The 60th Annual Blowing Rock Tour of Homes, July 27, to Benefit Local Charities

Published Friday, July 27, 2018 at 8:11 am

Loy McGill, left, and Susie Greene, right, are serving as co-chairs for the 60th Annual Blowing Rock Tour of Homes, and have done a marvelous job of organizing the event that benefits many local charities. Photo by Sherrie Norris

By Sherrie Norris

Since the late 1950s, visitors from all across the southeast and beyond have made their way to the North Carolina mountains for the annual Blowing Rock Tour of Homes. Thanks to the insight and compassion of a few civic-minded women who started it all as a way to draw people into their quaint village to see a variety of architecture and decoration — and those who have continued to carry to torch through the years — over $1 million in tour proceeds has been donated to local charities.

The 60th annual Blowing Rock Home Tour is set for Friday, July 27, and promises to be yet another event to remember for all involved.

Sponsored since its inception by the women of St. Mary’s of the Hills Episcopal Church, with a few years of partnership with the Blowing Rock Women’s Club, the Blowing Rock Tour of Homes has stood the test of time, with very few major changes occurring along the way.

Always held on the fourth Friday of July, with selected drivers providing rides from the church lawn to each home, the tour has opened doors to a variety of dwellings — from those with treasured and sometimes surprising histories, including one reminiscent of a European castle, to the more contemporary dwellings, condos and practically everything in between. While some have had their single year in the spotlight, others — such as Shadowlawn, which boasts the largest acreage in Blowing Rock, and the Graystone Tower, the “castle” described above — have been featured on the tour numerous times.

Not only does the tour offer a rare opportunity for guests to admire the unique features and furnishings that have been cherished by homeowners for generations, it serves as a fundraiser to benefit numerous charities and nonprofit organizations in the area.

The 2018 tour features some of the town’s historic and treasured homes, and includes the following: Far Horizons, home of the Caudles; Owls Roost, home of Nan and Edgar Lawton; Merlin Glenn, home of Jim Fort; Tuckaway, home of Tracy Woody and Gene Ostrow; and Maymont, Sylvia and Cullie Tarleton’s home. In addition to the tour, other activities offered at the church will include a $15 lunch provided at the Church Café, a bazaar with baked and savory goods and a tag sale offering unique items.

The festive annual gala held July 12 gala at Far Horizons offered patrons a preview of this year’s event, with food from Reid’s Catering, entertainment by Todd Wright and Friends and a silent auction featuring such items as dinner parties for 12 and fly fishing trips to Uruguay.

According to tour co-chairs Susie Greene and Loy McGill, in the spirit of community, the Tour of Homes and Gala have galvanized members of the Blowing Rock community to come together for 60 years to open doors and make money for worthwhile area programs. Countless individuals in the High Country have benefited from the generosity of the women and men who have participated in making the event possible.

Tour tickets are $30 in advance and may be purchased online at, at the church office or the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce on Park Avenue.


Things to remember:

  • 100% of the profits from the Tour go to High Country charitable groups.
  • Tour date is Friday, July 27 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. No tickets will be sold after 3 p.m.
  • The tour will be held rain or shine.
  • Refunds or exchanges are not available.
  • Patrons are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. The historic homes, in some cases, do not have air conditioning. The opportunity to walk between several of the homes will be available.
  • The homes are not handicapped accessible.
  • Well-supervised children 6 years and older are welcome. A ticket must be purchased for each child. Strollers are not allowed.
  • Cars or other motorized wheels are not allowed at the homes or in the gardens.
  • Food and/or beverages are not allowed in the homes. Water will be available for patrons outside of each home.
  • Photographs may not be taken inside or outside the homes.
  • Pets are not allowed.
  • No public restrooms are available at the homes. Restrooms are available at St. Mary’s, Blowing Rock Park, and BRAHM.
  • Tickets purchased before the tour (before 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 26) are $30 each. On the day of the tour, tickets are $35.
  • If you purchase tickets online, your hard copy ticket will be available at “will call” at St. Mary’s on the day of the tour.
  • The Opening Doors Cafe will once again provide a delicious lunch at the church for $15, which includes an entree, bread, dessert and beverage. A limited number of meals are available. Tickets may be purchased on the day of the Tour.

