A Suffolk treasure, restored

Published 9:17 pm Thursday, January 5, 2012

We’d like to think that Amedeo Obici would be pleased with the condition of his old house, located on the banks of the Nansemond River on what is now the 18th hole of Sleepy Hole Golf Course. After more than a year of renovations, the grand old estate has been restored to — if not its former glory — at least a level of grandeur appropriate to the Italianate style of the home and to the very public site that it occupies.

Credit for the quality of workmanship and the attention to detail evident in that work must go to Ronnie Rountree, who runs Sleepy Hole Golf course on a long-term lease from the city and received discounts on that lease in exchange for agreeing to save the historic home of Suffolk’s greatest benefactor. It was a project Rountree is unashamed to admit that he didn’t originally want, but one that he says he ultimately fell in love with.

His care is evident throughout, from his reuse of original doors, light fixtures, fireplaces, molding, floors and other materials to the care that workers took to match styles and designs of those materials that could not be reused. Even the new roofing materials were specially milled to exactly match the design of the old roof. Rountree and the other contractors who contributed to the project can look at it today with great pride, especially when they compare the resulting structure to the neglected, decaying one that many worried would be demolished in the name of revitalization.

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With a restaurant, pro shop, golfer’s lounge and special events venue now operating inside Obici House, there will be many opportunities for residents of Suffolk and visitors from around the area to enjoy and appreciate the grand old home. And Suffolk will retain a historic icon that was sorely threatened, whatever the city’s plans for it might have been.

There were many good reasons to question Suffolk’s handling of an unnecessarily secretive process of requesting proposals for the renovations back in 2010, and historical purists still bemoan the ultimate loss of the Carriage House that had occupied the same site but was torn down as part of the project. But there was never a question that Rountree, a well-respected Suffolk contractor and citizen, would do a good job on the project.

In the end, Obici House is once again a Suffolk gem. That might not be the only important thing to the many people who have loved it through the years, but everyone in Suffolk can take solace in the fact that it has been protected by people whose workmanship shows a high level of pride, respect and even love.