- Associated Press - Saturday, January 6, 2018

CURRITUCK, N.C. (AP) - The old house along N.C. 168 south of Moyock still has hardwood floors nearly 300 years old, hand-hewn beams held by wooden pegs and the same slightly hazy kitchen windows where a plantation owner once looked upon his lands.

Owners Sandra and Robert Justiss Jr. have labored for 10 years to restore and maintain this historic home and are still learning about its story.

“I’ve tried to stay true to the period as I could without it becoming a museum,” Sandra said.

The home, built early in the 18th century, is among the oldest featured in a new book titled “The Goodliest and Most Pleasing Territory,” after a phrase found in a letter written by one of the state’s early explorers. Historians Barbara Snowden, Meg Greene Malvasi and Penne Smith Sandbeck collaborated to write the history and architectural descriptions of about 200 homes in Currituck and the northern Outer Banks that are at least 50 years old and have historic and architectural significance.

A 1960 survey counted more than 130 structures in the area that have been standing for 100 years or more. Less than a third of those still stand, Snowden said.

“They’re disappearing very, very fast,” she said.

The book, published in early December, tells the stories of grand farmhouses with columns on front porches, but it also includes waterfowl hunting lodges, churches, lifesaving stations, general stores and small bungalows.

History and geography help explain the structures in this corner of North Carolina, Snowden said.

“That is part of the setting of the house,” she said. “You have to put the building in its context.”

Currituck began with Virginia settlers traveling and trading to the south. The first mention of “Carotoke” comes in a letter dated May 8, 1654, according to the book. The word is derived from an Algonquian term meaning land of the wild goose. Virginia officials granted settlers property in what is now Currituck and other eastern counties.

“Of all the 13 colonies, North Carolina was the least commercial, the most provincial, the farthest removed from European influences and its wild forest life the most unrestrained,” the book quotes from a 1904 history.

Every other Colony had areas that had been developed as well as frontier land, but North Carolina was entirely frontier, according to the book. “Yet the people were happy in their freedom and contented in their isolation,” it says.

One of the early roads through the long Currituck peninsula followed about the same path as N.C. 168, now a five-lane thoroughfare carrying thousands of travelers a day. Many of the historic homes featured in the book sit along the highway, including the Buckskin Farm home.

The Justisses bought the house following lifelong dreams of restoring an 18th century home. Robert has participated in re-enactments of the Revolutionary War, and Sandra has portrayed Martha Washington at several venues.

They willingly took on salvaging the structure that had sat empty for six years before they took ownership. Additions to the original four-room house had been made through the 1800s and 1900s, including some awful-looking 1960s paneling, Sandra said. The foundation had to be shored up and some of the original flooring replaced.

The Florida natives have spent three times the worth of the home in upgrades and repairs, she said.

“It’s worth it all in my heart,” Sandra said. “We must preserve our heritage. It pays tribute to the people who lived before us.”

Copies of the hard-bound book are for sale for $60 at the Currituck County Public Library.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

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