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The Club at Old Hawthorne wins award for reuse of former estate home

Thursday, December 29, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Modeled after President Andrew Jackson's home "The Hermitage," the original structure of the Club at Old Hawthorne dates back to 1938. Renovations in 2007 added two wings to the east and west to include a bar and grill, golf cart storage, a golf shop, offices and dining areas.

COLUMBIA — When golfers tee off on the 18th hole of the Old Hawthorne golf course, Billy Sapp hopes they appreciate the view he had in mind when he turned his 74-year-old home into the Club at Old Hawthorne.

The golf course opened in May 2007 on 631 acres of what was once a horse farm. But the focal point of the property, which recently won a Columbia Image Award, is a colonial style building that was originally owned by Harold "Eutsy" Johnson, who died in 1996 after working years to build a lumber empire in Columbia. His home was built in 1938 as an exact replica of "The Hermitage," the home of former President Andrew Jackson.

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The Club at Old Hawthorne, on the north side of Route WW in east Columbia, won the Phoenix Award based on the quality of the renovation project that converted it to clubhouse and on its value to the surrounding area. The judging criteria focused on the degree to which the project served as an example of reusing an existing structure. 

“We tried to keep the original essence of the building but made some improvements,” Sapp said. “We made the back just as attractive as the front, and it’s quite pleasing to look at when you’re out on the course.”

Sapp, born and raised in Boone County, bought the Johnson home in 1997. The large property appealed to Sapp and his wife, Glinda, who wanted to use the land to keep their horses.

“We liked the house, and I had a lot of horses. At that time, I was showing horses all over the country,” Sapp said. 

After buying the house, Sapp said all he did was repaint and repaper. He made sure not to change the house's ambience — that's what he liked most about the home.

Travis McCubbin, general manager at the Club at Old Hawthorne, said the transformation from home to clubhouse took about six months. The completed structure incorporates cart storage, a retail pro shop, locker rooms, private meeting rooms, administrative offices and a full-service restaurant.

“I think the most amazing thing was the talk of how old the structure was, but they’ve been able to bring it up to code to where they could add on the new parts,” McCubbin said. “It’s not very easy to add a section onto an old building at all, especially something that is close to 80 years old.”

Nick Detert of Putnam's Studio 1012 said the Sapps asked that he salvage any and all period or important architectural detailing that could be preserved and integrate it into the new interior design.

John Simon of Simon Associates Inc. said working on the clubhouse was a “good team effort.” He and Sapp worked with Little Dixie Construction and Putmam's Studio 1012. Simon said the greatest challenge became the aggressive construction schedule.

“It was like a competition between two contractors, each trying to see who could get it done faster,” Simon said. “It was fun because we were working with Bob LeMone, who was the general contractor, and Billy Sapp did the site work and overall developing. They were each pushing each other in a cooperative way.”

McCubbin said the team did everything it could to retain the colonial character of the house. Sapp preserved the staircase banisters, the wood floors and the basement, and he even designed around the original trees.

During a tour of the clubhouse, McCubbin pointed out some of the imperfections that were inevitable in preserving the aging structure.

“You can tell here how it sets a little cockeyed,” McCubbin said, referring to the wallpaper surrounding a door frame. “It’s not entirely even, but that just shows you how old it is.”

McCubbin said this was probably one of the biggest projects Little Dixie Construction has done in terms of taking an existing structure and turning it into something else.

“And not just gutting it and redoing it, but also adding wings to the side and making them work together and flow was probably the biggest hurdle," McCubbin said. "Our members are very appreciative of the wonderful job they did.”

Simon said he and the developing team incorporated “green” elements in their design. The building incorporates white low-pitch roofing systems to reduce heat gain and high-efficiency mechanical equipment to minimize energy consumption. 

Simon said the full community impact of the Old Hawthorne development  will become more evident as the economy improves. The development of a subdivision on the scale of Old Hawthorne takes years to complete, he said.

The Club at Old Hawthorne has more than 450 members, McCubbin said. Lots in The Community of Old Hawthorne, the neighborhood that surrounds the golf course, were first offered in 2006.

“The investment that has been made in the course, clubhouse and recreation facility are all anchors that establish this as a quality development for Columbia,” Simon said.


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