Blackbeard's Lair



In 1497, Amerigo Vespucci anchors in the Bight (bay) of Hatteras as he first touches the continent subsequently named for him. Between 1524 -1588, French and Spanish explorers came ashore in search of gold. England's Queen Elizabeth I issued a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh to establish a colony in North Carolina in 1584. The first attempt to settle on Roanoke Island was unsuccessful, with settlers disappearing without a trace. Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World was born on Roanoke Island and became part of the history and lore surrounding the lost colony. In 1607, settlers at Jamestown, Virginia tried in vain to find the 117 men, women and children who had simply vanished.
The Lords Proprietors, eight powerful noblemen were rewarded for their support of Charles II with a charter for land in North America between the thirty-first to the thirty-sixth parallels from the Atlantic to the South Seas. Numerous colonies were established along this region between 1673 and 1710 but most failed over political or religious reasons. The period between 1710 -1718 along the North Carolina coast was ruled by pirates, including Blackbeard, the most well known and villainous sea-going scoundrel of the time. The Pirate community treasured this area for it's desolation and military advantages. In late Spring of 1717, a man known as Malcolm Tucker opened up a tavern in the area known today as Nags Head, in hopes of tapping into the wealth and unlawfully gained prosperity of the many pirates who visited this coastal area on a regular basis. Little is known about Tucker, but historical records indicate that he might have crewed with another well-known pirate of the day, John Rackham. Little is known of the actual construction of the tavern as well. Despite the absence of solid evidence to substantiate their claims, most Outer Banks historians believe the tavern was constructed from a pirated shipment of sandstone headed to Charlestown (later named Charleston), South Carolina in the summer of 1716. On June 3 of that year, a 140-foot transport ship called the "Yorkshire", had departed the coast of Spain with a large shipment of sandstone. The ship was scheduled to arrive in the port city of Charlestown, South Carolina early in July, but never arrived. After about a month, the ship and crew were officially listed as lost at sea. In 1976, a team of researchers from Bodie Island Oceanographic Institute discovered an undocumented shipwreck about 30-miles off the coast of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. An extensive search of the site revealed that the ship they had found was the "Yorkshire". The official report submitted by the team indicated that the ship had suffered extreme deterioration, but enough physical evidence remained to prove that it sank as a result of cannon fire. Furthermore, the report also noted that the cargo hold was empty, which seems to add credence to the theory that the tavern was constructed of the stolen sandstone. The tavern was a huge success for Tucker. Many of the most famous pirates in history frequented the establishment, including the aforementioned Blackbeard, who visited the tavern just days before his death on November 22, 1718. The tavern continued to enjoy success until the early 1730's, but the English Crown resumed direct rule of the region from the Lords Proprietors in 1733, and started a concentrated campaign to rid the seas of piracy. Part of that plan was to close down the tavern, which was looked upon as a detriment to the Monarchy's anti-piracy plans. In September of 1734, the tavern was seized by the Royal Government and boarded up. Historical documents reveal that an order was handed down in March of 1735 to destroy the structure, but for unknown reasons they were never carried out. Charges of treason and conspiracy were brought against Tucker for his part in providing a safe haven for those involved in piracy, but he disappeared before any hearing or sentencing could take place and was never heard from again. "Tucker's Tavern", which had been a constant source of activity for almost two decades was no more. The building would sit vacant for the next 70-years, only being used occasionally by fisherman, drifters and the like as temporary housing.
North Carolina, still under Royal control, prospered but began to chafe at certain British policies and quickly joined other colonies in resistance to those policies. By this time, land inland and westward was also being settled. North Carolinians contributed to the defeat of British military power in the War for Independence (1776-1783) and continued to progress as the federal system was formed in the new nation (1784 -1800).
