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visitor's find
A collection of writings
From the old gray house
by friends of the old gray house


The Old Gray House thanks all who have taken the time to write about our retirement hobby. Below you will find reprints of some that that have come to our attention. We thank all who have gone out of their way to share in our retirement dream by telling others about us. Should you run across an ariticle written about the Old Gray House we would appreciate hearing about it.

stories

  1. Visitors Find Their Way To The Old Gray House
    by Rae Winnicki

  2. the old gray house by Peter John Campbell

  3. the old gray house II by Peter John Campbell

  4. the old gray house poem

  5. southern hospitality

  6. The Old Gray House
    by Art Dervaes

  7. What is in store for The Old Gray House
    by Art Dervaes

  8. The Old Gray House On The Outer Banks Is The Stuff That Legends....
    by Barbara Weibel


We

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of

our

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and

the

stories

they

have

written

about

The

Old

Gray

House.

If

you

have

a

published

article

about

the

Old

Gray

House

we

would

like

to

to

hear

from

you

so

we

can

add

it

to

our

site.

Please

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where

the

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published

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we

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credit

them.

Visitors Find their way to the old gray house published in: July of 1996

Visitors Find their way to the old gray house





Rae Winnicki

Mary and Dewey Parr

People laughed when Mary and Dewey Parr talked about opening a gift shop in the Old Gray House on Light Plant Road in Buxton. They said no one would find the shop, or bother to search it out, if it wasn't right on Highway 12. Mary and Dewey went ahead anyway and envisioned themselves sitting on the porch of the shop, relaxing in their retirement, and occasionally getting up to wait on a customer who happened to wander in.



Much to their surprise, it hasn't been that way. Instead, the business has taken off. It has grown each year, and the Parr's are busy from morning until night throughout the season. This year is their fifth year in business, and they are every bit as enthusiastic about it now as they were in May, 1992, when they first opened the doors to the public. The Old Gray House is unique on the island. It offers affordable, hand-crafted items from a wide variety of craftspeople, prettily displayed in an historic Hatteras home. In its short life as a gift shop, the Old Gray House has already become a fixture in Buxton. Many customers (or "guests" as Mary prefers to call them) return each year to check out what is new and different and to renew acquaintances with Mary and Dewey. It is common for many Hatteras residents to have lived "off-island" for their career years and then to return in retirement or to begin a new career. So it was with the Parr's. Dewey grew up in Buxton, leaving at age 13 when his father was called back into the Navy during World War II and assigned to be a recruiter in Huntington, W.Va. There he finished school and met Mary. There they raised their two children and pursued successful careers. But Hatteras always beckoned. They returned many times to visit family or just to vacation.

Both Mary and Dewey took early retirement from their successful careers by 1992. They still call Huntington home, though they spend six months of the year operating their business on Hatteras Island. Dewey was a teacher, a school principal, and then worked in the school administration offices in Huntington until his retirement. Mary worked at Marshal University in Huntington as an accountant. When she left she was director of support services. Both were active in the community.

The Old Gray House was owned by Dewey's maternal grandparents, and it always held great fascination for him. It was built in the 1880's, probably using wood salvaged from shipwrecks, as many old Hatteras houses were. Over the years, it was added to and changed as the family's needs changed, and Dewey and Mary take pleasure in retelling the history of those changes to their guests. In 1975, Dewey bought the house from his uncle Kendrick Gray with the understanding that Kendrick would live in the house as long as he wished, and he did so until his death in 1988.

When Dewey and Mary both decided to take early retirement it was natural that they would gravitate to Hatteras and the Old Gray House was waiting. Mary's lifelong dream was to open a gift shop. She had "played store" as a child, and she still sees herself as "playing" at this second career. It is obvious that the venture is fun for her. She makes about 25 percent of the merchandise herself during the long winter months that they spend in Huntington. Sometimes she works on projects while she is minding the store or in the evenings after the shop is closed.

The first summer the Parrs had their business they "camped out" in the Old Gray House. They slept in the unfinished upstairs room and made their meals in the tiny kitchen. The success of their business called for extra display space, so now both of these rooms have been converted into show rooms. They now live in another house off Highway 12 in Buxton during the summers, though most of the time they can be found at the Old Gray House. During the winter, they also travel to visit old and new crafters and pick up items for the shop.

