Little Lake Hill is the name of the house and grounds where we live. The house was being built in 1932 by a couple with two young sons but the wife died before the house was finished. The father didn’t want to live there so he sold the house to John and Nancy Ferguson. The original house sits high on a hill overlooking a pond and many ornamental gardens that were painstakingly built and nurtured by Mrs. Ferguson. Nancy was an artist and she designed and planned the gardens as though they were a painting. Stone walls, steps and rock barriers pop up unexpectedly everywhere, and within grow many hundreds of species of perennials, bulbs, herbs, shrubs and trees which are native to North Carolina. John Ferguson taught mechanics to young agricultural students. He taught them how to repair tractors and farm machinery. He always enjoyed tinkering around the property. After the Fergusons died the house was sold to Bobby Wilder and Jack Lamm. Bobby was an avid gardener who volunteered at the Ralston Arboretum. He often brought home exotic plants, thus Little Lake Hill has a diverse selection of vegetation and flowers.
The prettiest red maple tree in Raleigh sits in the front yard. It was the first tree Nancy and John put in the ground. She called it ‘Sport’. It turned out to be the loveliest red maple in Raleigh. In the fall people drive from all over to witness the blazing display of leaves. When the city threatened to cut the tree down in 1980 Mrs. Ferguson chained herself to the tree with a shotgun in her hand, threatening to shoot out the tires of the equipment the men brought with them to take down the tree! It still stands! I surely would do the same! Below you will find photos dating 1932-1937 that were shared with us by Margaret Voyles, John Ferguson’s sister. The house, with the addition and renovations looks very different now, but still quite charming.
The magnificent picture window in the living room overlooks the driveway and where the pond once was. It is finally visible after a year of cleanup!
The maple has been cloned by Richard Taylor of Taylor’s Nursery — http://taylorsnursery.com/ — Sometimes we have the clones available for a $30 donation per tree. The donations in the past have gone to various non-profits but for the last two years the money collected has gone to Meals on Wheels. There are around 250 clones of the tree planted in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia. Stewards of the young Sport send photos and tell stories of their trees. It’s been rewarding to watch them grow.
Three branches of the crown have died but are growing back now. Hurricane Matthew took a huge limb down in October 2016. A wood turning friend of ours, Leon McMahon, took the giant limb and made beautiful bowls from it. We sold the bowls in the summer of 2017 and donated the money to “One America Appeal” — https://www.oneamericaappeal.org/ — , a non-profit organized by our five living past presidents to aid the victims of the three massive hurricanes that struck the US in 2017. We earmarked our donation to help the residents of Puerto Rico.
Sport has lost some of her grandeur, but is still one of the highlights for Raleigh’s Peepers’. (Tree Peepers!)
Photos of Little Lake Hill circa 1930
My husband Bill is a strong force behind much of what happens at Little Lake Hill and the city of Raleigh. He values a clean environment and open space. He has served on numerous boards and organizations to help keep Raleigh a wonderful and safe place to live. He tirelessly lead a non-profit called Dix 306 — http://www.dix306.org/ — to preserve the land at North Carolina’s recently closed state mental hospital. He continues to strive to keep development at bay in Raleigh’s most pristine and fragile areas.