For those of you who have followed my page and my stories, you probably know that this icon of the Outer Banks, the Futuro "UFO House" down in Frisco, burned down recently. It was damaged way beyond repair, with only a small portion of wall still remaining after the fire. I know many people will ask, and I will give the most recent account from the local fire department, that said that the building had no electrical hookups, no power, and was not occupied. For those Sherlockian sleuths, it is highly unlikely that the owner would have set the fire, as the family benefitted from the building, and the fire department said the fire was likely deliberately set, so it was from some outside source. That controversy out of the way... There is a movement afoot, due to a serendipitous happening, that a company is attempting to bring back the Futuro with a new design made from fiberglass, but with a similar look. There is hope and chatter that the company would place the first new building in Frisco, as sort of a local positive support for the community. It would look good to see the first new Futuro go up in a spot where we lost one of the few left in the US. The projected cost of the building is about $180K, a good chunk of change, but in reality a decent price for a small, unique home. There are always additions, the usual utilities, the land especially, landscaping, interior finishes, and certainly insurance now. But it is doable.
I mention this because there are people who at least want to see this happen. I've heard this in the past. "Why don't we get together and save (fill in the blank house)?" right before the bulldozers roll. We lost the Haunted House, an old lifesaving station I mentioned in another story, and before that, numerous flat tops and old beach houses. One of the many reasons these things don't happen is the cost involved. The old beach houses always sell because of the value of the sand they sit upon, not the house, not the history. The bulldozer doesn't care about who walked there before. The value of a piece of beachfront land is a little more than $1.5 million dollars, and the house on it is about zero. Or even the negative cost of the time to destroy it. For we, the people to raise that much money, every person from Duck to East Lake to the end of Hatteras, every baby and centenarian, would have to pay about $70. Not much, but it has to be 100%, everyone, every family, would have to chip in. It's a sadly impossible task. And one that raises questions for the potential for this new Futuro, our new Future.
At a much lower cost, replacing the Futuro is a possibility. Finding 2,000 people to donate $100 would be infinitely easier. So, now, here come the issues. And hopefully, an idea. There are going to be questions. Who owns the Futuro? If people invest, do they get to go there? Stay there? And, tell other people they can't go there? If I asked people to donate to preserve a house, they are going to want to be an owner. You can hear the screaming already, can't you? If someone starts a private Go Fund Me, sure, maybe they will be fair and buy the Futuro, but will it be theirs? Putting it back where the old one was is another issue. The property and the UFO House were owned by different, but agreeable, owners. Who would own the new one? The idea, the heart behind the thought, is that the town would own it. The main reason that Frisco and the communities can't just buy a new one is because they also have other commitments, nature paths, parking for locals, the needed repairs and upgrades that every town faces.
So, how do we sort this all out? Well, a disinterested non-profit would be a good start. I'd like to see the Outer Banks Community Foundation involved. They probably already have the money to do it, but I still like the local everybody involvement in the property, for reasons I'll get to. Having a non-profit manage a site means less drama, hopefully. I know how popular drama is on the islands.
So, here's the other issue. Someone is going to want to stay there. The arguments are always going to be greed, personal involvement, the "I just think" mentality. Giving for empathy's sake isn't in great supply now. Sure, we want to. Remember the "We should all get together and save it" for all those fallen houses? The Outer Banks needs housing, yes, and this could easily house a local teacher or small family. But do you really think a teacher wants to get up early for work to find people standing on their steps taking pictures? Or flashes going off at night in the window of their little kid's room?
I've got a better idea.
We put a poet laureate in the Futuro. Every year, we get someone to come in and live there for a year. They write about the place, the people, they tell the stories of yesterday and today. Blog, Instagram, TikTok, books and poems, short stories, all the collections of the life on the coast. A place to stay, to write, to create and preserve, with a stipend to make life agreeable. And the rest of us get a preservation of history.
We have done this before, and have done it in the past. One of the local flat tops in Southern Shores was rented by friends of Robert Knowlton so he could write his novel Court Of Crows. And the History Center offers a stipend for a person to do research in exchange for regular media posts of their work. (BTW, the black and white photos on here are from the David Stick collection from the Outer Banks History Center.)
And this is the biggest reason we should do this. I call it the New Preservation. I said I'd get to this. We can't save the houses that are gone. The Futuro is gone, the Haunted House is gone, the numerous flat tops that Frank Stick, father of David, built or inspired, gone, the beautiful old Coast Guard building that graced the beach in Kill Devil Hills, long gone. We can't preserve them because they are gone. But we can bring them back. We replace the old Futuro with a new one. We build new houses with care, as part of the coast, like the old Flat Tops. They were with the land, part of the beach, not above it. We can't get the Futuro back, but we can preserve the future. This is a good first step.