There are several things that make this shop special, and not the least of them is Mary's friendliness and voluble conversation. She is ready to talk about her crafters, all of whom she seems to know personally, but most of all about the history of the house. If Mary's guests surrender themselves to the experience at the Old Gray House, they leave feeling they have made a friend, as well as found some treasures to keep for themselves or to take back home as special gifts. Many visitors also find new ideas for their own dabbling in crafts, for Mary is gracious with hints about "how to do it." The shop is Mary's project, and it is her vision that has made it what it is. She has herself been a craftsperson all her life. She remembers knitting sweaters for the war effort in the '40's when she was only 8 years old. She started piecing a quilt before she was 6. Through the years she tried many different kinds of projects and because of her interest, met many other crafters. A friend sold candy at craft fairs throughout West Virginia, and Mary tagged along and sold her own things and met many other crafters who now consign items to her for sale in her shop.

Dewey's contribution to the Old Gray House experience is the yard and gardens. He has worked to establish native plants and an herb garden, and he invites guests to wander around and pick the herbs for their dinner if they wish. A trellis and winding paths are enlivened by his green thumb. The garden is where Dewey "plays" while Mary minds the store. One of his projects was the construction on an "outhouse" (non-functional, of course), complete with Sears Roebuck catalog that contributes to the old-fashioned look of the house and grounds. Visitors often will take pictures of this reminder of the past, and Dewey even provides certificates that they have sat on the "Seat of Learning." Dewey is steeped in the history of the island and the house and enjoys telling about both.

What is one likely to find in the Old Gray House Gift Shop? Christmas decorations, many made from shells, decorated baskets and wreaths, aprons, counted cross-stitch pictures and towels, placemats and napkins, birdhouses, dolls, potholders and plastic bag holders, country wooden knick-knack shelves and knick-knacks of all kinds. There are also garden statues and birdbaths formed of concrete and finished to look like weathering metal. There is a large collection of sea shells, both local and exotic, displayed in an outdoor annex.

As an example of Mary's enthusiasm for crafts and her dedication to pleasing her guests, one evening she made a prairie doll because one of her customers wanted one to match her daughter's room. A prairie doll is a soft doll made by ripping and tying fabric to form a winsome girl-doll, using scraps of material and Spanish moss for the hair. It is said that pioneer women made them for their girls on covered wagon treks when they did not have access to more sophisticated methods of doll making. They are sometimes called "church dolls" because they make no sound when dropped on the floor by a sleepy or grumpy child.

One of Mary's best-selling items is an artificial Christmas tree decorated with small, mostly local sea shells and topped with a tiny starfish. Last winter Mary used 4,500 shells and 200 glue sticks to fashion these popular gifts — and sold most of them. The venture of the Old Gray House brings together Mary's life-long interest in sewing and crafting and Dewey's absorption in the history of the Old Gray House and of the island itself. They chose to preserve the house as it was, rather than to try to spruce it up and rob it of its charm. The venture has added to the pleasure of their retirement and made them many new friends and acquaintances from all over the country. It has also given Hatteras visitors and residents a great place to shop for unique, hand-crafted items while they soak up the lore of by-gone days on the Island.

Mary and Dewey Parr
Photo By Irene Nolan Dewey Parr and his wife, Mary,
own and operate the Old Gray House gift shop just off Highway 12 in Buxton.

If you have any comments you can contact us at OuterBanksShells.com



The Old Gray House published in: June 17, 2010

The Old Gray House

By

Peter John Campbell

“This is a paper nautilus. It’s only called a nautilus – a real nautilus shell has chambers.” It was the closest moment I’ve had to feeling like a five year old since that time I met an astronaut a few years back. I hung in the doorway of the tiny room as the old gray haired man continued the grand tour. I was in the third of four “shell shacks” on the property - this one a virtual museum dedicated to rare and unusual seashells. Dewey Parr, a grandfatherly man with the heart of a teacher, was in his element as he taught his current class; a group of tourists that hung on his every word, myself included. “An argonauta (a type of octopus) will come to the surface of the water and lay it’s eggs in here and then sit on top of it until they hatch. The shells are so frail that it’s extremely rare find one in perfect condition.” He lifted the glass box that sheltered the egg case and gingerly held it in his hands. “The Greeks named the animal after the Argonauts. When they saw the mother octopus sailing on top of one of these shells they associated her with their mythical ship the Argo. This is how the name Argonauta came into being.”

