Thursday, April 2, 2015

"So What Brings You to Pinehurst?"

 I write today from the "Cup of Flow Coffee Shop"  (no not  "Cup o' Joe") in Southern Pines, North Carolina. As I sip my hazelnut brew, our corgi, Angus pup, lies  at my feet relatively content, but ready to scarf up all treats and attention that the shop's mostly younger  patrons direct his way. My advice to single men: "Get yourself a corgi!"  Angus attracts girls like honey to a hungry bear.  They invariably  stop, coo, and fawn over the queen's canine. With its shopworn furnishings and eclectic  offbeat art, Cup of Flow  is definitely reminiscent of the now-departed "Cup o' Joe" which previously  served as my coffee shop of choice in German Village. Sadly, the landlord intends to repurpose the space at the end of January, and this independent hipster coffee shop will be no more. Maybe the three months I have lived in the Sandhills of North Carolina  provide insufficient standing to mourn Cup of Flow's upcoming disappearance. Nevertheless, I will miss it.


                                                                      Cup of Flow

What a whirlwind the last year  has wrought for Lisa and me!  A year ago (today is January, 12, 2015)  both Lisa and I were happy in our German Village- Brookside Golf and Country Club  ambits. We were most  fortunate  to have friends we cared about and that cared about us. Our mutual involvement in  civic and charitable affairs made us feel  useful. And I was engaged  in the engrossing process of researching and writing blog entries concerning  a long lost golf course that  ultimately morphed  into a book.  Sure, like most retired couples we had talked over  the possibility of  relocating to warmer climes in a cursory way, but  neither of us felt any pressing need to seriously consider moving anytime soon. But sometime last winter, it suddenly dawned on me that at age 65, time was marching fast. If we were going to entertain the notion of starting over somewhere else, it made sense to do so sooner rather than later. That realization, coupled with  yet another gruesome and gray Columbus winter,  caused us to ramp our relocation discussions up a bit. Sometime around February, the two of us made a sort of pact:  we would decide by August 1, 2014 whether or not  to move. I believe Lisa would concur  that when we arrived at this mutual understanding,  there was probably no better than a 25% likelihood  we would be pulling up stakes anytime soon.

Some  tea leaves shifted during the winter that made the notion of moving on less of a pipedream for us. Since 1978, the downtown Columbus YWCA  had  served as my winter venue for noon time pick-up basketball. Let me preface this by acknowledging up-front  that I am not now nor have I ever been much of a basketball player. And age has not improved my limited skills. Nevertheless. I eagerly looked forward to my thrice-weekly games on the Y's 1920's period-piece 70 foot  court. Most of the players who regularly joined the noontime fray were my junior by decades, but there were a few survivors from the 1960's like Bernie Boltz and  Dan Strasser, who were my vintage. On occasion,  the old guys would take on the younger bucks. We savored our rare victories.  This activity  helped make the Columbus winters bearable.  But in February, the YWCA announced  its intention to totally eliminate its fitness facility, including its venerable  basketball court by the spring of 2015.  It may seem a small thing, but the impending loss of my principal wintertime activity certainly was an  element in our ultimate decision to depart Columbus.

                                                         Dave and Al- two  Y stalwarts   

Lisa had just concluded four years of service as a member of the German Village Commission, responsible for passing on the appropriateness of exterior changes to all structures in the historic district where we resided. October, 2013 marked the close of my two terms as president of the German Village Society. This 501(c)(3) organization supports in myriad ways the maintenance of historic preservation in our community. Though we both enjoyed out stints in these capacities, both Lisa and I confessed to a bit  of civic activity fatigue. This certainly played a factor in causing us to become open to exploring  new vistas.

Fast forward to April, 2014!  Lisa suggested that since we were going to be in Pinehurst for golf, we should contact a realtor to show us some houses prior to our Monday drive back to Columbus. After all, our self-imposed "stay or go" August 1 deadline was already looming. Accordingly,  our German Village  friend, realtor Susan Sutherland, contacted her Sotheby's counterpart in Southern Pines (5 miles from Pinehurst) Jamie McDevitt to assist us.

