Show and Tell
25 Jan 2020
A behind-the-scenes look at the 2020 Cashiers Historical Society Designer Showhouse
By KAT FORD
For over twenty years, residents of the southeast have flocked to the plateau for a treasured experience. They wait with anticipation to wander through a labyrinth of visual homage, a temporary wonderland created in devotion to interior design. I’m talking of course, about the Cashiers Historical Society’s Designer Showhouse.
The birth of this event has roots steeped in poetic justice, something new was used to save something old. In 1998, a group of residents interested in preserving the history of the Cashiers Valley came together to create a fundraiser for the restoration of the Zachary-Tolbert House, donated to the historical society that same year by Tom and Wendy Dowden. The inaugural Showhouse was hosted at the Hooper House (built circa 1936 and located in Cashiers), which was dressed by 13 designers from the southeast. Restoring the Zachary-Tolbert House took several years and consisted of two phases, which were funded by proceeds from the first and second Showhouses. Once restorations were complete, the Zachary-Tolbert House opened a window into the past for museumgoers and lovers of history to learn about the early settlers of this enchanting spot in the Appalachian Mountains. The event’s success solidified it as the historical society’s main fundraiser, proceeds of which go directly toward the organization’s operating budget and help fund the educational outreach programs, historical preservation projects, and upkeep of the awe-inspiring Cashiers Historical Society grounds.
Every year since 1998, design fans look forward to the reveal of which home will be the next Showhouse. This requires much planning behind the scenes⸺it truly does take a village to create a dream home. Over the next few issues, Plateau Magazine will follow the events leading up to the 2020 Designer Showhouse, taking our readers through the step-by-step process and revealing a little bit of the magic along the way.
Almost as quickly as one Designer Showhouse ends, talks of the next begin. First, the Cashiers Historical Society is approached by a group or homeowner interested in donating their property for use as the following year’s Showhouse. Factors that play into the decision go far beyond great bones and a breathtaking location⸺space for vendors, enough rooms to fit a fair number of designers and ease of access for guests all play into the decision regarding the feasibility of the residence for use as a large fundraiser. Upon inspection, contracts and a variety of other formalities, the Showhouse is chosen and the fun begins.
During the 2019 Showhouse, Silver Run Reserve reached out to the historical society and asked if CHS would be interested in using one of their cottages as the 2020 Designer Showhouse. A private community just 5 minutes from the Cashiers crossroads, Silver Run Reserve offers five distinct residential offerings spread across nearly 300 acres and is flanked by the Nantahala National Forest. After careful consideration, Cashiers Historical Society decided that the majestic mountain escape provided by Silver Run Reserve’s stunning mountain views and peaceful valley would create a naturally romantic backdrop for this year’s Showhouse.
To those of us that call the plateau our home, or home away from home, it is no secret that we live in a type of paradise. This secret was not lost on Ralph and Virginia Neely of Oklahoma, who made a list of 32 requirements to satisfy their desire for the perfect summer retreat. The Neely’s were able to cross off 30 items from that list when they pieced together an almost 300-acre estate, with the purchase of wooded parcels and 3 farms near Cashiers. They named it Silver Run. As time passed, they transformed the property with extraordinary touches, like a large log cabin guest house designed by well-known architect Jim Fox and even a water plant where they bottled water for sale. Today, Silver Run Reserve’s owners are taking great care to restore those special elements that the Neely’s built while creating their dream. The Neely guest house is now The Lodge, one of the main gathering places for community residents. The plant will be preserved and remodeled into a fitness and activity center named The Water Plant, as a nod to the building’s past. The Chimney Garden will be an outdoor event venue and feature a still-standing chimney from one of the original 3 farmhouses. Silver Run Reserve has opted to leave the chimney and surround it with a peaceful garden hideout in memory of the land’s original use.
Just as the original Designer Showhouse of 1998 was intended to use something new to protect the spirit of something old, Silver Run Reserve now serves as a steward over a new era of the rolling countryside that held the Neely’s hearts for decades. “For almost 40 years, Silver Run was a private family estate available only to a select few, and now as Silver Run Reserve, we look forward to building on the tradition of creating family memories for generations to come, in a peaceful and playful setting,” says Jay Hurt, principal owner and developer. When given the opportunity to roam the trails of Silver Run Reserve, memories are most certainly guaranteed. One would be hard-pressed to drive the winding road, looking from one mystic landscape to the next, without a soundtrack to the opening scene of a movie with long, slow, panoramic views playing in your head.
As the countdown to the 2020 Showhouse begins, and the historical society meets with partners to determine the schedule of events, guests can rest assured that Silver Run Reserve’s offerings will provide an experience to remember. “Silver Run Reserve is honored to host this year’s Showhouse and further our support of the incredible work of the Cashiers Historical Society. We look forward to welcoming attendees to Silver Run and sharing with them not only a beautiful house in a spectacular setting, but also a variety of outdoor and recreational activities that only a piece of property as special and unique as Silver Run can offer,” says Hurt.