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Part 3 features island native John Ivey Wells and Vince Rockel, 40+ year island home owner.

​Part 2 features Kris Cahoon Noble, Assistant Hyde County Manager and Economic Development Director.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Purchase & Financial History

   The Community Square was listed for public sale in 2009. Working with the seller, David Senseney, in November 2013 the Ocracoke Foundation [OFI] was able to purchase the Square for the $1.6M.  This was made possible by two interim loans, with The Conservation Fund and the McDermott Family each making loans of $800,000. 
    ​OFI’s primary concern was losing the Square, the heart of the island’s maritime heritage and businesses, to private development. OFI’s intent was to take this valuable island asset, restore and preserve it, and direct a significant portion of rental income into a Community Fund and Grants Program to benefit our community.
   In December 2017 the $800,000 loan from The Conservation Fund was repaid with a new loan of $600,000 from TowneBank, and $200,000 from 200+ individual donations and other sources. In May 2020 the Ocracoke Foundation received a gift of $800,000 from Keith and Isabelle McDermott of London, England and Ocracoke. This donation transformed their loan, made in November 2013 to help purchase the Community Square, to a gift to benefit our community.
   This iconic maritime heritage site would not be in community ownership without the vision, generosity and commitment of the McDermott’s, The Conservation Fund, TowneBank and individual donors, and significant support for improvements from Golden-LEAF and Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board.

Brief History: Improvements, Restoration and Hurricane Repairs:

Major Improvement Projects 2018–2021 ~~ $1,009,000

   The impact of Tropical Storm Hermine in September 2016, followed by the record-setting [until Hurricane Dorian in 2019] flood waters of Hurricane Matthew one month later, made it clear that the 5 National Register Historic structures and two docks required repairs, flood mitigation, and restoration work. A century of storms has taken its toll on structures 80-120 years old. 
​    In Spring 2018 storm water and septic/wastewater improvements were completed, including repaving the parking lot with water-absorbing pervious pavers. Old cistern septic tanks for bathroom and food service waste were replaced with a modern system. These costly, environmentally significant investments reduce run-off into Silver Lake, and were made possible by Golden LEAF Foundation and Community Square Lease Income [Project: $319,000].
   In August 2019 the support structure for the Willis Store & Fish House [ca. 1930], and surrounding dock and platform areas, were raised and rebuilt, and 200+ feet of shoreline bulkhead installed. This $387,000 Project was supported by Golden-LEAF, Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Funds, and Community Square Lease Income.
   On September 6, 2019 Hurricane Dorian inundated the Island with an unprecedented 7.5-foot storm surge that damaged hundreds of structures. At the Square, the new Willis Dock held strong, but the Willis Store, having just been raised 20", was flooded with 18" of water, causing significant interior damage to the OWWA Exhibit spaces and artifacts. Refurbishing the Willis Store and OWWA Exhibit was completed in late 2023.
   The Main Dock by the Community Store was totally destroyed. Rebuilding the new Dock was completed by TJ’s Marine Construction in June 2021. The $303,000 Project was funded by Golden-LEAF and Community Square Lease Income.

 The 5 Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places:

Community Store Building [ca. 1918] – Significant repairs and restoration including new roofing, interior/exterior painting, siding, and upgrades completed including new HVAC, bathroom, full commercial kitchen. 2 tenants: Stock Room Street Food, and, Village Thrift Shop [their profits benefit Ocracoke Youth Center and Community Park]
William Williams House [ca. 1900] – ongoing repairs, significant restoration scheduled for 2024; tenants: Mermaid’s Folly and Ocracoke Foundation office
Electric/Water Office [ca. 1936] – Interior/exterior paint and siding, new roofing, new HVAC. Tenant: Sea Break Gifts
 Generator/Ice Plant [ca. 1936] – Roof repairs, exterior painting, new HVAC. Tenants: Kitty Hawk Kites, Fudge & Ice Cream Shop
Willis Store & Fish House [ca.1930] –restoration and repairs include new roof, new siding, interior and exterior painting, electrical improvements. The OWWA and Duck Decoy Carvers Exhibits are now open, after extensive recovery from damage from Hurricane Dorian. Funding support from FEMA and Ocracoke Foundation, The building repairs and restoration was given the Ocracoke Preservation Society's 2023 Historic Structure Award.

Dockage: The Main Dock and Willis Dock now total 18 slips for local commercial and recreational boats.
Protective Easements to protect the historic preservation are in process, completion anticipated in early 2024.

Community Grants Fund: Income over the last 10 years has primarily been used for repairs and improvements, as well as operating costs such as flood, property and liability insurance; septic and utilities, and principal and interest payments to TowneBank for the purchase loan. The remaining debt is $300,000.
   In 2023 we were able to make our first significant payment from the Community Fund, with a $50,000 Loan to the OPS managed Island Inn Project [interest and principal payments will go back into the Community Fund] as well as a $5,000 donation to the “Food for Folks” program managed through the United Methodist Church, which provides a daily meal to about a dozen island seniors, and a donation of $5,000 to the Island Inn Commons Landscaping Project.


“OFI’s multi-faceted approach to the preservation of special places like the Community Square serves as a sustainable model for other rural communities, where the potential is great but the funding is limited.  We’re honored to provide quick financial assistance for the purchase and revitalization of this beloved community hub and excited to see its transformation.”
                                    Reggie Hall, Director 

                                    The Conservation Fund

                                    Land Conservation Loan Program

  • Waterfront Access & Public Use
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Historic Preservation
  • Preserved In Perpetuity
  • Endowment for Ocracoke Island


Restoration & Endowment Campaign

“It’s a preservation victory when heritage and water quality both stand to benefit from a real estate deal.”  

                       Catherine Kozak, Coastal Review Online, Nov. 2013  




Stories From The Square

In the first of a series of "Stories From The Square," Part 1 features beloved islanders​ Trudy Austin, Melissa Garrish Sharber, and Mandy Garrish Jones.