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The Story of Fearrington

The Story of Fearrington

Jesse Fearrington on the farm, c. 1932

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Garden Tour

Minimum 6 people, one hour, $25 pp. Email inquiry.

Records of the Fearrington farm in Chatham County date to the 1770s, when land grants issued by North Carolina Governor Ritchie Caswell first conveyed the title to this farm. In 1786, William Cole, Sr. purchased 640 acres of land that eventually became Fearrington Village for $80. It was said that he was able to purchase the land for a pittance because the seller did not believe there was enough water on the property to run a gristmill or whiskey mill. The land passed through the generations and acquired the Fearrington name when it was inherited by Cole’s great-granddaughter and her husband, Edwin M. Fearrington, in 1915.

A fire destroyed the original homestead in 1925, and in 1927 Edwin’s son, John Bunyan Fearrington, built a homestead in a location close to US 15-501, where it stands today as The Fearrington House Restaurant. He turned the Fearrington property into a dairy farm in the 1930s, and the land continued to be used for that purpose until its sale. By the late 1960s, facing retirement, John’s son Jesse began looking for a buyer for the farm who would preserve the historic and aesthetic qualities which had made it an important part of the area for so long.

R.B. Fitch purchased the farm in 1974 and named the community Fearrington to honor the stewardship of Jesse and his forebears. He began to slowly and deliberately craft a village from the rolling pastures and wooded acres of the farm, where residents would enjoy dining, relaxing, shopping and living.

R.B. and Jenny Fitch, 1983

Avid travelers, R.B. and his late wife Jenny admired the smaller villages of England. They wanted to create a “coming together place” where one could pick up daily necessities or have lunch with friends, all enjoyed in a garden setting. From other travels they picked up an interest in the Italian game of Bocce – lawn bowling – and croquet, eventually bringing those pastimes to Fearrington residents as well. Thus the term Fearrington VillageTM was created, representing the Village Center and the neighborhoods he constructed.

Over the last 40 years the Fearrington community has grown to include 2000 residents, an award-winning inn, a spa, several restaurants, acres of beautiful gardens, an independent bookstore, boutiques, and much more.

As the Village Center evolved to fit the needs of Fearrington residents and guests, R.B. placed a focus in preserving Fearrington’s history. Farm structures have been renovated and brought back to life throughout the Village Center. For example, the farm’s granary is now The Fearrington Granary Restaurant and the milking barn is home to our clothing boutique Dovecote Style. As the real estate developer, R.B. is also careful to preserve as much natural land as possible while constructing new homes.

Today the farm continues to be an important part of our business. Hay from our fields feeds our farm animals and the pastures provide a home for them. An herb and vegetable garden managed by our chefs and gardeners provide fresh herbs, vegetables and garnishes for dishes at The Fearrington House Restaurant. We supplement our gardens with fresh bounty from local farmers and farmer’s markets.

Fearrington's Timeline

In a 1996 interview, RB said, “We’ve taken it slowly; we’ve not been in a big hurry. We’ve tried to let it evolve the way communities evolved years ago. You’d have maybe one business built and then a while before another —it didn’t all happen at one time. It tends to build a little character. It gets a little patina if you take it a little slower.”

The Fearrington House Restaurant

The Fearrington family homestead was renovated and opened as The Fearrington House Restaurant in 1980, the first business in the Village Center. With boundless energy, Jenny Fitch created and oversaw the gardens, designed the interior spaces, assembled beautiful floral creations using local in-season material and served as its first executive chef. She was the first in a line of talented cooks who would build The Fearrington House to its current AAA Five Diamond status, an honor it has held every year since 1995. The Fearrington House Restaurant is currently headed by Executive Chef Colin Bedford.

The Fearrington House Inn

RB and Jenny Fitch were captivated by their stays at Relais & Chateaux properties in Europe and in the U.S. During a stay at The Point, a small Relais property in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, the Fitches found themselves the only guests at the establishment. They chatted with the Innkeeper who explained in depth what Relais stood for and what it meant for them to be a member and an idea was born. In the mid-1980s, the Fitches went to Paris to seek Relais membership for the Restaurant, only to be told they did not qualify, since at that time, only properties featuring both a restaurant and inn would be considered. “So we built an inn,” said RB. In 1986, the Inn Building was constructed adjacent to the Restaurant. It featured 14 rooms tucked around a courtyard of flagstone paths and gardens.

The Fitches found success with their next application when in 1988, Fearrington House Inn and Restaurant was accepted as a member of Relais & Chateaux.

The Inn doubled in size in 1995 with the construction of the Park Building, a two story building that consists of several shops on the first floor facing the Village Center and Inn rooms throughout. There are now a total of 32 rooms at the Inn.

The Village Center Shops and Restaurants

Also in 1986, Jenny Fitch renovated the former milking barn of the Fearrington Farm and opened a flower and garden shop called Dovecote. The shop has since evolved and now fills a 4,300 square foot space with chic apparel, accessories and whimsical gifts.

Only three years later in 1989, Keebe Fitch, RB Fitch’s daughter, opened an independent bookstore named after her maternal grandmother. Since then McIntyre’s Books has hosted over 3,000 author events and continues to boast one of the largest author events programs in the South.

In 2006, The Fearrington Granary evolved into a restaurant from a grocery market and The Goat opened as a deli. The Granary still serves lunch, brunch and dinner, and The Goat now offers coffee, wine and artisan lunch options.

In 2010, the nearly 4,000 square foot Spa at Fearrington was added to the Village’s amenities, along with the adjacent spa boutique Haven. And Fearrington’s seasonal beer garden Roost opened to offer live music and local beer.

The ever-changing Village Center continues to update itself to offer the best service possible to guests, maintaining the integrity of R.B. and Jenny Fitch’s original dream.