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Stone Manor Restored | By Jason Tyson

It’s been a year since the author’s parents purchased it at auction, signaling a new era for the Fayetteville landmark. As the home stages a comeback, surely the Pittman family would be proud of what’s in store for Stone Manor.

She was once a high-maintenance kind of house, more of a mansion, really, requiring an armada of servants and two to three gardeners, cooks and a butler to keep up with the lavish parties and high-society soirees. This was her heyday, long gone, but from the moment they saw Stone Manor, Judge John and Kirby Tyson dreamed of bringing it back. They started with the grounds, removing layers of kudzu, vines and overgrown shrubs, an effective camouflage for not one but two gardens. Then they tended to the pressing maintenance needs: new locks and watertight repairs on the thick slate roof. And they became intrigued by the mysteries inside as well, delving into the life of artist George J. Novikoff and the murals he painted, the backdrop to a life of luxury. For 90 years, one family owned and lived in the manor home perched atop the slope of historic Haymont Hill. Dr. R.L. and Grace Sikes Pittman bought this piece of land in 1918 and set about building a house like no other. By the time it was finished four years later, the Pittmans were entertaining friends, family and dignitaries. They embellished the already grand house by adding ornate chandeliers, sconces and paintings in every room, not to mention the famous murals painted by Russian artist George Novikoff. No expense was spared in the embroidered silk drapes, stone fireplaces and crystal fixtures. The four 19th century French baccarat chandeliers that hang in the house were appraised in 2006 as being “scarce or rare” by antiques dealer Mark English. The large opaline blue light fixture that sits in the music room reportedly came from a historic house in Wilmington, purchased from an estate sale by Grace Pittman in 1950. The house stayed in the Pittman family until last spring when my parents entered a bidding war, never expecting to win. They found Stone Manor empty, silent and still, but they could imagine it as it once was and could be again – glasses clinking, people laughing, gardens in full bloom. They hired a Raleigh architecture firm to study Stone Manor and draft plans for its future as perhaps a city dining club or art gallery, a place where people could entertain guests or business colleagues, even host a wedding. Renderings (shown on Page 53) provide space for an elevator if necessary and a carport and garage that could be transformed into patios or areas for staging and storage. The old servants’ quarters in the basement would be ideal as a wine cellar or manager’s office, too. In fact, the entire property is blooming with possibility. The expansive yard behind the house could become a wedding lawn with a side rose garden for events and parties. Indoors, patrons could dine in the solarium or hold meetings in the large, open rooms upstairs. It seems fitting that these sketches are not that far off from Stone Manor’s early life at 645 Hay St. Perhaps Dr. Pittman, an entrepreneur himself, would approve. And that’s where the story really begins. Dr. Raymond Lupton Pittman was quickly becoming a self-made man when he married Grace Britton Sikes Blue, a recent widow, in 1916. Her first husband, Clifton Blue, died tragically in 1912 as he was rushing back to Fayetteville to visit a doctor about an intestinal ailment. His death left Blue with two young daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth. Together, the Pittmans would have their own child, Raymond Jr., born in 1919. Dr. Pittman had grown up poor in a large family and worked hard for every penny, even as a child, striving for a life among the privileged, and he did just that, earning his medical license and marrying a well-to-do widow. “Dr. Pittman was very business-like, but he was also a very hands-on type of person,” said Lillian Loyd, who worked as his personal assistant from 1940 to 1943. “Along with his success, he had very warm qualities and a delightful sense of humor. He was highly respected in the medical profession and received patient referrals from all over southeastern North Carolina. It was exciting to be associated with him during the years of his development projects on Hay Street.” As Stone Manor was being built, the Pittmans began to build a vast real estate portfolio, purchasing various buildings and property in Fayetteville. Dr. Pittman helped develop the city in a way that would be considered unprecedented even by today’s