Tucked beneath the mossy oak trees and seashell-lined walking paths, Dewey and his wife Mary have developed one of the most unique places on the map I have ever seen. My wife Ellie and I were originally only going to stop in for a few minutes after spotting the weathered wood sign pointing back a side street off of Route 12. What we quickly realized is that someone could easily spend the better part of the day here. How do you describe a place that has a shop with the widest selection of seashells you have ever seen, a house full of vintage souvenirs, a museum dedicated to the history of Hatteras Island, and a self-guided tour featuring op/ed pieces on the value of feral cats? (Amongst other things.) Welcome to The Old Gray House Gift Shop in Buxton N.C.

“Over there I have the worlds largest conch shell. We’re not even allow to bring those into the U.S. anymore.” Dewey moved on the next stop on the tour. If first impressions mean anything, then I was hooked.

When I first arrived I took a walk around “The Path,” a garden that Dewey keeps for travelers to find a little rest. If you take a few minutes to read the articles posted every so often you’ll discover the wit and wisdom of Dewey Parr, a walking treasure trove of knowledge on many subjects, including the history of the island and it’s people, and one piece that especially caught my eye that discussed the benefits of feral cats:

What is the solution to the feral cat problem?
Studies have proven that trap-neuter-release is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cats colonies with the least possible cost to local governments and residents, whiles providing the best life for the animals themselves…

Lost in an acre of land, convinced that I’d stumble into Narnia around the next corner, I was smiling, relaxed and truly enjoying myself for the first time in a long time. I think this is part of Dewey and Mary’s dream. The Old Gray House isn’t just a store - it’s a place to learn and catch up with the part of yourself that you lost a while ago.

Realizing that I had lost my wife, I thought I should go looking for her and find out how much this little excursion was going to cost me. She was inside, wide-eyed in her own dreamers paradise, browsing one of the many rooms filled with vintage nick-knacks, art, and other island souvenirs. Ellie held a box of vintage pushpins that looked like bees and she was eyeing the necklaces. “Do you like the cameo or the locket better?”

While Ellie was debating over her purchases, I struck up a conversation with Dewey’s wife Mary who was sitting behind the counter. Mary, a woman with her own interesting stories to tell, was born and raised in West Virginia. She worked as an accountant at Marshall University until she retired. “Well, Dewey grew up here on the Banks but he moved up to Huntington. Dewey was a fifth grade teacher.” (Which suddenly explained a lot.) She went on to tell me about their life in the Ohio Valley, and how moving back to the Banks was something they had always wanted to do. “So after we retired we moved back out here, and converted his Grandparents old house into the store.” They have been at it now for about 10 years. Incidentally, their 53rd wedding anniversary was a few weeks back.

After an hour or so, Ellie and I decided it was time for us to leave, though I could have stayed all day. We made our final purchases, which wound up being about $7.50 for our bag full of stuff. “And you thought you were going to be spending real money today, didn’t you?” Mary chuckled as she handed me my change.

My recommendation? If you are looking for seashells, this is the store to buy them. You will find the largest variety of seashells you have ever seen at the best prices on the island. But not only that, you will learn about the species, history and the significance of the shells you find.

You can find The Old Gray House off of Route 12 in Buxton. Turn onto Light Plant Road, across from Connors Supermarket. It’s the first house past the Pines Motel - you can’t miss it. Learn more at http://www.outerbanksshells.com/



If you have any comments you can contact us at OuterBanksShells.com

The Old Gray House II published in: September 12, 2011

The Old Gray House II

By

Peter John Campbell

I wish we still lived in a world where we still wrote on the edge of our maps; “beyond here be dragons.” Life should be lived with a sense of mystery, with that child-like curiosity that there is something out there left to be discovered. I found one of those places that exists just on the edge of the map, that sparks that mystery in my heart and makes that child in me come alive. “The Old Gray House” in Buxton, NC.

Last year, the place was packed and I hovered on the edge of the visiting masses, hanging on every word Dewey Parr said as he taught about the exotic shells that he has on display. It was so busy that day, that I was only able to meet him briefly, which was the only regret from that trip.

This year though, I was lucky enough to stop by during one of the few moments when they weren't crazy busy. And found Dewey where I last saw him, back in his Shell Shack, working away. He greeted me with his warm smile and before I knew it we where sitting on a bench talking away like old friends. - Is it possible to feel at home in a place that you only visit once a year?

