Flyway Lodge reopens on Knotts Island

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The Flyway Lodge on Knotts Island is shown Thursday.

Jane Brumley.jpg

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Saturday, August 18, 2018

KNOTTS ISLAND — Cliff Scott remembers going to summer baseball parties on the grounds of the historic Flyway Lodge when he was younger.

Scott, 69, a Knotts Island native, was among the roughly 80 people who attended the official opening of the restored property just off the Marsh Causeway on Knotts Island, Thursday.

“I think it's wonderful,” Scott said of the place. “Now it looks great.”

A former Charlotte area couple, Michelle and Paul Dowdey, bought the property in June 2016 and have worked to upgrade the buildings and grounds.

The grounds feature an approximately 90-year-old former barn, with what had been upstairs living quarters for farm workers, and the nearby lodge, which is nearly 60 years old.

The place in the past was the Flyway Club — one of a set of waterfowl hunting lodges America's elite built in northeastern North Carolina.

Scott is a retired firefighter from the Hampton Roads area, but he's quite familiar with the Flyway's grounds. That's because he grew up playing baseball with Butch Grimstead, a son of Harvey Grimstead, who had been the Flyway's longtime caretaker.

Today, the Flyway is a lodging establishment and a popular spot for weddings.

The Dowdeys bought the Flyway from the Conservation Fund, which in 2013 had acquired it from the Reid family.

The lodge was established in the 1920s by Ogden Mills Reid, who published The New York Herald Tribune, and his wife, Helen Rogers Reid, who became the newspaper's president after his death.

A fire Christmas Eve 1958 destroyed the lodge, but son Ogden Rogers Reid had it rebuilt. Ogden Rogers served as President John F. Kennedy's ambassador to Israel, as well as a congressman from New York.

Michelle Dowdey on Thursday was asked what drew her and her husband's interest in the Flyway.

“Originally, we were looking for a little vacation place on the Outer Banks and just for fun, we came down to see this,” she said.

The Dowdeys at the time had a farm in Stanly County, just outside Charlotte.

Michelle Dowdey said after she and her husband saw the Flyway, they quickly worked to put their farm up for sale and eventually bought the Flyway.

Paul Dowdey continues to commute to Charlotte, where he works as a firefighter. Michelle Dowdey, a nurse by training, has just found a job as a health occupation teacher at Currituck County High School.

Michelle Dowdey believed Thursday's turnout was fantastic. She noted she and her husband have heard from people who grew up on Knotts Island who didn't even know the Flyway existed.

“We think it's really magical and beautiful – and we want to share it with people,” she said.

The Flyway has a special place in the heart of Jane Brumley, a retired nurse and Knotts Island native who was among the attendees Thursday.

“It's amazing what they've done because this was really in disrepair,” Brumley said, standing outside the former barn. “It was junky.”

“And they've cleaned it up,” she said.

The Flyway is in Currituck Commissioner Bob White's district. White, too, was amazed as he stood by the former barn.

“We need more economic development within the county – and this is a great, great asset,” White said.

“And I'm glad they did it,” he said of the restoration.

Sitting inside the lodge was Barbara Snowden, Currituck's longtime unofficial historian.

“It is a wonderful building,” Snowden said. “It fits in with Currituck, the architecture, especially the hunting heritage.”

Snowden also said there's no other structure in North Carolina like the Flyway's barn that she and fellow historians know of.

“It's really a fabulous building,” she said.

Currituck School Board member Janet Rose said she believes the improvements to the Flyway are fabulous for the county.

“This is one of Currituck's treasures – and for them (the Dowdey family) to come in and do what they're doing, make it a wedding venue, I think it will be very successful,” Rose said.

Josh Bass, who is president of the Currituck Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored Thursday's gathering, said afterward: “To have people like this that have come from somewhere else, that care about Currituck history, is great.”

“We've got to have people like that that care about these buildings, that are going to invest in these buildings – and save our history, “ Bass said. “And I hope they encourage a lot of the locals to care as much about their history as the people from outside do.” 

The Flyway is open by appointment at 704-426-0743.

More about the site can be read online at: https://www.thinkcurrituck.com/blog/flyway-lodge-family-restores-hidden-gem-on-knotts-island.