“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
History isn’t just words on the page of a textbook. It comes alive in North Carolina. And now, you can spend the night in a piece of history.
Originally built in 1947 by the U.S. Navy, this stunning home was first used for Operation Bumblebee. There were eight original missile towers. Only two are available to for vacationers to rent. And this is one of them.
The operation began in secret, but the U.S. Navy eventually gave the public the inside scoop. They sent out a press release to inform residents about the amazing rocket tests. They had already been testing and developing supersonic guided missiles for months.
The supersonic flights we have today were made possible through the controlled ramjet engine. These engines were tested and checked at the Operation Bumblebee towers.
One day in 1998, a Southern entrepreneur was cruising down Topsail Island’s South Shore Drive with his real estate agent. They were looking for the perfect piece of oceanfront real estate. The agent casually pointed out Tower Four, which had been on the market for a while. John West dismissed the idea quickly because it would take so much work, but the seed was planted.
Through the following weeks, John West couldn’t shake the thought. Turning Tower Four as a vacation rental would take an incredible amount of work. The lot was overgrown with shrubs and vines. The pillars and ceilings of the tower were still standing strong. Hurricane Hazel had destroyed so much of Topsail Island in 1954, but the tower remained, unfazed by 100+ mph winds.
Best of all, the location was fantastic. Oceanfront. Near the Surf City Swing Bridge. Breathtaking views. Close to Surf City and Hampstead. Wilmington was just a short drive away. It had it all. Except walls of course. But those could be built.
The history buff with a strong work ethic couldn’t ignore the captivating historical significance of the missile tower. This was just the sort of project to merge his passion for history with his love for Topsail Island.
A local guy, John West had moved inland for his career, but he couldn’t get the sound of the ocean out of his mind.
“You get Topsail in your bloodstream and it’s hard to get out. It’s just the best place to be,” John West explained. “It was the childhood family memories of Topsail Island that brought me back.”
John West set to work and quickly discovered the many challenges that would come with the investment. Turning a neglected piece of history into a relaxing vacation home was no easy task. Especially with the task of preserving the remaining elements and the look of the missile tower that once was.
The walls were long gone, but the corner pillars and ceilings were solid. Imagine installing light fixtures and such into a rock. A very tall, very solid rock. A rock full of rebar and chunks of granite.
“From day one, it was a difficult process. Projects like these always takes more time than planned and things come up that you never would anticipate,” he recalled.
But it was all worth it.
Among the pastel, siding covered beach retreats, Tower Four is easy to spot.
Deep brick red colored stucco.
Swaying palm trees.
Crisp, white trim that highlights the elevation and shape of the missile tower pillars.
And tall. It is so tall!
The integrity of the original silhouette was maintained handsomely, even through the incredible transformation.
The side entrance deposits you into a dining room. There are chairs and a table and everything, I promise….
But you won’t see them!
Because the jaw dropping view of the Atlantic Ocean will overwhelm all your senses.
Floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows span across all three walls. The sound of crashing waves and the soul-quenching hum of the ocean plays in the room like sweet background music.
Enormous decks create a space to breath in the salty ocean air. A private beach entrance will lead you directly onto the sand. And at the end of a surf, tan, and sandcastle filled day, you can rinse the sea and sand away in a private, outdoor bathroom, complete with a bathtub and shower.
Sharing the dining room views, the living room and kitchen are equipped with everything you need to make yourself at home for a week. Near the kitchen is a vertical, spiral staircase, made of wood and iron.
Just like the original missile tower, the footprint of this dream vacation rental near Wilmington is vertical. That doesn’t leave space for traditional staircases, and the creativity John West employed to that challenge makes for a one-of-a-kind experience.
If the spiral stairs are too much for you to navigate, there is a second, wider entrance through a traditional staircase from the deck outside.
At the top of stairs is the master bedroom with all the amenities one would expect from a vacation home, like a king size bed, Jacuzzi tub and towel warmers. The ocean will beckon you through the glass doors and onto the deck.
The history buffs in the group will want to scale right up the captain’s ladder that’s perched near the window in the master bedroom. It leads to an enticing little cupola at the top of the tower. On the floor is an original brass stamp that reads, “1947 – Tower Four.”
Glass panes embedded in the ceiling for stargazing create an unforgettable space.