I think this is exactly what Dewey and Mary had in mind when they created this place. A place where you can be a kid again, get lost and find yourself on an unexpected journey. And I think I'm not the only one who feels this way. Talking with Dewey he told me, "I've been doing this long enough that kids who used to come by when I started this place, now have their own kids and they're still coming." - I can understand why, and I can't wait to get back next year.

You can find The Old Gray House off of Route 12 in Buxton. Turn onto Light Plant Road, across from Connors Supermarket. It’s the first house past the Pines Motel. If you pop in, tell Dewey and Mary I say "Hey!"

If you have any comments you can contact us at OuterBanksShells.com



OLD GRAY HOUSE POEM published on: January 8, 2008

OLD GRAY HOUSE POEM

Johnny Baum Poet Hatteras Island Poet While visiting the Old Gray House and walking the garden path, Johnny Baum the Hatteras Island Poet, was inspired to write this poem. We hope this magical moment that Johnny had at The Old Gray House provides you as much enjoyment as it brought us.

By Johnnie Baum

To some it's just an old house, sitting on a hill. But the things that make this old house, a library could fill.

The memories in each piece of wood, shout loudly to be heard. Another waits impatiently, while each one is stirred.

Each short path leads somewhere, you can sit and rest. To the ghosts of the Old Gray House, you are an honored guest.

This is a most peaceful place, if it's peace you seek. Where strong spirits wait, to help those who are weak.

Lifesavers and Light-keepers, men of the bay and sea. Memories and traditions, that kept us proud and free.

Each step you take, each sound you hear, and all that you feel. When you leave will follow you, and into your heart steal.

And sometimes when your world seems cold, and your life's a storm. The memories of the Old Gray House, will help to keep you warm.

The laughter of good spirits, as they watch you from the sky. Will bring joy to your heart, no matter where you lie.


Johnny Baum


Making a Presentation at the British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island



Southern Hospitality published on: January 16, 2008

Southern Hospitality

by Michael Letso

Michael Letso an annual visitor to Hatteras Island, and the Old Gray House has encounter many magical moments that led him to express his feeling in the song he wrote entitled, "Southern Hospitality". Whenever I hear the song I think of the wonderful joys one receives by being on Hatteras Island. We thank Michael for sharing his Magical Song with us.

A couple of years ago I was facing the fact of missing my annual Fall trip to Hatteras. As the time to go approached I was hit with great yearning, knowing I'd be stuck here in New Jersey. It was then a song came to me, about all the things I love about my visits. People like Dewey and Mary Parr, and places like The Old Gray House.

Southern Hospitality
Strangers smile, wave 'hello', talk about the weather.
No big hurry. Never, no. A little get-together.

Maybe go visiting with kin.
The neighbors stop to chat again.
Always find the time to say,
"how y'all doin' today ?"

Southern Hospitality
sure do feel like home to me.
"Bless your heart, set a spell.
Thank the Lord, pray do tell."

Down the trail, through the woods.
Down the hill, to the sea.
Grandpa's tellin' stories.
Junior's sittin' on his knee

Michael Letso is pictured here sitting in the swing under the Old Oak tree at the Gray House singing his song, 'Southern Hospitality'

Michael Letso is pictured here sitting in the swing under the Old Oak tree at the Gray House singing his song, "Southern Hospitality"

If you have any comments you can contact us at OuterBanksShells.com

The Old Gray House published in: August of 1992

the old gray house

The Old Gray House

By Art Dervaes

Archaeologists know that much can be told about a civilization or culture just from looking at the structures which exist, or existed, in that culture. Although it is a relatively modern "culture," Hatteras Island is no exception to this rule. Driving down Highway 12 through the present day villages on the island, one has little idea of the age of many of the houses which glide past the car windows, and no inkling at all as to what part a particular house might have played in the history of Hatteras. If only the walls could talk, what a tale they could tell. One such house is the "Old Gray House" in Buxton.

"As the family who built me settled in on the island, it wasn't too long before they began to need more space. One 'great room just wasn't going to be enough. So another part of me was built, the long part of which was perpendicular to the original room. This is the part of me that can still be seen today. It was built around 1868. This new part provided the private living space which was lacking in the original. You know, living room, parlor, bedrooms, and eventually years later even an indoor bathroom. When that was finished, the original part really became the kitchen and dining room. I remember there was a wood burning stove at the far end of the kitchen and in the center was one of those wonderful old oak wooden tables. You know the kind, the big round ones with lots of leaves for extra family and company. And the big 'ball and claw' feet. Then there was this kid who used to come here. He'd always crawl around under the oak table and rub the toes on those huge clawed feet. That kid was named Dewey Parr although most folks knew him as 'Sonny' then. And, would you believe it, he owns me now and still lives here today. He says he wanted to preserve me because a lot of his memories center around this place. That's nice.

