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Once in a While-Away

Historic home comes full circle

By Deborah Salomon  

Photographs by John Gessner

In the late teens and early roaring twenties, society hostesses planned guest lists around the comings and goings published in The Pinehurst Outlook.

December 15, 1923: “Most of the regular colony came down earlier than usual, with practically every cottage in the village occupied. Mr. James Barber has opened up Thistle Dhu . . . Mr. S.B. Chapin came down and opened While-a-Way (sic) but had to go back to New York on a business trip.” In New York, the Chapins — engaged in finance, the stock market and real estate — lived in one of the last private homes on Fifth Avenue to survive the Gilded Age.

Old money. Big money.

“Chapin wouldn’t be able to find his way around (While-Away) if he came back now,” says Kevin Drum, who with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Stoddard, bought the cottage in 2014. For Drum, owner of the Drum & Quill — the name a tip of the cap to his golf journalist father, Bob Drum — who has served on the Pinehurst Village Council and run for mayor, ownership of this historic property completes a circle.

Left: Tufts Archives

Right: Kevin Drum, Jennifer Stoddard and Kevin Klenzak 

“My mother told us kids not to play over here,” meaning the exclusive Old Town side of the village. He gestures beyond The Carolina Hotel: “We lived over there.”

Stoddard, a UNC Medical School alumna from Potsdam, New York, returned to North Carolina to join Pinehurst Nephrology Associates. After Drum and Stoddard married, they went house hunting. “I made the Realtor crazy,” Stoddard says. She wanted a historic property, as did Drum. While-Away was close enough to Jennifer’s office and the hospital, and easy walking distance to the Drum & Quill for Kevin. Plus, at 6,000 square feet, it was roomy enough for her three school-age children.

“When you walk into a house, you get a feeling,” Stoddard says. “It was so comfortable, not anything tangible, just the smell, the feeling. I knew this is the house I wanted.”

She researched While-Away and Chapin at the Tufts Archives, discovering the wealthy philanthropist credited with developing Myrtle Beach to be “a good Great Gatsby.”

“But it wasn’t on the market,” Drum adds. Obviously, the story has a happy ending. “I looked at Jennifer and realized she wouldn’t be happy until we bought this house,” he says. Mission accomplished.

Previous owners had performed renovations, but the exterior was about to undergo a transformation, beginning at the recessed front door. A document filed with the village soon after construction was completed in 1917 describes While-Away as “a one-and-a-half story frame house of asymmetrical design . . . and no clearly identifiable façade.” Perhaps the main entrance faced away from the road, as with other cottages built during the infancy of motor transportation, with its fumes and noise.

That was fixable. Designer Mark Parsons and builder Jeremy Strickland added a veranda stretching across the entire front, a brick patio across the back, a portico defining the front door, a garage, plunge pool, adorable pool/guest house, new roof and landscaping. The house, brightened from grayish shingles to gleaming white, is now approached by a circular drive, with the pool and pool house perpendicular to the well-defined front.

The interior retains a whiff of bygone days, more comfy-homey than formal or exotic, beginning in a living room proportioned for Pinehurst society soirees. The main floor layout — cross-hall with the living room and dining room on either side of the foyer — flows in a circle from foyer into dining room, butler’s pantry, kitchen, den and back into the living room with its gleaming wood floors which, if cleared out, could be a dance floor. In place already, a grand piano.

The classic floor plan pleased the new owners. “I don’t like open concepts,” says Stoddard, who chose soft pastels, a pale olive and watery blue, for the public rooms. Bathrooms go rogue with fanciful wallpaper. Some furnishings suggest the genteel 1950s, while others are secondhand “finds,” reproductions and family heirlooms that integrate well with High Point’s finest. Drum stands by a bedroom armoire: “It was my grandmother’s, from Pittsburgh. It stood in my room as a kid.” The dining room table owns the same provenance.

Stoddard admits the butler’s pantry, virtually untouched, sold her on the house. Drum sounds partial to the finished basement with wine cellar, pool table, movie room, bedroom and bath. The surrounding acre is divided into an expanse suitable for a lawn party plus a secret garden where Stoddard is “working on peonies.” The rear patio encompasses a meal preparation area with a pizza oven and separate grills for meat and vegetarian dishes.

The jewel in most renovations is usually the kitchen. While-Away’s, redone by a previous owner, is neutral in hue, Shaker in simplicity but equipped with a large Sub-Zero. “I like it the way it is,” Stoddard says. She and Drum both cook, “but at different times,” she says.

The only walls that needed moving were for upstairs bathrooms, some with marble tiles and oversized showers, featuring built-in rather than clawfoot tubs. In one upstairs bathroom a stacked washer-dryer combo — one of three laundry areas — is handy for towels and bed linens.

On the staircase landing hangs a large, stylized painting created from a photo of golfing great Babe Zaharias. Upstairs hallways are lined with paintings of famous golf courses. Golf hats and bar paraphernalia fill Drum’s “cave.” Stoddard, president of the Moore County Medical Society, also has a home office.

As the children grow and strike out on their own, their bedrooms will become guest quarters or perhaps, one day, nurseries. “We’re about to become empty-nesters,” Stoddard says, as she prepares for guests attending her daughter’s graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill. “This has been my dream house, a labor of love, the perfect family home for us.”

Simeon Chapin built While-Away and five other cottages in Pinehurst. He died suddenly in one of them, the Albemarle, in 1945. At his funeral in The Village Chapel he was celebrated as Pinehurst’s “first citizen.” The house remained in the family until 1952. Chapin lives on in the charitable foundations established in every city where he maintained a residence: Pinehurst; New York; Chicago; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now, more than 100 years after the Chapins “arrived for the season,” a rejuvenated, still genteel but mercifully air-conditioned residence earned Pinehurst Historic Plaque certification in 2023. It hangs by While-Away’s main door, now proudly facing front.  PS