CARY — Not far from the traffic and the bustle of Cary, past the pastures, beyond the clapboard church and down the winding dirt drive sits the Hamilton Scot Inn.
Once a family residence, it has served as Carys only bed and breakfast since opening in March in the historic Green Level community.
Eric Hoke built the sprawling home in 2000 with entertaining in mind. The next year, his Range Rover caught fire, and the house was quickly engulfed in flames.
By the time firefighters left, there was little standing save the front door and some kitchen appliances. Hoke pulled a few antiques from the embers, but much of his family history was gone.
Hoke, a history buff, spared nothing when it came to details the second time around: Even the walls have a story.
Floor-to-ceiling panels in the entry parlor were salvaged from the First Citizens Bank building in downtown Raleigh and bought at auction. A bench in the foyer once resided in the French Embassy in Singapore. The wrought iron stair railings were hand-crafted by an artisan. The parquet flooring mimics that of Thomas Jeffersons Monticello.
A rocker in the dining room belonged to Hokes great-great-grandfather, Timothy Vogler, a gunsmith whose shop is part of the Old Salem tour. The chair, which dates to the mid-1800s, was nearly destroyed in the fire, but Hokes brother was able to restore it.
The homes transformation to an inn came in large part out of necessity. Hoke, a custom builder, was hit hard by the recession.
The economy tanked and no bank in the country would give me a loan, he said.
Turning his home into a business seemed a viable option.
Hoke has more than construction on his resume. He was once a wine steward in restaurants.
My passion is for history and wine, he said, showing a visitor the inns wine cellar.
Hoke met Sue Ferguson on a trip to his mailbox; she was taking photographs of azaleas on his property.
I was trespassing, she said.
The two hit it off, and she soon joined him running the inn. Ferguson cooks to order for guests each morning, seating them in the dining room or the kitchen, depending on their preference.
She said the inn is gaining in popularity among travelers looking for an alternative to a typical hotel. Weve had guests from the Virgin Islands, Maryland and a gentleman from Switzerland who is coming for his third stay with us.
Ferguson said a player with the New York Yankees was in town this month and stayed at the inn with his family.
She wants guests to feel at home, and pets are welcome.
Hoke is already dreaming of plans for the inns grounds. A two-story hen house from the 1920s begs restoration, and he says there is a perfect spot on the lawn for golfers to practice putting.
The inn backs to wetlands, home to a plethora of wildlife, and provides a picturesque backdrop for weddings as well as areas for guests to explore.
Mosquitoes are not a problem, Hoke said. The thousands of frogs take care of them.
A wooden walkway takes visitors to a greenway and, Holt expects, eventually will connect with the American Tobacco Trail.