"Anyway, the kitchen is no longer here for Dewey to play around in, though. Time and the elements took their toll on the old kitchen. It finally deteriorated so badly that it had to be pulled down. In the early part of this century, as I recall. You can still see the "V" of the gable from the old section where it has marked the tin roof of the new section. Kendrick Gray, who came to be my owner (before Dewey), made a few changes after the old kitchen fell down. He took the better pieces of wood out of the old kitchen and added the little kitchen that's there now. The foundation for it was just made out of stumps and logs. Kendrick took the shingles off a house owned by Walter Barnette that used to stand where Fox Water sports is today and used a lot of them on me. When electricity came to the island Kendrick put in a little wiring, mostly for lights. It was pretty primitive by today's standards. No switches for the lights; you had to screw the bulbs in and out to turn them on or off. The upstairs was left in its original state and never finished off with plaster and paint.

There weren't too many other houses close by for a long time. Dewey, my present owner, remembers when this was the only place on Dark Ridge, what this area used to be called before the street was put in and named Lightplant Road. Dewey's father, Dewey,Sr., was quite a house builder. He built at least three of my neighbors around here. One on the Back Road that's now owned by Loretta O'Neal's mother. Another one on the front Road (Highway 12) right across from Hollowell Gray's store where Harry Jennette lived. And a third one is on the Ridge Road and I think Dewey Parr owns it, too.

"Dewey Parr's father came to Hatteras when he was 18 years old. He was a radio-man in the Navy then and was stationed at the old wireless site in Buxton called Wallace Station. Dewey, Sr. was originally from New Orleans, Louisiana and one of a family with 12 kids. While stationed at Wallace Station, he met Melissa Gray of Buxton and in March of 1923 they were married up in Manteo. When he first got out of the Navy, he delivered ice on the island for a while. Ice trucks used to be quite common around here before electricity. You could recognize them because they were covered with a thick, heavy canvas tarpaulin and water was always spilling out of the back. Normally you could always find a bunch of kids around the truck when it stopped because they were looking for the big slivers of ice which would fly off the ice blocks as the iceman chipped them out to deliver them. Do you remember those great big metal tongs they used to carry the ice with? They looked like giant pinchers! Anyway, young Dewey used to ride around a lot with his father in the ice truck

"When young Dewey was about five years old, his family was living in the house next to Hollowell Gray's store and his father was building a house across the street at the time. Mosquitoes were a terrible problem in those days before there were ways to control them better. Folks either had to swish them off with a brush of some sort or you could make a 'mosquito smoke.' To make a mosquito smoke, you took a bucket, filled it with pine straw, and then poured a little kerosene in it. Then you put some green pine straw on top to make it smoke. When it was lit, it would smolder and create enough smoke to chase the pesky mosquitoes away. One day little Dewey was playing in the yard and got the idea to make one of these mosquito smokes. He didn't realize it, but when he poured kerosene in the bucket he soaked his overalls. Then when he struck a match to light the smoke, he and the bucket both went up in flames and Dewey was very badly burned over both of his legs. Even though the flames were quickly smothered, his burns were bad. For a time it looked like one leg even might have to be amputated. But an old doctor, named Thomas Mann, who lived in the Buxton woods wanted to try and save it.

"Well sir, they put young Dewey up in the front window to recover, and he stayed there for about a year. The doctor built a long box out of window screen to allow air to get to the burns and keep the bugs out. Every so often, he would come by to remove the scabs and flush the burns with a saline solution until they healed. And it seemed everybody in the area would come by to stop and talk to Dewey. One of the fellas from the WPA camp down in Brigand's Bay would come to see him every week and bring him a cigar box full of candies he had collected from the other guys in the camp. When it came time for Dewey to walk again, this fellow had whittled out a set of crutches for him to use. Dewey still has these in one of my closets today.

"Life takes strange turns sometimes. For young Dewey, such a turn came during World War II when his father was called back into the Navy for recruiting duty in Huntington, West Virginia. Dewey ended up marrying a West Virginia girl and made his life and career there, even after his parents returned to Hatteras. He spent many years as a 5th grade school teacher, but the would always return to Hatteras each summer because it was really the center of most of his memories. When he retired from teaching recently, he and his wife made the move back to Hatteras.

