Most folks just know it as the cabin.

Crafted without nails in 1810, the “one-room” cabin is the official Pinehurst welcome center and home to the Sandhills Woman’s Exchange, one of 19 remaining in the United States.

Once, there were 97 in an era when isolated farm wives could earn extra money by selling their handmade items through co-ops. Today, the Sandhills exchange is both the smallest and the only one to offer lunch, a menu of sandwiches, salads, soups and homemade desserts, served by volunteers since Jan. 15, 1957.

President Karen Lehto moved around the country with her Army husband, living in such places as Texas, New York and Hawaii before settling in Moore County. She says she feels a special kinship with the cabin because men from her own family have fought in every American conflict since the Revolution, as the cabin has stood through countless crises.

It was built at Ray’s Grist Mill just northeast of Pinehurst. After the Civil War, Archibald McKenzie bought it and used it as a kitchen. In 1895, Pinehurst founder James W. Tufts acquired it and moved it to its Azalea Road where it sits across from the Village Chapel. It became a curiosity, displaying a few old household items for his Northern guests. Former slaves lived in it, and tame deer came there to feed. In 1923, Tufts gave the vacant cabin to the newly fledged Sandhills Woman’s Exchange. The cabin is on the National Register of Historic Places, No.12 on a walking tour of Pinehurst.

Today, the cozy cabin comes with modern conveniences – electric light, heat – but the original fireplace still dominates the main room, large enough to handle 6-foot logs. Over the years, 10 more rooms have been added to house a kitchen, showroom, dining room and other nooks and crannies necessary for storage and record keeping.

Most folks are here for lunch, especially the homemade soups like split pea, lobster bisque and the popular chili, available every day. Nine tables seat 35 people. Volunteers and Debbie Ewing, the cook and only full-time employee, serve lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays. The exchange showroom is a few steps away, open on the same days from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..

But you’ll find yourself out of luck if you try to grab lunch or shop in the summer or around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays – the entire operation closes for hot weather in May and reopens in September. Volunteers take another break in late December, reopening around Feb. 1.

Even so, that’s a lot of chilly mornings and steamy afternoons in a 200-year-old cabin. Volunteers are loyal, including 94-year-old Betty Hogg who has helped out at the exchange for 45 years.

Karen Lehto says she found a family here, a refuge when she lost her mother in 2005. Treasurer and general manager Carole Southon became a widow with the sudden death of her husband at 61. Ewing found herself encouraged by this community of women to take culinary arts classes.

It was Ewing’s idea to add chili to the menu, a move that attracted more men to the popular ladies’ lunch spot. A beef hot dog with chili, cheese and trimmings is named for the late Mayor George P. Lane, who loved to eat lunch at and was a tireless promoter of the exchange. It was his idea to create a village welcome center in the cabin in 2010.

The money generated from serving lunch is a major factor in the exchange’s survival. It props up showroom proceeds in lean times such as the 2008 economic downturn that followed a four-month closure because of flooding from Tropical Storm Hannah.

“We need the public to support the sales, and the lunch,” Lehto says.

Times have changed, but the exchange still helps women in need by providing a place for them to sell their crafts. Constant spending is necessary to maintain the 200-year-old cabin. Seeking donations from sponsors and fundraisers is a way of life when proceeds from the sale of handmade items and meals are eaten up by a winter oil bill that runs into the thousands.

Lehto has put a background in hotel management to good use as president. It also helps that she is a craftsperson who has helped consignors improve their products. Lehto, the mother of two teenage sons, has volunteered for the exchange for five years, serving stints in publicity and general management, first as co-president and now president. Members have convinced her to accept a second term.

“I was always a volunteer where I lived,” she says, often for thrift shops on military installations.

But she admits to a soft spot for the exchange.

“Everyone here has a passion for the cabin.”

Story by Sara Lindau, Elite Magazine
Photos by James Robinson
Originally Published 2013

Recent WRAL Video

The Cabin is open seasonally, Tuesdays-Saturdays (closed in the summer and winter months) beginning in September.  For more information about the Exchange, its hours and directions, call 910-295-4677.

