One year after storm, club restores downtown Clayton gazebo

ndunn@newsobserver.comMay 9, 2014 

Nearly one year after a storm destroyed its popular downtown gazebo, a local civic club has given new life to the Clayton landmark,

The Woman’s Club of Clayton on Monday unveiled the new Mary Taylor Gazebo, which stands next to to the club’s headquarters on Church Street across from Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library.

The club built the original gazebo in the mid-1990s as part of a broader renovation project. For more than 15 years, it was a popular venue for weddings and a moneymaker for the club, bringing in about $10,000 annually in rental fees. But last June, a strong storm toppled a large oak tree that fell on the gazebo, flattening the structure.

Club leaders knew rebuilding would cost nearly $30,000, or double the insured amount. President Margaret Lee said the club had several options, including holding off on the project. But after a benefactor gave the club $5,000, members voted to move forward, taking the rest of the money from the club’s coffers.

“It’s so much a part of the community,” Lee said, adding that passersby often visit the gazebo on the way to church or the library. “This is a walking town, and it’s our goal to get more people walking downtown,” Lee said.

Project architect Tony Johnson of Clayton started designing the gazebo last fall, and builder Tim Veronelli finished the new gazebo in about four weeks.

Johnson, who owns Tony L. Johnson Architect on Elizabeth Court, volunteered the architectural services. He wanted to ensure the new gazebo was as pristine as the original structure, he said.

“I always thought of the building as an icon in Clayton,” Johnson said. “The town would be poorer for not having this structure.”

The club dedicated the original gazebo in October 1996. Jesse Austin of Clayton designed the 16-foot by 20-foot structure and built it over that summer. In September of that year, the gazebo survived Hurricane Fran, thanks in part to the installation of hurricane straps two weeks before that storm.

Lee said the club named the gazebo for club member Mary Hocutt Taylor, who conceived the idea and donated the money.

“It’s a delicate building,” Johnson said. “It’s very unique and exquisitely done.”

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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