A Vision Reimagined

By Hannah Lee Leidy | Friday, March 15, 2019

An old-school inn on the sound in Manteo is finding a new groove. The Burrus House Inn at Manteo began operation back in 2005. Before then, part of the current building served as the home of then-owner Jack Burrus. He built the original cottage in 1976 and over the years added more rooms and features. During Burrus’ life the Inn served visiting couples and solo travelers to Manteo – another inn among several in the town. Burrus, though, always envisioned his Inn being something more. 

The three-story, cedar-shake structure evokes images of the traditional family beach cottage along the Outer Banks – one you’ve likely seen in old black-and-white photos. It’s the reunion spot that extended families returned to annually, generation after generation, to make new memories. It’s believed that Burrus built the Inn with a dream of creating that type of ideal mainstay for his family members and, later, for guests to his Inn. Each of the suites is named for one of his siblings, and Burrus himself lived on the second floor after converting the property into an inn. It’s a place that practically begs to be that big, family beach-week vacation spot but never was. 

In the spring and summer of 2019, Adam W. Jones and Sarah Burrus Dozier (Jack’s daughter) will bring this vision for The Burrus House Inn at Manteo to life, reincarnated as simply The Inn at Manteo. 

Adam is the owner and broker-in-charge of Mill House Properties, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Adam first came to the Inn with a client interested in purchasing the property, and he met Burrus on that trip. While the client ultimately followed a different path, Adam fell in love with the Inn, dazzled by its potential and Burrus’ vision. After Burrus’ death in the fall of 2018, Adam reached out to Sarah, who lives in Raleigh. Their shared vision of continuing the family legacy led to a partnership and a new business plan. Together, along with long-time innkeeper Vicki Holmes, they’re revitalizing the Inn, which will debut this summer as a family-friendly Manteo destination.

“Mr. Burrus always wanted one of his daughters to be a part of the Inn,” said Vicki, The Burrus House innkeeper for 10 years. “Sarah is realizing her dad’s vision, and it’s exciting to see all of the Inn’s potential getting recognized.” 

It’s exciting for Sarah as well. “My father just loved talking about [the Inn]; he was always building and creating in his mind,” said Sarah. “I’ll now be able to finish his vision and continue his legacy, and for this I am truly grateful.”

The Inn has changed its design and appeal. Adam, who is involved with the Inn as general manager and consultant, has revamped the building with a focus on making it timeless for the whole family. Renovations began in the winter of 2019 with a primary emphasis on increasing the number of guests that the Inn can accommodate and the amenities offered.

For example, the owner’s quarters on the second floor was converted into three separate suites, upping the Inn’s number of suites from nine to 12. These suites connect to each other through doors that lock, so the second floor can be used either by a family needing multiple rooms or as space for the three separate guests. 

Another necessary step to enhance the lnn’s appeal? Answer: Make the rooms spacious enough to accommodate a family rather than just a single or a couple. In the past the suites were furnished to sleep two guests. Each suite had a queen or king bed in the bedroom, a bathroom and an adjoining sitting room that opened onto a private deck. After the renovations and remodeling, the suites feature pull-out sofas in most rooms, which allows the Inn to accommodate up to 30 guests at a time.

One of the more interesting areas of the renovation involves a suite on the third floor, located beneath a gable nicknamed “the crow’s nest.” To make it more accommodating to parents with children, renovations knocked out a portion of the suite’s ceiling to create a cozy loft with two twin beds.

There’s more to playing the role of a family-friendly beach vacation spot than simply having the space. The destination needs to look the part too. The Burrus House Inn’s prior dark-stained walls and floors and its stately Italianate decor evoked images more of a bachelor pad or grandfather’s library rather than a beach retreat. However, after updating the decor, furniture and bedding, bringing in a softer color palette for the walls and cabinets and other additions, the Inn at Manteo now evokes that elegant, yet beachy, aesthetic.

As far as changes in the rooms go, one quality that visitors can count on remaining is the incredible views from the private deck off each suite. All the suites overlook Shallowbag Bay and offer unobstructed views of downtown Manteo, Roanoke Island Festival Park, Nags Head in the distance and the incredible sunrise for early risers.

Adam gave me a tour of the Inn. As we walked out the sliding glass door onto a first-floor suite’s deck, he admitted, “This is the worst view from any of the suites.” 

I didn’t buy it. The sparkling panorama of Shallowbag Bay and the surrounding area rendered me speechless. It was so blue, so vivid, so close! There was no way Adam meant it … but then we explored the rest of the floors. Once at the top, I understood what Adam and Vicki meant by calling it “the crow’s nest” – as I gazed at the watery surroundings, I felt like a lucky sailor in a ship’s crow’s nest, able to see the stunning landscape for miles. That “worst view” was amazing, and the higher I climbed the more breathtaking each vista became.

Changes go beyond the rooms, though. The Inn’s communal areas are turning into spots that invite just that: a sense of community. The lounge near the check-in desk will be a gathering place with inviting sofas and seating, perfect for striking up a conversation with a fellow traveler or enjoying the Inn’s evening cocktail hour. Guests staying at the Inn at Manteo can start their day with a complimentary continental breakfast each morning, fueling up for the day’s activities with coffee and a pastry.

This communal atmosphere is relaxing, but it’s also fun and lively. The Inn’s waterfront location is one of its prized features. While the Inn has relied on its visual appeal in the past, it offers plenty of potential for recreational activities too. A small lagoon with three boat slips connects to a channel that meanders out to open water, so paddleboarders, kayakers and small boats can come and go right from the Inn. Future plans also include a larger dock and more boat slips. Imagine arriving by boat or, at the very least, having a convenient place to dock during your visit. Adam hopes in the years to come the Inn can offer a water taxi and ferry guests to shops and restaurants around Manteo’s waterfront and to soundside restaurants in Nags Head.

The outdoor activities and water views will be enhanced even more by a new pool in the Inn’s front lawn. The pool is on schedule to open this summer, making the Inn at Manteo the island’s only bed and breakfast or inn with a pool. A large hot tub is in the works too for the cooler, off-season months. 

Manteo is already an attractive spot for visitors to the Outer Banks, especially for those celebrating a special occasion. These islands are already one of the most popular destinations for weddings in the Southeast. The Inn will be available for private events, such as small weddings, corporate retreats and other affairs wanting a venue to match the occasion. The quiet little town doesn’t get the same traffic and hustle and bustle as the beaches. However, the ocean is just a quick 10-minute drive away when visitors do get the urge for sand and surf. 

Manteo is also the Outer Banks town most known for its walkable (or bikeable!) downtown area with shops, restaurants and attractions. It’s the sort of family-friendly destination that demands accommodations to match – something that Burrus envisioned his home and the Inn would complement one day. With its new renovations and remodeling to welcome and entertain travelers of all ages and sizes, the Inn at Manteo is now much more than the place Burrus called home for 42 years. The Inn at Manteo is a place that vacationing families will call their home away from home for generations to come.


(252) 475-1636
509 U.S. Highway 64  Manteo, NC

About the Author Hannah Lee Leidy
Hannah Lee is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer living on the Outer Banks. She graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. Traveling is her passion, but nowhere ever feels as much like home as the Outer Banks. When not planning her next trip or adventure, Hannah Lee loves aimless drives down the Beach Road, spending copious amounts of time in coffee shops and reading every short story collection she gets her hands on.