Offering an homage to Carver's
By By HEATHER LUNA Special to the Daily News
It's a catchy and apt name for a business located in an old building brimming with a history of floods and other disasters.
The Flood Zone restaurant opened over the weekend under the ownership of Martha Larkin. Across the road from Havens Gardens, it is operating from an elevated level that might have kept its predecessor businesses out of the drink.
Longtime residents of Washington, such as Bill Woolard, fondly recall something spectacular about the property that once was part of Main Street before the bridge leading to River Road was built: "Best chili dogs in Washington!" he declares.
Carlton Carver agrees with that culinary critique.
Carver is the son of Leroy Carver, who was a close friend of Woolard's, and he is the grandson of the original owners of the Flood Zone building, Elsie and Royal Carver.
Carlton Carver says his grandfather built the two-story house around 1935. (A search of records at the Beaufort County Courthouse couldn't determine the exact date.) The family added the Carver Service Station soon afterward. Between the two buildings grew a well-tended grape vine from which Elsie would pick grapes to make preserves.
In Elsie Carver's kitchen in the residence, she made sandwiches and chili dogs, then walked them over to sell in the service station. The station became known as the "drive-in" from the mid-1940s to 1965. It was a gathering place for teens such as Woolard; they made it their favorite hangout.
What was the Carver home has changed owners and gone through multiple transformations over the years, including restructuring necessitated by a train derailment. (A train sliced through the upstairs bathroom and back corner of the residence around 1937.) In addition, the house was raised from its original level in the aftermath of recurring flooding from hurricanes in the 1990s. The last business to operate in the spot was P.J.'s Creekside Restaurant and Deli.
Now, the building is in the hands of its fourth owner, Larkin, who grew up in Washington and whose parents taught at Washington High School. She is well acquainted with the famous chili dogs and vanilla cokes served over shaved ice that Elsie Carver made. She plans to offer both in the Flood Zone. Along with them, the menu will feature items such as the "Flood Zone Sub."
In addition to the food, Larkin will be serving up what she calls "essential boat supplies" at the business. She hopes to draw local boaters and fisherman as well as passersby to the new venture, as the city boat ramp is in plain view of the Flood Zone.
Larkin, who has never owned a business before now, admits that recreating what once was there would be ideal, but due to current trends and social changes, she feels it's best just to unlock dormant memories by honoring them.
Larkin and Flood Zone manager Sheila Taylor targeted Saturday as their grand opening day, to coincide with spring's opening weekend in 2003.