Real Estate

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This Craftsman-style bungalow by Gail Crabtree Building is nestled on a beautiful lot in Orange County near Duke Forest.
This Craftsman-style bungalow by Gail Crabtree Building is nestled on a beautiful lot in Orange County near Duke Forest.

Builders love a challenge. Matching an arched joist to the architect’s design. Bringing a home in on time and under budget. Finding a house plan that fits the lay of the land. Working with homeowners and product manufacturers to find the perfect appliance, cabinet, bath fixture or HVAC system.

When a builder takes on constructing all of the homes in a subdivision or small neighborhood, they get, as Agatha Christie’s detective Poirot says, to use all their “little grey cells.”

That’s what happened to Gail Crabtree of G. Crabtree Home Building in 2006 when she took on the Weldon Ridge project (

That isn’t to say that she hasn’t had to use all of her faculties on construction projects before. Starting her business in 1983 she has built more than 260 homes and is the recipient of the coveted Historic Preservation Society of Durham Neighborhood Conservation Award. She was recognized by the society in 2002 for building homes “that would be worthy of preservation 50 years from now” at 305-405 West Knox Street. This is the only award the society gives for new construction.

In 2009, in addition to building green certified homes, Crabtree became a Certified Green Professional through Green Home Builders of the Triangle National Green Building Standards certification process.

Crabtree’s abiding passion has been to build quality homes that resonate not only with the North Carolina Piedmont, where the maternal side of her family has lived for the past 300 years, but also with the ethos of her paternal family – builders going back to her grandfather who built ships in Wilmington before coming to Durham to build homes. The scent of sawdust attracted her father, an uncle, two brothers, her sister, and a niece into the homebuilding business. Quite a legacy to lay on the shoulders of a woman who, as any grandmother would attest, is no bigger than a well-used bar of soap.

So when Weldon Ridge came along, located where her family settled 300 years ago when Durham was still part of Orange County, it was a challenge she couldn’t resist.

Weldon Ridge is a small rural Orange County neighborhood of 10 one-acre tracts of land with another seven acres of green space as buffer to highways that make it a short commute to city life and even closer to nature. Although the mailing address of these homes is Durham, children living in these home would attend Orange County schools: New Hope Elementary, A.L. Stanback Middle School and Orange High School.

Weldon Ridge is five minutes from Durham, 10 minutes from Hillsborough, and 15 minutes from Chapel Hill and all the amenities these cities offer: concerts, restaurants, and shopping. For outdoor recreation, the neighborhood is five minutes from Eno Rive State Park and two minutes from trailheads in Duke Forest. Nearby country roads are favorites for bicyclists. One of the residents found the neighborhood while riding his bicycle!

Not only is Weldon Ridge special because of its location, but as sole builder, Crabtree got the opportunity to create an entire neighborhood using her favorite Craftsman-style plans.

“Craftsman-style homes have been a huge hit with us since we started using them around nine years ago when people coming to the Triangle from the West and Northwest were asking us to build homes that reminded them of where they grew up,” Gail said.

In addition to the plans, Gail incorporates Craftsman-style features into each home. One of her signatures is tiled fireplaces with custom-built Craftsman-style mantels at least 18 inches above the top of the firebox to showcase the simplicity of both.

Each Craftsman-style home in Weldon Ridge is unique and offers its own charm, yet is in harmony with all the others. Restrictive covenants require the two-story home plans to be at least 2,300 square feet and have attached two-car garages. One-story homes must be at least 1,800 square feet, again with attached two-car garage.

Other features that make Weldon Ridge homes special are stone walkways leading from asphalt driveways to the homes’ inviting front porches.

All of the homes in Weldon Ridge are built to Green certification standards and ENERGY STAR ratings. Energy Star homes have low carbon footprints that provide energy savings for their owners for years to come. They also need less maintenance over time.

A good example of Gail’s ability to fit a home to the land is the two-story Sweetwater plan at 201 Weldon Ridge. She chose the Craftsman-style plan because it worked well on the wide corner lot and had a main floor bedroom and bath which many homeowners really need as age-in-place security for themselves and for visiting relatives who can no longer manage stairs.

The Sweetwater plan has a stunning entry with Shaker-style leaded sidelights and glass door. The great room with clear story lighting opens to a kitchen that will satisfy the needs of the most demanding foodie because there is an amazing amount of counter space, a kitchen desk, and butler’s pantry with built-in wine rack. While cooking, the chef can banter with guests in the open great room. Once the meal is prepared, it can be served in the adjacent dining room accented with custom-built wainscot paneling.

The master bedroom on the second floor has a trey ceiling and large spa style bath. All the three full baths feature lovely tile work. The first floor study/guest bedroom has built-in book cases for a library feel. A huge screened porch with a ceiling fan provides a private space of enjoying the outdoors bug-free.

This 2,433-square-foot home with attached two-car garage should be perfect for someone who wants the best of both worlds: a country home near city amenities; a Craftsman-style home with modern energy savings and low maintenance features.

In addition to the Sweetwater house, which is for sale at $379,000 through Susan Richter of Prudential Carolinas Realty (919-451-4663), there is another corner lot available for $75,000 with G. Crabtree Home Builders as the builder. This lot would be suitable for a one- or two-story home. To see Craftsman-style plans Gail is considering for this lot, call her at (919) 956-5603.