Why do people love going on home and garden tours? Inspiration? Education? Curiosity? An entertaining way to spend a day? In and around Hickory, it could be because folks who know anything about the Hickory Landmarks Society understand that a great deal of careful planning goes into every one of the organization’s tours. If a home or garden makes it onto an HLS circuit, it’s going to be well worth exploring.
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This year’s event is number 25, and no one has been harder at work behind the scenes than HLS Executive Director Patrick Daily and Administrative Assistant/Curator of Collections and Education Coordinator Leslie Keller. They’re excited about two things: this year’s properties and the featured guest speaker, who’ll give his presentation the night before the May 18 tour.
It might be safe to say that Patrick and Leslie are ranking the 2019 speaker right up there with the grandest house or garden in all of Hickory – maybe in the state (which would include the Biltmore House). He’s John Gidding of TLC’s “Trading Spaces.” The architect and artist is coming from California to talk to 2019 Romance of the Home & Garden Tour participants about “Living in Art.”
You may know John Gidding from “Trading Spaces” or maybe HGTV’s “Curb Appeal” or “Designed to Sell,” but you may not know that he’s a Yale and Harvard grad and used to be an Armani and Gucci model – another reason for buying a ticket, right? I’m just saying I don’t think audience members will have trouble staying focused on this particular presenter . . . because he’s so smart.
Hickory has four historic districts: Claremont, Kenworth, Oakwood, and as of 2004, downtown Hickory. At least one site from each of the four will be highlighted on this year’s tour. And, there’s the addition of an outside-the-districts home, a mid-century modern structure that was designed by award-winning architect Jim Sherrill (1926-2012), who drew plans for numerous homes and buildings in and around Hickory.
“Hickory has the third largest concentration of mid-century modern homes in the state,” Patrick pointed out.
The Vernon T. and Helen S. Mahaffey House is noteworthy not only because of its unique mid-century style, but also due to the unusual way it came to exist. Vernon owned Standard Glass Company. In 1956, a shipment of glass, all of which was the wrong size, arrived at Standard Glass. Vernon turned to his friend Jim Sherrill with the request that Jim design a new house for the Mahaffeys, incorporating the wrong size glass. Jim provided the design made special by the glass as well as a unique overhanging butterfly roof.
Though tour guests will no doubt enjoy the lawns and gardens at all the houses, they’ll especially appreciate their stop outside the 1965 modern home of John and Juliana Berry, another property that’s not in one of Hickory’s districts but well worth a stroll. HLS calls the Berry garden “a lovely oasis of just under one acre of lakefront property.” The Berrys have been tending it for two decades. “The breadth and scope of it stand out to me,” said Patrick. Walking paths, separate small outdoor rooms, seating areas, a new pond.
Though the 1915 Blackwelder Commercial Building is in the Downtown Historic District, it’s what’s inside the structure that Patrick and Leslie are eager for people to see. “We’re featuring a loft there,” Patrick reported, adding that it’s one of eight lofts – living spaces – available downtown. Sarah Frisbey, owner of a downtown Hickory boutique called Bottega: A Soulful Place, lives in the loft, which HLS describes as “anything but typical” and “showcasing her artistic nature and eclectic collections.” I think “deliciously colorful” ought to be mentioned as well.
Over the past 25 years’ worth of tours, 164 sites have been visited by tour guests, and more than 50 volunteers have helped at each event.
Patrick and Leslie said an HLS committee approves all homes and gardens that become tour sites. Some are recruited, some are offered by the owners, and some are recommendations.
Speaking about the gardens that have been on the tour the past quarter century, Patrick and Leslie described them as wide ranging – from cottage gardens to huge flora displays with nature trails. “There’s a Florida garden in Highland – pool, sandy beach, tiki house,” Patrick described. “At one time it had an iguana that wandered off.” The same grounds also housed a monkey.
If anyone would like for his/her home and/or garden to be considered for a tour, contact HLS at 828-322-4731.
HLS’s mission is “to preserve the architectural and historical heritage of Hickory,” Patrick explained, saying the organization achieves this through education, advocacy, and actual historic preservation work. Among HLS’s properties are the well-known Maple Grove, an 1883 Italianate style farmhouse at 542 Second St. NE; the 1882 Second French Empire Style Propst House at 534 Third Ave. NW, whose restoration and preservation in the late 1960s was partially responsible for HLS’s establishment in 1967; and Hickory’s oldest standing house of worship, the one-room framed Houk’s Chapel, which was built in1893, reflecting a distinct German architectural style. Houk’s Chapel is located behind the Corning building on U.S. 321
Proceeds from the Romance of the Home and Garden Tour will help HLS continue its important work. The tour is one of three major means of raising funds. The others are the organization’s annual poinsettia sell and its yearly giving campaign. Additionally, copies of Leslie’s “From Tavern to Town,” which she wrote on behalf of HLS to highlight Hickory’s architectural history, are still available at Maple Grove. The book contains approximately 460 properties.
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