Obici House open for business

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The historic, newly renovated Obici House now is officially open for business, in time to celebrate Christmas with decorations.

The historic, newly renovated Obici House now is officially open for business.

Originally the home of Planters Peanuts founder and Suffolk benefactor Amedeo Obici and his wife Louise, the residence on Sleepy Hole Golf Course has been restored to its former glory to become a special events venue, restaurant, golfers’ lounge and pro shop.

Already, several special events have been held there, including weddings and the city’s legislative dinner in November. Nearly 30 weddings already are planned for this year, along with three in 2013.

Email newsletter signup

“Now that it’s done, I’m glad we did it,” golf course lessee Ronnie Rountree said. “You get into it, and you fall in love with it.”

Rhonda Rowe, manager of the Obici House’s restaurant and special events, and her father Ronnie Rountree, show off a mantel decorated for Christmas in the Obici House. The original sconces still are on the walls behind them.

After many years of neglect, the situation came to a head two years ago, when Rountree sought to renew the lease of the golf course he has run for 20 years. The big question revolved around what to do with the decaying mansion that overlooks the 18th hole.

Though Rountree wanted to see the house saved, he said, he initially resisted being the one to do it because of the cost.

But after many talks with city officials, whom Rountree says also wanted to save the house, he finally agreed to restore it in exchange for discounts on his golf course lease cost.

“I knew it was going to be a whole lot of work,” he said recently.

As it turns out, he was right. The actual restoration work started in June 2010 and officially wrapped up last month, when the city issued a final occupancy permit for the building.

Rountree said his workers took pains to ensure that the house was kept as historically accurate and used as much original material as possible.

Most of the home’s doors are original, as are the fireplaces, light fixtures, some of the flooring, molding, front porch features and other important elements of the design. The roofing materials were specially milled to resemble the old roof exactly.

In some places, however, the floors or ceilings were so rotten they had to be replaced.

“We kept as much of the historical likeness as possible,” Rountree said.

Some additions were necessary, such as extra space on the back porch to make it more event-friendly, separate bathrooms for men and women, and an elevator and wheelchair ramp to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Some subtractions, too, were made to accommodate events, such as removing walls between upstairs rooms to create larger rooms.

A large balcony on the upper floor looks out onto the 18th green and the river, and includes speakers so that house music can be heard outside. In addition, numerous cameras and televisions throughout the house allow all the guests of a wedding reception, for instance, to view the cake cutting.

The finishing touch to the interior decorations will come soon, when Amedeo Obici’s portrait is retrieved from storage and placed in the front entryway.

City officials also are pleased with the outcome of the project.

“I don’t think it could have turned out better,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “I think it’s a real crown for Suffolk, and I’m really happy for Ronnie, because I know he sees it as part of his legacy for Suffolk.”

For more information on the Obici House, visit