By: Carla LeJeune, with appreciation to Beverly Leahy for her time and information.
In the 1930’s, Torrence Eli Hemby and his wife May “Beverly” (Alexander) Hemby and their three children, Beverly, Torrence Jr. and Alexander were living in Myers Park. Their home was located in the vicinity of what is now Myers Park Hardware. Mr. Hemby was a Banker with American Trust Company (which would eventually become Bank Of America). They were charter members of Myers Park Presbyterian Church and the family would walk from their home to the church for Sunday services.
Mr. Hemby was a businessman with varied hobbies and interests. Mrs. Hemby was an avid horsewoman from the time she was a teenager, and they actually kept a couple of horses at the Myers Park home. After a time plans to extend the boundaries of the City meant they would no longer be able to keep the horses, so the search for property began.
In 1937 the Hemby’s purchased property about 10 miles out Providence Road, they called their land Beverly Crest Farms. (“Beverly” for Mrs. Hemby’s name, and “Crest” for the way the property came to a crest as you looked toward the city). It was a beautiful piece of property with groves of oak trees and gently rolling terrain. (I saw an aerial view taken in the fifties and indeed the land was rolling, before the bulldozers forever changed the landscape). There was an existing white house with tin roofed wraparound porches. The house faced south and the drive entered from a little country road (now four-lane Highway 51).
Beverly Crest Farms was a true working farm. A barn was constructed, then eventually a second, to house the Hemby’s beloved horses. The barns were located in the proximity of Beckmore Place. There were cows and for a while a few pigs. Hay grew in the fields to feed the livestock; workers cared for the animals and worked the farm. A trainer was hired for the horses and they were shown in area horse shows. People boarded their horses at Beverly Crest Farms and a large riding ring was constructed. The riding ring was located near Hensey’s Way. A well house once stood in Mirow where the Dilworth collection homes are today. The cul-de-sac on Greyabby Court was the location of the family’s vegetable garden. As time went on more acres were acquired and the Hemby’s owned the land later developed as Hembstead (across Hwy. 51 from Beverly Crest).
Mrs. Hemby wanted a lake so she had an area on the property damned, even though she was told it would not fill. But there was a natural spring and she got her lake! (The lake that is now surrounded by homes in Hawkcrest & Prescott Place.)
Tragically the youngest child, Alexander, was killed in a car accident at the age of 17. The Alexander Hemby Foundation was established in his memory. It was the desire of the Hemby’s to honor their son’s memory by helping people, especially children. The Pediatric Trauma Center at CMC and the Presbyterian Hemby Children’s Hospital were made possible by this Foundation, as well as the Alexander Hemby Chapel at Camp Thunderbird. Indeed, many have been helped because of their loving tribute to their young son.
In 1955 Mr. & Mrs. Hemby built a beautiful brick Georgian home and, a large swimming pool with pool house on the property (which is now 821 Mallow Place). They sited their new home further in on their property and faced it toward the city of Charlotte (the white house was moved to its present location on Providence Road between Saintfield and the Arboretum Apartments). In 1959 their son Torrence built a brick home for his family on the property which is now 2809 Cavan Court. This home was later sold and eventually became the Sales Office for Beverly Crest as it was being developed. After the death of Mr. Hemby and later Mrs. Hemby, their children Beverly and Torrence decided to sell the land. Beverly Crest Farms was developed as the Community of Beverly Crest.
Today, the daughter of the Hemby’s, Beverly (Hemby) Leahy resides in the house built by her parents and she enjoys her home and gardens immensely. After my delightful visit with Beverly, I do not look at the community of Beverly Crest in quite the same way. I imagine the fields of hay, the groves of majestic trees, the beauty of un-touched land. This spring as I put my shovel and trowel in the soil to plant my flowers and shrubs, with respect I will think of those before me who worked this soil and loved this land. I will be reminded of the life that this land once had as “Beverly Crest Farms”.