These restored homes now serve as shops
Corolla Schoolhouse, 1890
Historic Corolla

In the 1970's little more than a dozen people lived in the village of Corolla (see Coastal Guide Map), and the paved road reached only to Duck. Corolla was still nearly as isolated as it was a century earlier, in 1875, when the Currituck Beach Lighthouse was completed near the Jones Hill Life Saving Station, itself having been completed just one year earlier. At that time the lighthouse keepers, Life Saving Station surfmen and their families numbered greater than a dozen by themselves. Back then the area was known as Jones Hill, and did not take on the name Corolla until much later.

Corolla Chapel, 1885
Even in 1975 when a private developer built a private road northward from Duck, it stopped short of reaching Corolla village and was open only to residents and local property owners. Then finally, in 1984, the state took over the private road, making it part of Highway 12, and extended it through Corolla to where it now ends at the beach ramp. Since then, the area has exploded with homes, chain and franchise businesses, and tourism. Despite this mad rush of growth and construction, the historic heart of Corolla is still a dirt road with quaint shops, and a 19th century chapel and restored schoolhouse. A visit to this spot, down a dirt side street off Highway 12, gives a feel for the quietude and simple pace of days gone by.

Whalehead Club viewed from the southwest
A panoramic view of the Whalehead Club from the gallery of Currituck Beach Lighthouse
A unique view of the Whalehead Club from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse lantern room
Another of the older buildings in Corolla is the Whalehead Club. Construction was completed on this grand art nouveau building in 1925. It was originally named Corolla Island, and served as a private residence. When the original owners died, the property was sold and was renamed Whalehead Club by its new owner.

Then in the '70's, when serious development began north of Duck, parts of the original property were sold off. Eventually, the remaining land and structure was purchased by Currituck County for restoration and conversion into a museum. It became part of the current Currituck Heritage Park, which includes the Currituck Beach Light Station, and the new Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education being constructed between the Whalehead Club and the lighthouse by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

South side of the
Whalehead Club
Whalehead Club gazebo
on the sound
Boathouse view of the arched bridge over the Whalehead Club harbor entrance
Of course, Corolla's most famous historic site is its lighthouse, which preceded the Whalehead Club by half a century. The photo at left shows Currituck Beach Lighthouse viewed from the Whalehead Club. The beautifully restored grand Victorian Keeper's Quarters at the light station adds greatly to the appeal of this historic location. One of only two lighthouses open for climbing on the Outer Banks, it is a "must see" on any visit to Corolla.

There is one other historic aspect associated with Corolla which has endured for over four centuries. Wild horses have roamed free around the area of Corolla since the earliest ventures to the new world by Spanish and English explorers and settlers. The explosion of building, tourism and resulting traffic which arose from the newly opened Hwy. 12 through Corolla forced the move of the wild horses farther north to safer areas, away from cars and highways. For more on these enduring wild horses, continue on with your exploration to the "Wild Horses of Corolla".

More Scenic Places:

Pamlico Sound -
Historic Corolla -
Lake Mattamuskeet -

Related Links -

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Wild Horses of Corolla

Learn all about
Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse in the Lighthouse Gallery

Learn all about the
Wild Horses of Corolla

of the
Wild Horses of Corolla in the
Wild Horses Gallery

Copyright © 2003 Fred Hurteau           * Copyright information and image use policy *

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