Weymouth: From Winter Estate to Cultural Center
An iconic Southern Pines landmark, Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, started its life around 1905 as a winter estate for James Boyd, a steel and railroad magnate from Pennsylvania.
He purchased 1,200 acres and created an estate that included stables, tennis courts, gardens and a nine-hole golf course, naming it "Weymouth" because it reminded him of Weymouth in England.
Boyd's son, John Yeomans Boyd, was running the business and was eventually in charge of running the estate.
Boyd's grandsons, James and Jackson, were frequent visitors during their childhood and teenage years. Both were avid fox hunters and founded the Moore County Hounds in 1914.
The younger James Boyd married Katharine Lamont on Dec. 15, 1917, and the young couple spent their honeymoon at Weymouth.
After World War I, James and Jackson divided the original home of their grandfather. The main part was pulled by mule across Connecticut Avenue and became the Jackson Boyd home. (This is now the Campbell House, home of the Moore County Arts Council.) Jackson Boyd took over the running of Weymouth from his father, John.
About 1920, the remaining portion of the original home was redesigned and enlarged by Aymar Embury II, a Princeton friend of the Boyds who became a renowned New York architect and the official architect for Princeton University.
Embury also designed other residences and buildings in this area, including Mid Pines Resort, the Highland Pines Inn and several buildings on North West Broad Street in Southern Pines.
James and Katharine lived in the gate house until the home was completed. While they were living there, he wrote his first and most famous novel, "Drums," which was published in 1925. A deluxe 1928 edition was illustrated by the famous artist N. C. Wyeth. He was also the author of "Marching On," published in 1927; "Long Hunt" (1930); "Roll River (1935); and "Bitter Creek" (1939). He also wrote poetry.
The couple enjoyed entertaining, and Weymouth became the center of a lively social life in the 1920s and 1930s. These evenings included not only local friends, but literary friends such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Paul Green and Sherwood Anderson.
The Boyds supported the community with donations to the Moore County Hospital (now FirstHealth Moore Regional) and the Southern Pines Library. They donated the property to establish Penick Village as well.
Boyd purchased The Pilot in 1941, and upon his death in 1944, Katharine assumed management until 1969, when it was sold to Sam Ragan, a well-known North Carolina journalist and poet.
As befitting a home that hosted so many literary lights, Weymouth became the site of the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Hall's induction ceremonies are held there every two years.
In 1963, Katharine Boyd gave a wooded tract to the state of North Carolina, which became the Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve. When Katharine died in 1974, Weymouth was left to the Sandhills Community College.
James and Katharine Boyd are buried in Bethesda Cemetery near Aberdeen. They had three children: James Jr., Daniel and Nancy.
A New Beginning
Sandhills Community College had plans to sell the property, which would have been razed, and a great outcry arose from local residents.
The Friends of Weymouth was chartered as a nonprofit corporation in 1977. The plan was to sell most of the land to the state to add to the 400 acres Katharine Boyd had previously donated for a nature preserve, then raise the money to purchase the house and remaining property.
The Friends achieved their goal in 1979 through many fundraisers, only to realize that the house and surrounding outbuildings had been neglected since Katharine Boyd's passing. More fundraising events were held over the years -- and continue to be held to help with the upkeep of the house and grounds.
The Boyd House and remaining acreage is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and was awarded a certificate of achievement by the National Wildlife Federation in 2003.
In the years since it became a cultural center, Weymouth has become home to a chamber music series, featuring nationally and internationally known musicians; the Ragan Writers' Series, which boasts readings by North Carolina writers, and an arts and humanities lecture series presented by professors and educators.
Also offered is a writers-in-residence program that gives writers a chance to stay in the house for up to two weeks a year to pursue their work. There have been more than 600 residencies here, and many writers have said their most creative periods occurred in the tranquil, inspiring atmosphere of the Boyds' home.
Weymouth is also popular as a setting for weddings, receptions and other social events.
Contact Faye Dasen at email@example.com or 693-2475.
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