For more information, contact Susie Greene at (828) 295-3217 or [email protected], or Loy McGill at (336) 817-9476 or [email protected].


Featured homes on the tour – Photos by Lonnie Webster

Tuckaway, home of Tracy Woody and Gene Ostrow, Blowing Rock Tour of Homes sponsored by Saint Mary’s of the Hills Episcopal Church.


Built in 1924 by James W. Cannon, Jr., and recently the home of Bud Shaw, Tuckaway is a gem hidden among the rhododendron along Wonderland Trail, but accessed from Meadow Lane. This beautiful multi-gabled house features new poplar and chestnut bark siding, stacked stone accents and unusual round columns on the front side.

Tuckaway has been beautifully restored and updated by new owners, Tracy Woody and Gene Ostrow, with the help of local interior designer, Suzanne Wilson. Great pains were endured to preserve the architectural integrity of the residence. Custom-finished hardwood floors blend splendidly with the neutral brown and gray colors used throughout the home. The renovated master bedroom suite features a raised cathedral ceiling. Three new windows flood the renovated kitchen with abundant light. And, a new breakfast room or family room nestles in what was originally an enclosed breezeway.

Tuckaway features select original furnishings mixed with new contemporary upholstery. The original 1924 dining table, antique bedroom chests, an historic grandfather clock and a variety of antique tables give the historic house a sense of place.

This deceptively large house offers much to see, including a delightful garage apartment with bunk beds. The gardens, originally modeled by Mrs. Shaw after the Monet garden in Giverny, France, are a delightful haven and beckon the visitor to linger. The entire landscape has been thoughtfully and timelessly updated by Greenleaf Services in Linville. The home and gardens beckon the visitor to linger.

Maymont, home of Sylvia and Cullie Tarleton, Blowing Rock Tour of Homes sponsored by Saint Mary’s of the Hills Episcopal Church.


Maymont, the main street home of Sylvia and Cullie Tarleton, began its life as a simple mountain cabin. Originally built by S.F. Harper in 1887, the home featured three rooms downstairs and three upstairs, with an outside stairway. The home was sold in 1902 to General Matt W. Ransom of the Confederate Army. Prior to the Civil War, General Ransom served as a member of the North Carolina State Legislature and as North Carolina Attorney General. Following the end of the Civil War, Ransom was granted a pardon by President Andrew Johnson, later served in the US Senate and as an ambassador to Mexico. After his death, Ransom’s widow summered in the house, taking her meals at the popular and fashionable Blowing Rock Hotel, located just across the street.

The house was ultimately inherited by Pat, one of the General’s sons, and his wife Mary (May), who gave the home the name Maymont, meaning “May in the mountains.” The home was purchased by the Tarletons from Mary’s grandchildren in 1996, ushering in a new era for the residence. The home was completely renovated when the Tarletons gutted the structure and added a new kitchen, pantry, laundry room, master bedroom suite and a garage. Drawing upon their experience and expertise in restoring old houses, the Tarletons located old heart-of-pine flooring that matched the original, restored the original mantles, saved and reused the original bead board, and found old paneling from a house in Gastonia that was used as wainscoting and crown molding in several rooms of the house.

The Tarletons have lovingly furnished their home with several period antiques, noteworthy for their beauty, but, more importantly, because many are family pieces and objects collected by Cullie and Sylvia throughout their married life. Every piece has a story that goes with it. As Cullie says, “The house never was and still isn’t a grand or a show house. It’s where we live and entertain our friends and family. Simply put, it’s our home!”

Fort Horizons, home of The Caudles, Blowing Rock Tour of Homes sponsored by Saint Mary’s of the Hills Episcopal Church.


Originally built in 1924 by William Alexander, the Charlotte capitalist and real estate developer who built Mayview Manor Hotel and created the Mayview area, Far Horizons was home to Anne Cannon Reynolds Tate Forsyth for 50 years before being passed on to her son, Zach Tate. Far Horizons lives up to its name, offering spectacular views of the Johns River Gorge, Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, Hawksbill, and, on a clear day, Charlotte and Mt. Mitchell.

