Owners of the historic Neil Somers Alexander property in east Charlotte have expanded beyond the bed-and-breakfast business with the addition of a pavilion where couples can exchange wedding vows.
The primary reason for adding the wedding center is to create a revenue stream for maintaining the Alexander homestead, a local landmark.
"Our passion is historic preservation," Caroline Naysmith said. "The weddings support historic preservation."
The Alexander house was built in 1903 by the great-grandson of Hezekiah Alexander, a Revolutionary War figure and a signer of the first state constitution.
The house was on a cotton farm that stretched over 1,000 acres and included stables and other buildings. Alexander's descendents owned some of the property until 2006.Mecklenburg County's Historic Landmarks Commission bought it and describes it as among the county's most significant surviving examples of Queen Anne Victorian architecture. The property is located at 4717 Shamrock Drive.
The Naysmiths bought the property in 2007, with plans for opening a wedding center there. Caroline Naysmith owned three wedding centers in the Midwest between 1991 and 2008, she said.
Caroline and Donald Naysmith restored the house and built a guest house as a honeymoon suite. In 2009, they announced plans to sell.
After getting some rest, they had a change of heart, Caroline Naysmith said. They opened the house as a four-bed inn in 2010 and decided in January to move forward with plans for a wedding center.
Materials for the new 3,200-square-foot pavilion include 200-year-old reconditioned yellow pine for the walls.
The Naysmiths say they designed the new building to resemble a barn as a way honor the property's history.
A rotted and collapsing dairy barn from the 1900s was there when they bought the property.
The wedding center can seat about 225 guests. The building has heat, air conditioning and an area for dancing.
The Naysmiths make the pavilion available as a part of an all-inclusive wedding package that includes services of a wedding coordinator, as well as catering and cake, flowers, photography, music, parking attendants, and set up and clean up. Buyers also get use of the grounds.
Wedding packages generally range from $8,500 to $12,500 for 100 to 120 guests. Prices vary by day of the week, number of guests and time year.
The average wedding costs in 2010 were about $24,000, according to The Wedding Report Inc, an industry research firm.
Interest in the Naysmith's new space is strong, although dates are available for the fall, Caroline Naysmith said.
"Every day we have a steady flow of appointments," she said. "Brides are grabbing days further off. The average is about 16 months for us."