PINEHURST, N.C. -- James Walker Tufts chose to winter in the South rather than in his native Charlestown. But charmingly, he made his North Carolina development into a little New England.
Indeed, if you were dropped into the circular center of Pinehurst, you'd think you were in a small New England town, not in the Sandhills region of central-south North Carolina. The architecture is mostly Colonial and Victorian, with buildings clad in wood shingles instead of the usual Carolina brick.
The son of a Charlestown blacksmith who is believed to be second cousin to the university founder, Tufts (1835-1902) made his fortune from a chain of five apothecary stores in the Boston area, a business he started at age 21. When he was 27, according to material at the Tufts Archives here, he developed and started to sell Arctic Soda machines and formed the Arctic Soda Fountain Co. With the silver plating used in making the machines, he also made and sold silver tableware. Visitors to the archives may view a beautifully restored and gleaming Arctic Soda machine along with a collection of Arctic silver dishes and accessories.
The story goes that Tufts, who came to the area in 1895 and originally called his village Tuftstown, chose the name Pinehurst from a list of names under consideration for an area he had planned to develop on Martha's Vineyard. When it came time to design Pinehurst's layout and landscaping, he turned to the firm started by Frederick Law Olmsted in Brookline. Olmsted created the plans without visiting Pinehurst first, at a cost of $300. His assistant Warren Manning traveled from Brookline to oversee the plantings. The design included a classic New England layout of winding and confusing roadways. Take it from the voice of experience -- one can get lost in Pinehurst as easily as in Boston.
Many of the homes here were designed by Boston architects, and most buildings and ''cottages," as they called the summer homes, were named for plants, flowers, or places in New England. There's the Arlington, Beacon, Berkeley, Coolidge, Concord, Harvard, Mayflower, and Plymouth. The Boston area is represented in street names as well -- Beacon, Dartmouth, Marlborough, Tremont.
Another Massachusetts claim to fame is held by C.L. Olmstead of West Brookfield, who was at the wheel of the first car driven to Pinehurst from the North. He arrived in Pinehurst in 1909.
Tufts, a rather sickly man, had wanted Pinehurst to be a health resort for people of modest income. At Pinehurst he offered a variety of outdoor activities, including horseback riding, tennis, hunting, and bicycling. That noble idea didn't last long, in part because of the spread of tuberculosis. Fewer people were traveling, and Tufts needed more customers to keep the hotels open. Soon, Pinehurst became a magnet for the wealthy, as it is today.
With the then-slow migration of golf from Scotland, some guests were discovered hitting balls in the surrounding dairy fields, and Tufts saw the potential for a future in golf.
The Depression hit hard, but Pinehurst saw a comeback in the 1960s. Many buildings have undergone substantial renovations since then. Although the Tuftses sold the resort and land in the 1970s, several family members still live in the area.