Rodanthe, N.C. — Perched precariously next to the Atlantic Ocean, the first house in Rodanthe, a tiny town in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, was a movie star in fall 2008.
The house served as the backdrop for "Nights of Rodanthe," a movie based on a bestseller by Wilmington author Nicholas Sparks and starring actor Richard Gere.
Just a year later, authorities wanted to condemn the house as a nuisance because of movie fans who tried to climb up its damaged stairs during high tides. Its septic, heating and air-conditioning systems were gone, torn away by 15-foot seas that had churned around the house during Hurricane Bill in August 2009.
Benn Huss, a bail bondsman who lives Newton and a fan of the movie, felt that he had to come to the rescue.
"We're going to save this house. We're going to restore it just like it was in the movie," Ben Huss said.
"He became obsessed with this house," his wife, Debbie, said. "We have drove everyone crazy with this house."
The first step: lifting the house off its foundation, placing it onto a trailer and trucking it seven-tenths of a mile down N.C. Highway 12, then back toward the ocean to a new waterfront perch less vulnerable to storms.
Painters Beth Hayes and Tina Gartelman joined in the restoration work. They have labored to bring the house's exterior back to life.
"It's fun. It's been an experience," said Hayes, who moved to Rodanthe from Raleigh six years ago.
"The only thing I haven't really cared for is all the people coming and taking pictures," Gartelman said. "It's interesting, but it slows you down."
Fans of the movie, though, have something to look forward to: The exterior boasts the blue shutters that were iconic in the movie, and the interior was remodeled based on the movie set, complete with antiques, floral wallpaper and fabric, and bead-board walls.
"We have got it as close to the movie as we could possibly get it," Ben Huss said.
Interior designer Rebecca Ennis, of Fuquay-Varina, tracked down vintage 1920s wallpaper of the same pattern that was used in the kitchen for the movie. Debbie Huss brought an antique walnut bed from Atlanta, and a family friend donated a working pump organ for the dining room.
The six-bedroom house, named "Serendipity," is up for rent through Vacation Traditions realty.
"It was too wonderful of a house to let fall into the ocean," Ben Huss said.