Iconic river house destroyed

Published 9:24 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

One of Suffolk’s iconic buildings came crashing down late Thursday night, succumbing to high winds, heavy rain and higher surf.

The Ballard Clubhouse, originally constructed in 1931 at the mouth of the Nansemond River, had withstood countless storms, nor’easters and hurricanes before collapsing during Hurricane Isabel’s landing in 2003. Just over six years later, the building has once again collapsed, but the owners have vowed to rebuild it.

“I made a promise to the person who had owned it for years that I would rebuild it to the way it was in 1931,” Drex Bradshaw said. Bradshaw, along with Maxann Morrison, owns the home that has become a visual landmark to those driving over the Godwin Bridge on Route 17 in North Suffolk. “I will tell you right now, at this point, my commitment is to rebuild it once again.”

The house was originally owned by Robert Hall Ballard. Bradshaw and Morrison purchased the building from the United States Power Squadron after Isabel’s destruction and did resurrect it to its original condition by the summer of 2006.

“We went through a lot to rebuild it,” Bradshaw said. “We’ll do it again. And, it has always been known, and will continue to be known as the ‘Ballard Clubhouse.’”

The news of the house’s destruction came as a shock to Bradshaw early Friday morning.

“We had just been over looking at the house last (Thursday) night at around 5:30 and everything was fine. The water was high, but was not yet in the building,” Bradshaw said. “Then the winds shifted at around 7 p.m., coming from the north, and that apparently was it.”

Bradshaw, who himself was still without power early Friday morning, received a call from a friend who was driving over the Godwin Bridge.

“He called and said ‘Your house is gone,’” Bradshaw said. “I thought he was joking, but it is gone.

“Mother Nature is a powerful force and when she wants to take something she will take it.”