"Kendrick Gray was my owner during much of the first half of this century and he was the last Gray to live here. He and his wife, Helen (Helen Spencer of Ocracoke) lived on Hatteras all of their lives. In 1975 Kendrick sold me to Dewey who granted Kendrick lifetime rights to the old place "And now I am a gift shop and sort of a museum piece of Hatteras history. It just goes to show you that you never know what is liable to happen to you when you get older. Who knows what'll happen next - I'm excited to find out!" (To be continued next mouth - What's in store for this old house).

Scotch Bonnet Square has the most modern rental fleet on Hatteras Island. Fourteen-to twenty-one-foot boats powered by Suzuki motors. Half day and daily rates. Bait and tackle sold on premises. If you like, bring your own boat. For the more adventurous, zoom over the water at 35 mph on our Jet Ski fleet. One and two seat models available

If you have any comments you can contact us at OuterBanksShells.com



What's In Store for The Old Gray House:
Meet Mary Parr, Owner
published in: September of 1992

Business Spotlight--What's In Store for The Old Gray House: Meet Mary Parr, Owner

By Art Dervaes

The Old Gray House

Hello! My name is Mary Parr. I live in the Old Gray House and manage the Old Gray House Gift Shop. I want to share with you why I opened a consignment craft shop in the Old Gray House and what my plans are for the future. To begin, I need to explain to you why I love Hatteras Island and the people who live here. My family is originally from Huntington, West Virginia and I had never seen the ocean until after I married Dewey "Sonny" Parr, who was raised in Buxton.

Dewey's mother was Melissa Gray and the Old Gray House is his grandparents' home. They were William Hawkins Gray and Melissa Ann (Farrow) Gray.

I will never forget my first trip to the mighty ocean and Cape Hatteras Island in 1953. This little girl from the mountains of West Virginia thought the end had come when she finally arrived at Oregon Inlet. As we waited to board the wooden ferry holding eight cars and as I gazed across the inlet watching the waves splashing, I figured my time had come and this would be my burial at sea. At that time when you crossed the inlet you went straight across.

When we finally boarded what I called a wooden barge we were right up front with nothing between us and the wind and water except a thin chain. I knew they put something under the wheels, but I figured nothing could save me from the sea. As the engine began to roar and we headed out, I resigned myself to the fact nothing could save me from the sea and my family in West Virginia would only have bones to put in my casket, because the flesh-eating fish and crabs of Hatteras would pick my bones clean.

The journey across the inlet was even worse than I had anticipated. With every splash of water on the windshield of our car my fears became greater and greater. Hid my eyes, afraid to look while Dewey held me close. He occasionally laughed at me, as I know you may, but you've got to remember you are used to the sea, but to a young girl who had never seen the ocean to suddenly find her-self in the middle of it, on a bobbing piece of wood it could be a frightening experience. Well, thanks to God, we arrived after what seemed like an eternity, to the other side.

The trip down the beach to Buxton was the greatest adventure of my life. Never had I seen such natural beauty. The tall dunes and some areas where you could see water on both sides of the road were fantastic. Vegetation like I had never seen before and birds of all description, miles and miles of nothing except things untouched by human hands, and fashioned from the finger of God. Truly, I thought this had to be my Fantasy Island. Even to this day, every time I travel the beach I still experience that same beautiful feeling I did the first time I saw our beloved Hatteras Island.

My next great experience was meeting the members of the Gray family and the people of Hatteras Island. I have met friendly people before, but never like the people of Hatteras Island. Everybody was cordial, but they went beyond that. They wanted to know all about me and they let me know they accepted me and really cared about me personally. Never had I met such caring and generous people before. William Alfred Gray was a good example. He immediately wanted to leave us a piece of land to build a house on so we could live forever at Hatteras. You know, it was later that he gave the Buxton Volunteer Fire Department the land where they built the fire station. Everywhere we went people offered us so much food I began to think they surely thought West Virginia was all rocks and couldn't grow any gardens. You know, Hatteras people have always been known for their generosity.

One of the first things I did notice was the lack of places to shop for practical items or gifts. There were a few which had gifts such as Bertie Dixon's Shell Shop located where the Buxton Small Engine Repair Shop is now. Then there was Ormond's nice shop which still operates today, hma Lang had a cute gift shop between Buxton and Frisco. As I recall there was something in Frisco and Hatteras. Generally speaking, in the Buxton area the three general stores were the center of activities. There was Hollowed Gray's store along with Ike Jennette and Effe Midget's stores that supplied Buxton.

