Designer House Tours

If your spouse came home from an organizational meeting and told you that your house was offered up for a designer house showcase fundraiser to benefit said organization, what would you do? Curse into the wind or jump for joy?

In 1977, such was the case for Sarah Slade, mother to three O’Neal students and wife to Jerry Slade, then president of Pinehurst, Inc. They had recently moved to Pinehurst from Florida and purchased “Three Chimneys” – a New England Georgian home built in the early 1900s in the village. Read the articles in the photo gallery to learn more of the home’s history.

Jerry had attended a meeting at O’Neal. When the idea of the unique fundraiser was discussed, he happened to have tossed it out there of his home’s availability. Having just moved into the historic home, Sarah remembers, “there was a lot of grey”.

When Jerry returned home from the meeting to share the news with Sarah, her response was “You did what?” The whole event isn’t as easy as it may sound. Jerry, Sarah, Kirven ‘80, Dorothy ‘84 and Blanche ‘88 packed their belongings – all of it, moved into a condominium and put their furniture in storage. For two months the family of five lived in tight quarters while nine different interior designers were assigned rooms in their home to appoint with exquisite finishes from the floor to the ceiling, furniture, and fixtures within the realm of one general theme.

The first paragraph of an article in “The Pinehurst Outlook” states, “Some people are bold and others are merely adventurous. But Sarah and Jerry Slade have to be the most courageous people in Pinehurst.”

When the decorating was complete, the house was open for a month for the public to tour by way of purchasing a ticket. One word…. volunteers. From the extravagant Preview Party complete with an NC Symphony quartet to the day-to-day monitoring and presence, the work entailed to orchestrate this event was incredible. It was the first event of its kind in the area. Designers from Greensboro and other larger cities participated in the effort.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees at this time was Jim VanCamp. In an article he stated, “The proceeds will be used to supplement the operating budget of the school…We need several money-making projects during the year to ensure quality education. The general public and parents of the students have been extremely helpful to us. So much volunteer work goes into these events… We think that one way of making these money-making projects successful is by adding enjoyment to other people…For instance, the Tar Heel Sports Celebrity Golf Tournament and An Evening in Monte Carlo offer great entertainment for the contribution to the school. We are pleased to be able to sponsor these events for the people in the area…We could not have attempted to do this particular project without the generosity of the Slades. Our gratitude to them is immeasurable.”

Wallace O’Neal Day School had certainly grown to be a strong contender on the social scene for entertainment in the late 1970s and the School benefitted greatly from it.

Though numbers cannot be found for the 1977 “Three Chimneys” Designer House, in 1984 “The Castle” event had 200 in attendance for the “black tie” Patron’s Preview Party and around 5,000 tours of the home. It was only appropriate that Sarah Slade co-chair this event along with Alice Robbins, former teacher, parent, and Trustee. Apparently, the Carolina’s Chapter of The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) chose “The Castle” as its Pinehurst Designer House. The funds raised went to the O’Neal Learning Center – tagged as the “sponsor”, which has now taken a new look and structure and is called the Academic Enrichment Center. Of the 26 rooms in the 14th century Norman styled country house built in 1927, twelve rooms were chosen for the showcase. Read more about the history of “The Castle” in the photo gallery.

Calvin E. Hefner, ASID of Charlotte coordinated the decorating with 21 other designers – nine of whom were from Charlotte. Designers submitted plans to Hefner to ensure the home was attractively coordinated. Presently, the Mills family, an O’Neal family, resides in “The Castle”.

There is only record of the two designer house fundraising events and given the amount of work involved, it is very understandable. To think about the energy in the events and the beauty to bestow in these tastefully decorated historic homes draws your mind to a great time in life. So who’s ready to give up their house for a few months?

Falcons Fly to 50

O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.

Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388

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