Whispering Laurel Cabin: A labor of love on Lake Lanier

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sally Hursey is pictured in front of Whispering Laurel cabin, a restored 1800s cabin that was disassembled, moved, and reassembled over a six-year period. She shares the cabin with her husband, Hugh, and a variety of antiques and memorabilia. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Sally Hursey is pictured in front of Whispering Laurel cabin, a restored 1800s cabin that was disassembled, moved, and reassembled over a six-year period. She shares the cabin with her husband, Hugh, and a variety of antiques and memorabilia. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Life in Our Foothills, November 2015
By Linda List

In 1993 Sally and Hugh Hursey purchased a site overlooking Lake Lanier and Melrose Mountain. Sally had a dream of building a log cabin, creating a homestead to reflect her love of antiques and her Southern heritage. When they noticed an ad in the Greenville News for a log cabin for sale near Belton, S.C., in Anderson County, they headed out to see it. It was love at first sight and they purchased the cabin “on the spot.”

The cabin was known as the Earl Shirley cabin. Digging into the cabin’s history, they found it dates to the 1800s, and was owned by a family named Adams. It was in complete disrepair, covered in clapboards, and housing chickens, kittens and a dead possum. The Hurseys had it carefully dismantled, log by log labeled North, South, East and West, designating which side it came from, and 1,2,3,4 from top to bottom. The cabin was loaded on a flatbed and in two trips it was delivered to the lot.

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Construction began in 1996 and finished in 2002. At 18 by 23 feet, it was the typical size of a cabin from that era. The layout was kept intact. There are no windows in the front, just a door, and a window on each side of the fireplace. An addition of a kitchen and bath, plus a basement increased the total size of the home.

The porch is comfortably furnished with rocking chairs, inviting one to sit a spell. Limelight hydrangeas frame the rails and banisters, made from mountain laurel grown on the property. The mountain laurel provided the cabin with its name, Whispering Laurel. The front door is made from heart pine that was salvaged from Pacolet Mill when the mill was closed.  Sally grew up in Pacolet and cherishes having bits of her childhood inserted into the house.

Upon entering the home on a crisp fall afternoon, warmth and coziness envelops the living area. Each window frames views of Melrose Mountain. High on the wall, guarding over the room, is a big horn sheep’s head, purchased at an antique shop. The fireplace is covered with a large screen created by Hugh at the John C. Campbell Folk School. He also fashioned a wood coffee table with wrought iron legs that he created at Tryon Arts and Crafts, aided by a blacksmith.

Sally’s family home in Pacolet dated to the 1800s. She retrieved a charming picture of a large dog, plus a smaller landscape picture, and both now adorn walls in the cabin. A stairway leading to the loft was handcrafted by Sally and Hugh out of wood from the Pacolet mill.

The kitchen is set for a festive tea, offering apple pie, cookies, and scones. Fall gourds fill a wooden bowl. The bowl is part of Sally’s childhood Christmas traditions. It was always found under the Christmas tree, filled with oranges and apples.

Adding to the décor is an unusual wall cabinet, painted with vegetables and fruits. The kitchen floor is made from wide plank, heart pine floorboards, reclaimed from a mill. Window sills are knotty pine.

Placed above an antique pie safe is an interesting pen and ink drawing of the cabin by Lewis Rouquie. A framed corn meal sack from Sally’s McDowell ancestor’s cotton ginnery hangs along the wall. Bringing good luck to the home, wood spirits look out from a pole in the kitchen. The large spirit was carved by local artist Don Blackwell  from red cedar.

Hursey’s dog Sid, named for Sidney Lanier, peeks in through the window. The door to the deck, featuring a stained and frosted glass window, is another heirloom from Sally’s Pacolet home. Sally spent many hours sanding and staining, bringing the door back to life.

For the bath, to continue the authentic style of the cabin, an old sink and claw foot tub were discovered in a barn, rusted and covered with vines and dirt. Now restored, the five and a half foot tub invites a long afternoon soak.

Lighting up the bathroom is a large stained glass window, a gift from a cousin who recovered it from an old mountain house. A dresser displays a Bybee Pottery “Cats Paw” design wash basin and pitcher. Hand towels embroidered with log cabins complete the cabin theme. Sally treasures a little toy dog, crafted by Susie Welsh of Saluda, sitting on a chair with a songbook, called “Songs To Sidney,” referencing poet Sidney Lanier, purchased at a silent auction. Since her own dog is named Sid, it was a “must have” purchase.

A spiral, metal staircase, leads to a bedroom. Two large posts, more salvage from Pacolet Mill, form an entrance into the room. No cabin would be complete without a log cabin quilt; hers hangs next to a comfy bed. A delightful wooden rocking horse is placed on top of a chest.

Sally and Hugh Hursey have created an enchanting homestead, reflecting their heritage, living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The cabin, from the long hours of reconstruction, to the many years of collecting antiques, attending auctions, and estate sales, creating lovely gardens and native iron stone rock walls, has truly been a labor of love.