Researched by Jennifer Rothacker
Huntingtowne Farms began like much of Mecklenburg County – as farmland. Amid our heavily wooded rolling hills once sat a farmhouse and servants’ quarters. Just south of what is now Seth Thomas Road was the Hope Crest Dairy, which sold goat milk throughout the county. And the Almonds Store, one of the area’s few general stores, sat near what is now Creekbed Lane.
In 1954, wealthy construction businessman F. N. Thompson bought 200-plus acres along Park Road and built his wife a colonial-style home. Today, that home still stands on the Forest Hill Church property as its ministry center, but it’s informally called “the mansion.”
Thompson sold most of his property in the 1960s to John Crosland Sr., a developer responsible for building much of South Park’s suburbia, including Beverly Woods and Spring Valley.
By 1964, Crosland completed and sold the first seven Huntingtowne Farms houses, all along Goneaway. They sold in the high $20,000s and were considered high-end. Since the city limits did not yet extend to this area, Crosland had to provide utilities. The neighborhood eventually grew beyond what was then called Starbrook Drive (now Huntingtowne Farms Lane), onto Ramblewood, and later in the ‘60s into Merrywood and Seth Thomas.
Thompson had not sold Crosland his own home and about 25 surrounding acres. He would let the children of Huntingtowne Farms use his property for kite flying and other games. After Thompson died in the 1970s, his daughters put those remaining 25 acres up for sale. Rumors abounded about potential buyers: a fraternal organization, a television network for wrestling, and even Huntingtowne Farms residents expressed interest in buying the property for a future country club.
Instead, the daughters sold to the Praise The Lord ministry of Jim and Tammy Bakker. The burgeoning ministry needed more space for its televised shows, and the Bakkers found it right in the middle of our neighborhood. They moved here in July 1976.
The relationship between the PTL and HF was at times contentious. One particularly significant dispute happened when PTL wanted to add a service entrance to its property from one of the neighborhood’s “stub” streets, or dead ends, along Goneaway and Huntingtowne Farms. The neighborhood rallied against it by forming a homeowners association and collecting petition signatures. The Bakkers relented.
During the PTL years, many members of the church rented homes in the neighborhood. Some would even give out PTL pins for Halloween. The ministry flourished, adding several buildings and a decadent Olympic-size pool replete with Greek columns and mirrored ceilings. PTL often would let neighborhood teens use the pool to get their lifeguard certification. The old Thompson mansion was used primarily as a kitchen.
PTL eventually outgrew the space and sold it in 1985 to Forest Hill Church, which now uses the mansion as living quarters for its caretaker and as classrooms. The pool was built over and is now the youth group meeting area. Forest Hill Church built a new sanctuary and office in 1998 and its Kids Town, a new children’s wing, in 2002.
The park has also raised controversy. Initially, Crosland intended to build another row of houses, but determined they would be too close to the creek. He deeded the land to the city, which drew up ambitious plans of building an amphitheater on the property. After residents complained, those plans were downscaled. In the last decade, the ¾ mile greenway was built.
Throughout its 40-year history, Huntingtowne Farms has always been about community. It was the residents who in the late ‘60s convinced Crosland to donate the land for the swim club, which quickly became a lively neighborhood spot. The Original 7 started a bridge club. The Garden Club (now the Ladies Club) cared for the neighborhood entrances and sold Christmas decorations.
Today, that tradition of community continues with events ranging from an Easter egg hunt to a Fourth of July parade to our annual fall picnic.
Sources: John Crosland, Jr., Ed Land (2815 Goneaway), Anita Jones (Forest Hill Church); Ken Rose (2431 Ramblewood Lane); Jo Shivar (3125 Goneaway); Judy Hollis (2427 Roundabout); Sara Eggleston (2916 Goneaway). Jim Templeton, native Charlottean.