After a long, storied Pinehurst history, a circa-1919 church again has new owners – and this time they’ve opened it to the public.
Buying Into a Storied Past
Located at 35 McLean Rd., the original Sacred Heart Catholic Church — now “The Old Church of Pinehurst” — has been an icon in the historic village of Pinehurst for over a century. The church’s most recent owners, Dan and Jenna Keane, acquired the church through a bit of happenstance.
“On our way home from Christmas in 2020, we decided to break up our drive from Hilton Head to New Jersey with a pit stop in Pinehurst,” Jenna says. When their golf game was rained out, they grabbed a drink at Drum & Quill, where they perused local Zillow listings on a whim. “On our way, we’d been reminded of how beautiful the village is and thought, wouldn’t it be so nice to have a home here?”
The first listing they saw was for the Church. “We were instantly taken by the tall ceilings, vast great room, and historical features of the property. We ended up driving by a few times and ultimately secured a showing the next day.”
On their drive home to New Jersey, they put in an offer, and the rest is history.
An Icon of Design
Although the cornerstone was laid in 1919, the church was not officially dedicated until two years later, in 1921. The 5,300 square foot brick edifice with stucco-laden foundation follows a cross-shaped layout, adorned with a stately belfry and slender spire. Its porch features handsome gables and original timber, harkening back to a bygone architectural era.
Inside, stuccoed walls and exposed handmade brick wainscot give an effect that’s more than reverant, while the original heart pine floors echo a century of history. The parish hall is attached at the rear. A two-car garage and matching two-story gable and hip slate roofed rectory sits behind the church, with fancy tapestry brickwork and a pointed arch entrance.
A History of Biblical Proportions
Originating as a mission of St. Anthony of Padua in Southern Pines, Sacred Heart Church was built with the help of Catholic and non-Catholic residents of Pinehurst, as well as many visitors to the village. Father William J. Dillon, who arrived in the Sandhills in 1911 and served Catholics from Fayetteville to Southern Pines to Sanford and everywhere in between, raised funds to build the Old English Gothic style church — one that perfectly served residents as well as the seasonal needs of the Irish Catholic employees of the Carolina Hotel.
In the early 1990s, Father Robert T. Lawson was given a mandate from the Bishop of Raleigh to build a new church. When that mission was completed in 1994, this, the original church, was sold. In 2014, Kathy and Dick Newcomb purchased the church, and their son Kirk renovated the interior for personal use, making the Old Church of Pinehurst a prime example of adaptive reuse, or the reusing of an existing building for a purpose other than which it was originally designed or used for.
“The adaptive reuse of Moore County’s heritage buildings, such as the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, not only employs creative and unique solutions, but it significantly boosts the economy and is environmentally sustainable, too,” says Leslie Brians, executive director of The Pines Preservation Guild.
The Artist Formerly Known as Sacred Heart Church
Initially, the Keanes wanted a home to host reunions and get-togethers for their large family and friends. As avid golfers, the access to some of the best courses in the country was a big draw for the couple.
In terms of its short-term rental status, the proximity to the Village was an advantage, so the Keanes decided it was worth a shot. “We certainly had no idea it would be as popular as it’s become, and we are fortunate for the opportunity to host so many guests from across the country.” The Church is the couple’s first short-term rental. They also own a long-term rental property in Charlotte.
So far, their experience renting out the church has been positive. The couple chalks the feedback up more than just the structure itself. “While the church has curb appeal and provides a great place to gather with friends and family, the village really enhances the overall experience.”
Now called “The Old Church of Pinehurst,” the property is currently listed as a vacation rental on Airbnb and VRBO. With private chefs, wine tastings, transportation, and golf packages, the Keanes have worked hard to make it a one-stop shop for vacationers.
“When we initially discussed short-term rentals as an option, our top priority was to be a good steward of the community and to create unique, intimate, and memorable experiences that connect our guests with the best vendors in the Pinehurst area.”
The space includes a pool table, outdoor basketball hoop, double sectional sofas, 120” projector screen, and a decked-out wet bar known as “The Confessional Bar,” where spirits abound.
“We’ve been able to enjoy the Church so much this year given our work from home flexibility, and we are pleasantly surprised come spring to see all the beautiful flowers bloom. It’s a truly special place and we are lucky to own such a wonderful piece of history.”
See more at www.oldchurchpinehurst.com.
Photos and story by Cara Mathis: A writer, photographer and designer who lives in the heart of downtown Pinehurst.