By Emma Castleberry
Sam and Debbie Stebbins have fulfilled a lifelong dream with ownership of The Buck House Inn on Bald Mountain Creek in Burnsville. The seed of this dream was planted about 25 years ago, after their first visit to a bed and breakfast in Virginia. Sam was a civil engineer and Debbie was a nurse.
After long, fulfilling careers, Sam and Debbie retired and discovered the Buck House. “This was the place we had dreamed about, only better,” says Sam. “It perfectly defined our dream of a rustic yet elegant mountain inn with the true feel of a family home from an era gone by.” The Stebbinses purchased the inn and about eight surrounding acres in March of 2012.
The property grounds offer guests an immediately relaxing first impression: a lush, bubbling creek winds through the property, lined with covered swings. Just past the creek stands a dense forest offering 25 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, including access to the Appalachian Trail. There is a small pond rich with rainbow and brook trout for fishing—the Stebbinses loan out fly fishing rods—and a firepit where the couple roast s’mores at night over long conversations with their guests. Friendly goats and sheep graze around a barn, formerly a commissary in the Bucks’ era.
The six-bedroom Buck House was built in 1904 as a residence for young Pearl and David Buck. David ran a timber company and milled chestnut trees on the property. The couple referred to their home as “Dreamdale,” a legacy that has survived in the name of one of the bedrooms at the Buck House Inn.
“The Buck family was very prominent in this community,” says Debbie. “Everyone in this area knows of them and the positive impact they had in this county.” The Bucks raised eight children in the home before David’s death in 1939. Pearl maintained the home alone for two decades before selling in 1960. The Buck House sat vacant for many years and even suffered a fire before being restored by developers in the mid-2000s. Upon purchasing the Buck House, the Stebbinses sought out descendants of the Bucks and the extended Buck family has held funerals, weddings and family reunions at the Buck House Inn.
While no evidence remains of the structure’s long years of vacancy, history is threaded throughout the home: black-and-white framed photographs of the house in its early days line the walls of the dining room and the original chestnut walls, ceilings and floors lend a warmth that is rarely found in modern hospitality establishments. The inn is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
“Being in the registry validates this history and shows the importance of the Buck family and the estate that they built here,” says Sam. “Most of our guests are deeply interested in hearing the history of the inn and learning about the family that built this house and made it their home.”
One such guest is Buddy Huff, who has has stayed at the Buck House Inn five times since his first visit in 2014. “The history of the Buck House is fascinating,” says Huff. “On every trip, we learn something new regarding the inn’s history and hear new stories of the family and neighbors and days gone by.”
But when you ask a guest about the Buck House Inn, it’s rarely the history of the place they want to talk about—it’s the Stebbinses. “The big difference in the Buck House is certainly the innkeepers,” says Huff. “They make you feel so at home. They encourage you to get to know the other guests, yet you feel the freedom to just be alone, as well.”
Mauren Timberlake and her husband David discovered the Buck House Inn accidentally in 2012 and have returned seven times. “Sam and Debbie are blessed with a natural gift for hosting,” says Maureen. “They treat everyone with indescribable warmth and sincerity. The Buck House Inn is truly our happy place!”
The Buck House Inn on Bald Mountain Creek is located at 5860 Bald Mountain Road. The inn operates seasonally from May 1 to November 15 and is closed for the winter. To learn more about the inn or make reservations, visit northcarolinamountain- vacation.com.