The evening prior to meeting with Jamie, Lisa and I toured around the Village of Pinehurst to see what was for sale. I have a weakness for older houses, and I spied one adjacent to the town's quaint commercial area. It even had a name- the "Rose Cottage" built in 1895. With its  green-shingled  gabled roof, generous front porch, and fenced balcony, the home certainly gave a charming appearance from the curb. But even from the street, it was clear that the house that needed some work. We made a mental note to have Jamie arrange a look-see.

So the following morning, Jamie escorted us on a whirlwind tour of  residences marked for sale sprinkled over various neighborhoods of both Pinehurst and Southern Pines. We looked at eight different homes but none of them really captured our imagination. We returned to Jamie's office,  and said our goodbyes. But then it occurred to me that we had not seen the Rose Cottage. Jamie had another appointment, but one of her agents was available to show us the house. We faced a nine hour drive back to Columbus so we considered skipping any further showings.  We had to go back to Columbus through Pinehurst anyway, so we figured we might as well check the old place out.

For reasons I cannot explain, I felt a surge of anticipation as the agent fiddled with the lock. Lisa did not share that feeling. She was eyeing the peeling paint and  missing roof shingles with trepidation. Once inside, my attention was diverted to the large living room to my right. Some folks down south might call it a Carolina Room, others might refer to it as a sunroom. Whatever you call it, I was immediately blown away by the enormous windows that enveloped  three sides of the room. My jaw dropped when I eyed the ancient wavy glass in the 15 rectangular panes mounted in each of the six windows. It took no imagination to envision this room as the perfect venue for festive occasions of all sorts.  No doubt about it, I was smitten.

The windows lighting up the dining room were wonderful too!

So were the angled arched windows framing the dinette area in the middle of the home.
There were two attractive fireplaces- one in the Carolina Room and the one below located in the dining room.
Upstairs, there were four bedrooms. The master was generously proportioned. Two others made fine guest rooms. The smallish fourth, adjoining the master, struck us as only adequate for a  nursery. Maybe the space could be repurposed! 
The more I saw, the more excited I became. But Lisa remained uncharacteristically quiet, pretty much keeping her own counsel. That was the case  until we arrived at the kitchen in the rear of the home. She made no bones about it. This kitchen would never ever do!  Too small, too antiquated, poorly laid out- the refrigerator had been placed in a back mud room (a relic from the days when the iceman would deliver to the icebox) because there was no room for it elsewhere. She let me know right away the kitchen was a non-starter UNLESS it could be totally refitted. And where pray tell was there room to do that anywhere downstairs?
To be honest, I was a little let-down by Lisa's  negativity. But I also realized that having a workable attractive kitchen was of utmost importance to her.  Having completed a total gutting and redo of the kitchen in our German Village home a couple of short years before, I had a fairly good idea what a remodel would cost:  cha-ching! I was becoming resigned to the fact that this house was simply a bridge too far for us when I spied the carriage house in the rear of the lot. One portion housed an area  that had once served as a servant's quarters. I was re-energized!  What a perfect man cave -writing room this would make! 
Lisa found  it difficult to temper  my unbridled enthusiasm. So we weighed the pros and cons on our long drive home. Keep in mind that we  felt  no compunction to leave Ohio; yet now we were considering purchasing  this large nineteenth century house. This could never be a mere vacation home. For us, it would necessarily have to be a principal residence. We agreed on one thing:  this home could potentially be a showstopper. If we could buy it well below its listed price, maybe we could afford to make the needed renovations- assuming of course we sold our German Village residence in a timely manner. So shortly after we returned we began to consider what at the time we felt would be a lowball offer. The property had been listed for an extended period,  and Jamie advised us there was some chance that the owner might be ready to entertain a reduced price..
We learned that the owner, Renee Dunn, spent most of her time in Connecticut. She visited the home only on rare occasions. Renee was the daughter of the well-known Razook family which had once operated a department store in Pinehurst as well as stores in other high-end resort areas like Palm Beach. The Razook family had owned the property since 1940. The house had quite an interesting history. The Rose Cottage was one of the fourteen built by Pinehurst founder and soda fountain magnate James Tufts when he started the resort in 1895. It was the first of the cottages to pass into outside hands when a gentleman by the name of George  Blake bought it. The home had been added onto at least twice. The spectacular  Carolina Room had not been a part of the original structure.
So with admittedly high anxiety, we tendered our offer  to Mrs. Dunn.
Next installment:  When restoring old homes, one thing leads to another!

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