passed away in 2009 and left behind an extraordinary legacy. For those who knew him personally, it would be hard to argue that David could talk the leg off a room full of chairs . . . and still keep talking. But, the most amazing thing about his need to communicate, was how useful the information was that he shared, filled with historic detail and observation.
Outside of the Outer Banks, David Stick is primarily known as an author, and he was an extraordinarily gifted writer, who dedicated over six decades of his life to researching and writing about the Outer Banks. His best known work, “Graveyard of the Atlantic” is still considered the seminal work on the dangers of navigating the Outer Banks coastline. His other books are meticulously researched and eminently readable.
His greatest influence on the Outer Banks, may well have been a project with his father, Frank, that created the community of Southern Shores. After returning from WWII, as a Marine correspondent in the Pacific, he tried his hand at working for a NY magazine . . . hated the experience . . . and came home. By the late 1940’s, his father recognized with the recent baby boom that these young families would require a place to vacation. Working with some partners and David, huge tracts of land on the north end of Kitty Hawk were purchased and the company began selling lots at very low prices, even by 1940’s and 50’s standards. Not making as much as they’d hoped, the partners decided the only way to increase revenues was to become contractors and build vacation homes.
Frank had seen a unique style of house while vacationing in Florida and brought the idea to the Outer Banks, a concept that became the Southern Shores flattop. Today people will wax poetic about the concrete with unique embedded shell patterns and juniper siding and beams within these buildings. David found that attitude amusing and ironic, pointing out in one of our conversations that they made concrete from Outer Banks sand because they couldn’t afford the transportation costs to import concrete and they used juniper because it was a local wood.
Even during the height of his responsibilities as a real estate developer, he continued collecting historic documents and writing regional books. His files were so large and thorough, that in 1987 when he donated them to the state of North Carolina, they became the core collection of what is now the Outer Banks History Center–a wonderful research library located in Roanoke Island Festival Park.
This barely scratches the tip of the iceberg that encompassed David’s accomplishments. In addition to being an author, developer and historian, he was a Dare County Commissioner, functioned as the Chair in the early 1960’s and served on a number of statewide boards and commissions. To those who knew him, David was just the guy down the street who could turn a one hour interview into a two and a half hour lecture on the history of the Outer Banks, complete with delightful personal anecdotes and noteworthy recollections of our inspiring historic significance.