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Couple reopens historic antebellum home as event venue

February 15, 2019

MADISON, N.C. (AP) — It was kismet.

A mutual love for things of the past meant a bond on which Suzie Vaughan and Ed Moore could build a future.

The couple, celebrating their two year dating anniversary this week, recently bought and reopened the historic Boxley mansion, a 234-year-old stately and storied Federal-style mansion on the eastern-most end of this western Rockingham County hamlet.

Operated in recent years as a bed and breakfast and event venue, the 5,700-square-foot Boxley Venue, under management of Vaughan and Moore, now opens its doors and breezy porches for special events, such as weddings, soirees, teas, birthday events and corporate functions.

A former bridal model with a talent for hosting and decorating, Vaughan, 36, has long been considered the “Martha Stewart” within her church and by her family. Growing up on Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston, South Carolina, gave Vaughan her affinity for antebellum architecture and style, she said.

Joking about her addiction to home tours and candlelight peeks at Charleston’s finest homes, Vaughan said she was the only member of her family who cottoned to antebellum style.

Now she is watching her own children — Sarah, 16, Reagan, 11, and Syler, 7 — come to love antiquities and the history of the Boxley as they make their rooms cozy with tea sets, stuffed animals and teen accessories.

Moore, who grew up in the Raleigh area, has nearly 20 years of experience managing restaurants and knows the business of organizing special functions from top to bottom.

He, too, spent a lifetime of holidays and summers surrounded by historic architecture and artifacts. A descendant of Bergaw, North Carolina founding father, Midas Mingum Moore, he enjoyed the M.M. Moore home as a playground. “The house has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a wrap-around gray porch. It’s like a family museum with portraits from the early 1900s. It’s where our family has always lived,” Moore, 39, said. The historic Moore home is so picturesque, in fact, that it was used in the 1990s as the setting for the Hallmark film, “The Summer of Ben Tyler.”

“I thought that was what everyone was used to, then I realized how blessed I was to have that connection to ancestors. I always wanted an old house,” Moore said.

Prepping the Boxley for upcoming events, including his Nov. 16 wedding to Vaughan, means Moore has stripped ivy from a camouflaged pergola and chimney and power washed and rebuilt weathered porches and decking.

Meanwhile, Vaughan has cleared waist-high weeds from flower beds where old variety roses and bulbs abound. All the while, though, the couple has taken care to preserve the box shrubs for which the Hunter Street home near the banks of Dan River is known.

HOW THEY FOUND IT

Perusing real estate magazines during a St. Patrick’s Day road trip to Virginia in 2018, Vaughan and Moore independently noted houses they liked. And when they compared their lists, a match was made.

“He showed me the house, and I said, ‘Oh, that’s our house, that’s it,’ ” Vaughan said of the Boxley. “It didn’t have where it was located or a price, but we said: ‘We can do it. Let’s go do it.’ ”

Realizing the couple would be good stewards of the house and preserve its character, the previous owner made the home’s furnishings, including a butternut-colored parlor grand piano, part of the deal.

Those furnishings, which include some pieces that are original to the home, include an exquisite dining set, an elegant game table, complete with inlaid wooden chess board, massive hand-carved armoires and chandeliers, all set upon highly buffed warm blonde wooden floors.

Those floors have known the traffic of some of Madison’s founding families, including the Scales, Hegewood, Black and Webster clans. Nancy Webster Ellis, fondly known as “Nan,” made the Boxley her home for decades before her death in the 1980s at age 103.

Originally a simple cottage, the home enjoyed a number of additions over the centuries, including a dining and kitchen area, added in 1785, and a pediment porch with formidable columns, installed in the 1840s.

Today, porches and sitting rooms feature cheerful white wicker, and antiques, such as a spinning wheel and vintage signage.

With a front hall staircase ideal for bridal portraits, the house also boasts oil paintings — portraits and landscapes.

The formal dining room is awash in sunlight on a recent afternoon with light playing off of chandelier crystals. A Victorian sofa with scrolled arms and bolster pillows anchors the parlor space before the fireplace, and the entire house is scented with the inimitable perfume of old wood.

Vaughan has lots of plans for repurposing rooms in the historic house, where butler’s pantries and silver closets make organizing for fetes easy work.

She hopes to convert a small wine room into a bar, with access from outside. Busy these days with preparing rooms for wedding parties, Vaughan and Moore have designated ample bedrooms, bathrooms and suites for mothers of the wedding couple, bridesmaids, groomsmen and bride and groom.

Offering packages at several price points, Vaughan and Moore will provide clients with a list of preferred vendors and will leave catering to third party providers.

HOW THEY MET

After three years of a casual friendship, Moore and Vaughan agreed in February 2018 to accompany another couple to Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, Virginia, for a clean-up effort.

The date began with a stop at Bojangle’s chicken restaurant, a side trip made necessary when Vaughan felt her blood sugar dip a bit low.

″ I was really hungry . . . and out I walk with a box of chicken under my arm, a drumstick in one hand and a butter biscuit in the other,” Vaughan said, laughing. “He was sitting in the car and he said, ‘That’s it. That’s my girl.’”

Once at Hanging Rock, the couples wandered off of the parking lot and down a ravine to search for litter. Soon they were lost, and light was fading.

“We got lost in the mountains for nine hours,” Vaughan said, explaining she hiked that day with a freshly-healed broken foot. “We found a trail, we were following random trails up, down and around. The sun started to set, nobody had service or GPS.”

“It was dark and the trail had gone narrow, straight up, with rocks and branches and roots, and I’m a little terrified of the dark,” Vaughn said. “He (Moore) was so sweet and kept talking to me and keeping me calm the whole time.”

Park rangers had set out looking for the couple by the time they found their way back to the parking lot.

The exhausted couple drove back to Greensboro, but once home, Vaughan suffered another setback.

“My wallet was gone!”

Valiant Moore remedied the situation by buying groceries for Vaughan that evening. He let her fall asleep during a movie, kissed her upon the forehead and let himself out for a two-mile walk home.

The courtship was cemented.

“We’re so lucky,” Vaughan said.

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Information from: News & Record, http://www.news-record.com