From an old missile tower without walls, Tower Four has been transformed to a delightful three bedroom, three bathroom, oceanfront vacation home.
Beach lovers, surfers, paddle boarders, and those who love an ocean sunrise will argue that the location is the most exciting feature, while those with a passion for antiquity will argue the structure itself is the most exciting aspect.
If you think every home I walk into is ready for pictures, you are wroooooong. Of course, by the time I have worked my magic (by magic, I mean hard work and carefully crafted skills and talent) they all look photo ready.
But if you want your home to have more visits, your pictures need to be amazing. The photos you post of your home online are the first piece of marketing. The photos will either catch the eye of a potential buyer or they will keep on scrolling.
Basically, you want your house to look like a staged home, void of your personality and mark. It should be neutral and generic in decor so the photographs highlight the tall ceilings, hard wood floors, and beautiful chandeliers. Not the espresso machine in the kitchen or the goofy family photo on the fridge.
The little preparations can go a long way. Some people think I can just fix their house blemishes with Photoshop, but that’s not how it works. I can’t create photos that don’t represent the reality of the house. It’s unethical.
I’m happy to change out the sky to give the outside a cheerful appearance. You can’t control the weather after all. But if your banister is broken, I’m not photo shopping it fixed. So before I arrive, go through this list. It takes a little time but I promise you, the photos will be worth it.
Are you getting ready to sell your home or know someone who is? Email me today to schedule real estate photos for your property.
What’s in my photography bag? What camera equipment makes the cut & what gets left at home?
(I’ll keep the cherry chapstick, old gum, random change, and that crushed protein bar that’s still in the wrapper, out of the post.)
The questions that people ask me most are:
I finally took the time to sort through my bag so I can answer those questions for you.
I don’t actually use just one bag…I’m currently using three!! It all depends on where I’m going or what I’m photographing.
The bag I use most often for local real estate shoots is the Gracie by Jo Totes. It’s $119 on Amazon and perfect for my camera body, lens, and flash.
I can put my keys, phone and a few other items (batteries, memory cards, business cards, etc) as well. The exterior is so soft and it’s the perfect size for a real estate shoot. I do not normally use this bag for the beach, but I have once or twice.
For traveling and/or the beach, a backpack is a must. I am currently using the Manfrotto Pro-Light 3N1-26 Backpack ($170 on Amazon) and it fits so much stuff!!! I weighed it before I left for Ireland and I had 28 pounds worth of stuff in there. It made all the difference when you’re walking 6 miles in a day! Very comfortable and easy access to your stuff from all angles.
This bag is awesome on the beach too. I have yet to have any sand problems. It comes with a waterproof covering which could come in handy.
The newest bag I’ve added to my collection is The Libby 2.0 by Kelly Moore. I actually tried to buy this bag several times, but it kept selling out! I finally received it in August, at least 6 months after I tried to buy it the first time. It apparently was a very popular bag – although I haven’t found anyone else that has it!? Weird…
So far, it is holding up well, and I can get a lot more in it than the Gracie bag… it traveled nicely and has been to the beach. I was very comfortable hauling it, my iPad, camera body, flash, three lenses and all my other personal items across a few airports.
Something I consider often while carrying expensive equipment is that I don’t want a camera bag that looks like I’m carrying expensive equipment. The price is $249 on Amazon.
I think the answer to this will surprise most people, but the camera body I use primarily is the Canon 6D. I’m using the first version… but you can find the upgrade Canon 6D Mark II info here: http://amzn.to/2xWbT3V
When it comes to a camera body, it takes me awhile to upgrade. I’d prefer to put money into my lenses, and when I get to know the camera body inside and out, it takes awhile to get used to a new one. The images aren’t as great right away.
Most professional photographers that are Canon users shoot with the 5D Mark (whatever number we’re on now) … but I have yet to even look at those!! I’m pretty set in my ways. 🙂
Here’s the fun part for me. Which lens?
I actually posted on Instagram with some of my lenses while packing for my trip to Ireland in August. That was definitely the highlight of my packing!!
The lens I use the most is the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III USM Lens. The amount of love I have for this lens would have to be a separate, sappy love post. It’s by far the most versatile lens I have and it’s what I use for most real estate shoots (but not all). This lens is the heaviest that I own, and at 16mm it usually needs lens correction during editing. Definitely my preferred lens in my photography bag though.
