When I was growing up in the small-town Iowa countryside, surrounded by farms and what I considered at the time to be a whole lot of nothingness, I yearned to someday live in a big city. I wanted the bright lights, the hustle and bustle, and the endless possibilities for things to do. Thirteen years ago, I moved from Iowa to the Chicago suburbs, and, seven years ago, I bought a condominium within Chicago’s city limits. I had finally “made it” to the third most populous city in America. It was exactly what I wanted.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to miss the uncomplicated charm of the country. However, every time I really consider moving back to a place with wide-open spaces, I’m challenged by the lack of things to do, which was high on my list of reasons to get out of the country in the first place. Little did I know there are places, like Saxapahaw Rivermill, a formerly abandoned textile mill, in Saxapahaw, N.C., where you can experience the beauty of the country, a strong sense of community, and unique entertainment and food options.
I met Claire Haslam and Doug Williams, two of six owners of the refurbished Saxapahaw Rivermill, for coffee while they were visiting Chicago during an especially frigid day in January. As we discussed their involvement in the March-April issue’s cover story, something Doug said resonated with me: “I’ve never really lived in a city but I’d always been intrigued with the idea of living somewhere where you could walk everywhere and have your local coffee shop, market, pub and restaurant nearby, as well as trails through the countryside. That has ended up being exactly what Saxapahaw Rivermill is. You are out in the country but everything is available; it’s really the best of both worlds.”
What Claire and Doug and their business partners have created is truly unique. Their goal always had been to develop a community and not just renovate a building. Saxapahaw Rivermill underscores the importance of human connection and the owners’ desire to revere the past while achieving something better— environmentally and socially—for future Saxapahaw generations. I’m eager to visit!
Another Southern community, Savannah, Ga., also has embraced its past and, today, has a reputation for exuding the romance of the old South. In fact, Savannah’s downtown is one of the largest Historic Landmark Districts in the U.S. However, as recently as the 1990s, many of its retail district’s establishments were covered with modern façades, hiding this part of the city’s historic roots. The Marshall House hotel on Broughton Street was one of the first buildings in the district to undergo a retrofit, which transformed a partially boarded up retail space back into the grand hotel it was constructed to be in 1851. The hotel’s thoughtful retrofit is recalled by architect J. Paul Hansen, FAIA, NCARB, in “Historic,” in our March-April issue.
I’m willing to bet these articles will entice you to visit Saxapahaw Rivermill and the Marshall House hotel. If so, let us give you a reason to get away. retrofit is offering one qualified reader of the magazine a $500 gift certificate for a stay and/or incidentals at the Marshall House hotel. The winner also will receive a private tour of the hotel, highlighting its history, architecture, and the artifacts uncovered and donated during the renovation. To enter, fill out the subscription card in the March-April issue and mail it to us. One lucky winner will be chosen and announced in the September-October issue of retrofit. You must fill out the subscription card to win—even if you are currently receiving the magazine. (Your subscription will not be duplicated.)
I’m a little envious the contest’s winner will be able to see Savannah’s historic past come to life through its beautifully restored buildings while learning about the city’s investment in its future: Savannah boasts 38 miles of fiber-optic cable; is the fourth busiest seaport in the nation; and serves as headquarters to many tech-minded businesses, according to www.savannahga.gov. The city sounds like another place that offers the best of both worlds.
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