Zach Tate, who grew up spending his summers in the house, reminds us that the large home was built as a summer house unintended for winter use. Zack recalls that the pipes frequently froze, despite the home’s eight fireplaces. The home’s lack of insulation, coupled with Blowing Rock’s trademark winds and sometimes brutal temperatures, combined to make the owners a plumber’s best friend!

In 2014, the home suffered a small furnace fire, which caused extensive smoke damage. A major renovation was initiated under the supervision of interior designer, Dianne Davant. During the renovation, spaces were reconfigured, new tiles and finishes installed, and the interior made cozy and warm. In short, the residence now functions like a new house, but with the charm of an old estate on a grand landscaped lot.

Far Horizons , the home of the Caudles, will be the setting for the Opening Doors Gala July 12, when patrons will kick off the season with this community fundraiser that benefits local non-profits

Owls Roost, home of Nan and Edgar Lawton, Blowing Rock Tour of Homes sponsored by Saint Mary’s of the Hills Episcopal Church.


At the end of Hidden Water Lane stands Owls Roost, one of Blowing Rock’s hidden gems. Unnoticed by many, this 1932 home remains in nearly original condition and has many interesting stories to tell. If only these walls could talk!

The house was built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s son-in-law, David Milton, for Milton’s mother. Mr. Rockefeller was a frequent guest of Milton and his wife, Abby (Babs) Rockefeller Milton. It is thought that David Milton’s brother-in-law, Wallace Harrison, was the architect. Mr. Harrison is credited with designing the Metropolitan Opera House, the United Nations Building and Rockefeller Center in New York.

The home was subsequently owned by Mrs. Julius (Laura) Cone, the widow of the youngest brother of Moses Cone, from 1946 to 1969. Much loved in Blowing Rock, and largely responsible for the building of the Blowing Rock Hospital, Laura Cone oversaw the expansion of the original structure of the house.

Mrs. Cone’s sisters-in-law were Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone, famous for their collection of Impressionistic art. The Cone collection is currently housed in the Baltimore Museum of Art and contains many world-famous paintings. Etta, who died at Owls Roost in 1949, was a frequent summer visitor.

The home was purchased in 1970 by current owners Nan and Edgar Lawton, who have thoroughly enjoyed the house with their four children and 11 grandchildren. Furnishings purchased with the home include beds, tables, chairs and chests of drawers, all made locally by Misters Moody and White. Original quilts, china and precious books are also displayed in the home, which the Lawtons have kept as close to the original as possible. As Nan Lawton explains, “We have preserved its essence — keeping it true to its time. We love it just like it is. Of course, we have made small changes, but we have basically just maintained it.”

The house is divided by a dog-run, and the garage doors open; together, these features provide cooling air flow to the first floor. Similar air-flow is provided to the second floor by the upstairs breeze-way and doors.

Tour patrons should do not want to miss their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this remarkable, history-filled residence!

Merlin Glenn, home of Jim Fort, Blowing Rock Tour of Homes sponsored by Saint Mary’s of the Hills Episcopal Church.


Jim Fort has spent many of his 90-plus summers at Merlin Glen, his Laurel Park Road home, originally built in the 1920s by James L. Coker, Jim’s maternal grandfather. Built adjacent to a working apple orchard on a 12-acre property, the home is graced with mystical views of the Johns River Gorge.

In the 1990s, when Jim and his wife, Jean, needed more space for their children and grandchildren, they expanded the house by following the original. Later, a garage featuring guest quarters was added to the property.

Having belonged to one family for nearly 100 years, the home is full of stories about everything. Jim recalls that, although the house was originally wired for electricity, kerosene lamps were used until electricity became available on the mountain. Water was initially provided by a waterwheel located near a spring below the house. To the left of the fireplace in the living room, one can see a curved piece of wood salvaged from the old waterwheel. The original shingles, which were chestnut, were replaced in the 1970s with cedar shakes. Several of the original shingles may be seen on the porch.

This historic home and its views will take you back to a time when summer life in the High Country was nothing short of immersion in mountain wonder from dawn to dusk. Be a part of that magic at Merlin Glen.


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