Nothing could be finer than to be in North Carolina for Thanksgiving, especially if you are a member of the McElwee family who gathers together every year to celebrate this favorite holiday. Our own Dogwood Hill designer Addie McElwee’s family gathering was extra special this past year as the extended clan of 50 brothers, sisters, and cousins gathered in Statesville, North Carolina to celebrate the 100th birthday of the house where their grandparents lived and raised four children.
Family lore has it that in the mid-60s, several cousins were attending the same summer camp in the North Carolina mountains and didn’t recognize each other. Estelle McElwee – one of the first generation of McElwees to grow up in the house on West End Avenue – said “we cannot have that” and thus began the tradition of gathering together every Thanksgiving. The four siblings have long since passed and with great anticipation the 12 cousins and their families continue the tradition to this day – with the number growing every year!
Currently owned by Shelly and Nate McElwee, the home continues to be a “work in progress,” but it is with heartfelt pride that the house remains a gathering place for all to come home to. When they hosted the family several years ago, a scavenger hunt was planned for the younger cousins to find and learn about special places in Statesville that were part of their heritage.
Many hours of preparation go into hosting such a large group. Shelly, an Interior Designer, was faced with the challenge of seating 50 people. Once she decided where to put all the tables, she began to gather items such as magnolia, candles and bittersweet to accompany different patterns of china, including Blue Willow. It resulted in a warm and inviting tablescape for all to enjoy, whether seated on the screened-in porch or in the dining room.
The McElwees plan to gather at a cousins house near Charleston this year, with a couple of new people joining the clan – a bride and a baby!! As they gather around the table and sing the Doxology, they will give thanks for their many blessings, for those who they’ve loved and lost, for those who started this wonderful tradition and for the new generation of cousins in hopes that they will continue to gather for many years to come!
Dogwood Hill has created a menu this year for the McElwees’ Thanksgiving celebration. You can make a menu for your own party or gathering using any of our invitation designs. Shop designs from our 2017 Holiday Collection here.
Photography: Amanda Caldwell Photography