May 3, 2024

After celebrating two decades of design excellence in 2022, Kuo Diedrich Chi Architects didn’t skip a beat in 2023 as it garnered another top new clubhouse design award from Golf Inc. Magazine for The Tavern at Old Toccoa Farm in Mineral Bluff, Ga.

The latest KDC project was named second-best New Clubhouse by industry peers and published in Golf Inc.’s September/October issue. The honor represents the seventh consecutive year KDC was recognized by the national publication with either a top clubhouse, amenity and/or “Golden Fork” award annually bestowed for the golf industry’s best new food-and-beverage venues.

Among the recent Old Toccoa Farm praise from Golf Inc. editors: “The exterior covered spaces offer a thrilling view of the environs, while also being ample enough to accommodate a lot of guests. The interior of the dining and bar areas are very striking and evoke a sense of calm and comfort.”

Though intimate in nature, the 5,000-square-foot semi-private clubhouse amenity is already paying huge dividends for Old Toccoa Farm owners Peter Knutzen and Kevin Hermetz, who resurrected the development out of foreclosure in 2013 after it sat unfinished and abandoned for nearly four years. According to the owners, The Tavern is teeming with social activity during member events and peak season happy hours when Mineral Bluff and neighboring Blue Ridge are bustling with droves of annual tourists and return vacation-home owners and guests.

“The Tavern’s been a game changer because we have members and residents who are either living in our community or live up there and we just never had a common place to meet,” Hermetz said. “It’s just been a great gathering spot. And then, we’re also open to the public so people that don’t play golf but live in the area see it as a great little restaurant to go out to and dine in a nice environment without having to go downtown where the weekends are like an anthill. Just crazy.”

After turning a profit in its first full year of operations in 2023, what gives Old Toccoa Farm owners even more pride is the fact this revitalized development is helping put economic life back into the relatively more modest Mineral Bluff community living outside the gates of Old Toccoa Farm.

As lead KDC designer JC Chi described it, the new “Appalachian Craftsman” clubhouse was meant to be “thoughtfully comfortable with a refined, rustic-like” sense of place. Most importantly, it was designed as a “welcoming hot spot for interaction” among members and guests and positioned to simply maximize the stunning vistas of the surrounding Toccoa River Valley and picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains.

“The Tavern is meant to be the energy center where everybody can come to enjoy the beautiful setting and just hang out,” Chi added. “It’s a stylistic getaway.”

Style and comfort notwithstanding, Beverly Baribault Design Group, who oversaw The Tavern’s interior design aspects, went to great lengths to not only preserve Old Toccoa Farm’s Native American roots but honor the heritage and history of the property with remarkable creative integrity. For instance, during construction, the owners discovered/preserved remnants of an ancient wall used by Native American tribes to dam up the namesake river as well as the evidence of popular “double fishing weir” techniques used to trap and catch fish. Meanwhile, the property was peppered with stunning pieces of Georgia’s State Mineral Staurolite, or “Fairy Crosses,” which, according to legend, are the “teardrops” that fell to the ground while Cherokee Indians shed tears of sorrow as they traveled the Trail of Tears.

Inspired by the centuries-old fishing weirs and Staurolite that Baribault saw on display during her first meeting with Knutzen, Baribault hired a British company to make a custom carpet with the historic “double fishing weir” and the “cross-looking” Staurolite as not only the artistic and symbolic focal point of the carpet, but the emotional and historic nature of the private club community itself. As Baribault put it, these “guiding elements” not only provided rich and compelling design aspects for The Tavern itself, but they also serve a critical role being the backdrop to a greater narrative or story now unfolding at Old Toccoa Farm.


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