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A Sense of Place | By Frances Hasty

05/01/2009 04:22PM, Published by Anonymous, Categories:



The home of Anne and Tom Keith pleasantly blends 18th-century charm with modern amenities. With its Georgian lines and fine materials reflecting expert craftsmanship, the house would fit in well with the famous James River plantations on the outskirts of Williamsburg, Va. That’s where the original owners, the late Mary and John D. Currie, found their inspiration for the house that was completed in 1965 after years of research and planning. It stands on a spacious lot on Winterlochen Road, which has a bit of local history. Donaldson Military Academy stood nearby, having been moved from its location in Haymount. Tom has been told the site was formerly used by the school as parade grounds. Mary Jane Ingram has been a longtime resident of Winterlochen Road and was a friend and neighbor of the Curries. “She planned every detail of the house and loved it to  death,” Mrs. Ingram said. She recalled that after the house was built, Mrs. Currie would often go out on errands in the afternoon and would ride by the house several times just to look at it. Mrs. Currie was said to have been financially well off, and Mr. Currie was a businessman who was listed in John Oates’ “History of Fayetteville” as a member of The  Fayetteville Broadcasters Inc., which owned and operated radio station WFLB. He was the first president of Highland Country Club. “Everybody loved John D.,” Mrs. Ingram said. “He loved to play golf and had his own caddy.” She remembered seeing him heading  out to HCC in his golfing attire that included knickers and high socks. By the time the  Curries built the house their children were grown, she said. They had previously lived on Woodcrest Road. The house has been the home of the Keiths since 1995. She is the former Anne Bell, whose family owns Bell’s Seed Store. He grew up in Lumberton and is an appraiser. With 5,000 square feet on the main floors and 1,500 in the basement, it has been a wonderful place to raise their three children, now grown, Anne said. Fayetteville architect Basil Laslett designed the house, and L.P. Cox of Sanford was the contractor. It’s said that the architect and the Curries made countless trips to Williamsburg to study architectural features in order to achieve an authentic design. Inspiration for the house     came from Evelynton Plantation, which stands on Route 5 near Williamsburg. Evelynton was originally part of Westover Plantation built by William Byrd, founder of Richmond,  around 1750. Evelyn was his daughter. Since 1847, the property has been in the Ruffin family. The house and outbuildings were burned during the Civil War. (A bit of trivia: Patrick Edmund Ruffin, family patriarch, fired the first shot of the war at Fort Sumter.)  The present house, described as Georgian Revival, was erected in 1937 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The architect was W. Duncan Lee, who did the  restoration of Carter’s Grove, another plantation outside Williamsburg. No detail was  too small for Mary Currie in designing her dream house. Plans and sketches date back to the ‘50s, the Keiths said, and six or seven plans were drawn before she got the design she wanted. Much thought was put into the placement of the house on the high lot of almost  two acres, Tom said. The grounds, landscaped by Charles F. Gillespie of Richmond, complement the symmetry of the house. A circular drive with guest parking is at the front, and the garage entrance is at the rear, both concealed by brick walls. The exterior of the house is of brick laid in the Flemish-bond pattern. The sand-molded bricks were  shipped from Virginia, individually wrapped to protect the finish. The roof is slate. There are two tall chimneys, one exposed at the rear of the house. Tom said that the chimney  was built and torn down twice before it had the look Mrs. Currie wanted. The front of the  house has dormers and is centered with a Palladian window. A columned stoop leads to  the entrance with fanlight and sidelights. The spacious foyer opens to the living room on the right and dining room on the left, both with arched doorways. The open staircase with maple handrail turns to rest against the back wall. “She (Mrs. Currie) wanted an entrance that would make a statement,” Anne said. Floors throughout the house are hardwood. Ceilings are 10 feet high downstairs and 9 feet upstairs. Walls are plastered and topped with wide crown molding. The den is an exception with raised paneling of solid cherry. The fireplace with its fluted pilasters, marble surround and mantelpiece with swag  embellishments is a focal point of the room. A similar fireplace with the original ornate brass coal box and hardware is in the living room. Door knobs throughout the house are solid brass. An example of Mrs. Currie’s meticulous attention to details is found in the  way the crown molding was applied. There’s a slight space between the molding and the ceiling to allow pictures to be hung. The house has two master bedrooms, one on each of the two floors. The downstairs bedroom is now used as a guest room. In the adjoining  bath the vanity is topped with black marble with gold veining. The small sink has a gold design, and the faucet and handles are gold plated, a feature that Mr. Currie is said to  have wanted. Beyond the spacious kitchen and breakfast room are the maid’s quarters and a second stairway. Bells to summon the servants are still in the dining room and the  Keiths’ bedroom. “I ring them but nobody comes,” Anne joked. The den opens to the terrace at the rear of the house. The terrace is composed of Pennsylvania blue stone, also used on the stoop and steps. The stone may look like slate but isn’t slick like slate, Tom said. The addition of an English garden is just one of the ways that the Keiths have made the house and grounds their own. One of the first changes Anne made was having wallpaper applied to the dining room walls. In the foyer, handpainted designs by artist  Camie Stroupe Marion of Southern Pines accent the doorway leading into the dining room. The living room was painted a deep pink shade, picking up a color in the Oriental rug that came from Tom’s mother’s home. Traditional furnishings used throughout are in  keeping with the home’s style and period and give it a casual elegance. The spacious kitchen has been updated with granite replacing Formica countertops and hardwood  replacing the floor tile. Recently renovation began on the basement and the upstairs  master bath. No doubt Mrs. Currie would be pleased with the loving care that the current owners take in her dream house and the changes they have made to keep it up to date while maintaining its 18thcentury charm. CV


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