By Stephen Dawkins
When Joan and Harry Hargrove thought about retirement, they knew they wanted to move away from the busyness of the Washington D.C. area, and they knew they wanted a home that could host family and other visitors.
The Hargroves found exactly what they wanted—though not exactly where they thought they would find it.
The couple found their spot in The Ridge development on Lake Mitchell. And their new home turned out to be more than they could have imagined.
“We always had to go where family was,” Harry said. “If we wanted to see people, we had to travel. We wanted somewhere where our family could come to us.”
The Hargroves found that spot in The Ridge development on Lake Mitchell. In fact, their new home turned out to be more than they could have imagined.
Harry is a native of the Mobile area, but his family moved to Memphis for his dad’s job. Then, as Harry spent 26 years active and reserve with the U.S. Navy, retiring as a captain, the Hargroves became even more familiar with moving, as Harry and his wife changed locations 23 times as a married couple.
Harry worked for Boeing as an executive in government relations for 20 years. Joan, meanwhile is a Tennessee native who taught at the elementary level at a public school for 20 years, then at a preschool for 28 years.
The Hargroves moved to Virginia when their daughter, Elizabeth, was 4 years old.
The Hargroves figured that when they retired, they’d move near their beloved Orange Beach, which would also be close to Harry’s childhood home, but an opportunity came along that they couldn’t pass up.
Harry recalls sitting in his office at his former home and receving a call about a lot at The Ridge in October 2006. They had to make a decision quickly—without even having seen the property.
Luckily, friends lived in the subdivision and gave a positive opinion about the lot. In fact, the Hargroves were familiar with The Ridge from visiting the friends, Ralph and Jane Mason, while the Masons’ home was being built.
“Without our friend, we wouldn’t have even known about this gem on Lake Mitchell,” Harry said.
The Hargroves purchased plans for their future residence, specifically designed as a lakefront home, from a North Carolina-based company, but some changes were made.
A screened porch, for example, has been walled with glass to make a sunroom. Inside this room sits a flamingo that is illuminated when the Hargroves entertain guests in the evening. Neighbors joke that they know the Hargroves are partying when the flamingo is visible from the lake. The Hargroves play along: They call the room “Flamingo Lounge South.” (The original Flamingo South started at their home in Virginia.)
A planned wall between a living area and kitchen was not erected, as the Hargroves opted instead to create a more open space. The main level of the home also features the master suite and a formal dining room, and opens onto a large deck overlooking the mouth of Blue Creek.
Off from the main level is Joan’s favorite part of the house, an area she has nicknamed the “Croft” because of its use as both an office and craft room. Joan is an avid scrapbooker. She also paints gourds and creates other artwork, some of which has been featured at local antiques shop Tradewinds.
Downstairs from the main level is another living area, along with three guest bedrooms and two bathrooms.
“It’s set up where you could basically stay down here if they wanted to,” Harry said.
This level opens up to a “terrace” view of the lake, so close to the water that one can hold conversations with passing boaters.
The house contains 4,100 square feet of heated space, while there are about 6,000 square feet under roof. There are four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half-baths. The home was completed in May 2011.
Joan documented the building and furnishing of their home at homesweetalabama.blogspot.com.
While the Hargroves think their home is perfect for them, it came with a benefit they could not have planned for: the sense of community among their friends at Trinity Episcopal Church and their neighbors at the lake.
Harry has served as the church’s treasurer for three years, and Joan helps Rector Bill King with his “card ministry,” creating greeting cards King sends.
“Before we moved in down here, Bill was thinking about what we could be doing,” Joan said.
Harry was recently elected as treasurer of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.
Then, there’s the Hargroves’ lake friends.
“It has been absolutely wonderful,” Joan said. “You just couldn’t have better neighbors. The ladies have a bridge club; the men have a walking group.”
The group also takes frequent boat rides during warmer months, and there are occasional fishing trips.
Joan and Harry plan to get a black Labrador retriever—a “lake dog.”
“Everybody has at least one,” Joan said.
The Hargroves enjoy the peacefulness of the lake area, but they’re glad they have friends close by.
“There is always something to do here that involves that group,” Joan said. “It wouldn’t be nearly as special if we were isolated.”