The Historic Wakefield Barn was originally built in the 1930s, surrounded by beautiful natural gardens, courtyards, and a spacious terrace. The Barn has been restored with great care, creating a functional space for exquisite events, keeping its original charm.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN…
The Historic Wakefield Barn was once the site of John Sprunt Hill’s 2,000-acre Wakefield Farm. Hill was born in Duplin County in 1869. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and then attended law school at Columbia University, graduating in 1894. He started working as an attorney in New York City, and he met and married Annie Louise Watts, who was from Durham, North Carolina. Her father, George Washington Watts, was the owner of the American Tobacco Company. He fell ill in 1903, and Hill and his wife returned to Durham so Hill could take over management of the company. Hill was very active in local business, government, and philanthropic ventures in Durham. Hill’s Durham home at 900 South Duke Street is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
In the years following the depression, Hill purchased many small local banks to form what would later become Central Carolina Bank. He also began to purchase farms through foreclosure sales. The farmers around Wake Forest were eager to divest of their no-longer-profitable farms, and Hill provided an opportunity for them to be able to do so. Hill was particularly interested in raising Guernsey dairy cows. He amassed a large tract where he could indulge in his farming hobby. At the time, it was common for wealthy men to create showplace farms that served two purposes: to show off the owners’ wealth and to serve as model farms that encouraged implementing modern practices. Hill’s farms utilized progressive farming techniques and state-of-the-art equipment.
When Hill acquired the Wakefield Farm, he had already operated three other dairy farms in Durham County – Quail Roost, Hillandale, and Cross Daile. The only two that still remain are Wakefield and Quail Roost. Quail Roost is owned by a Hill descendant and is used for horses.
Hill used Wakefield Farm as his outpost for dairy operations. The farm also produced hay for feed, hybrid corn, and Kerala wheat. Hill raised Percheron draft horses at the farm, as well.
Construction on the Wakefield Dairy Complex began in 1954. All of the timber that was used was cut and milled on the property. Hill’s chosen breed of cow was the Gursey. This breed was known for its high-quality milk and easygoing nature.
Hill was an active member of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, whose mission was to encourage progressive dairy and breeding practices and to recognize farmers who incorporated these practices through a testing and reward system. Throughout the 1930s, Hill’s Wakefield Farm cows appeared on the DHIA “Honor Roll.” Cows on the honor roll were milked three times per day and produced at least 300 pounds of butterfat annually.
Though Hill was known for his progressive practices; he did not use the milking machines that were becoming prevalent in the 1930s. Each of the cows at Wakefield Farm and Hill’s other farms was milked by hand. Hill believed that the machines damaged the cow’s udders and would cause them to produce less milk.
Hill was known for being an entrepreneur, and in the 1930s, he established Long Meadow Dairy in Durham to process the milk from his Wake and Durham County dairy farms. He also founded a farmer’s co-operative in Durham County to provide feed, seed, fertilizer, and fuel to local farmers. The cooperative later merged with Southern States Cooperative, one of the largest farmer-owned co-ops in the US.
Hill sold the farm to his son, George Watts Hill, in 1947. G.W. Hill sold the farm to A.P. Brown in 1951. Several years later, Gregory Poole purchased the farm from Brown and maintained over 500 Hertford beef cows. The Poole family then sold the land to the North Hills Corporation in the 1980s, and they began removing historic buildings from the land. Luckily, the dairy complex was spared. In the late 1990s, the land was sold again to developers of the Wakefield subdivision, but in 2000, Ms. Mary Schilling purchased the complex and fifteen acres to keep it from being torn down. Ms. Schilling carefully restored the structures and received the 2001 Anthemion Award from Capital Area Preservation, Inc. to recognize her efforts.
THE WAKEFIELD DAIRY COMPLEX
The complex is located on the west side of SR 2000/Falls of the Neuse Road in northeastern Wake County. The complex comprises an 11,500+ square foot dairy barn with silos, a bull barn, and a calf barn around a courtyard. A milk house formerly occupied a site southeast of the dairy barn.
Today, the farm sits on a fifteen-acre tract surrounded by The Country Club at Wakefield
and by the residential community of Wakefield. Five acres northeast of the dairy barn is used as a horse pasture. The pasture shares its western boundary with the rear yards of the subdivision homes.
A CLOSER LOOK AROUND
The remaining structures of the Wakefield Diary Complex retain almost complete exterior integrity of materials and design elements. As we take a closer look at each section of the property, you will find that though some things have changed inside, many of the original materials have been utilized.
Let’s start with the Dairy Barn that was built in 1934. The dairy barn is a massive, rectangular, four-story structure comprising over 11,500 square feet. It was constructed to accommodate a herd of approximately thirty-five Guernsey milk cows. Its predominant feature is the graceful bell-shaped roof that slopes steeply from the right to the slightly flared overhanging eaves. We now use the entire building for weddings, concerts, corporate events, and more. We were able to keep much of its original charm and features. When you step inside, you get a feel of what things were like then.
The Calf Barn, which was also built in 1934, was used to shelter the calves born at Wakefield from five days of age until they were about six months of age. We now use this building as our bridal suite and for office space. However, the calf barn does retain some original materials and features of its plan.
The Bull Barn that was constructed in 1934 has been largely unaltered from its date of construction.
Five acres of rolling hills northeast of the barn are currently used as a horse pasture for our resident horses.
We are excited to be part of the National Register under Criterion A, for agriculture, as an assemblage of structures that tell the story of progressive dairy farming in Wake County during the period of significance from 1934 through 1947.
As a substantially intact Wake County dairy farm, we are also eligible under Criterion C for architecture.
THE HISTORIC WAKEFIELD BARN TODAY
The Historic Wakefield Barn is one of a few dairy complexes surviving in Wake County. However, none of the surviving dairy complexes display the attention to architectural detail seen at The Historic Wakefield Barn. Tae Park purchased the land in 2017 and has become a venue for weddings, concerts, corporate events, and more!
Source: Wake County Historic Preservation Commission