The early part of the 19th century was generally a quiet one for coastal North Carolina except for the occasional vacationer or seagoing vessel that sailed past on their way to Wilmington, Charleston or Savannah. In the early 1800's, many farmers and land owners would visit the area to escape the long, hot and humid summers of the inland communities. In 1805, a plantation owner named William Stewart purchased 40 acres of land where he built the very first beach cottage in Nags Head. "Tucker's Tavern", which had set virtually unused for over 70-years, was located on this acreage. 70 years of neglect had taken it's toll on the once pristine structure, but by 1810, Stewart, his wife Elaine and three children had transformed the tavern into their full-time residence. Tragedy struck the Stewart family in the fall of 1815, while vacationing in the North Carolina mountains. During their journey, the train in which the Stewarts were traveling derailed near the town of Asheville, killing Stewart's wife and all three of his children. Stewart, who came through the accident without injury, returned to his Nag Head home but was rarely seen in public during the last years of his life. William Stewart passed away on March 12, 1831. Possession of the property was turned over to the state of North Carolina three months later because no will had been registered, and no heirs were known to exist. The estate remained the property of the state until 1868. By 1820, Nags Head had become a thriving resort settlement, with two dozen vacation homes from sound to sea, and a massive resort called the Nags Head Hotel, which resided at the base of Jockey's Ridge. For many years, even during and briefly after the Civil War, the hotel was the focal point of summer activity in Nags Head. Dinners and dances were held almost nightly. The hotel even built a railway for transportation of it's guests to the ocean beach. The hotel met it's demise in 1873, when the shifting sands of Jockey's Ridge claimed it. The Stewart home,  which had sit unused since 1831, was reopened as a hospital in 1861, to provide care for those injured during the early stages of the Civil War. During the time of the war, the home was not only used as a hospital, but also as a prison and barracks for Confederate soldiers.  In 1868, the federal government purchased (or seized for military reasons according to some accounts) approximately 200 acres in the Nags Head area from the state of North Carolina, which included the original 40 acre tract that William Stewart purchased in 1805. The reasons behind the purchase were never made known. Reports surfaced in 1871 that the property was going to be used for some type of training facility for the United States Navy, but nothing ever materialized. The land was put up for public sell in July of 1883. Tyler Compton, a railroad and shipping executive from New York City purchased the property in September of that same year, with the intent of using the acreage to build a winter residence. Initial plans included the destruction of the old tavern, but Compton decided to refurbish the old structure and convert it into their summer retreat. After nearly two years of work, the old tavern had been transformed into one of the areas most beautiful homes. So beautiful in fact, the Compton's decided to make their new coastal sanctuary their full-time residence.
Emily Compton, the wife of Tyler died of pneumonia during the winter of 1902. After months of grieving over the loss of his wife, Tyler Compton decided to end his own life on May 13, 1903. William Compton, who was only 19 years of age at the time of his father's death, decided to remain in Nags Head and live at the home his parents had loved so dearly.  On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the Outer Banks famous world-wide, with the first successful power-driven airplane flight from Kill Devil Hills, which lies just a few miles up the coast from Nags Head. Coastal North Carolina saw and felt the effects of World War I (1916-1919), as the waters off the Outer Banks filled with German submarines, and yards at Wilmington, Morehead City and Elizabeth City were converted into ship building facilities for the war effort. The Diamond Shoals Lightship was sunk by a German sub in August 1918. The same month, a British tanker, The Mirlo was sunk off Rodanthe by another German sub. The crew was rescued by members of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. In 1928, William Compton decided to sell off the 200 acre tract his father had purchased in 1883 and move to New York City. Working with a land developer in the area, the acreage was divided into multiple tracts and sold at a huge profit. The tract which contained the home was purchased by Franklin Thatch, a very successful Raleigh, North Carolina real estate developer.  Thatch, who was nearing retirement, had been looking for the perfect location in which to spend his golden years, and the old tavern seemed to be the perfect fit. In 1937, the first production of the Lost Colony was performed at Fort Raleigh, and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established. Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island was designated as a National Historic Site, both helping to make this area an important tourist attraction. The Outer Banks were quickly becoming a truly remarkable vacation destination. Franklin Thatch did retire to his Outer Banks jewel in 1932, and lived there until his death in January of 1955. He had been preceded in death by his wife Annabelle, just two months earlier. The couple's children, Robert, 32 and Betty, 30, wanted to keep the property in the family but didn't know exactly what to do with it. A cousin, Sam Marshall, who had worked for Franklin Thatch's business in Raleigh, came up with the idea of turning the home into an Inn for vacationers, but the idea wasn't quite what the Thatch siblings were looking for. After about a year, a decision was made to convert the home into a restaurant and Blackbeard's Lair was born. The establishment opened it's doors for the first time on May 15th, 1957, and has been serving up some of the finest eats on the Outer Banks ever since. The restaurant is still owned and operated by the Thatch family.

The Restaurant was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1968.