2023 Year in Review: Seven Stories for Seven Lakes 

By Maggie Beamguard

Insider Editor

The stories a community creates defines its character. The stories the Seven Lakes Insider covered in 2023 reveal an evolving and expanding place filled with an entrepreneurial spirit and difference makers. There is a quirky side to us too and a penchant for animals, from foals to fowl.

We’ve selected seven stories from this past year that serve as a collective character description. Here is a look back at a few of the stories which shaped our lives.

Expansion of N.C. 211 

The first signs that the long-anticipated N.C. 211 expansion project was finally underway appeared in early spring last year. 

Bulldozers felled trees and reduced familiar landmarks to rubble. Among those demolished were the Short Stop gas station, Nardo’s Barber Shop and a beloved, giant Willow Oak at the corner of the Seven Lakes Business Center.  

The project, slated for completion in 2028, will turn the two-lane stretch from N.C. 211 between Holly Grove School road and N.C. 73 into a four lane divided highway. 

Throughout 2023, the smell of freshly cut pine mingled with smoke from burning piles of debris. Lane closures created occasional backups along the corridors as the contractors worked.

Administrators at West End Elementary School made adjustments to activities, parking and traffic patterns. The school, which faces N.C. 211 is losing about 30 percent of its front yard. 

As utility work got underway, five garden beds planted and maintained by the Seven Lakes Village Beautification Committee, were plowed under. 

Al Geiger, who led the beautification committee for many years, expressed the sadness that many felt about the changes as well as acceptance that change has arrived.

“I think it was nice having it there for 25, 30 years. It was a good run,” said Al. “It’s sad to see it go. But with all the changes coming, maybe it’s a chance do something new and different.”

Grace Church Grows its Space

When the Seven Lakes satellite congregation of Grace Church began bursting at the seams of its Seven Lakes Plaza storefront, they embarked on a mission to make more room. 

A grand opening of a new worship center on Sept. 10 celebrated the fulfillment of a vision long in the making. The expanded space doubled their seating capacity from 150 to 299 persons.

When the Seven Lakes satellite congregation of Grace Church began bursting at the seams of its Seven Lakes Plaza storefront, they embarked on a mission to make more room. 

A grand opening of a new worship center on Sept. 10 celebrated the fulfillment of a vision long in the making. The expanded space doubled their seating capacity from 150 to 299 persons.

The space was formerly occupied by Peking Wok whose furnishings were donated to Teen Challenge. Once demolition began it was just a big, black hole. Now it is a state-of-the-art worship facility featuring a digital wall for worship graphics, video feeds.

The new worship center features infant and toddler classrooms, a grand foyer and a coffee bar. 

The whole project has been a labor of love, said Coxe. “It’s beautiful how God has put it all together, taking people from California and Wisconsin and all over to build one body,” Coxe said about the process. “There’s a real heart here and a lot of generosity from the people here to make this happen.”

West End Fire Department Grows Fleet

A new bright red engine pulled into the bay of the West End Fire and Rescue this September. 

The addition to the fleet is a 2024 Freightliner Chassis with a midwest body. 

This truck will serve as both an engine and a tanker. 

Tankers are an especially useful resource in rural areas like West End where there are no hydrants and long distances from lakes or ponds. 

The dual-purpose truck will allow the department the ability to get extra water to fires while also meeting the state fire marshal’s requirement that each department take two engines to a structure fire. 

Engines carry only about 1000 gallons of water, whereas tankers can carry up to 4,000 gallons. This unique truck carries 2,000 gallons of water and a 2,100 gallon portable drop tank.

“If we take it to a fire, it can it can be the engine and it can have all the hose and all the ladders and everything we need to fight the fire,” said Captain Austin Hubbard, “or if it’s not the first truck to get there, it can bring that extra water and the portable tank.”

An engine like this costs as much as a house. The department ultimately signed a contract for the new engine with Midwest Fire 18 months ago for $318,000.

It is paid for primarily through tax dollars from the county and the Village of Foxfire, which contracts with West End Fire and Rescue for fire protection.

Duck Rescue

One of the most heartwarming stories we covered this year involved three lucky Swedish ducks and one good friend.

