By the end of the Civil War, a small Nags Head chapel called All Saints was dismantled to build housing for the freedmen’s colony on Roanoke Island. A half-century later it was reborn as St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea.
Built in 1849, and consecrated one year later, a small Episcopal chapel called All Saints was a center of social activity for the wealthy families who routinely arrived by steamer ships to spend their summer months in Nags Head. Located on the sound side of the island in the general vicinity of the docks and the area’s only hotel, All Saints was constructed and maintained by those visiting families. Once the summer crowds left, All Saint’s closed its doors as well.
Those long, peaceful summer vacations were disrupted when the American Civil War broke out. Retreating Confederate forces burned down the old Nags Head hotel, and by the time the war ended in 1865, federal forces had taken apart the chapel to build houses for liberated slaves in Roanoke Island’s large freedmen’s colony.
That might have spelled the end for the congregation of All Saints, but as families began to trickle back to their favorite resort town, church services continued to be held at the newly rebuilt Nags Head hotel or in a variety of people’s private cottages.
These arrangements lasted a full half-century, until Congress approved legislation that granted reparations for wartime losses. A claim was made to replace the Nags Head chapel, which provided congregants a settlement of $700 once all the legal fees were paid.
By August 16, 1915, plans were made and signed to have a new chapel built by a well-known carpenter from Elizabeth City, Stephen J. Twine. Twine, who also constructed many of the houses that still make up the Nags Head Beach Cottage Row Historic District, drew up plans with the agreement that he would be paid $327.50 for his labor.
Slightly less than one year later, the chapel was complete and consecrated on August 6, 1916, with a new name: St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea. Many items were donated toward this effort, including the altar cross, which was reportedly carved from a fallen live oak tree at Fort Raleigh.
Times were changing, however, and the Outer Banks was constantly vulnerable to storms that could reshape the area’s topography. During the early 1930s people were increasingly building or relocating to the ocean side of Nags Head, especially once Virginia Dare Trail was constructed. When a particularly damaging storm left the chapel even more isolated at its low-lying location in 1933, it appeared that something needed to be done.
A proposal to move St. Andrew’s was unanimously approved, and during the winter of 1937 the chapel was painstakingly relocated 680 feet southwest to the site where it still stands today.
Almost two decades later, Twine made some major additions to the chapel, including living quarters off the back of the structure for visiting clergy and two large porches on the south and west sides of the building. These improvements paved the way for St. Andrew’s to become a full-time parish in 1955. Though St. Andrew’s has continued to grow over the years, some services are still held in the small wooden chapel that celebrates its centennial this year.
Research assistance for this article came from the Outer Banks History Center, a regional archives and research library of the State Archives of North Carolina. In 2016 the History Center Gallery in Manteo presents “Explore Your Outer Banks Parks: Celebrating a Century of the National Park Service.”
St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea Celebrates 100
The church is holding its centennial celebrations from August 5 to 7. Here is the lineup of events.
Friday, August 5
Art show, auction and wine and cheese reception, 5 p.m.
Saturday, August 6
Chapel Tours, 2 to 3 p.m.
Storytelling, 3 to 4:30 p.m.
Choral Evensong, 5 p.m.
Sunday, August 7
Chapel Homecoming Celebration, 10:30 a.m.
For information, call 252-441-5382 or go to Facebook: St. Andrew’s turns 100