With Alaska in my rearview mirror, the late summer sunshine inspired a journey south along the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of stories to be found on the country byways that splinter off from the great mother road of the rural southeast in North Carolina.

Some stories stoked an inspiring blend of incredulity and awe such as that of the engaging gray haired gentleman with a roadside repair business sharing space with an array of deteriorating foreign and domestic classic cars snuggled fender to fender like sardines in a can. He began collecting vehicles around his ninth birthday. His collection, now, stowed away in nondescript chicken coups and barns included hundreds of cars and over 1,000 motorcycles.

Another story came alive when stopping at a farm stand nestled in a valley bounded by thickly forested mountains. That stop introduced me to a remarkable gentleman, retired rocket scientist and Apollo 11 team member. Together with his sister he continued his extraordinary life by buying an historically significant orchard and by turning it into a non-profit 501c3 changed lives while preserving and promoting the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Those, however, will be stories told another day.

This week’s story tells of a man who created a community designed for classic car enthusiasts.

Meet Allan Witt visionary developer of Hawk’s Hill.

Visiting a community built for car enthusiasts

Departing from the Holly & Ivy Inn B&B in Newton, NC we headed out on some twisties toward Lenoir, NC. The Holly & Ivy deserves a shout out as easily the best bargain in a refined B&B I have ever enjoyed. At $92 a night this immaculate and exquisitely appointed restored Manor House of a 19th century industrialist could be considered a bargain at twice the price.

In Lenoir, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, resides Hawks Hill a community dedicated and tailored to the interests of the collectible car enthusiast. Created by now retired businessman and British Car enthusiast Allan Witt, Hawks Hill migrated from vision to reality over a period starting with the purchase of the land in 1987. At that time Allan and his now deceased wife Patricia, who passed in 2016, purchased a beautiful, wooded 108 acres in Lenoir. Allan gives much of the credit to Patricia, who owned and enjoyed her 1958 Morgan, for sparking the concept of a collectible car friendly rural community.

Passing the sign announcing the entry to Hawks Hill, one proceeds up a smoothly paved serpentine drive through a thickly forested community. In the age of clear cutting and cookie cutter homes, the handsome houses of Hawks Hill enjoy a setback that subordinates their presence to promote a pleasing sense of a forest ambiance.

A sloped driveway snaked up to Allan’s residence. The attractive home at the top included an attached garage with a lift and space for three vehicles. Across the driveway stood a handsome barn capable of accommodating 6 cars in various states of repair including a bare Jensen-Healy body on a rotisserie stand. Down the sloping approach to Allan’s home stood yet another barn that accommodated six cars. As the man espousing the vision of a car enthusiast community, Allan clearly walked the walk.

Allan Witt, Sherrill Eller

Walking about his property with his companion Sally Tatham and his friend and skilled mechanic Sherrill Eller Allan details how the vision of a car enthusiast community manifested itself as Hawks Hill.

Allan says, “When I sold my business in Connecticut my wife and I looked at the property we had bought here and didn’t know what to do with it.” Allan and his wife decided to subdivide it into lots of over 1 acre each and sell the lots in phases. In the early 1990’s phase one with nine lots went on the market. None of them sold. There was little interest. It was time for a plan B for phase 1. It was at that time that Allan’s wife said, “You like cars. Lots of people like cars. Why don’t we make a car community out of it?” Allan loved the idea.

Step one, they advertised in “Old Cars Weekly” which ranked as their magazine of choice. Allan says, “It came out weekly. It was inexpensive.” And it was brilliant. Quickly after placing their ad the first half dozen lots had sold. Hawks Hill had a working plan and they would hold true to its winning formula. Over the ensuing years Hawks Hill rolled out four more phases. Hawks Hill contains a total number of 48 building lots. At the age of 86, Allan has no plan for a phase 6 to sell the final five lots.

While a “car guy,” Allan sought to tailor amenities that could be enjoyed by a broad spectrum of families and individuals alike while resonating strongly with car enthusiasts. Hawks Hill features an unusual integration of features appealing to both those with an affinity for hiking though the woodlands and those who savor driving through the forest.

Club House with 8 bays

Almost assuredly unique to Hawks Hill would be its 2-story clubhouse that features a downstairs offering eight (8) shop bays. The bays have a full complement of tools including access to a lift and machinist tools for fabrication. A milling machine, a lathe, sheet metal tools, sand blasting equipment, a large capacity air compressor and more stand ready for any home owner’s use.

The upstairs contains three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a giant kitchen, a huge living room and a wood burning fireplace. Allan says, “Fundamentally it is a guest house.” The upstairs also contains a club room for gatherings.

In driving around Hawks Hill the sensitivity of car enthusiasts to the importance of the necessary space to properly pursue their passion makes them hyper-vigilant. For car guys, encountering space in abundance borders on a religious experience. In driving through Hawks Hill, the presence of a wealth of space to nurture the passion screams out. Handsome homes with three bays incorporate independent structures that attractively provide an additional three, four, or five bays. Jaguars, Healeys, Mercedes, Model As, muscle cars, supercars, fire engines, name it, all find a home here. At the wheel, it would appear the quality of the roads serves to celebrate an avocation built on the joy of driving.

Demographics of the area began as predominantly retirees. However, with the recent explosion in work-from-home opportunities that mix appears destined to change.

Allan’s House and attached garage

Allan says, “It is extremely affordable to live here.” He has his three buildings on over ten acres with taxes in the area of $3,000. He says, “At this point I do not see additional new construction happening. When a house goes up for resale it sells very quickly.

If you want to live where you can walk to downtown, Hawks Hill is not the place for you. That said, if you want to live in a region rich in automobile activities they abound in the area. Allan says, “There is lots of car stuff around here.” The first of each month Lenoir has a downtown cruise that pulls over 500 cars. Allan points out that there exists a number of marque and non-marque specific clubs in the area. Most interestingly, a race track at North Wilkesboro that closed in 1996 has received state funding to rebuild and reopen. Allan says, “It is already reopened and they are having a variety of races including stock car and sprint car. Last week Dale Earnhardt Jr. was racing there.” As well, other speedways abound. Allan says “Antioch Speedway, Tri-County Speedway and Hickory Speedway add to the motor sport offerings in the area.”

Sally Tatham, Allan Witt and 1980 IH Scout

As to Allan “the car guy,” he pretty much sticks to the British offerings that almost exclusively populate his collection. He has a special affection for Jensen-Healeys of all stripes and Austin-Healeys though a few Humber Super Snipes have found their way into his heart through the years. However, somewhat surprisingly, his favorite may be a rare American in the fold. Produced for only one year, Allan’s totally restored 1980 long wheelbase turbo-diesel International Harvester Scout sits in the catbird seat at Hawks Hill.