Sunday, September 28, 2008

Leaving the OLD Homeplace

And I DO mean old! How about 1845!

Jerry Gaudet alerted me to an article in the September 26th Charlotte Observer about our own Betty Shulenberger (CHS class of 54) and her husband Pete Snow.

The author is Nancy Stancill, the Observer's Home and Garden editor.

After 31 years, it's time for Betty and Pete Snow to leave Hennigan Place, an 1845 plantation home they restored to perfection.

They'll say goodbye to 5.4 acres of riding trails, an antique barn with two horse stalls and a two-story carriage house.

Betty, 72, and Pete, 71, are retiring to Pinehurst. The house with its prime south Mecklenburg acreage is listed by Sotheby's for $1.75 million. Their carefully chosen antiques will be sold separately.

They've been mulling this move since Betty's brush with cancer four years ago. When Pete turned 71, they realized they couldn't put it off much longer. They found land in Pinehurst for a small cottage. The Snows are looking forward to their move, but they acknowledge that it's a bittersweet time.

Before they sell the property, the intensely private couple decided to unveil it to the public for the first time. They invited the Observer to visit and photograph the historic landmark.

“We'd like to share it with the citizens of Mecklenburg before it goes into private hands again,” Pete Snow said.

Spotting the house on the hill

Betty and Pete Snow were driving along U.S. 521 in 1970 when she looked up and saw the house on the hill.

“It was in rundown condition, but the lines were exquisite,” she recalls.

They found that the house, built by a prominent farmer named James Hennigan, was slated to be burned by a local fire department as a training exercise. They quickly bought it, moved it across the street, and began looking for a permanent place for it.

In 1973, they disassembled it carefully and moved it to 3503 Tilley Morris Road, where it now sits in a neighborhood near Interstate 485 and Providence Road. At that time, there were six houses along the road. Now there are close to 1,000 in subdivisions that front along Tilley Morris.

The couple had a school-age daughter and they both worked intense jobs, Betty at the county health department and Pete in sales for a national company. (Betty spent five years as the county's health director, retiring in 1994.)

So they restored the house in their spare time, working alongside hired laborers stripping paint, and spending weekends hunting for antiques in the N.C. mountains. The house had never been plumbed or wired.

“You talk about a labor of love,” says Dan Morrill, consulting director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. “The level of authenticity is amazing. Authenticity is their (the Snows') middle name.”

Looking forward to carriage driving

On a hot afternoon recently, the Snows spent two hours showing everything from the antique whip-and-boot rack in the master bedroom to the restored split-rail fence in the pasture. Their furnishings are carefully chosen antiques, mostly from the mid-1800s. Some were inherited from family members.

The Greek Revival-style home has a front porch, a center hall, a formal living room, three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. When the Snows had to add something to the home that wasn't original, such as the bathrooms, they kept them simple, with clean lines.

“One of the dangers of restoration is going glitzy with bathrooms,” says Betty Snow.

In back of the house are several squared-off gardens for herbs, vegetables and roses. Creating the formal gardens was a favorite pastime – until she was diagnosed with skin cancer four years ago.

“I slathered myself with SPF 50 (sunscreen), but I neglected to put it on my lips,” she says. Surgery removed a melanoma on her lip, but she was ordered to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Now, if she ventures out, she wears a specially treated fisherman's hat for protection.

Betty was an avid rider and jumper from early adulthood until she turned 60. Then, she said, she stopped because age dims quick reflexes. She and Pete took up carriage driving, a hobby they pursue avidly.

Their zeal for competition led them to become interested in Pinehurst, often the site for carriage-driving activities.

Now, as they prepare to sell the house and furnishings, they are looking forward to taking along Chester and Dasher, their two American Miniature Horses.

They have a new project: teaching the horses to pull a carriage in tandem.

They won't leave until the property sells. They hope it will go to someone who loves it as much as they do.

“It's in the Lord's hands,” says Betty. “We've made the decision, and when we shut the door, we won't come back.”

For a complete look at the home that Betty and Pete built, AND a look at their wonderful collections of antiques go HERE