Want to experience a piece of history in the middle of the south Charlotte suburbs? Go to a meeting at the Lower Providence Community House, a cabin built in 1938 for wives of wealthy landowners in the Ballantyne/Blakeney area.
A group of women - some descendants of those landowners - meet there every month. The group hopes to protect and restore the cabin and educate people about its history.
In the midst of mowed lawns and suburban homes, the cabin across from Community House Middle School is in an area that used to be called Lower Providence.
The landowners of Lower Providence had family names that now label Charlotte roads, schools, neighborhoods and retail centers: Ardrey, Bryant, Kell, Robinson, Blakeney, Kerr, McGinn, Ross, Hawfield, Earnhardt and Hall. Community House Road and Community House Middle schools are named after the cabin.
The men of these prominent families built the cabin for their wives, rural women who needed a place to meet. Although their descendants do not speak of it in these terms, one could almost say the cabin is the original south Charlotte country club.
The Ross family donated the land for the cabin, and the women of the group have owned it since. If the group ever disbands, the deed returns to the Ross family.
Rita Pettus, 64, a granddaughter of James Ardrey, is compiling a history of the cabin.
"The deed states that profane language and alcohol were prohibited and disorderly conduct is not permitted within a one-mile radius of the cabin," said Pettus. "Dancing was permitted, however."
It's not just the historic building that makes the group special; it's the oral history, the detailed stories that have been preserved in meeting minutes - dating back to 1948 - and passed down.
For instance, one of the farmers (no one knows who) is said to have lain at the base of trees on the land so as to pick the straightest ones for cabin logs.
Barry Robinson Hemby, now in her 90s, recalls that on the day the cabin was built her job was to sand down the wagon wheel to be used as a decorative light fixture. That fixture still hangs in the cabin.
Jane Kell Privette recalls going to meetings at the cabin with her mother. She sat in a corner chair and was told "to behave."
Meeting minutes from earlier years detail many visits from Helen Wright, a home demonstrations agent who worked for the State Agriculture and Home Economics Department as part of the department's "extension service." Wright taught the latest methods on canning, quilting, dried flowers and crafts.
Heidi McGinn, 43, the current president of the group, says the group's 30 members have fundraisers for cabin restoration that include a monthly public lecture series from March to October, a historic home tour and an annual "Heritage Day" in September open to the public.
The group also rents the cabin out as a unique location for get-togethers. The bathrooms, kitchen and electrical wiring have been renovated but some of the logs and the chimney must be restored.
The women-only group is open to new members. The group encourages anyone to come to a meeting, held on the third Monday of every month at the cabin from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Dues are $30 a year.
"Like the women before us, we have so much fun at our meetings and events," said McGinn. "And our mission is to preserve this little treasure."