A History of the Lovelace-Ragin House and Family
The house at 450 West Main Street in Forest City was begun in 1928 by the Young family - Clarence, president of Farmers Bank in Forest City; his wife, the former Ethel Taylor of Massachusetts; and their young daughter, also named Ethel. But, Young died during construction, and Ethel eventually married Dr. T.B. Lovelace, a local physician and family friend.
Their house was a show-place - a curved stairwell designed in a turret with stained glass windows, state-of-the-art shower stalls, and black and white marble floors, Italian stucco walls and elaborate five-member plaster molding throughout the formal living areas. The formal living room featured French furniture upholstered in satin and damask and a gold-trimmed cream-colored piano. The house reflected Ethel Lovelace's love of the architecture she saw on her honeymoon Out West - the stucco and wrought iron all projected a decidedly Mediterranean air.
Ethel Lovelace was an outgoing, gracious hostess and lady. Back in the 40s and 50s, formal dinner parties of 16 were routine, served by the butler, James Green, and prepared by the cook, Green's wife, Nancy, who lived in the servants' apartment above the garage. Ethel Lovelace - or "Big Ethel" to distinguish from her daughter, whom she called "Sister" - taught Expressions in Grace etiquette and refinement classes to young ladies, who report having to walk up and down the stairway with books balanced on their heads.
Little Ethel married William Crosswell Ragin Jr. from Columbus, GA, an equally private person - whom everyone called simply "Ragin". A graduate of Davidson College, Ragin was a chemist for Stonecutter Mills in Spindale, NC. The Ragins lived with their parents. Little Ethel, who was not nearly as outgoing as her mother, nonetheless had her own sense of style. She was married in a blue gown, for one thing, and is remembered for always dressing smartly in a hat and carrying gloves. She was an avid bridge player. Ethel and Ragin, who had no children, loved to travel - particularly to New York, but also to Chicago and New Orleans to visit the jazz clubs. Ragin was one of the country's foremost collectors of jazz recordings; he owned more than 5,000 78 RPM records and 3,000 LPs at his death. He and a number of his friends formed an informal jazz club that met at his house to listen to recordings. The collection eventually outgrew its basement quarters, and a room was added off the back porch of the house.
Years slowed the couple down, Ethel died in November of 1993 at the age of 75. Ragin, 83, lived only another couple of months. The Ragins were a deeply religious couple, and at his death, the house was willed to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Forest City, which sold the house to the First Presbyterian Church. In 2014, the house was sold to its current owner, Eben Mann. Mann is a classically trained musician, and headquarters his music academy, Wild Roots Fine Arts, as well as two guest rooms upstairs (Airbnb), in the house. Even though today it is called the Olivewood Inn, 450 West Main will always be known to locals as the Lovelace-Ragin house.
The property, including the two-story garage in the back (known as the "carriage house"), was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 as a contributing structure to the West Main Street Historic District. It is also protected by the covenants of the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina, Inc.
A Dream House?
The house was going to be the home of Ethel and Clarence Young, and daughter, Ethel.
But Clarence would never see the completion. He died suddenly of an unexpected heart issue. The entire community was shocked over his untimely death.