Village Renames Welcome Center for Lane
A year ago, residents gathered to celebrate the opening of the Village of Pinehurst Welcome Center and to mourn the loss of the mayor who worked to make it a reality.
On Wednesday, residents gathered once again to celebrate the life of George Lane and rename the welcome center in his honor at the Sandhills Woman’s Exchange on Azalea Road in Pinehurst.
The George P. Lane Welcome Center is in the front cabin of the building that the village shares with the Exchange.
The partnership between the village and the organization was a major priority for Lane, who sought to give residents and visitors a central resource to learn more about the village, while also attracting more visitors to the Exchange.
The 81-year-old Lane died Feb. 23, 2010, one week before the center’s opening, after suffering a fall at his home.
During the ceremony, Bart O’Connor, of the village Beautification Committee, unveiled a plaque donated by Jim Williford that honors Lane next to the building’s entrance.
Next to a rendering of the late mayor, the plaque reads: “A special man in a special place, who held a vision of aesthetic and community enhancement for the Village of Pinehurst.”
Williford said he donated the plaque to commemorate Lane’s contributions to the village and to preserve his vision.
“George was a very special person in my life,” he said. “He thought the village of Pinehurst was Utopia. I concur with that. He also wanted all of us to be great stewards and ambassadors for everyone visiting Pinehurst. Maybe they will come and reside here one day over the rainbow.
“His far-reaching and visionary outlook on life was very inspiring to me. I just want to have a little paid back for that.”
Carole Base, president of the Woman’s Exchange, thanked the village for its cooperation with the organization over the past year.
The Exchange is one of the country’s oldest continuously operated women’s volunteer organizations, selling consigned merchandise and serving lunch on Tuesday through Saturday, from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
The organization suffered a major setback when flooding from Tropical Storm Hanna severely damaged the building in 2008, forcing the Exchange to be closed for four months for renovations.
Base recounted her initial conversations with Lane about establishing the partnership, which began a year and a half ago.
“I wish he could be with us,” she said as she addressed the crowd. “But little miracles happen, and because of the welcome center and because of so many of you here, we have had an incredible year. You have put us on the map in the village of Pinehurst, and we are most grateful.”
The cabin where the center is housed at the front of the building was built in 1818 and was formerly the kitchen of Archie and Flora McKenzie’s home originally located two miles northeast of Pinehurst.
In 1922, the Tufts family, which founded Pinehurst, moved the cabin to its present location, where it was used as a museum for local artifacts.
Colin McKenzie Jr., a former Village Council member and county commissioner, as well as a grandchild of the McKenzies, was present for the occasion.
“This was my grandmother’s kitchen,” he said, looking around in the welcome center.
McKenzie said he hopes the partnership between the village and the Exchange will help the organization continue to prosper, while also preserving a piece of his family’s history.
After Lane died, the Village Council unanimously selected then-council member Ginsey Fallon to complete the rest of his term. When she became mayor, Fallon said that she intended to continue the work that Lane had started.
As she stood in the warm, spring sun next to Lane’s plaque, Fallon said the day’s dedication was a very fitting way to not only remember Lane, but also to move forward.
“Last year, he had just died,” she said. “It was rainy and very difficult. “This is more of a joyous occasion and many of his friends are here. He would have loved it. He was such a people person. He loved people, so I think this is wonderful.”
As the welcome center moves into its second year of operation, the village hopes to expand the center’s volunteer base and make more resources available for its visitors.
Fallon said she expects to see the partnership between the village and the Woman’s Exchange continue to expand the possibilities initially envisioned by Lane.
“We move on from here,” she said “But he’ll never be forgotten.”
For more information about the welcome center or becoming a volunteer, contact Gwendy Hutchinson at the Village Hall at (910) 295-2581 or visit the village’s website: www.villageofpinehurst.org.
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