by Hannah Lee / Correspondent
April 2, 2021
When Pam Buchholz stumbled upon a real estate listing for a circa-1928 hotel, she knew an adventure was in the making. One spontaneous daytrip from her home in Hillsborough, N.C., later, and the clinical researcher found herself standing in front of the retired Seaside Inn, located in Hatteras Village. The quaint island town, the inviting building and its storied past appealed to Buchholz, who had long dreamed of owning an inn.
She told her husband, John, about the inn and showed him pictures. Throughout their travel-filled marriage and stays in accommodations ranging from “bare, dusty hostels in Bulgaria to $1000 +/night lavish suites in Dubai,” the couple fell in love with the realm of hospitality. They adored thoughtful touches that made places feel homey and often daydreamed about one day running an inn of their own – a vast switch from their careers in health and clinical research.
As Pam and John were planning a return trip to Hatteras in March of 2020, the Outer Banks closed the bridges to nonresidents. John never saw the property beyond Pam’s photos.
However, they knew that the Outer Banks was notorious for fast-moving real estate, and with other buyers interested in the property, they needed to make a decision fast.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking because I couldn’t see it again either,” Pam said. “But I just set my heart on it. And John knew it.”
They closed the deal, and when the bridges reopened to nonresidents in May 2020, the couple rushed to Hatteras to start working.
The inn originally opened in 1928 as The Atlantic View Hotel and was the first and only hotel on Hatteras until the late 1940s. In its early days, rooms started at $1.50 per night, and drew many recreational fishermen and duck hunters looking for a coastal retreat.
Over the years, the inn changed ownership and underwent closures due to hurricanes. It reopened as The Seaside Inn in 2006 and remained that before its closure in 2019.
The inn’s structure underwent few changes before the Buchholzes bought it, apart from repairs after Hurricane Isabel, which included raising the building.
The roof, exterior, plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning, windows and flooring all received a major overhaul, each giving way to new projects throughout the process. As the Buchholzes tackled repairs, they aimed to stay true to the original building. Roughly half of the wood paneling seen in the completed building is from the 1928 original, as is the massive wrap-around porch.
“We saved [the inn] as opposed to pulling it down,” Pam says. “And the community down here has been phenomenal. People love that we saved what was here.”
Within the small village of Hatteras, the inn has been a fixture to many. Past and current islanders have reached out to the couple with old photos and documentation from the inn throughout the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Some photos showed the inn with airplanes parked in front of it from visitors who flew to Hatteras. One submission came from a woman in her eighties, who sent Pam a photo of herself as a teen posing beside the inn in the 1930s. Another came from the Boston Library’s archives: a mid-century postcard with a painting of the inn on it.
Each piece of documentation unveiled a little more about the inn’s past and its role within the community. The Buchholzes want their refurbished inn to harken back to the original and mindfully incorporated antique pieces from the Atlantic View Hotel into their new Atlantic Inn at Hatteras.
Framed images of the old inn now hang throughout the building. Yellowing pages of sheet music adorn the baby grand piano in the lounge. Brittle books with publication dates from the early 1900s fill the antique Chippendale bookcase, available for guests to browse as they unwind in the library or on the porch.
“We want it to be a step back in time but with modern amenities,” Pam said.
An inviting, hospitable ambiance characterizes the inn between the broad porch, cozy library and communal lounge. Varying themes and styles give each of the 11 rooms its own identity, such as the Bodie Suite and the Mermaid Cuddy (the seafaring term for a small cabin). Each one includes kitchenette facilities, flat-screened TV and bathroom amenities.
The inn’s much anticipated opening day is scheduled for April 24. Once open, it will operate year round, catering to beach vacations in the summer, and in the off-season, weddings, wellness retreats and specialized seminar groups.
The Buchholzes hope to make not only their guests feel at home with the new design, but also themselves. In keeping with their family-owned and operated mantra, they’ve renovated a small apartment within the inn where they will live.
“We intend to be very hands on,” says Pam, who hopes their onsite residence will help them connect with their guests.
“We’ve always had so much fun hanging out with other guests during our travels. It’s kind of a balance of it being our escape and our home.”