There is nothing better than gaining an inside peek into our artists’ inspiration for their Dogwood Hill artwork. Vaughan Spanjer’s Pursell Farms Holiday Collection has a deeply personal story behind its artwork. Vaughan and her family own and manage Pursell Farms, Alabama’s luxurious golf and outdoor leisure resort that is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. She has shared the story behind the artwork she created for the collection (pictured below) with us in addition to some of her favorite photos of her childhood Christmas memories and the farm’s renown beauty .

Pursell Farms Magnolia Collection

Pursell Farms Traditions Collection

Pursell Farms Evergreens Collection

Pursell Farms Toile Collection

Pursell Farms Bamboo Collection

“Not many people can say they were able to grow up on the little piece of heaven called Pursell Farms.

My grandparents, Chris and Jimmy Pursell, purchased the first acreage, along with the historic Hamilton House, in the early 1970’s, restoring the home to its original glory. From there my grandfather continued to purchase land around the property which is resting at about 3,200 acres today. There is a lot of history to unpack, but I will fast forward to present time and the why behind what inspired my latest “Pursell Farms” Holiday suites for Dogwood Hill.

I remember my parents telling my siblings and me how fortunate we were to have the farm, to grow up on a place like this. Mind you, this was before the golf course, before the cottages/cabins, Inn, Lodge, restaurants, Spa, Orvis Shooting grounds…etc. It was just land. We would load up on four wheelers and spend hours riding all over the property…trailblazing through paths in the woods…speeding away from angry cows who were annoyed we were bothering them. We would even have “cow patty fights”. (They were dry…mostly.) Every time we always had a goal, to get to the “Secret Place”…an elevation on property where you get a 360-degree view of the farm, Talladega Springs, the Coosa River, Sylacauga, the marble quarry and beyond. It is truly the most breathtaking sight. We always made a point to take our friends up to that spot. And we continue to do that today.

In fact, we have added “Sunset Excursion to the Secret Place” as a guest amenity, which comes with a choice bottle of wine and a cheese board. It is the heart of my family to invite people here, so they can personally experience this beautiful respite, giving them an opportunity to step away from the daily grind and have a time to just breathe and truly rest. That’s what this place is…restful. But along with that, is the natural landscape, native wildlife, and foliage that inspires most of my artwork today.

When I was asked by Dogwood Hill to create a holiday suite inspired by my childhood home (and now my adult home), I was thrilled! But that was immediately met with pressure, because I really wanted to get it right. There are so many layers of history, memories, family legacy…it’s almost impossible to capture it all in just a few illustrations.

My grandmother, Chris Pursell, who we called Grammie, helped shape a lot of who I am today…and I know the rest of my sisters and brothers would say the same. Traditions, humor (always inappropriate), generosity, living simply, the art of gathering… She would be the first to “knuckle” you if you got out of line, but she loved hard and would always whisper in my ear, “You’re my favorite.” I would then whisper back in hers, “You told Peggy the same thing.” She would smile, giggle, and respond, “I know.” She loved animals. Her pets consisted of strays that would show up, Newt (after Newt Gingrich) and Dolly (after Dolly Parton)…She had donkeys (Bill, Hilary, and Chelsea). A parakeet that she rescued at the Sylacauga Country Club named Tommy who she would let fly all over her house. There were also goats, geese, guineas, and a turkey at one point. She loved to knit and crochet. Grammie would knit hundreds of hats to give to the homeless and send with ministries who were going to third world countries. One of the most special things that we will forever treasure is her crochet snowflakes that she made to decorate her Christmas tree every year. The tree was at least 10 feet, but she covered it top to bottom with these delicate white snowflakes and red bows.

When she passed six years ago we were all given our own collection of her beautiful snowflakes…something we will cherish forever. Grammie chose to live simply instead of frivolously. She always found beauty in the things that the normal person would just pass over…a cracked hickory nut, acorn, a brown leaf with an odd shape… I wanted to somehow capture the essence of that in my designs. Keeping them simple, but also beautiful. Handsome, yet feminine. Looking over the finished product, I just know she would be so pleased. In fact, I’m pretty sure she would smile, lean over, and whisper in my ear, “You’re my favorite.”

Vaughan with her grandmother, Chris Pursell.

Restored by Chris and Jimmy Pursell, Hamilton Place was built in 1852 and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The kitchen in historic Hamilton Place where Vaughan’s grandparents lived for 30 years.

Surrounded by manicured gardens, courtyards, and a spacious terrace, the historic Hamilton Place along with its state of the art adjoining facility, may be reserved for weddings and events.

With 40 beautifully appointed rooms and two restaurants, the Inn at Pursell Farms is situated on 40 acres at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Enjoy the award-winning Farmlinks Golf Club, the Spring House Spa, ORVIS® sporting clays, wingshooting and fly-fishing schools, horseback riding, UTV experiences, archery, tennis and pickleball, yoga, a petting zoo, special events and more at beautiful Pursell Farms, located only 45 minutes outside of Birmingham, Alabama.

Photography provided by Mary Margaret Smith, Laura Jett Walker, Pursell Farms and Vaughan Pursell Spanjer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *