Southern hospitality has a name
You can't bottle Southern hospitality, but 1861 Farmhouse comes pretty close.
The recently opened restaurant and winery in Valle Crucis brings a new concept to one of the community's oldest houses - the "Hard" Taylor House, circa 1861.
Originally a two-bedroom brick house, hand-built (including the bricks) by Henry Taylor the year the Civil War began, its modern manifestation is considerably larger, but retains a disctinct 19th century charm.
"It's very unique - there's nothing else like it," said Alison Garrett, who owns and operates the house with her husband, Steve.
1861 Farmhouse specializes in lunch, dinner and a bouquet of wines, but it's not only about the menu - it's about atmosphere.
"We were not aware of its history at the time," Garrett said. "We just kept looking at, thinking this is a pretty grand house in Valle Crucis, obviously very old. We were intrigued."
And for good reason. The house sat vacant for years after its use as an arts and crafts emporium, and the Garretts felt it shouldn't remain empty.
"Steve and I feel like we are the stewards of this house," Garrett said. "It's important to us to honor the house, as well as the previous owners."
And its previous owners' names complement the doorways to each room, inviting visitors to take a step into history - the Taylor Parlor, the Victorian Dining Room, Aunt Vicki's Kitchen and the (John and Tracy) Hastings Tasting Room, where visitors can sample the farmhouse's seven private label wines.
As the story goes, Henry Taylor gave the house to his youngest son, Thomas Hardester 'Hard' Taylor, and his wife, Victoria 'Vicki' Baird, around 1880. Around 1895, the couple expanded the house to its current size of nearly 5,000 square feet, resulting in "one of the Valle's grandest homes," with three stories, two parlors, six bedrooms, a back stairway for the help, and two large, formal porches to take in the area's scenic beauty.
Garrett noted that it was the first home in Valle Crucis to boast indoor closets in each room, indoor plumbing, and central air and heat, not to mention a telephone.
It also served as the Valle Crucis Post Office, with Vicki - better known as Aunt Vicki - serving as postmistress from 1896 till her death in 1928. The post office later moved to Mast General Store, which was also built by Henry Taylor.
The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, and it's a history that the Garretts seek to honor.
"Every decision I've made, I try to base it on what Victoria would have done, even when it came down to what kind of curtains I'd put in the dining room," Garrett said. "It had to be lace."
In fact, two of Hardister and Victoria's granddaughters paid the farmhouse a visit, and Garrett was more than happy to give them a tour.
"They have so many wonderful stories about growing up ... and just seemed so thrilled with what we were doing," Garrett said. "... and then (one of them) asked me something really sweet, if she could have a brick that her great-grandfather, Henry, made."
She already had two, but also has three children and wanted each of them to have one. Garrett was more than happy to oblige.
And it's the same courtesy 1861 Farmhouse extends to its guests (bricks notwithstanding).
Having purchased The Ham Shoppe, which closed in December 2010, the Garretts have retained a bulk of its staff, members of which specialize in crafting the sandwiches and baked goods for which the popular market was known.
The market, located at the corner of Broadstone Road and N.C. 105, remains open and fully stocked under the 1861 Farmhouse banner, though the actual farmhouse's kitchen offers considerably more than sandwiches. Just think home-cooked Southern fare, sweet tea with lemon and chipped ice.
"We want the food to be sensational," Garrett said. "Southern hospitality and just being gracious - they're parts of who I am, and I feel our staff is the same. We'll take excellent care of you when you're here."
1861 Farmhouse is located at 3608 Broadstone Road, across from the Mast General Store, in Valle Crucis. Hours are lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., wine tastings daily from noon on, and dinner Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
For more information, call (828) 963-6301 or visit http://www.1861farmhouse.com.
Got restaurant news? E-mail editor Frank Ruggiero at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (828) 264-NEWS and ask for Frank.