As we approach our 90th anniversary, we are thankful for the people who have kept our venue standing as both a beautiful landmark, and as a symbol of the community around us.
The following dates outline the major events that happened at our venue over the past century. A more detailed outline can be found past these bullets.
John Sprunt Hill continues buying small farmlands to create ‘Forest Hill Farm’
Our main barn is constructed.
John Sprunt Hill sells the farm to his son George Watts Hill
George Watts Hill sells the farm to A. P. Brown (Gazette)
1952: Gregory Poole buys the farm, discontinues dairy operations
North Hill Corporation (Ed Richards) buys the farm
Mary Schilling buys the farm
The barn is sold to its current owner and renovations begin, transforming the barn into a luxury events space. The remaining horses are moved to another barn on site, where a couple still reside today!
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.