|Updated May 2, 2001|
Pinehurst Packrat’s Paradise
Look up the word unique in the thesaurus and you will find such terms as “singular,” “distinctive” and “one of a kind.” These words (and more) can be used to describe the Pinehurst home of Ed Whalen and Penny Hayes.
Whalen is a collector of anything and everything — and just about all of it is displayed someplace in the huge house.
Advertising memorabilia from old gasoline stations hangs on walls next to framed pictures. Drink machines from Coca-Cola and Pepsi may be found in several rooms.
“The drink machines all work,” says Whalen, who came to Pinehurst as an employee of Diamondhead and now works for Pinehurst Inc.
There are many Coca-Cola items ranging from a jukebox to a large poster in the shape of a bottle.
“I started with Coca Cola items and general advertising,” says Whalen, “then soon graduated to other memorabilia.”
Whalen has been collecting for many years.There are bicycles of various vintages in several rooms of the house, including the bike he rode when he was a youngster.
“In the house I was living in before we got married, you couldn’t see the walls because of all the things hanging on them,” he says.
Whalen and Hayes, a local attorney and member of the Moore County School Board, often go to auctions or tag sales in search of a bargain.
“Penny and I also go to an auction in Atlanta that has all sorts of collectibles,” says Whalen. “It’s a three-day auction and you have to pay a $200 fee to go in, but that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
One of Whalen’s favorite finds (and one of his biggest) was purchased at an auction in Raleigh.
“There was a restaurant going out of business,” says Hayes, “and I told him ‘don’t you come back with that Big Boy.’”
So Whalen didn’t come back with the huge advertising symbol; he had it delivered.
“They brought it one afternoon and put it right on the lawn,” he says with a laugh. “Before I could get home to move the Big Boy, several people had called the village hall wondering what we were doing.”
There are many cabinets of all kinds holding collectibles from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures from the late 1980s to Madame Alexander dolls and many other types of what some people might term “junk.”
“Luckily, Penny likes to buy cabinets,” says Whalen, “so I have something to put things in.”
Only a portion of the items Whalen has collected are on display.
“This house has a full attic,” says Hayes, “and it’s crammed full of stuff.”
House With a History
“We purchased the house from the Catholic diocese in 1994,” says Hayes. “They called it Maryhurst and used it as a retreat house for the nuns and others.”
They are the fourth owners of the house, which was originally called Thistle Dhu. It was built by shipping magnate James Barber and his wife, Kate between 1917 and 1919 at a cost of approximately $34,000.
“Thistle Dhu was a another way of saying ‘this will do’,” says Whalen.
Barber was the president of Barber Steamship Lines in New York. During the late 1910s and early 1920s, he played a significant role in the development of Pinehurst and the area surrounding it.
“Mr. Barber must have been a wealthy guy,” says Hayes. “He only had two fireplaces put in the house because he could afford to install central heating.”
Since the house contains 11 bedrooms and seven and a half baths, the couple thought it would make a great bed and breakfast; however, because of zoning regulations that idea had to be shelved.
“The Barbers had many guests visiting them when they were in Pinehurst and needed all of those rooms to accommodate them,” says Hayes. “Upstairs you can start in one room and go through every other room without ever going back into the hall because of the connecting doors.”
Hayes put up new wallpaper in all of the upstairs rooms and furnished each bedroom. All of the baths were tiled and are pretty much original with the exception of some new fixtures. The house was rented to DuPont during the 1999 U.S. Open.
“I stayed here and kept things cleaned up for them,” says Whalen.
While most of the work in the bedrooms was cosmetic, the couple had more to accomplish on the main floor.
“The Diocese had made a little chapel in one corner of what is now our living room,” says Whalen. “I had to carefully take out the pews and the altar.”
The pews are still in the house, one of them in use as a place to stack towels and clothes in a large bathroom on the second floor.
“When we came in, there was shag carpet, all different colors, on all of the floors,” says Hayes. “We were afraid that the hardwood floors underneath would be in bad shape, but they were fine. It took an incredible amount of work, but the floors turned out beautifully.”
In the living room, a large portrait of the house, done by artist Janet Sheehan, graces the wall over the mantel.
“I had that portrait commissioned as a surprise for Penny,” says Whalen.
As in many homes built in that era, the kitchen didn’t have many cabinets because most people kept their food items in a pantry.
“The kitchen had three different stoves in it when we bought the house,” says Whalen. “I guess the nuns just accepted whatever people had to give.”
The couple got a Viking stove and had a carpenter build some new cabinets to match the existing ones.
A door in the kitchen leads to three bedrooms and a bath. Two of the bedrooms are being used by the boys.
“These were the servants’ rooms,” says Hayes.
“There is a call box in the kitchen and when a bell would ring, the arrow would indicate which room needed service,” says Whalen.
The house has a full basement, part of which is dedicated to a utility area and the rest to a playroom for the boys.
“There is also a confessional booth in the basement that was used by the nuns who came here for retreats,” says Whalen.
The two-story frame house features a hipped roof and the original aluminum siding. It boasted a formal garden at one time and on the west side, the gardens incorporated an 18-hole miniature golf course, likely first in the nation, which was designed by Edward H. Wiswell.
“It’s a dream of mine to refurbish it,” says Whalen. “The boys and I have found two or three of the original cups when we’ve been doing yard work and the original tee markers were in the shed.”
Barber often held benefit tournaments on his course, charging 50 cents per entry and donating the benefits to Farm Life School.
“A picture of Donald Ross on this miniature golf course hangs in the lobby of the Holly Inn,” says Whalen.
Barber was a driving force in the construction of the Village Chapel. He was also an active member of the Tin Whistles
In 1928, Barber died and Thistle Dhu was purchased by Michael J. Meehan who was a well-known wheeler-dealer on the New York Stock Exchange. Meehan had established the firm of M.J. Meehan and had earned a fortune as a commission broker and operator. He was charged with rigging the market in Bellanca Aircraft stock and eventually the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered him expelled from the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade and the Curb Exchange.
Meehan owned Thistle Dhu until the late 1940s when he deeded it to the Catholic Church.
“What I think is neat about this house is that it’s unique,” says Whalen.
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