Shu has a dream. Christopher's Pizza--the buuilding, the people, the music, and the food--is the foundation of that dream. Located in a late 1890's grist mill in Meadows of Dan, Christopher's walls have a special quality that mixes the people, the music of the jam sessions, and the food to form a strong bond that joins all these ingredients.
"Shu" Shumate is the owner of Christopher's and the surrounding 150 acres. He gave us a tour of the destination resort he envisions (300 cabins, a 200-room hotel, and a theater) on the hills above the old mill. It has been an eight-year challenge to convince the county people and federal officials that his idea to re-build the dam on the Dan River, restore the multi-acre lake, and build a resort is achhievable.
He plans to repair the hole in the dam and increase its height. This view of the dam is taken from the road above the old mill where Christopher's is located.
These structural changes will form a lake that will cover the grassy plain on which the original Dan River Queen is docked. The discovery of the the Dan River was most rewarding; its restoration is well underway and is especially satisfying for Shu. Passengers will board the the Dan River to tour the lake, possibly stopping at the picnic grounds before returning to the dock.
About two dozen cabins have been sold with 12 more under contract and another 264 planned. The cabins will operate like a condominium association so that they maintain a uniform, rustic exterior. Some of the present owners live in the cabins for extended periods (4-6 months), others for frequent shorter periods (weekends or 1-2 weeks). The views from the cabins range from magnificent to spectacular.
In the course of clearing portions of the property, Shu came upon a dilapidated building that had endured nearly 30 years of storms and neglect. The roof had collapsed and the floor was covered with debris. Amidst all this, Shu found a fresco painted by a local artist (Miss Flora Beatrice Farnham) who had painted similar frescoes in churches in Europe. This building now is set aside as a chapel. It is open 24 hours a day for anyone who wants to worship there. Music of local artists is played continuously through speakers located in the nearby woods. The picture shows stained glass windows and stages in the life of Christ painted by local artists on the restored walls. (The fresco described above was not photographed.)
As if the above goals are not enough, Shu plans to build the hotel on a mountain top and a theater in an old quarry. The 125-foot walls of stone form about 75% of a circle and will provide the natural walls and acoustics for a theater than will be covered with a domed roof. Shu's vision is gaining support of local citizens and governmental officials. He is also being invited to consult on similar destination resorts on the West Coast. There is a reverence to Shu's description of his dream that convinces one of his desire to complete this project but to do it in a way that ties the whole project to the quality of "community" that permeates the walls of the pizza shop. He has a dream along with the patience and perseverence to make the dream become a reality.
For now, the dream of the resort emphasizing the beauty of the area will have to be esperienced on a smaller--but no less genuine way--through the music of local musicians getting together to enjoy each other's company and an appreciative audience enjoying their music and Shu's stromboli, wings, and fried okra.
Fabulous stromboli melding flavors beautifully, wings that were crisp and very tasty, and the best fried okra imaginable. And the magic of the walls of Christopher's Pizza.