Exchange, Welcome Center Honor Lane
BY DOLORES MULLER
Special to The Pilot
The Sandhills Woman's Exchange has taken another step in its evolution. The front portion of the historic building is now home to the Pinehurst Welcome Center.
The welcome center was the brainchild of the late Mayor George Lane and had its grand opening on March 2. Lane envisioned a place where visitors to the Pinehurst area and residents alike could stop and learn about the history of the area and gather information about what Pinehurst has to offer - a place centrally located, visible and preferably near the heart of the village. Recently renovated after the flood of 2008, the Exchange serves lunch and contains a gift shop. The addition of the welcome center is a perfect match.
The log cabin was originally built in 1810 at Ray's Grist-Mill about two miles northeast of the present location. After the Civil War it was bought from the Ray family by Archibald McKenzie and was a separate building used as his family's kitchen. In 1895, when James Walker Tufts started Pinehurst, he was so charmed by the cabin he offered to build a new kitchen for the McKenzies in exchange for the cabin, which he had moved to its present location. He used it as a museum housing pioneer kitchen utensils, a loom, spinning wheel, arrowheads and other articles from the Sandhills area.
The Sandhills Woman's Exchange was started in 1922 and was located at the Way House on Pee Dee Road in Knollwood. The organization helped local farm women earn income by providing a market for items they could make at home. The project was so successful that after one year they needed more space. Mr. and Mrs. Tufts graciously offered the cabin, free of rent, to the ladies for their shop. The exchange continued its successful career, helping women help themselves, and additional rooms were added always taking great care to preserve the character of the original building.
The fate of the log cabin that houses the Woman's Exchange has been in jeopardy over the almost 200 years that it has been in existence but never more so than after the flood in September 2008. Water surrounding and spilling into the building destroyed the flooring, display cases, heating system and the kitchen equipment. A massive undertaking to restore the building took a lot of hard work and all the operating funds of the Woman's Exchange, plus donations and the generosity of many people.
The Woman's Exchange is a volunteer organization, part of the Federation of Woman's Exchanges which is the oldest women's volunteer group in the country. The dedicated Pinehurst ladies struggled to have the repairs made to the building, the kitchen, showroom and heating system.
When the Woman's Exchange reopened in early 2009 the tea room was once again operational, offering soup, sandwiches, salads and delicious desserts. It has long been famous for its hummingbird cake and mouthwatering lemon meringue pie.
"We have added a new item to our menu, the Mayor George P. Lane Special, a chili dog with chips or slaw," says Carole Southon, manager of the Exchange. "It was his favorite and we wanted to honor him for developing the new welcome center and helping the Woman's Exchange."
The new welcome center was a collaborative effort of the village of Pinehurst and the Exchange for the benefit of the village and the surrounding areas.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, the current president of the Woman's Exchange, Carole Base, said, "We at the Exchange will do everything in our power to make this marriage of the welcome center and Woman's Exchange a success and that the welcome center will augment our rich history."
The welcome center occupies the original cabin, with the Exchange operating in the additions that have been added over the years. Both are open September until late May (excluding the month of January), Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The welcome center has been named for Mayor George P. Lane.
"Stop in to this unique cabin, check out the new visitor's center and reflect on the cabin's history," says Southon. "While you are there have a delicious lunch and browse the hand-crafted items offered for sale."
Those interested in becoming a member of the Exchange or who would like to volunteer can call Southon at (910) 295-4677.
The welcome center is also looking for volunteers to greet people and provide information to the many visitors that come to Pinehurst. Gwendy Hutchinson, the planning and administrative assistant for the village, is spearheading this project. Those interested in being a part of this new endeavor can call her to volunteer at (910) 295-2581, extension 238.
Dolores Muller is a local freelance writer.
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