LAURINBURG — After 76 years and two owners, the next chapter in the history of the E. Hervey Evans house is waiting to be written.
Currently a bed and breakfast styled the Thomas Walton Manor, the home was purchased in 1999 and summarily renovated by Laurinburg native Larry Horne and his partner Ronald Phillips. Entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, the home has been featured on UNC-TV and in 2005 received the Minnette C. Duffy Landscape Preservation Award.
Erasmus Hervey Evans, who purchased the lot at the corner of Church and Peden streets in 1922, built the home in 1939 for himself, his wife, and their five children. Orphaned at the age of 2, Evans was the grandson of prominent businessman John F. McNair, and came of age when Laurinburg first flourished as an agricultural community and the textile industry began to take root.
Evans served as president of the Laurinburg and Southern Railroad, as well as Laurinburg Oil Company and Maxton Oil and Fertilizer Company, businesses founded by his grandfather. He was a founder of State Capital Life Insurance Company in Raleigh, and later chairman of the board of Durham Life.
During his lifetime, he served as a director of Wachovia Bank and Trust Company, Carolina Power and Light, the Research Triangle Foundation, and the Federal Land Bank of the Southeast. As a result, he was ideally situated to, and did, assist in bringing Ingraham Time Products, LOF Glass, and Westpoint Stevens to Scotland County.
In the designing of thier home, the Evans family employed John Weaver, who worked for the architecture department of Macy’s Department Store in New York City. Evans’ wife Anne became acquainted with Weaver in 1937 through his work designing the Main Street building which currently houses the Storytelling and Arts Center.
The oversized bricks comprising the house’s walls and foundation were handmade in Virginia by Mankin Brick Company and laid by Laurinburg brickmason Press Monroe. Among the many original features preserved by Horne, the home’s 18th century mantlepieces were salvaged from Charleston, South Carolina homes which had been destroyed by fire.
The home was constructed in the Georgian Revival style, at the time gaining popularity in historic Virginia. Landscape architect Charles F. Gillette of Richmond designed the garden and grounds.
“They had a freight company and they had their own private train car and they went to Richmond and Williamsburg with the architect and the landscape architect, so it was a design endeavor in the late 30s,” Horne said. “Which is pretty good, considering the times.”
Evans died in 1976, followed in 1995 by his wife.
Thomas Walton era
A significant difference lies between E. Hervey Evans and Thomas Walton, the home’s current namesake: Thomas Walton — a combination of Horne’s and Phillip’s mothers’ maiden names — never existed.
The “legend” of Walton is that of a Scottish immigrant who ultimately settled in Scotland County after earning the title of commodore in the British Navy and migrating through New York and Virginia Tidewater region, on the way developing a mysterious past befitting a Jay Gatsby or Edmond Dantes.
Horne for years admired the house from afar. After growing up outside of town on Aberdeen Road, he left Scotland County and ultimately founded an interior design firm in the Washington, D.C. area, a career that took him to London and to the Middle East and prevented him from dedicating himself to the Thomas Walton Manor full-time.
“It’s the kind of business where you just can’t sell it to somebody and walk out,” Horne said. “I worked with some clients for 20 or 30 years. I do their house, I do another house, I do their vacation house, I do their children’s house. I never got to a point until about three years ago where I felt like I really don’t want to do this anymore. I loved the work, but I couldn’t see myself, at 70, doing it.”
Laurinburg caught up with him in the form of one of the Evans’ grandchildren, who Horne worked for on a design project in Washington. She mentioned that the house was for sale after the death of her grandparents, and Horne first viewed it while visiting relatives at Christmas.
“I’d never seen inside, all I had ever done was ride by outside,” he said.
Realizing that the home’s 10,000 square feet and five bedrooms made it impractical as a private residence, Horne still could not resist the allure of its solid construction and unique character.
“When Mrs. Evans and her husband went with the architect to Williamsburg was about the time that Rockefeller was restoring Williamsburg, so this style became more and more popular,” he said. “Around here everybody was building these Greek Revival houses with big white columns, so this earlier colonial was kind of different at that time.”
Horne and Phillips purchased the house in 1999, and embarked upon a restoration project more than two years in duration.
“It was a project, I could see that it had good bones and I really loved it and I thought, what could I do? So I thought a bed and breakfast … it was sort of a romantic idea.”
The structural changes were minimal: pairing each bedroom with a bathroom required the addition of one bathroom, as the Evans’ four boys were paired two to a bedroom and all shared a bath.
A friend of Horne’s painted murals in each bathroom, and carpet was removed throughout the first floor to expose quarter-sewn oak floorboards.
“We’ve put a lot into restoring it,” Horne said. “We didn’t change the architecture, but there was a lot of wallpaper and a lot of things that were sort of dated.”
Others, such as automatic closet lights activated by hinge switches, were remarkably innovative for a house built before World War II.
The house’s eclectic appointments range from antique furniture to mementos from Horne’s international travels. The T.E. Lawrence room features mementos from Saudi Arabia, and the master bathroom carries a Buddhist theme.
“I tried to do it, not in the period of the house, but in tune with what one would think they would find in a house of this style,” Horne said.
The Thomas Walton Manor has hosted more than 20 weddings and countless open houses, holiday receptions, and garden tours. Its guests have included professional golfers, a U.S. National Security Adviser, and a Tony Award-winning actor, and at one point it regularly hosted visiting specialists working with Scotland Health Care System.
Horne now lives in Asheville and has placed the house on the market, citing the demanding nature of operating the bed and breakfast and maintaining a local showpiece.
“I’d like to see somebody that appreciates it — it’s a special house, it needs somebody that will care for it,” he said. “We hope someday somebody will come along and like it as much as we do.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.