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Story of a House

All In The Family

Sedgefield’s stately Ayrshire evinces the well-loved charms of a distant and romantic England By Deborah Salomon • Photographs By John Gessner


ever did a house cry out louder for a butler than Ayrshire at Sedgefield Country Club. And there he is: Hopkins, proper in morning coat, vest, tie and gloves, holding a silver tray for calling cards. Hopkins, sadly, is an artful mannequin. The Cotswold Tudor country manse, however, is real: turret, leaded windows, tile roof, guest cottage, dovecote, dog runs, horse farm, pool and circular driveway awaiting a Bentley or Rolls. “All this is from a bygone era,” says Jere Ayers, wearing pressed jeans of the current one. Jere knows. He lived within Ayrshire’s weathered brick walls from infancy until young manhood, returning with wife Elsa to raise a family in the home designed by his architect uncle, built by his parents in 1935 with profits from the family hosiery business. “I felt like I never left,” Jere says, sinking back into a chair in the oak-paneled library crafted by Amish carpenters employed, records indicate, for 11 cents an hour. Piedmont textile mills responsible for the Cone, Love and Ayers dynasties are long gone. The history lingers: Nathan Ayers married Nell, the daughter of hosiery mill baron J. Hampton Adams, during the Great Depression. The Adams’ Italian Renaissance mansion in High Point, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been restored as J.H. Adams Inn. Adams brought son-in-law Nathan into the business which, despite the economy, was cash-rich. The newlyweds needed a suitable home; as was the custom, they traveled extensively in Europe, jotting down details from various estates to incorporate into their own. “My grandfather told my mother you’ll never have a chance to build like you can now,” with materials, craftsmen and funds available, Jere says.

Past Tense

But Nell didn’t want new. She craved that European patina. So her father bought an 18th century grist mill in Red Cross, N.C., removed the beams, demolished the walls and carted the bricks to Greensboro, where architect Sanford Ayers translated Nell’s jottings into a 10,000-square-foot home on 10 acres, operated by a seven-person staff. The wormy beams were installed throughout while the bricks, once laid, were painted, then 48 hours later sandblasted to Stratford-on-Avon vintage. Floors are slate and butterfly-pegged oak, some strip-laid, others patterned. Bones are steel and concrete, the gutters, copper. Plaster and wood The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2011/January 2012

O.Henry 53

December 2011/January 2012 O.Henry Magazine  

The Art and Soul of Greensboro

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