Sagee Manor: A World Apart
The Town of Highlands, North Carolina, was founded in 1875 and is located on the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of 4100 feet. For almost 130 years, Highlands has been a haven for families from across the South and beyond, seeking to escape the summer heat as well as to enjoy its amazing scenery and environment. It lies just over two hours northeast of Atlanta, yet has an average summer high of only 76.5 degrees. The town offers exceptional dining, shopping, visual and performing arts and a wide variety of outdoor activities, such that it was selected by Barron’s in 2012 as America’s #14 second home community.
Highlands’ vibrant and historic Main Street is nestled among four mountaintops: one protected as national forest, and two others long ago subdivided into residential communities. The fourth is Sagee Mountain, which escaped subdivision, remaining in the hands of a single, local Highlands family from the 1940s until 1999, when it was purchased by the Fishers. Now the location of Sagee Manor, the mountaintop offers 360-degree views on over 48 acres, yet is only 7 minutes from Main Street.
In keeping with the traditional country estate architecture of Highlands’ namesake in the British Isles, the Fishers chose the Tudor style, adapted slightly to the rustic mountain environment. Inspired in part by the design of a Tudor hunting lodge built near Atlanta around 1900, renowned architect Keith Summerour designed a remarkable home and amenities incorporating the same individually milled white oak molding detail used in that structure built over 100 years before.
The massive oak beams were all air dried on site, and the slate roof includes five graduated sizes of slate tiles in four colors from three states, with canoe valleys as they would have been built hundreds of years before. The extensive granite walls are all meticulously hand built in the traditional dry stack style of patinated local fieldstone.
According to Summerour, who considers his work at Sagee Manor one of his most important achievements, the house is “seated into the landscape,” taking “the same shape as the topography…resulting in a timeless design. As a home, it makes a statement that large does not mean ostentatious. It can be tasteful and comfortable and livable – a place you want to spend your precious days.” Commenting on the unique quality of craftsmanship, Summerour said, “It is as good as can be built in this day and age.”
All of the paneling and molding materials were custom milled by a small, family operated firm out of Nashville, Tennessee, owned by James Dunn who said, “This house has everything a wood worker would dream of.”
The formal gardens around the house were designed by the late Rosemary Verey, probably the most distinguished English landscape designer of the second half of the 20th Century. Rosemary was assisted by her former understudy, Alex Smith from Atlanta, who describes Sagee Manor from the perspective of one who was part of the creative collaboration:
There is a human aspect to it, so you never feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the space or architecture. It feels extremely comfortable – very cozy, intimate, warm, and inviting. They did it the right way. It will be a garden and a house for eternity.
Over the six-year period it took to create Sagee Manor, the Fishers collected period artworks, furnishings, light fixtures, gates, and garden statuary at auction or in the finest galleries in Scotland, England and New York to adorn Sagee Manor and its gardens in the most tasteful and appropriate fashion. Sagee Manor represents a unique blend of timeless Old World design, materials and craft along with the latest in modern convenience and technology.
Sagee Manor is indeed a true masterpiece on an incredible site. The Eastern Continental Divide runs through the middle of the house: a drop of rain on one side of the house runs to the Atlantic Ocean, and a drop on the other side runs to the Gulf of Mexico! Even following construction, most of the estate remains untouched, except for foot trails, leaving an abundance of incredibly diverse native flora and fauna.
The Fishers are now seeking the right family to make the legacy of Sagee Manor its own, affording unparalleled privacy, comfort and the inspiration for cherished family traditions and memories.