Loving gifts and giving gifts to others as I do, I decided that someday I hoped to be able to have a little gift shop on Hatteras Island. A shop where the Islanders as well as those who were visiting on the Island could acquire quality hand-crafted gifts. Little did I dream that 38 years later I would be able to fulfill my fantasy on Hatteras Island, my Fantasy Island. What gives me great pleasure is not only do I have a gift shop but I have the opportunity to preserve a part of the island history at the same time, by preserving the Old Gray House as a monument to all who love the sand and the sea. It's my genuine hope that everyone who visits my little shop will begin to become more aware of their family history and strive to preserve it. I know progress is important, but progress without preservation of the past can be detrimental to the overall development of Hatteras Island.

Let me share with you what you will see when you visit the Old Gray House. You will find quality items, many one of a kind, which can be used for gift-giving or personal use. Items such as baskets, stuffed toys and dolls, pillow cases, wood items, stained glass and many more. At the present time I have 55 crafters from 15 states. The ages of our present crafters range from eight years old to 92 years old. We have many crafters who have never displayed their work anywhere before. This is why we can say: "We offer unique pieces; many are truly one-of-a-kind, many are limited edition collectibles so sought after and enjoyed."

The fact I am a consignment craft shop means my items are constantly changing, I guess my biggest thrill in working with the Old Gray House Gift Shop is providing an opportunity for talented people to display their works of love. As you know, people who work with their hands to produce a work of art have a passion for it comparable to those who love to fish. Just as fishermen are willing to stand on the beach from early in the morning to late night to catch a fish to share with others, a true crafter will work days on end on a single item to share with another. Crafters are not motivated by money because they never receive a return comparable to the time and effort they put in producing a product. Crafters love what they do.

When people purchase a hand-crafted gift they are really acquiring a portion of the crafter's heart. True crafters put their heart and soul in their work. Grafting is really a sharing process that carries on the Hatteras Island spirit of loving to share themselves with others. It gives me great joy to let my crafters know their works of love are bringing joy to people who purchase them from all over the United States and many foreign countries.

What's in store for the Old Gray House in the future is the fulfillment of my dream. Not only will I be able to preserve the past memories of a laid-back, unspoiled Hatteras Island, but become known as a center for quality American-made hand Grafted items.

If you have any comments you can contact us at OuterBanksShells.com

The Old Gray House On The Outer Banks Is The Stuff Of Legends... published on: May 16, 2008

The Old Gray House On The Outer Banks
Is The Stuff Of Legends...

Barbara Weibel

Exploring the back roads of Hatteras Island in search of old homes that have weathered scores of hurricanes and provided shelter for generations of fishermen is one of the many delights of any visit to the Outer Banks. The Old Gray House, tucked into the woods just off the main road in the tiny village of Buxton, is one such structure. If only this house could talk it would tell many tales. Fortunately, the home’s current owners, Dewey and Mary Parr, are happy to speak with visitors about their homestead.

The Old Gray House takes its name from a seafaring family by the name of Gray, whose descendants have inhabited Hatteras Island since the early 1600’s, beginning with Dewey’s great grandmother, who was shipwrecked on Hatteras Island. She was on board a ship coming from Newfoundland that ran aground and, transportation being difficult in those early days, she just stayed on. Dewey’s early years were spent in Buxton, but during World War II the family relocated to Huntington, West Virginia where his father was stationed as a Navy recruiter. After the war was over Dewey remained in Huntington, where he met and married his wife, Mary, and pursued his career in education. Dewey served as teacher, principal, and central office administrator, but he and Mary returned to Buxton every year to vacation at the family’s cottage.

As they grew older, Dewey and Mary began to consider how they would spend their retirement years. Mary had always dreamed of having a little gift shop, full of hand-made items she could share with others. Dewey’s dream was to spend his days puttering around with plants, entertaining tourists, and roaming the beach in his four-wheel buggy. By this time, Dewey had already retired, however Mary could not be persuaded to stop working. For three years, Dewey secretly worked on his grandparents’ old homestead and on Valentine’s Day, 1992, gave Mary the Old Gray House Gift Shop on the condition that she would finally agree to retire.