After that, it really depends on what I’m shooting or where I’m going. The following is just a random list of the other lenses I bring, according to what I’m shooting or where.
The Nifty Fifty Lens. This thing is just a must have for every photographer. This is my creative lens when I’m trying to do something different or out of my normal every day shooting. (Canon EF 50mm f/1.8) I’ve taken some really cool shots with this lens and it does NOT disappoint. It is also small and always fits.
Along with that prime lens, I use the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 if I’m doing portraits (which is not often at all). But it’s a great lens for portraits and I’m happy to have it for those times I need it. Be careful you’re not using manual focus. It can be tricky but the resulting images from manual focus can be brilliant.
Another great lens for real estate, and great back up lens, is the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 lens. I do usually have this in my photography bag as a backup, and also there are some spots you just need that extra 5mm. This is much lighter than the 16-35mm which is phenomenal.
Last but not least (and I may be forgetting some), is the telephoto that I take everywhere. I frequently end up needing it. Telephoto is not my favorite way to take photos, and this just isn’t my favorite lens, but this one does the job.
I’m open to suggestions on upgrading it though! Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS USM lens.
I tend to leave this on my crop sensor and have my dad use it because he enjoys seeing in the distance and taking photos of wildlife. When I finally get time to go through the photos of Ireland this winter, I’m excited to see what he was able to capture with it!
I’m very basic when it comes to flash, but I use it all the time for real estate. The Yongnuo YN600EX-RT II is what I currently have in my photography bag. Do you have any cool tricks to share about this one? TELL ME! I like it, but I’m open to suggestions too.
The tripod. Yes. The best invention that I wish I used much more regularly. I just don’t.
I love long exposure and for some reason it is something I save for the colder months (of course, when I’m freezing outside taking long shots). But hey, that’s when I actually have more time to be creative. The sunsets and sunrises are also more colorful in the winter.
Manfrotto BeFree Compact Aluminum Travel Tripod is very lightweight and fits perfectly on my Manfrotto 3N1 backpack. It works great on sinking sand. I do rinse it out so it won’t get rusty but I’ve had it a few years and it’s in great condition considering the salt water and sand elements I put it in. I do not use a ball head (although it’s on the list of things to try out) and if you are looking for a tripod or ball head I recommend reading up on the reviews by Mark C. Morris Photography here.
I use the Vello Wireless ShutterBoss II Remote Switch.
While writing this post, I chatted with my wonderful photographer support group about what was in their bags (and really, what a fun conversation that turned into!) but the best question posed was “What’s the oddest thing someone would find in your camera bag?”
The answer to this is definitely the Scentsy Bonfire Beach Car Bar. I use them in the car and once the bar doesn’t smell as strong in the car, I move them to the camera bags and tie it to the inside zipper. I wonder what people think when they see it!
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to join my Facebook group, where novice and skilled photographers alike, enjoy sharing their passion, tips, tricks, and of course, beautiful photographs. If you’re not already a fan, go follow my page for a glimpse of what I produce with all this gear!
When listing a home for sale one of the last things most people want to do is spend money on the home they are selling. However, that is in fact the BEST thing you could do in order to sell your home for top dollar. The majority of people looking at purchasing a home today do not want a “fixer upper”. In fact, most people are looking for move-in ready. Therefore, in order for your home to sell quickly and for top listing price you must invest in the home. So you may be asking yourself, how do I make my home a showstopper without spending a fortune? Well, here are a few simple steps and before and after pics of how I re-designed this home for less than $500.
When walking into this home you are immediately greeted by the large open floor plan and staircase that opens up to the second story landing. So in order to show off actually how large the room is I opened up the floor plan even more by rearranging the living room furniture. There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn’t the case. Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls.
Is your dream home near the beach with an open floor plan, beautiful views, and an upgraded kitchen? But you want to be able to live a little after you pay the mortgage? If so, this one is for you.
Located in the friendly neighborhood of Poplar Branch (just two miles from the Intracoastal), this classic residence is prime real estate, positioned not far from Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune, and just a mile from the brand new Topsail school, set to open in September 2018.
When preparing to sell your house, home staging is a must! If furniture is out of the question, consider virtual home staging.
Your photos are the first thing home shoppers will see. Furniture and decor will be digitally and realistically placed into photos of vacant or furnished properties. Give buyers a reason to love your photos and you’ll be on your way to selling or renting faster and for top dollar.