A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Act I. Last-Minute Day Trip Randy Meekins figured he was in the clear. An entire month had passed since his wife, Lynn, had discovered her dream house — the day

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Act I. Last-Minute Day Trip Randy Meekins figured he was in the clear. An entire month had passed since his wife, Lynn, had discovered her dream house — the day

A Southport Showstopper

The porch of the Furpless house

Act I.
Last-Minute Day Trip

Randy Meekins figured he was in the clear. An entire month had passed since his wife, Lynn, had discovered her dream house — the day she Googled “cute Southern coastal towns” and the two hopped in the car for a jaunt to Southport from their home in Georgetown, South Carolina.

“A cool breeze was coming off the water,” Lynn says. “It was the middle of the day, mid-July.” She thought, Oh my God, we have found heaven.

Lynn and Randy Meekins

Lynn and Randy Meekins. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

An afternoon walk sealed their fate. As they meandered down Caswell Avenue, about a block from the waterfront, a white, two-story house with a deep porch drew Lynn’s gaze. “Vines were growing through the windows and into the roof. It hadn’t been lived in for 20 years,” Randy says. “But Lynn thought it was beautiful.”

On the ride home, Lynn researched the Southport house and discovered that its owner, Bill Furpless, also ran the city’s historic Amuzu Theatre. She called him from the car, and his daughter answered. “We have had people approach us about buying this house for years,” she told Lynn. “Daddy won’t sell it; it was his granddaddy’s.”

But the curtain does not close on Lynn when she has a dream.

Over the next year, Bill, Lynn, and Randy struck up a friendship. They would meet in Southport or talk on the phone. “Maybe a year or so later, [Bill] called us and said the roof had started to leak,” Randy says. “He told us to make him a proposal.”

Act II.
Everything Old is New Again

This was the scene: Hurricane Florence blew through town a few weeks after Randy and Lynn signed papers to buy the home. The roof may have been leaking before, but that was nothing compared to the water that was gushing down the staircase upon their return. The Meekinses had their work cut out for them.

Bill’s grandfather Price Furpless — a Southport mayor and a skilled builder — built the house by hand and completed it in 1912, Randy says. He also built the Amuzu Theatre in 1918.

“Bill’s life was his family and that theater. There’s a picture of him as a teenager taking tickets outside the theater. It’s still his life,” Randy adds. “The house was not.”

Bill had used the house for storage — theater props, old Amuzu seats, movie playbills, and all of his late mother’s possessions. Randy and Lynn made a stack of things that they thought Bill might want. Bill would stop by periodically to go through the stack.

He had two requests: First, his mother’s engagement ring, a substantial diamond that had been missing for 20 years. Second, a ticket stub from an Elvis concert that he attended as a young man.

Randy and Lynn left no stone unturned. “Remember those old Billboard magazines? There were stacks of those. We went through every page of every book,” Randy says.

Once the house was cleared, the Meekinses were committed to a restoration that preserved the home’s history and character. Randy, who learned carpentry skills from his father and grandfather, appreciated the original heart pine wainscoting and the individually hand-turned spindles on the staircase. He carried those early 20th-century details into the parts of the home that he designed and built: a large, screened-in back porch, the kitchen cabinets, family room built-ins, and a butler’s pantry.

Act III.
Southport Cocktail Hour

Old homes hold and share secrets. The Meekinses never found the ring or the ticket, but their renovation unearthed the family Bible and a locket containing two locks of amber hair.

It also built a friendship between the Meekins and Furpless families. “Bill still rides by every day,” Lynn says from her porch, as she pulls up a rocking chair for a neighbor who’s on her way over. “Bill’s wife, Cathy, plays the piano for the Amuzu shows. Randy and I volunteer at the theater to run the concessions. We’re not performers, but we can cook popcorn!”

The Furpless House from the street.

Lynn and Randy Meekins restored their 1912 dream home to its former glory. The wraparound porch is one of their favorite features. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

As Lynn arranges the chairs, Randy joins her, balancing a bottle of wine and a few glasses.

“We come out here with a glass of wine in the afternoons, and — this is no lie — people will walk by from out of town and stop and ask questions about the house,” Lynn says. “They’ll ask about my grandmother’s flower cart in the front yard, and pretty soon, our neighbors come over with a glass.”

That’s the best part of life here, Randy adds. “The house is great, but the community and the people who are in it are absolutely wonderful — kindhearted, generous, fun-loving. We didn’t know we were getting that when we got the house.”

This story was published on Feb 26, 2024

Robin Sutton Anders

Robin Sutton Anders is a writer based in Greensboro.