Today the entire home is open to the public for viewing and for browsing. Much of the Old Gray House was built from the scraps found on the beach, rafters from ships, and even shipping boxes that had been discarded from ships (sailors who used to pass by Hatteras Island would toss items overboard to help those who lived on the isolated island). In the main house, Mary has filled each of the rooms with unique and locally handcrafted items. The other structures on the site are Dewey’s domain.

The old outhouse is now a library and the chicken coop is one of four buildings that offer shells from all over the world. The pathways that connect the various buildings are decorated with shells, old fishing floats, ropes, nets, chunks of coral, and an assortment of antiques. A teepee of fishing poles stand stacked and ready. Even an old bowling ball has been put to use: painted neon blue, it sits in the center of a birdbath that is tucked into an out-of-the-way corner where Spanish Moss hangs from the heavy limbs of Live Oaks.

Tourists who find their way to this slightly dilapidated, very funky shop are regaled with legends and lore about the Outer Banks and the house (ask about the ghost that inhabits the house). A visit to The Old Gray House is more than a shopping experience. It is a history lesson, a biology lesson, and a geology lesson, all willingly and delightedly provided by Dewey and Mary Parr, who make it their mission in life to preserve the folklore of the Outer Banks.



Who is Barbara Ann Weibel the Author of this Story

While surfing the Internet I recently ran across a web site entitle "The Hole in the Donut" Much to my surprise and delight there was an article and pictures about the Old Gray House. The web site owner, Barbara Ann Weibel, wrote it. Click Here to go to her web site www.holeinthedonut.com

Not only was I pleased with the article but also fascinated with the meaning of "The Hole in the Donut". I would encourage you to read the article about the Old Gray House and then take time to read about the author. When you read her story you will understand why she calls her web site the Hole In the Donut. Also take time to scroll down on the Home Page and read the many wonderful short stories about Barbara Weibel’s travels. You might also want to review her great pictures. We thank her for adding the Old Gray House as part of the filling for the Hole in the Donut.

Barbara Weibel

Barbara Ann Weibel is a talented writer who is living her dream of traveling the world and sharing her adventures with others.


If you have any comments you can contact us at OuterBanksShells.com




A message sent by Kevin Burgart:

Hello Dewey and Mary, I posted this photo on "Wunderphotos" Taken 06/08. Sadly we were unable to make it to OBX this year so but posted photos of our many fond memories. I thought you would appreciate this.

Hello again, I love this photo! Thanks for making the Old Gray House such a special place! We enjoy visiting every year. With Regard, Kevin

Kevin Burgart

Kevin Burgart

Kevin Burgart


Probably a lot of you know about the "Gray House" in Hatteras. But for those of you who have not discovered it yet... this is for you. I had been there once before, so 3 weeks ago during our Ocracoke trip, I wanted to share it with my daughter, Famolina. She agreed it was well worth the time.

Dewey and Mary Parr are the owners. You will not find a more gracious and welcoming pair. They make you feel like family and you know they really mean it when they say, "Please come back and see us."

The old house had originally belonged to Dewey's grandparents. The Parrs retired to Hatteras after purchasing the house and opened their shell and craft shops. I say "shops" because there is a lot more than just the house. Little outbuildings and sheds hold wonderful treasures. There are paths to walk, curios to see and time stands still while you are there. They have a website, OuterBanksShells.com ,check it out and take time to read Dewey's stories about life as it used to be in Hatteras




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Bonnie Thomas


It was a great privilege and pleasure to meet you both on our recent visit to Buxton. I was the one that bought the Orthoceras fossil for my son (the Biology major), and then came back to the Gray House to share it’s wonderfulness with my family. I have enclosed the pictures I showed you on my 2nd visit and included a shot of sea turtle tracks on Carol Dillon’s property…the nest is now VERY PROPERLY roped off from dastardly tourists and local islanders.

Please use the pictures as you see fit…if you want to name me as the photographer, I would be honored to have my name on your web site or inside Gray House…but it isn’t necessary to give me any credit. The sea bean I now carry in my pocket is a great way to remember you and your business…thank you for that. I also have a new addition to my office…found a sea brick in the surf just north of Ms Dillon’s place and I have it prominently displayed on my shelves as a very adequate bookend.

Tim Rhyne

Tim Rhyne

  

Tim Rhyne

Tim Rhyne

Best Regards,

Tim



http://anunstilllife.blogspot.com/2010/06/old-gray-house-buxton-nc.html


http://anunstilllife.blogspot.com/2011/09/old-gray-house-ii.html

Peter John Campbell





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