The tiny tea room in the back garden was a surprise.
Forgotten nearly to time, it is one of the countless little details that has been preserved at Duncraig Manor, the newly restored 12,000-square-foot bed and breakfast inn in Southern Pines.
“We didn’t even know it was there. It was completely hidden,” said Caroline Naysmith, gazing down at the tea room from the second floor’s original leaded glass windows.
Together with her husband, Donald, she began restoring the 26-room English country-style cottage on East Connecticut Avenue over a year ago. The couple have plenty of professional experience turning around historic properties, but this would be their largest undertaking in terms of sheer size.
“We had never even been inside the house when we bought it. But we could see from the road it had good bones,” said Caroline. “Everything else you can replace.”
According to Moore County tax records, the Naysmiths paid $860,000 for the circa-1928 house and, according to their own estimates, they’ve poured another $1 million into renovations.
Come August, Duncraig Manor & Gardens will officially open for business.
A Home Fit for an Heiress
Built in the Grand Tudor style nearly 90 years ago, Duncraig is a story-book home with a checkered history. Inside the walls, there is a simple elegance of a bygone era.
Designed for entertaining, the house was built for Quaker Oats heiress Mrs. J.H. Andrews and her daughter, Helen Lohmann. They commissioned landscape architect Alred B. Yeomans to build their house in the Weymouth Heights community.
Yeoman was first called to Southern Pines by his uncle, Pennsylvania industrialist James Boyd, to help design gardens for his Weymouth estate. From there, he went on to guide the landscape, layout and design of homes throughout Southern Pines, including the Knollwood subdivisions, the Mount Hope Cemetery, and landscaping projects in Pinehurst.
The large two-story home on East Connecticut he built was later dubbed Duncraig Manor by its second owners, Dr. and Mrs. George Matheson, who had ties to Duncraig Castle in Scotland.
The property eventually passed into the hands of Constance Baker, of Stuart, Fla. She leased the property in the mid-1970s to the state for a pilot project to determine whether a family-like atmosphere in a group home would benefit emotionally disturbed children. Neighbors protested the use, and the town charged Baker with violating zoning laws. An eviction notice was served; however, a subsequent appeal upheld the facility’s right to stay in the neighborhood.
The group home ceased to exist several decades ago, and Duncraig Manor was returned to a private residence.
As part of the Southern Pines Historic District, the home was added to the Department of the Interior’s List of Historic Places in November of 1991.
However, the house had been deteriorating for the last 20 years as its upkeep became time-prohibitive for the previous owners.
When the Naysmiths came to Southern Pines to visit a friend, they drove by the house and it was love at first sight.
“I went up and knocked on the door to inquire about it,” Caroline said.
A New Beginning
The restoration — more of a revival in fact — kicked into full gear in January 2018 and has touched every corner of the historic property.
“We are the original Chip and Joanna Gaines,” said Caroline, with a smile. “We find the worst house in the best neighborhood and make it wonderful.”
Her very first restoration project began in 1989, in St. Louis, Missouri, with the 1857 Larimore House and Barn. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Ownership was later transferred to a family member and it currently operates as Larimore Weddings.
That success was followed by restoring the Rockledge Country Inn, a 1913 greenstone mansion near Pikes Peak in Colorado, then later an 1857 farmhouse and vineyard in Washington, Missouri.
Donald retired early, allowing the couple to tackle their new project, the Alexander Homestead in Charlotte, together. They bought the severely dilapidated historic landmark, originally the home of Charlotte’s “First Family,” situated on a five-acre site and began its restoration in 2007. Work was completed in 2008 and included construction of a 2,800-square-foot Carriage House just a few steps from the historic residence.
More recently the Naysmiths purchased and restored the only remaining Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work camp in upstate New York. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 2016, and the Naysmiths won a preservation award from the state of New York that same year.
Their work at Duncraig Manor has included major roof repairs and replacing all the gutters and downspouts. The exterior was freshened up and window panes replaced. Inside, the house has all new electrical and plumbing systems, new or refurbished floors and the home’s eight fireplaces will soon be converted to gas logs.
“We spent the first six months just getting the water drainage issues corrected,” she said, noting that all the doors, windows and fixtures were preserved wherever they existed.
The first floor features a grand hallway that leads to expansive gathering rooms overlooking the home’s formal and informal gardens and inground pool. The lower level of the home has been converted to a spa and informal spaces, while upstairs each bedroom has its own theme and unique decor.
In April 2018, the Southern Pines Town Council unanimously granted the couple’s application to permit a bed and breakfast inn and also a special home event venue on the property.
“We are focusing on the bed and breakfast for now. This house lends itself to that so well,” Caroline said.
Guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres and drinks in the evening, plus access to the butler’s pantry for snacks, in addition to homemade cookies and a turndown service. In the morning, the Naysmiths will provide breakfast.
Reservations are being accepted now, in advance of the August 1 opening date.
For more information, visit duncraigmanorandgardens.com or call (910) 725-1084 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Duncraig Manor is located at 790 E. Connecticut Ave. in Southern Pines.