Hosts and Ghosts
Step back in time to early 1900's Mount Airy, NC and envision yourself as a "well to do family" during this era. Come to visit and stay in the Sobotta family home as our guest. Enjoy the beautiful rare architecture of the building while living inside with authentic, old period pieces from America and Europe, but updated with modern amenities.
The home was built in 1932 by John Sobotta and stayed in the family until September of 2004 when it was sold to Thurman and Robin Hester. Mr. Sobotta's portrait still hangs in the living room. In recent years, his son, David, and his family strictly used the house as their second home. Many antiques were left in the house by the Sobotta family as they felt the pieces "belonged to the house." A petticoat table, as well as a tapestry chair, and four occasional tables designed specifically for this home were all left with the house.
Meet The Innkeepers
Thurman and Robin Hester have spent the last year restoring their Italianate Tudor Revival home to a beautiful Bed and Breakfast. Thurman and Robin former Real Estate Investors and Managers have always worked in service-oriented careers. When they first saw the Sobotta Home, they knew this was the fulfillment of their dream; to own and operate a respite for guests to find peace, serenity and comfort; away from their stressful lives.
Thurman and Robin have two adult children; a son Charles and daughter and son in law Rebecca and Tomas, who reside in Tampa Florida, and our youngest son an inspiration to live and fulfill our dreams, always a precious memory Christopher our guardian angel.
And our resident pets and greeters, two spoiled but loving Bichon Frise Clayton and Cher.
Meet the Sobotta Family
Mr. John Sobotta was one of Mount Airys most prominent citizens. Johns Sobotta retired as the vice president of National Furniture Company where it is believed that his career was the longest in the American wood working industry.
A native of Germany, he moved with his family to the United States in 1880. He went to work in a furniture factory at the age of 14. He moved to Mount Airy in January 1904 to work with National Furniture, just three years after it was established.
Mr. Sobotta was director emeritus of Workman’s Federal Savings and Loan; he was also a great benefactor to the boy scouts, constructing the John Sobotta Scout Hut at the First Presbyterian Church named in his honor. He also played a great role in the establishment of Camp Raven Knob for Boy Scouts. Mr. Sobotta made a large financial contribution to the local library foundation.
Claire Sobotta - Not much is known about the first Mrs. Sobotta and it is hard to assemble. It has been said that she suffered from severe depression and had mental problems that created the need for round the clock nursing care. This is the nemesis’ that brought the second Mrs. Sobotta, Blanche, among many other nurses over the years to live and work here at the manor.
Blanche Sobotta (August 22, 1910 to March 20, 2004) in the words of her son David...
It’s hard to describe my mother, they broke the mold when they made her. She was the matriarch for a large extended family which still talks with wonder about the magnificent home on Pine Street. We have been able to trace the Styers family (mother’s maiden name) to someone who it is believed fought in the Revolutionary War with the NJ Militia.
Blanche was born August 22, 1910 to Sallie Jane Shore Styers andThomas Walter Styers who was a miller. She spent her early years on a mill pond and by the age of nine was cooking biscuits for the other five children because her mother had died of the flu. Blanche left home at an early age and moved to Mount Airy, NC when the town had a population of 150 people. She spent most of her years in Mount Airy at 347 West Pine Street where she became an accomplished gardener and created the wonderful gardens that can still be seen each spring.
For several years Blanche was a beautician on Main Street in Mt. Airy and later on Styers Street in Lewisville, NC , not far from the original location where her Grandfather Styers’ ferry crossed the Yadkin Blanche was a renowned cook, famous for her fried chicken, pound cakes, and the peanut brittle that appeared during the holiday season. After the death of her close Mt. Airy friend, R. J. Berrier, in 2000, she moved to Roanoke to live with her son David and his wife Glenda.
