The story of Overhills began in the 19th century when a Scotsman by the name of Daniel McDiarmid purchased 13,000-acres in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. The land was used as a turpentine plantation until 1892 when it was put up for auction.
In the years following its sale, the estate saw many owners and served a variety of purposes, ranging from timbering plantations to hunting and outdoors clubs reserved for wealthy industrialists and businessmen. It wasn’t until 1917 that the estate became synonymous with one of the most powerful and storied families in modern American history.
Percy Avery Rockefeller, a nephew of industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, bought 30,000 acres of Overhills -including the old McDiamard plantation- around the same time the U.S. Army opened Fort Bragg. The land became a winter playground for the Rockefeller family, boasting swank amenities such as a train station, a post office, horse stables, an indoor swimming pool, a fully-stocked private lake, and a golf course.
The families main living quarters, Croatan Lodge, was commissioned by Rockefeller in 1928. Created in a Colonial Revival style, the building was assembled using historic bricks and ceramic roof tiles salvaged from deconstructed buildings in and around Charleston, South Carolina. The house featured four floors, five bedrooms, and a neighboring four-car garage. Also included were a unique dormitory-style fourth floor with separate boys’ and girls’ baths as well as a large first-floor living room that served as a popular evening gathering spot for family and guests.
In 1934, Percy Rockefeller passed away. His wife, Isabel, died just two years later, and the property was inherited by the five Rockefeller children. Most of the land was gradually sold off to reduce taxes, but the remaining family continued to use Overhills as a resort until the late 1990s.
In 1997, the third generation of Percy and Isabel’s descendants sold the Overhills estate to the U.S. Army for $29.4 million. The 11,000-acre tract was quickly incorporated into the Fort Bragg Reservation with the intent that it be used for military field training exercises.
Unfortunately, the Overhills estate never found a spot on the National Historic Registry. No plans were made for its preservation, and for the last twenty years, the property has sat isolated and neglected on military grounds. Little remains of the opulent homes and clubhouses; with each passing year, several more buildings retreat into the vegetative overgrowth that overwhelms the property.
Many structures have burned due to wildfires that crop up in the dry Sandhills climate. The few buildings that remain are used as a playground for both soldiers and trespassers alike. The crumbling walls are scarred by bullet holes; discarded spray-paint cans and ammunition lie scattered across rotten floorboards.
Today, the remnants of this forgotten estate continue to deteriorate. Its life as an active hunting club and family retreat is long over. Unused and abandoned, the existence of this once-grand estate will soon be forgotten entirely, erased from all memory as it disappears into the thick overgrowth.
GPS Coordinates: 35.218861, -79.032822