Illuminated live oaks welcomed more than 100 visitors Friday night as invitees promenaded across a graveled walkway at Midway’s Dunham Farms for the grand opening of Live Oak Hall.
The newly built, 4,100-square-foot wooden structure sits in the heart of the 30-acre farmland, known for its historic azalea gardens, marsh views and Southern charm.
Laura and Meredith Devendorf own and maintain the farm, which has been used for many occasions in its 250 years of existence. They said the hall was a "must-have" addition.
"With the number of weddings we have here, we just realized we needed it," Laura Devendorf said.
Live Oak Hall combines two rooms into one, she said, giving visitors the option to host large or small enclosed gatherings at the farm and the ability to create memories while celebrating history and tradition.
"The main Live Oak Hall can host weddings up to 200 people," Laura Devendorf said. "The gallery can seat up to 56 and features art and history of very prominent women in our family."
Both rooms can be cornered off for private use or opened up to allow the elements of the farm to enter the rooms, the Devendorfs said.
"What we’ve got here is really a mixture of French Country," Meredith Devendorf said.
"There are drop chandeliers, rolling barn-style doors with mirrors, a 14-foot-tall tongue and groove pine ceiling, a stained concrete floor and a fully equipped kitchen with pocket doors," Laura Devendorf said.
"So you see, you can really use it for a number of things," she said. "It could be used to host a luncheon, business meeting or as a lecture hall."
The Devendorfs wouldn’t disclose how much the structure cost to build, but they hinted that it cost less than $100 per square foot. The price to rent the hall will vary, the Devendorfs said.
Cheryl Donaldson and her husband live down the road from Dunham Farms. She said the farm has become one of their favorite places to be together.
Whatever it costs to rent the hall, Donaldson said the Devendorfs’ work and commitment make it worth it.
"I’m so proud of what the two of them have done here — very proud of them for keeping this place as nostalgic as they can," she said. "It’s amazing. Not many of us can keep up with our family history as they have done."
The hall wasn’t the only attraction Friday night. Spectators also ogled over the release of the Devendorfs’ cookbook, titled "Sauce and Sass."
Both Laura and Meredith Devendorf took turns signing the book, which features family recipes and stories about the women who created some of them — like "Black Agnes," who the Devendorfs said was responsible for leading the way for the nation’s first African-American infirmary more than 600 years ago.
"This all started when we found a handwritten cookbook written by my great-grandmother," Meredith Devendorf said. "This is sort of a touchstone that we have with her, through food and those recipes — also, with the other women in our family. We’ve highlighted their stories as well."
She said profits made from the books will help sustain the property and the land at Dunham Farms.
"We want people to know that this is not ancestor worship. We’re the prodigy of everything that came before us," she said. "We want to make sure this land and this hall are here for future generations."