To the Manor Reborn
A historic hotel transformed
By Deborah Salomon
Photographs by John Gessner
Historical Photographs from The Tufts Archives
To be memorable, a Christmas pudding needs soaking in brandy. Likewise, a sojourn at Pinehurst’s famed golf courses benefits from après golf immersion: lodgings, décor, potables, camaraderie with fellow-sojourners ready to rehash the day’s round from deeply upholstered chairs at inns where history comes alive via photographs and memorabilia.
The Manor — a luxury lodge, clubby without being uber-masculine, with a staff imbued with Southern hospitality — is part of this culture. It’s fair to say that, before its massive redo, The Manor had aged to the point it was considered little more than “overflow” lodging for the larger resort. Now it’s an attraction all its own.
Tucked behind The Pine Crest Inn and almost completely reimaged, The Manor suits groups who require gathering space as well as couples and weekend golfers in search of a game. It’s just far enough from the village center to claim quiet yet close enough to walk to virtually everything, including the wildly successful Pinehurst Brewery just down the hill. It’s intimate enough — 43 rooms — to feel homey yet part of the Pinehurst Resort family giving guests access to pool, spa and all hotel amenities.
And, like her cousin inns Magnolia and Holly, The Manor is steeped in history.
By the early 1900s Pinehurst was gaining popularity as a winter resort, accessible by rail, boasting mild temperatures and upper-crust guests who rented cottages for “the season” or stopped at a hotel. These facilities required staff, and staff required affordable lodgings. In 1899 the Tufts family announced, “A fine new hotel, The Lexington, for employees of the village is being erected.” Here, a single room in the four-story walk-up cost from $17 to $28 monthly; a double, some with bath, $32 to $40. Tufts hired New England hotelier Emma Bliss — also the force behind The Pine Crest Inn — to manage the project. Emma, who is often compared to the Unsinkable Molly Brown, had loftier ideas. In 1922 she applied for a loan to raze, rebuild and gentrify The Lexington. Bankers, aghast at this cheeky woman, finally relented. The Manor opened in 1923 with a sprinkler system, private bathrooms and steam heat. The Pinehurst Outlook described it as “luxuriously furnished, catering to an exclusive clientele with an elevator, also a phone in each room.”
Build it and they will come. “Mrs. H. Guggenheim of New York City has arrived for a week,” the Outlook society page announced.
Over the years, The Manor has changed ownership and undergone several renovations. Nothing compares to the last one, begun in 2019, when the building was stripped down to its studs, space reallocated, spa bathrooms installed along with décor based, surprisingly, on blue — a soothing smoky shade midway between UNC Tar Heel pastel and Duke Blue Devil electric. Playing off the blue is a sandy-beige plaid fabric, hereafter dubbed Manor tartan, that appears in both public and guest rooms. Miles of moldings, tray ceilings, multiple columns and a graceful staircase divide the lobby into conversation areas, one with a built-in Scrabble board. Another, The Marketplace, stocks breakfast sandwiches sent over from the hotel kitchen, snacks and beverages.
The frontal exterior, however, remains mostly intact with its circular drive, porte-cochère, and foundation trimmed with Kellarstone, a rough surfaced-material touted for endurance.
The North & South bar anchors the lobby, boasting more than 100 bourbons, whiskeys, craft cocktails plus beer from neighboring Pinehurst Brewing Co., with charcuterie boards to temper absorption. Look up and you’ll see an illustration (circa 1920) of Donald Ross’ first four courses. Look out and you’ll find decks outfitted with fire pits for chilly evenings.
COVID interrupted its introduction, but by mid-January The Manor opened, drop-dead gorgeous, still informal enough to raise Mrs. Guggenheim’s eyebrows.
No matter how comfy the sofas are or how many oversized TVs tuned to sports channels hang from the walls, nothing makes a better first impression than the enthusiastic welcome of Kathy Capel, front desk manager, problem solver, sympathizer, advice giver. Her knowledge of the area becomes crucial during junior competitions, when families arrive from around the globe. After 36 years, first at The Carolina Hotel, then The Manor, Capel’s laugh and twinkle have made her popular with locals and repeat guests alike.
Oh, the tales Capel could tell were she not so discreet. The hands she’s shaken include Sidney Poitier (“He was so handsome.”), Dean Smith, Bobby Knight, Oprah Winfrey, Roy Williams and her buddy Arnold Palmer, whose photograph, with father Deacon Palmer, hangs over the front desk.
Palmer could have stayed anywhere, but The King chose The Manor. “He always had suite 401. He would sit on the porch for hours and sign autographs,” Capel recalls. When Palmer passed away in 2016, “I cried like a baby,” says Capel. “But his daughter came down last year to see our pictures of him.”
In the 1980s central air conditioning, then warmer winters extended the “season,” attracting a clientele seeking a more contemporary setting. In April 2020, the resort’s owner, Bob Dedman Jr., told Business North Carolina magazine: “We’ve always gone back, tried to be more authentic, restore the character of Pinehurst but at the same time, contemporize so that its legacy will last. Part of it is looking backward but another part is always looking forward.”
It means rocking chairs on the porch, craft beers on tap, Wi-Fi, and Kathy Capel calling out “Welcome to The Manor” from her forever position at the front desk. PS