Release Date:
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2015
Contact Person:
Dave Droschak, Droschak Communications (919) 630-6656

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. (Dec. 3, 2015) – From its inception, the Pinehurst Concours has been a pioneer among vintage car showcases across the country — from its implementation of a student judging program to a Saturday competition that now includes a popular post-awards concert by an iconic band.

Now, the fourth annual event at Pinehurst Resort on April 30 it will be the first in the nation to feature a class of Future Japanese Collectable cars among its 12 judged classes announced by Pinehurst Concours president Jay Howard.

“The Japanese cars are certainly becoming collectable and appeal to a younger demographics,” said Pinehurst Concours chief judge Nigel Matthews. “That seems to be the direction the hobby is moving in since a lot of people have grown up with these Japanese cars. And nobody has really featured them in the United States, so once again Pinehurst will be breaking some new ground.”

Tickets to the 2016 Pinehurst Concours are now on sale online at www.pinehurstconcours.com at an introductory price of $30 per ticket, which includes entry into the post-awards concert by Motown legends The Commodores, a band which has recorded seven No. 1 hits over four decades. The 2015 Pinehurst Concours and concert by Three Dog Night drew in excess of 10,000 patrons.

Matthews said discerning collectors have already struck with some Japanese cars, reaping the rewards of the million-dollar-plus values of the Toyota 2000 GT, which not that long ago was a $125,000 car.

“There are some really amazing Japanese domestic market vehicles that never made it to the U.S.” Matthews said.

For instance, of the 35,804 Honda Coupe 9 and 7s built, only 1,058 escaped from Japan, Matthews said. The majority — 731 — went to Australia. He noted that the only recorded survivors are a total of nine Coupe 7s and six Coupe 9s.

In addition to the Japanese cars, the 2016 Pinehurst Concours will also highlight Pre-War French Curves and Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupes and Roadsters (1954-63) as featured marques among its 12 judged classes of vintage cars and motorcycles.

“Those French vehicles are just beautiful art deco cars from the 1930s,” Matthews said.  “They just don’t make cars like that anymore. They are rolling art, rolling sculptures.”

The 12 announced classes for the April 30 event include the following: Pre-War American (Open & Closed Until 1942); Post-War American (Open & Closed Until 1974); Pre-War European (Open & Closed Until 1942); Post-War European (Open & Closed Until 1974); Ferrari (Until 1975); Porsche (Air-Cooled Cars) Until 1988; Corvette (Until 1972); Pre-War French Curves; Future Japanese Collectables; Racing Cars; Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupe & Roadster (1954-1963) and Indian Motorcycles.

“There really is something for everybody, young and old,” Matthews said. “The Ferrari class will continue to be absolutely amazing with just multi-million dollar cars. That’s where the collector car market seems to be right now. And the interest in Porsches is really strong as they are commanding skyrocketing values now.

“And there is always interest in the pre-war American classics — that’s just a part of American history and culture,” the chief judge added. “What we’ve tried to do is capture all of the different eras and interest in automotive history with our 12 classes.”

2015 Pinehurst Concours Best in Show Winner, a 1919 Pierce-Arrow owned by Robert S. Jepson Jr.

More than 300 cars and motorcycles are expected on the fairways of Pinehurst Resort for the 2016 Pinehurst Concours.

“The quality of the field is definitely expanding as the event matures and the selections are more varied,” Howard said. “And with the addition of the concert it is just makes for one heck of a great day out.”

The Pinehurst Concours Best in Show winners have included a 1919 bright purple Pierce-Arrow Model 66 A-4 Tourer (2015), a midnight blue 1931 Cadillac 452A (2014) and a rare 1938 Steyr 220 Glaser Roadster (2013).

“They are pretty amazing champions for a concours that is only heading into its fourth year,” Matthews said.

The Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is an economic development organization and non-profit authority of Moore County, North Carolina. The CVB mission is to promote the area as a destination for visitors, meetings, conventions and tours. The CVB is funded primarily by a three percent hotel / motel room occupancy tax paid by visitors to Moore County.