The DuBose home has been the center of Meadowmont for nearly 70 years. It now anchors UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School's Paul J. Rizzo Center.
Mention Meadowmont and practically everyone in the Triangle knows you're referring to the bustling new home community and village along the corridor into Chapel Hill. But fewer know it gets its name from a sprawling, historic house that still towers above the 435 acres where Meadowmont lies.
Marked by burnished wood floors, flowery wallpaper and a sweeping staircase to the second floor, the 20,000-square-foot house - built in 1933 - is a study in ornate Southern living. In its successful bid to join the National Register of Historic Places, the house off N.C. 54 was called "one of the landmark Georgian Revival houses of the interwar period."
But whatever you do, don't call it a mansion. J. McNeely DuBose, 64, grew up there and bristles at the terminology, which he thinks is ostentatious.
"It was a big house, to be sure," DuBose said. "But not a mansion."
His parents, David St. Pierre DuBose and Valinda Hill DuBose, built the house. Mrs. DuBose chose the name. "It was on top of a hill, and it was surrounded by meadows," DuBose said. "So she named it Meadowmont."
As a child, DuBose's playground spanned the 1,250 acres of his family's estate. After school, he would roam around the farm, hunting squirrels, quail, turkey and rabbits, and fishing in a pond on the property.
He has fond memories of those days. So he's pleased that the nearby mixed-use development — for which ground will be broken today — is perpetuating the name of his family's home.
When DuBose and his brother and sister approached developer Roger Perry about the possibility of developing some of the land they had inherited when their parents died in the past decade, DuBose said Perry was more than willing to oblige their
"It was an obvious choice," DuBose said.
"The property has been known as Meadowmont since they built the house 60 or 70 years ago," Perry said. "I try to use names that are authentic and indigenous."
Of the original 1,250 acres, about 500 acres have already been turned into The Oaks subdivision and the Chapel Hill Country Club, and several hundred more have been designated as a flood plain for a reservoir.
DuBose, a retired surgeon, keeps tabs on the developments from his home in Hillsborough. After he reached adulthood, he never really considered living in his family home - too pricey, he said.
"It wasn't really appropriate to live there," said DuBose, who declined to provide the cost of the upkeep. The sale price of the Meadowmont land is also kept quiet.
"I couldn't afford to maintain the place," he said. "It was too expensive, too big. It was a different time and a different way of life. You miss things, but times change and life is a different style."
David St. Pierre DuBose, an engineering graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his wife were among the university's most generous donors. The family home and 27 acres of gardens were bequeathed to the school in the late 1980s.
On some of those acres, the university built the Paul J. Rizzo Conference Center at Meadowmont, an executive-education center that UNC hopes will make its business school more competitive with others that have management-training conference centers.
Dave Stevens, the business school's chief financial officer, said the school is striving to preserve the original buildings as much as possible. The executive-education offices, for example, are sandwiched between a smokehouse and an old pony stable, which won't be torn down but will be used to store outdoor maintenance equipment.
The house, with its antique-filled library, Persian rugs and wood-paneled smoking room, will be used mainly for dining and social activities for visiting executives.
With today's groundbreaking, construction of the subdivision and the business center will take place side by side.
The Meadowmont development has raised the ire of more than a few townspeople, who think its scale is disproportionate to Chapel Hill's size. But DuBose applauds it and doesn't rule out the possibility that someday he might end up back in the place where he began.
"We've worked long and hard to go through various approval sources," he said. "I have a nice place where I live, and I hope to stay there for a long time, but I may very well live at Meadowmont one day."
This article originally appeared in The News & Observer on May 27, 1999. By Bonnie Rochman, staff writer. Displayed with permission.