A social media page for Seven Lakes North and South Families caught the attention of Seven Lakes North Resident Erin King. A picture showed a group of unusual black and white ducks hanging out at the playground near the Northside pool. 

King has extensive experience raising her own farm animals, including chickens, ducks, horses and goats that she keeps at a friend’s farm outside of Cameron. She quickly identified the birds as domestic Swedish ducks. 

Since Swedish ducks are bred in captivity, they depend on people for food. Knowing they were at risk to the elements and prey, King launched a rescue. 

When she approached the friendly breed they waddled right up to her. 

The birds were driven to their new home, where they made fast feathered friends with 16 chickens, a toulouse goose, a couple of mallards, a muscovy duck and six or seven peking ducks. 

They also earned new names: Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia. “They were hysterical,” said King. “They all came up together and they have different personalities, and they’re just like the Golden Girls.” 

Now Rose, Blanch, Dorothy and Sophia get a steady diet of an all-flock feed and occasional treats of mealworms or crack corn. They are happy as ducks in water. 

Evergreen Recording Studio

The last place you would expect to find a world-class recording studio is in a rustic barn sitting at the end of a dirt road tucked behind the tall pines near the corner of N.C. state roads 705 and 211. 

But for musician, guitar teacher, music producer and recording professional Greg Lawrence, the space formerly used by his mother and step father as a pottery gallery and storage area was the perfect place to start a new venture, Evergreen Recording Studio.

Lawrence lived and worked in New York City with his wife, Gwen, and daughter Clara, until 2020, when they escaped the city during COVID-19. They came down to North Carolina to be near his mother.

Lawrence, who studied at The New School and Berkeley College of Music in Boston and has a degree in audio engineering, brings expertise and diverse experience to his endeavor.

He is set up to record a full band with plenty of microphones and all the necessary equipment and is already working with local artists as well as mixing music for local people. 

“The hope is to be a high quality, local resource, whether it be someone who wants to record an audio book, or someone who wants to put their music out on Spotify or someone who wants to make something for family members.” 

Equestrian Center Back to Full Trot

Earlier this year an informal review of the Seven Lakes Equestrian Center budget and operations revealed a cascading set of problems including an unhealthy herd. 

With nine of ten horses determined to be lame, the stables shut down, initially for a week and then for two months to allow the horses to heal. 

The situation prompted positive changes in both immediate and long term operations for the iconic amenity owned by the Seven Lakes Landowners Association. 

New safety protocols were put into effect, the herd was given time to recover and information was gathered regarding the unique insurance needs of this amenity. 

With the stables temporarily closed, center organizers developed opportunities to interact with the horses that did not involve riding them.They hosted a clinic for people to come out and learn about horse first aid and horse health. 

They also held a Pages and Ponies event where kids came out to the stables to read to the horses. More events that open the stables to a wider group of people are in the works. 

This time of transition also brought new staffing needs. Guild says the board welcomed an additional layer of management experience at the barn.Jenn Wallace was hired as a part-time stables director. The role of stable manager was refined and the position was filled by Brenna Cole. 

Clyde Watts Auman Leaves a Legacy 

On Sunday, Sept. 17, West End, lost a native son. Clyde Watts Auman died at his home where he farmed peaches like his father T. Clyde Auman before him.

Born in Pinehurst on Dec. 10, 1938, Auman was raised on a vast farm in West End that yielded crops of peaches, grapes and countless other types of produce. The Aumans also raised cattle and chickens and planted acres of longleaf pines.

Auman left behind his footprints, literally, in West End. As a toddler, he ran through the wet cement of the packing house his father was building.

And he also left behind a tremendous legacy. “Watts was the epitome of a native son of Moore County. He was a man born to farming and a devoted churchman,” said Dudley Crawford, longtime friend of the Auman family and retired pastor of West End Presbyterian Church, where Watts was a member.

“He always saw the good in others. A rare breed and a person for all seasons, especially peach season.”

Auman’s legacy includes significant contributions to the preservation of the longleaf pine. 

Even though Auman closed the family peach business in 2015 after 80 years, his death in September feels like the end of an era for West End and the community that sprung up around a lake bearing the family name. 

Contact Maggie Beamguard at maggie@thepilot.com.