Nestled on a quaint, narrow avenue of Fayetteville’s historic Haymount neighborhood, retired four-star General Dan McNeill and his wife of 43 years, Maureen, are finally home. A career of decorated service and all of the reassignments that accompany it, are punctuated throughout this classical Federal-style home on Dobbin Avenue.
Maureen, a self-described “army brat,” and Dan, a native of Warsaw, North Carolina, knew they would like to stay in the Tar Heel state following his retirement in 2008 after serving as Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. After six tours of duty at Fort Bragg, a strong network of friends emerged for the army couple and also for their son, making the decision simple to choose Fayetteville.
With their only child now living in Charlotte, Maureen spoke with great relief and excitement about their decision to stay local: “I have a brand new granddaughter named Paige! She is 8 months old. I’ve got my girl.”
When they aren’t entertaining visits from Paige, their 13-year-old beagle, Lily, serves as the surprisingly lively, lone welcoming committee.
Feathering the Nest
Dan and Maureen purchased their 1940s brick Federal home in 2009. They renovated for an entire year before moving in. Even now, there are things to do and repairs to make, but with Maureen’s eye for decor, those “things to do” go unnoticed to everyone except Maureen.
The exterior of their home is classically beautiful and capacious, yet unassuming - common of the neighborhood and especially common of their street, a quiet, cobbled cut-through between two of Fayetteville’s busiest thoroughfares, Raeford and Morganton Roads.
After a hearty greeting from Lily, a visitor expects to see the classic American theme continued into the threshold of their home, but an aesthetically pleasant surprise awaits, as the interior is predominantly adorned in contemporary Asian design.
Maureen’s parents who are both 92-years-old and living well in Beaufort, South Carolina, lived in Japan in World War II. In turn, she grew up in a home with a heavy Asian decorative influence. Maureen and Dan completed two tours of duty in South Korea, which strengthened her love for the style.
One standout element amid Maureen’s contemporary décor is anything but Asian, nevertheless blending flawlessly with her design scheme: North Carolina face jugs. She said, “They’re my favorite things,” while she flipped different combinations of switches to light them most flatteringly.
Fired in the Catawba Valley of North Carolina since the early 1900s, face jug history is still debated. Most likely, they were a precursor to the modern childproof cap (especially in matters where moonshine was concerned). It is apropos that the jugs sit high, lording over Maureen and Dan’s breakfast nook, formerly a full bar room prior to renovation.
Adjacent to the breakfast nook is a sunroom, featuring the original bay window, which offers a panoramic view of the back yard and original outdoor stove. Maureen’s next project is backyard landscaping and building a patio area to incorporate the old stove.
Walking room to room, Maureen highlighted stylish elements she has collected or been given by her mother and also comfy elements that make it their home, like the converted original garage, now Dan’s “man room” and the guest suite above it. Once a single-car garage, it now entertains the menfolk during holiday gatherings, but most importantly, is equipped with a portable crib and one of Baby Paige’s stuffed animals. Maureen is quick to point out things that still need work. She is quick to point out things that still need work, but she is in no hurry: “You have to find the right pieces. That’s why we’re still working on it.”
Renovating some rooms has been as simple as removing wallpaper and painting, while others required more vision. From creating walls, lengthening windows and widening entryways, to raising the floor of the sunroom for Paige’s safety, Maureen insisted that she could not have done it alone and humbly rattles off the influence of friends, family and of course, a good contractor.
Where Roots Grow Deep
Soon after a mostly-complete renovation, they invited a special group of people over to visit … the family who called the house “home” before Maureen and Dan. Robin Huske Kelly, owner of Lisa’s Custom Framing on Fort Bragg Road and her siblings grew up there. “Our mother had a very traditional style, so it was such a treat to walk through our childhood home and see the beautiful work Dan and Maureen have done and to see the interesting pieces they have collected from their travels. We have such great respect for them and my siblings and I were so thrilled when they bought it. We have wonderful memories there and they have done a beautiful job!”
After tours in Italy, Korea and all over the US, the thoughtful care taken with their home is a representation of not only family history, but also the love they have for this area. “Long before we knew we put down roots here, we already had. We are very happy with our lives here in Fayetteville,” concluded Maureen. They are finally home.