Woo woo! A whistle wails through the streets of downtown Southern Pines as a train screeches to a halt in front of the circa-1898 station. Passengers from as nearby as Raleigh and as far away as New York disembark and step onto the platform. Maybe those passengers feel the potential in the air, the possibility to create. In this corner of Moore County, writers put words to their newest ideas; dozens of horses, ready to compete, roam the pastures lining Youngs Road; and golfers tee off, hoping for a successful day on the links. They’re all artists of sorts. On the page, in the ring, on the green. Here, inspiration is everywhere: Inside the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. In the kitchens of award-winning chefs. On the streets lined with longleaf pines.
Many years before fine-dining chefs and Olympic-level equestrian riders and professional golfers made names for themselves here, American novelist James Boyd felt that potential. Locals in Southern Pines still echo one of Boyd’s original sentiments about this Sandhills town: “This is really the most beautiful country I know. [It] has a certain wildness without being desolate … solitude without loneliness.”
James Boyd’s former study at Weymouth Center has been transformed into the NC Literary Hall of Fame. The faces of notable writers, including Carl Sandburg and Doris Betts, line the walls. photograph by Faith Teasley
Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities Local: Katie Wyatt
Executive Director of the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, Katie Wyatt. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin
Katie Wyatt, executive director of the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, has a strong philosophy regarding artistic endeavors. “Performance is not the end objective,” says Wyatt, who’s also a freelance musician and a principal viola player for the Carolina Philharmonic. “It’s to bring people together to experience beauty.” It’s through that lens that Wyatt views the work of the Weymouth Center, a nonprofit located on the property that was once the private home and estate of author James Boyd, a World War I ambulance driver who gained fame for his honest depiction of war in his novel Drums. Wyatt served on the Weymouth Center board before taking on her current role in 2021. Her hope is that the center will continue to be a place of inspiration for new generations — from the writers and poets who live in the house for a week at a time as part of the writers-in-residence program to the visitors breathing in its pine-scented air and admiring its flower gardens.
Take a tour: The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame is located on the second floor of the house, and the grounds and gardens are open from sunup to sundown.
Sip bourbon, eat barbecue, and enjoy live music along with a live stream of the Kentucky Derby at Lydell’s Meadow. Proceeds will benefit the Weymouth equestrian program, which partners with the Boys & Girls Club of the Sandhills to teach kids about equine care.
Strawberry Festival — May 15
The Women of Weymouth will host this annual event, where attendees can enjoy a variety of strawberry treats. Although there is no formal dress code, donning a straw hat or fascinator is encouraged.
Red’s Corner Local: Rachel Jurgens
Rachel Jurgens owns Red’s Corner. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin
For many years, people gathered to cook barbecue outside the Exxon gas station that sat at the corner of Southwest Broad Street and Morganton Road. The station was commonly known as Red’s Exxon, named for the redheaded man who owned it. Four years ago, Rachel Jurgens purchased the two-acre lot that Red’s once sat on to secure the future of her 14-year-old drive-through coffee business, Pony Espresso, which occupied the same lot. Jurgens envisioned the space as a colorful food truck park, where families could sample different cuisines. After opening last March, Red’s Corner became the gathering place that Jurgens had hoped for: Kids now enjoy the on-site playground while adults chat over cold beers from the bar. And in December, when Moore County lost power for several days, Red’s trucks were still up and running on generators. “I was really blessed to be open,” Jurgens says. “We fed all of Moore County.”
Order up: Grab a bite from one, or all, of the permanent trucks at Red’s, which include The Breakfast Truck, Cookies-N-Moore, Italian street food from The Gravy Train, and Cajun cuisine from Bayou in the Pines.
Try roasted grouper with capers, olives, and tomatoes served over grits at Chef Warren’s Bistro. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin
Chef Warren’s Bistro Local: Warren Lewis
Chef Warren Lewis. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin
Painted gold walls and soft lighting create a warm and friendly atmosphere at Chef Warren’s Bistro. Specials like roasted grouper with capers, olives, and tomatoes served over grits and other seasonal entrées prepared with French techniques make appearances, but the staples — steak and fries, lobster Rangoon, and pecan pie — have attracted diners since the restaurant opened in 1998. The population of Southern Pines has nearly doubled since then, bringing a wave of newcomers willing to expand their culinary horizons. Co-owner and Head Chef Warren Lewis is thankful for the change: He used to have a hard time selling a flourless white chocolate cake garnished with scratch-made caramel and served with fenugreek ice cream. “Now, poor Joe,” Lewis says with a laugh, gesturing to a chef in the open kitchen, “has to make three every day.” Lewis graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, but nowadays he mostly leaves the cooking to the younger chefs while operating the restaurant with his wife, Marianne. “We’re here to please people,” he says. “That’s why we do this.”
Look around: The wildlife photographs on the walls — a polar bear, a puffin, a bison, and an Arctic fox — were taken by Lewis at the North Pole, in Iceland, and in Poland.
At Against the Grain Shoppe, Ashley Tramontin showcases wares from small businesses. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin
Against the Grain Shoppe Local: Ashley Tramontin
Locally bottled honey; decorative pillows inscribed with the Southern Pines zip code and colorful maps of Moore County; the outline of North Carolina on glasses and cards and canvases — nearly everything in this shop is inspired by our state. Pieces created by about 100 North Carolina makers are represented in the store, from watercolor scenes painted by Dr. Laura Martin, a physician’s assistant whose patients come by to admire her work, to the leather and wooden goods of Pete Koepp, a veteran and the sole creator behind the brand Renaissance Man. “This is a good jumping-off point for small businesses,” owner Ashley Tramontin says. “The idea is to encourage them and help them grow.” Tramontin understands the importance of giving artists a solid foundation: She made and sold custom furniture for many years at markets and online before taking over Against the Grain in 2019 to focus on giving a platform to local makers. “I like to know where my products come from,” she says. “I would prefer to know that my money is staying in my local community.”
Did you know? The honeycomb-style tiles and four individual mirrors on the east wall are remnants from when Against the Grain was a barbershop.