About the Recent Owners - David & Glenda Sobotta
I graduated from Harvard and Glenda graduated from UNC Greensboro in 1971. I went to McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee for high school so I didn't know Glenda even though her family home was only six miles from Pine Street. In June of 1973 I had come home from Canada to attend a college roommate's wedding in Massachusetts. In an effort to keep me home another day or so, my mother arranged a blind date with Glenda, whose mother, Reva, was one of the nurses taking care of my dad. I cooked lobsters for her at Pine Street for our first meal. Later that evening we had our first kiss under the trellis in the garden. The next day we drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in mother's Mercedes. We also got married in it. Steve Scott still has it in his garage.
Within a couple of days I had proposed to Glenda, and we were married eight weeks later on August 4, 1973
I lived for sixteen years in Canada, exclusively in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Glenda was there for fifteen years. We raised purebred Angus cattle in Canada for eleven years and had over 200 head of cattle at one time. Of course that also meant we had a milk cow, chickens, and a huge garden.
After the cattle, I was hired by the Canadian Angus Association as a field representative which included writing a newsletter. That would have been 1982. I got so frustrated with the real cut and paste of getting it out that I ended up buying one of the first Apple II+ computers in New Brunswick where our farm was. In a couple of weeks I knew more about it than the people who sold it to me so they hired me. I helped open five computer stores across the Canadian Maritimes and in a year I had twenty computer people selling $3M of computers a year. In 1984 I was in one of the first waves of hiring in Canada by Apple Computer. I worked for Apple until July of 2004 and ended up as Director of their Federal Sales working out of the Reston, Va. office.
While working for Apple we had a chance to pick where we wanted to live. We picked Roanoke, and we've been living here in the same spot since 1989. All three of our kids were born in Canada but graduated from Cave Spring High School in Roanoke.
"I still work with technology and since leaving Apple, I have worked
as a VP for Webmail.us and recently with Virginia Tech on their high
speed networking initiative. I am currently enjoying life on the
North Carolina coast as a Realtor®, writer, and photographer."
In recent month's the Sobotta's have been blessed with a beautiful grandaughter Nicole Reese, born on August 8, 2008 to their daughter Katie and her husband, I have posted some pictures on the photo gallery.
Please enjoy the newspaper article below, originally printed in July of 1961, as it tells the story of Sobotta Manor.
John Sobotta Finishes 72-Year Career in Furniture Business
By Jack Bennett - Winston-Salem Journal
July 17, 1961 Page 3
Mount Airy – One of the longest careers in the American wood-working industry ended this spring in Mount Airy when John Sobotta retired from the National Furniture Company.
He spent 72 years in furniture manufacturing in Michigan, Indiana, Georgia, and North Carolina, 57 of those years were spent in Mount Airy
Mr. Sobotta, 86 stepped down April 15 as vice president of National Furniture Co., where he was in charge of manufacturing.
The nest day, on April 16, he left on a seven-week trip to Hawaii, British Columbia, and Michigan. In the latter state he visited his younger brother Otto, and other relatives and friends.
Mr. Sobotta has another brother, Julius, who lives with him here. All three brothers are in their eighties. Mr. Sobotta's wife died 17 years ago.
"It took me a week to catch up on my mail," Mr. Sobotta said this week in commenting on his return from Honolulu.
He was interviewed in his large English- style house on W. Pine Street. The tall brick structure, erected in 1932, was the first house in Mount Airy equipped with copper pipes. Much of the interior wood work around the doors and windows was done in walnut, which is his favorite type of wood. The house is topped with a tile roof.
"This house was built during a time when there was plenty of labor," Mr. Sobotta said. "Quality is not as good as it used to be. And Frank Hines (the contractor) looked after it".
He showed the large back lawn with its many varieties of flowers, shrubbery and trees. "You should have seen the roses when they were in bloom." He said, the place attracts squirrels, rabbits, and many kinds of birds.
Born in Germany, A native of Germany, he moved with his family to Michigan in 1880 when he was five years old. He grew p at Big Rapids, Mich. (north of Grand Rapids) and got his first job in a furniture factory when he was 14 years old. Except for a six month period, he was associated with furniture until this year.
