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Rodanthe movie house sold to NC bail bondsman

By Martha Waggoner
Associated Press Writer / December 28, 2009

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RALEIGH, N.C.—The beachfront house featured in the movie "Nights in Rodanthe" will soon have a new home itself, thanks to a bail bondsman who fell in love with the surf-threatened house after his wife bought the movie for him as a Christmas present last year.

Ben Huss of Newton said Monday he hopes to close Jan. 4 on the house and have it moved and ready to rent by Easter weekend. Huss described himself as someone who saves everything and said "this is just on a bigger scale. We can't let this house go down. It's not a piece of history and it's not an antique, but it's a nostalgia piece and I'm a nostalgic guy."

The current owners, Michael and Susan Creasy of Champion, Pa., bought the house in 2003 and intended to keep it, Michael Creasy said Monday. But financial reasons kept them from moving the house, which Dare County had declared a public nuisance, he said. The Creasys had appealed that decision.

"We love it, and we're going to miss it," said Creasy, adding that he, his wife and daughter last vacationed in the home for a week in August. But they'll still be able to stay there, he said: the sale includes a deal for his family to stay in the house for one week.

Huss plans to move the six-bedroom house less than a mile south along N.C. 12 to an oceanside lot that's still in Rodanthe. But it won't have the unobstructed view that it does now as the northernmost house in the village, with only National Park Service land to its north.

The house itself isn't in immediate danger. With pilings driven 14 feet in the sand and set in concrete, "Serendipity would never go anywhere," Creasy said. But the former 400 feet of beachfront had eroded to almost nothing over time, the victim of Hurricane Isabel and numerous nor'easters.

Dare County declared the house a public nuisance for several reasons, including its notoriety that attracted visitors who would wade through water or even ride rafts to the front of the house at high tide to take their picture in front of it, said Ray Sturza, the county's planning director. In addition, he said Monday, the connection to the septic tank was severed and the next storm possibly could wash the home's furnishings and other contents from it.

When the house was built in 1988, it was a mansion that stood out among the smaller homes on Hatteras Island. Although much larger mansions have been built since then, the house is still special to Huss, who calls it a "junior castle."

"It overtook me the way it was built," said Huss, who plans to restore the house to look the way it did in the movie, complete with the open deck and extended porches that were not part of the original construction.

The movie, released in September 2008, starred Richard Gere and Diane Lane and was based on the novel by author Nicholas Sparks of New Bern about a man and woman who meet at a beachfront inn during a nor'easter. In a fit of true serendipity, a nor'easter blew through when the movie was being filmed.

Huss said he spent the past year negotiating the possible purchase of the house with his wife of 36 years, Debra. He toured the house in April and recently made an offer, which he would not disclose other than to say he didn't offer the asking price of $499,000.

"Debra is the one who started this. She's the one who gave me that movie," he said. "I saw the movie and watched (Gere) drive, all the sand is blowing on his windshield and the house comes into focus and that's where he's going to meet his new love. It did something to me."

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