standards. He was not only a prominent surgeon and owner of Pittman Hospital, he also owned the LaFayette and Prince Charles hotels and the downtown high-rise now known as the AIT building. There was also Pittman Field and a house at Lake Williams near Seventy-First High School for entertaining guests. Dr. Pittman also built Pittman Plaza, a shopping center in Lynchburg, Va. The groundbreaking was attended by then-Gov. Terry Sanford on the site of the old Miller Orphanage which had been demolished to make way for the construction. Pittman Plaza would become Lynchburg’s first shopping center when it opened in 1961. The 44-acre property is currently undergoing its own revitalization, spearheaded by its current owners, Liberty University, which received it as a gift. Raymond Pittman Jr., grew up privileged and went to Davidson College where he excelled in sports and the school debate club. He also fell in love with and became engaged to Jeanette Shaw, one of three beautiful sisters growing up in Fayetteville. His stepsisters, the Blue girls, were also making a name for themselves around that same time. Fellow physician and family friend, Dr. Wade T. Parker, married the youngest daughter, Elizabeth, on Jan. 26, 1932. Tragedy struck less than six months later when she succumbed to a lengthy illness in May. Her death made the front page of The Fayetteville Observer which reported that she was, “one of the most popular members of the younger social set in Fayetteville.” Dr. Parker remarried; he and Elizabeth’s older sister, Margaret, would have two children together, Wade Jr., and Clifton. Dr. Parker continued to practice medicine at Pittman Hospital, keeping an office directly across from Dr. Pittman, his father-in-law. “My father was loved among poor people,” Wade Parker Jr., said. “Whenever a patient would come in sick, he would stay with them as long as it took to get them better.” Meanwhile, Raymond and Jeanette married when he returned home from World War II, and they had two children together, in addition to her son from an earlier marriage. As for her in-laws, Dr. and Mrs. Pittman lived distinctly different lifestyles in their later years. Dr. Pittman was a very public persona who dined at Highland Country Club or fished regularly. In her later years, Grace Pittman did not do as much entertaining and began to stay in more often. Jeanette Pittman, who is now in her 80s and living in Raleigh, remembers Dr. Pittman fondly. “I just loved the ground he walked on,” she said. “He once said he could perform surgery with his eyes closed. After he mastered medicine, he wanted to build things, but he died before those dreams could be fully realized.” Jeanette Pittman spent more than two decades in Washington, D.C. and worked in the White House for five presidents. She and Raymond divorced, but she took great pleasure in her own activities: golf, volunteering, travel and politics, until her recent retirement to Raleigh. Meanwhile, Mrs. Pittman’s grandsons, Wade Jr. and Clifton, went off to school; Clifton became a commercial airline pilot, while Wade and his family served as missionaries in the Belgian Congo for a time. The Pittmans and Parkers were all heavily involved at First Presbyterian Church, where the chandelier in the chapel is dedicated to Elizabeth Blue Parker. Grace Pittman died Sept. 8, 1961, at the age of 79. Nearly two years later, on Aug. 1, 1963, Dr. R.L. Pittman perished in a single-car accident near Asheville. But perhaps more surprising to the family was Dr. Wade Parker’s death on New Year’s Eve in 1963; he was only 60 years old. After her husband’s death, Margaret Parker continued the tradition of playing bridge and keeping the yard full of fresh flowers. She even received a certificate from the City of Fayetteville in 1992 for her efforts to keep Stone Manor beautiful. She would also host teas and parties for her close friends at Stone Manor. After her death in 2002, her sons, Wade and Clifton, both spent time at the residence until the fixtures and property were auctioned off separately last year. Wade and Clifton are both retired and living in Oregon and Figure Eight Island, respectively. The Pittmans and Parkers are remembered as an extravagant and influential family, but perhaps their lasting legacy to Fayetteville will be Stone Manor. It is my parents’ hope that one day soon it will be used in the same manner of hospitality as those early years, a responsibility they do not treat lightly. “There will never be another dwelling like that in Fayetteville,” said Lillian Loyd. “I think on one hand it would be good for people to see it, but I think it has to be shown correctly.”