At the age of 19 he left Michigan and went to Indianapolis. Attempts were being made to unionize the factory were he worked. "I wouldn't join a union, so I decided to leave and went to St. Louis for six months.
The next five years he lived in Atlanta, Ga. where he was assistant superintendent of a factory. "I was 28 years old and was interested in getting a job as superintendent somewhere. A salesman told me of a job in Statesville and one in Mount Airy. I decided on Mount Airy."
"The salesman told me to keep the information quiet, that he might lose his job if they found out he told me of the openings and caused me to leave. But they told me in Atlanta that my job would be open for six months and that I could return if I didn't like Mount Airy.
He went with National Furniture on January 1, 1904 just three years after it had been established by Alfred E Smith, John Banner, Charles Whitlock, and Jesse Rather, all of whom are now deceased.
Most of the original group were tobacco manufacturers who had decided to go into the furniture business.
Mr. Sobotta said that after he had been with the firm two years, he bought half of Mr. Banner's one-fourth interest and later on bought the remaining stock owned by Mr. Banner.
Meanwhile, Mr. Smith also purchased the stock held by the others. He was the father of J. Raymond Smith who now heads the firm.
During his long career many improvements have been made in furniture manufacturing, Mr. Sobotta said.
"For instance, at first, there was one kind of sandpaper. Today there are so many it's hard to keep track of them. And animal glue was used in those days; today there are resin glues."
"At the time I started, we were making ash and oak and a little maple. A cycle comes along and they'll make mahogany or walnut in greater proportion than cherry. My preference is for walnut."
"When I first started, they were cutting dovetails by hand."
Asked if he had any hobbies, Mr. Sobotta replied; "None whatever. I never felt I had time for golf. I used to play little cards at night."
Commenting on his job, he said, "It was never work to me. It was a pleasure to wake up in the morning and know I was going to the factory. I never had to push myself."
I was raised a Lutheran, "Mr. Sobotta said. "When I cane to Mount Airy they had none so I joined the Presbyterian Church."
"It was a wooden frame building on the edge of the sidewalk. It had just one room-one of the smallest churches in Mt. Airy."
Just before World War l the First Presbyterian Church erected the present handsome edifice of Mount Airy granite at South Main and Church Streets. Mr. Sobotta has been active in supporting the causes of the church.
A year or two ago, his substantial contribution led to the construction of the attractive Boy Scout building at the church. The members voted to name it the John Sobotta Scout Hut in his honor.
For a number of years Mr. Sobotta has been one of the chief benefactors of Boy Scouting in this area of North Carolina.
One of his chief interests has been the 1133- acre Raven Knob Bob Scout Camp in the upper part of Surry County. "There's nothing up there that Mr. Sobotta hasn't had a hand in," said a high official of the Old Hickory council this week.
Lake Sobotta, the 27-acre lake at Raven Knob, bears his name. He paid for the dam, the gates to the reservation and a substantial portion of the ranger's home at Raven Knob.
Mr. Sobotta is a sustaining member of the Trust Fund of the Old Hickory Council and is a member of Silver Beaver, highest honor in scouting.
He is also active in financial and civic organizations. He is a director of Workmen's Federal Savings and Loan and the Surry County Loan and Trust Company. A Mason, he is member of Granite Lodge and has belonged for some 30 years to the Mont Airy Kiwanis Club.
Mr. Sobotta, who was succeeded in the manufacturing post by John Geiger, his nephew, had a habit over the years of being at the factory "before the whistle blew."
But in recent years, I had John there so I was a little later, "Mr. Sobotta said.
Mr. Sobotta said he thinks young people today have a difficult task in getting ahead, in establishing their own business.
"Some of them can, I suppose. Times have changed. But that's progress."
"I'm looking forward-not backwards"
Our daughter, Rebecca
Our son, Charlie
Our late son and guardian angel, Christopher
Grandma & Kids