Constructing the Residence
In 1922, Edward Collings Knight, Jr. and Marie-Louise LeBel Knight purchased this property for its access to excellent waterfowl hunting and to entertain guests. They named the property "Corolla Island" due to the canals and boat basin that were dredged and made the site an island.
Construction began with pilings being driven into the ground and the foundation being set. A brick-walled basement followed and included brass plumbing pipes and a French drain system. Next, the three-story house with an attic was built over the basement and included eighteen-inch-thick walls with steel beams used for framing. Workers built eighteen dormers and five chimneys and painted the exterior wood trim and cypress siding bright yellow. Copper shingles covered the roof.
An ingenious ventilation system was built into the house. The center chimney was not connected to a fireplace and served as a natural air conditioner. By adjusting windows located in the wall of the chimney in the attic, hot air was forced up and out.
The Knights chose a mixture of styles for the exterior, including a long narrow shape and gables typical of the nostalgic Philadelphia Style and bright yellow paint to give the flavor of a French country home. The most notable feature is the use of Art Nouveau, a decorative style that began in Europe in the late nineteenth century that uses flowing lines and abstract motifs inspired by nature.
Outer Banks Firsts
The Whalehead Club had many "Outer Banks Firsts," including:
· Swimming Pool
· Use of both salt and fresh water taps
War and the Whalehead Club
World War II - By the spring of 1942, our coastal waters had become a frontline in the war when German submarines sank hundreds of thousands of tons of shipping cargo at the Outer Banks. This crisis prompted the Coast Guard to lease the Whalehead Club from Mr. Adams, the property's second owner, for the rest of the war.
The Coast Guard rescued seamen and conducted mounted beach patrols. Its facilities served as a receiving station for recruits awaiting reassignment after basic training. After the war, the Whalehead Club was demobilized and returned to Mr. Adams.
Cold War - The Whalehead Club became part of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962, after being leased by the Atlantic Research Corporation of Alexandria, Virginia. The company's prime focus at Corolla was finding a solid rocket fuel for aerospace applications, and they ultimately contributed to America's successful development of large booster rockets. Corolla's remote seaside location was so ideal for such work that the company purchased the Whalehead property in 1964. In 1969, the company moved its test-firing facilities and the property was sold.
Whalehead Club Timeline
In 1922, Edward Collings Knight and his bride, Marie Louise LeBel, began construction on Corolla Island. After three years and $385,000, their winter residence was completed.
Ray Adams purchased the property and renamed it the Whalehead Club. He used the property to entertain friends, potential investors, politicians, and the public.
In 1942, the Coast Guard leased the Whalehead Club and used it as a receiving station for recruits.
After Adams died in 1957, the property was sold to George McLean and William Witt. The home was leased to educator Hatcher Williams for a summer boarding school for boys called "Corolla Academy." The school closed in 1962.
During 1962-1969, the Whalehead Club was leased and then purchased by the Atlantic Research Corporation for military and space program developments.
In the 1970s and 1980s, different developers took ownership of the Whalehead Club tract.
In 1992, Currituck County purchased the deteriorated Whalehead Club in the interest of preservation. Today, restoration continues and a variety of interesting and informative tours are available.