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Monday, May 27, 2024

Where We Live: Giant concrete tree and mushroom decorate this waterfront Hampstead home

Where We Live: A weekly look at the homes in the Cape Fear Region

This Coquina stucco waterfront home was crafted by local artisan Emmett Sniff. (Port City Daily photo/ JOHANNA FEREBEE)

HAMPSTEAD—You know what they say, one man’s concrete mushroom is another man’s treasure.

Artisan, builder and romantic spirit Emmett Sniff crafted a waterfront home in 1987 – complete with a concrete, 50 ft. tree and concrete mushroom overlooking Virginia creek – to live in with his wife.

Sniff included an 800 sq. ft. workshop he had originally designed for his wife to use as a pottery studio.

“Sadly, he built the house for his wife, but she divorced him before ever living in it,” said Sue Knox, a broker with Intracoastal Realty and current listing agent for the Hampstead home.

You may have noticed Sniff’s creations off of Highway 17. He had a penchant for bringing life-size sculptures to fruition with concrete.

This 800 sq. ft. Coquina stucco external garage was originally designed to function as a workshop studio. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

When current owner Bob Eakins first pulled into Osprey Lane and laid eyes on the massive “tree” in the backyard, he had plans to cut it down.

“I said before I even think about buying this place, that tree’s going to have to come down,” he said. Upon closer inspection, the towering concrete sculpture’s uncanny likeness to a tree is difficult to differentiate.

Sniff went so far as to mold bark, roots, and even a few squirrels.

In ‘87, he owned most of the peninsula. He later parceled off the land, and now the short street is home to two houses.

Osprey Nest Lane was named after Sniff’s dream to attract ospreys to his tree.

Even from up close, it is difficult to tell the approximately 80 ft. tree is not a living structure. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

“He was hoping osprey nests were going to build on the top of it,” Eakins said.

Without realizing, Sniff’s squirrels are what kept the ospreys from ever inhabiting the tree on Osprey Nest Lane.

“The most feared enemy of the osprey egg is squirrels,” Eakins said.

The mushroom structure, which also includes arbor elements, has gotten more use through the years.

“The beauty of it is, where he placed the mushroom is a very beautiful view,” Eakins said. “He was technical in the way that he placed it.”

The unique structures are not something you see every day. For Eakins, it made entertaining guests more interesting. “Oh yeah, it was a big conversation piece,” he said. “That and the mushroom.”

Emmett Sniff’s one-of-a-kind, concrete mushroom structure overlooks Virginia Creek. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

“In fact, my smoking buddies appreciated the mushroom.”

Always a second home

Custom coquina stucco frames the exterior of the house and garage unit.

The walkway, doorframe, mailbox, indoor planter, chimney and fireplace are all made from fieldstone Sniff and his son personally retrieved from northwestern North Carolina mountains.

The fieldstone which accents various areas of the home was personally dug out of the North Carolina mountains by Emmett Sniff and his son. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

“(They) actually dug it out from the side of the mountains,” Knox said. “Every bit of it.”

Though the home was crafted in the late 80s, no sheetrock was used for the walls or ceiling. Sniff only used plaster.

“The walls and the ceilings even the moldings are handmade,” Eakins said. “All of this stuff is hand done, even the crown molding.”

Framed by fieldstone, an authentic buck stove fireplace is as practical as it is inviting.

“If you build a fire on, you don’t even have to think about turning the heat on,” Eakins said.

An open back deck overlooks waterfront views of Virginia Creek. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

Currently on the market, the custom built home has never been occupied as a permanent home. Sniff sold it soon after completing construction, the next owner used it as a vacation home and Eakins followed suit.

Its second home status has helped with the wear and tear from general use, Eakins says.

The tidal peninsula is protected by a bulkhead and the home was built in accordance with Miami-Dade hurricane wind standards. Its new owner could obtain a permit to build their own pier or they could use the communal dock is just one lot away.

Listed for $369,900, interested buyers can attend an open house at 102 Osprey Nest Lane in Hampstead this Saturday from 1- 4 p.m. Contact listing agent Sue Knox at (910) 789-1572 or at SueKnox@IntracoastalRealty.com.


Know of an interesting house or unique story? Contact Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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