Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Early Sittum History

The deck at Ocean Park, perched high on the dune overlooking the beach and Atlantic Ocean, has been used for decades as a place to sit and enjoy the day.  The locally coined name “sittum” first appeared in the August 1975 issue of The Shoreline, or “Pine Knoll Shore Line” as it was titled then. According to current Pine Knoll Shores resident Bruce Yaeck, his mother, Cres Yaeck, was first to name this deck "the sittum," and it stuck.  The term would come into common usage in Pine Knoll Shores in reference to similar decks along the beach, but the sittum discussed in this post refers to the one in Ocean Park. While speaking of names, Ocean Park was originally called Mimosa Park or Mimosa Beach Park, but for purposes of simplicity, it will in this article always be Ocean Park.

Ocean Park and the sittum were originally proposed in 1970 as part of the amenities featured in Roosevelt Development Group plans. Since that time, it has been a place for countless picnics, birthday celebrations, family reunions and weddings. It’s a perfect place to enjoy a Sunday newspaper or a good book on a warm winter day, a relaxing respite while watching for dolphins or whales. It’s a place where new residents can meet their neighbors for the first time, where old friends reunite, where new friendships are formed. This sun and salt bleached wooden structure has seen its share of storms, hurricanes and nor’easters—weathered most, succumbed to a few. It has grown from its original form, been destroyed, been moved, renovated, and enjoyed by families for 45 years. This post documents some of the early steps along the way.

Today the sittum is the focal point of the 2.7-acre Ocean Park. The Roosevelt Development Group in 1977 deeded this park with its 300 feet of Atlantic Ocean beach to the first homeowner association, Pine Knoll Association (PKA). At that same time, the oceanfront properties, Memorial Park and Hammer Park were deeded to the second homeowner association, Pine Knoll Shores Corporation (PIKSCO). Similar stories could be told about those parks and the many other sittums along the beachfront in Pine Knoll Shores. Ocean Park will be the focus, however, because I have first-hand knowledge of this facility and the availability of aerial photographs of this area.


October 2015, compliments of David Prutzman and Bill Flexman

2015 courtesy of ConnectGIS
The two images above show the sittum and its place in Ocean Park as it currently appears with the ramp winding around down to the beach.


To see what the area looked like before the sittum, we have the image below, from 1968, courtesy of Bob Simpson and annotated by Jack Dudley, . It shows the east end of the canal system complete. Dogwood circle and Ocean Park have NOT been developed. 

In August 1969 A.C. Hall produced the sketch shown below for the oceanfront park off Dogwood Circle with a deck at the dune line.

The next image shows Ocean Park and the path to the beach and a platform to enjoy the view. It is a 1971 photo that appeared in a book by Simon Baker discussing development along Bogue Banks. 

Note: Photo above — On the bottom left, the parking lot is visible along with a path to the beach. Also of interest in this photo is the original configuration of Hall Haven. The west end of the canal system was not connected to the sound. This photograph was taken just before construction of the canal was completed in late 1971 or 1972.

The photo below, also by Simpson and Dudley, was taken a while later, approximately 1972 or 1973. Ocean Park is clearly visible off of the newly built Dogwood Circle. The parking lot is cleared, a path to the beach is evident, and a viewing deck appears at the dune break with steps down to the beach. During these early years, the facility was referred to as Mimosa Park and the viewing platform was called the “Mimosa Beach Access Deck.”

The aerial photo shown below was produced for the Carteret County Tax Office in 1973, by Cole, Layer, Trumble Company of Dayton, Ohio. The map was done to scale. The dimensions of the deck appear to be approximately 18’ x 18’.

No aerial photographs for the period from 1974 through 1990 have surfaced. The search continues. We can say from the evidence currently available that the park was built in 1971, and by 1972 a path to the beach and viewing area were in-place. The facility is periodically mentioned in The Shoreline, usually when maintenance or construction was performed or when notable events occurred. In the mid 1970s, PKA   built a major expansion to the deck. It was then large enough to accommodate two picnic tables and was the scene of monthly birthday celebrations.

Pine Knoll Association, Inc., the owner of Ocean Park was formed in 1967. The membership of the homeowner association’s Board of Directors in the early years were all Roosevelt Development personnel. The makeup of the membership gradually transitioned to all homeowner residents by 1977, at which time the deeds for the parks were turned over to PKA and PIKSCO. 

During the 1980s, Shoreline articles indicate continued improvements to the sittum and the park. Repairs to the deck occurred when it was damaged by storms and as an ongoing battle against the normal forces of nature, wind, surf, rain, salt, and sun. In the April 1981 issue of The Shoreline, it was reported that the path from the parking lot to the sittum was rebuilt with concrete to reduce maintenance costs. The first entry gate may have been installed in 1980. By 1990, the sittum was well established.

The Start of this Search

Several months’ back, the Yaeck family gave the photo below to the History Committee. It shows a sittum at Ocean Park of a different configuration and in a different location than the current one. This first sittum to occupy the park was destroyed by a series of storms, both hurricanes and nor’easters during an active weather period, 1996 through 1999.

The photo above was taken prior to the 1995 installation of a second level of seating in the north-east corner, designed and built by Frank Link.

Dick Wray, who was President of the Board of Directors of Pine Knoll Association during the late 1990s, provided the color picture above. It provides a clear indication of the placement and size of that original sittum. Dick says that sittum was bigger than the one built to replace it. The size limit on the current sittum was driven partially by the desire to minimize the impact on the dune thicket.

The three images below are from Google Earth using the “Time Back” feature. The first is from 1993 clearly showing the parking lot, path and the sittum at the dune break, as shown in the Yaeck and Wray photos.

Google Earth -Time Back - 1993
The next image is from 1998, after the hurricanes in 1996 and 1998.  Hurricane Bonnie in August 1998 was the final blow. Those storms eroded 20 to 30 feet of dune frontage and undermined the sittum to the point that it collapsed and had to be removed.  

Google Earth - Time Back - 1998

The photograph from 2002 shows the new current sittum located 30 feet back from the dune face.

Google Earth - Time Back - 2002

The story of the transition from the original sittum to the current one is detailed in Tom Tempel’s article “Storms that took the Sittum” that first appeared in The Shoreline, June 2016. A version of that article is presented in the post (Title TBD) on this blog. That story presents the efforts to save the original deck and the eventual building of the current deck during the stormy years of 1996 through 1999.

Post Author: Walt Zaenker

To contact the author or the History Committee