Rebecca Flowers Transforms a Family Legacy
Previously published in the 2015 Summer issue.
Near Raleigh, NC, you’ll find a most unusual award-winning community that spans five generations of history. The largest planned community in the Research Triangle, Flowers Plantation has received acclaim as North Carolina’s Community of the Year in 2013 and 2014 awarded by the North Carolina Home Builders Association.
For three decades, the Flowers family has been creating this 3,000-acre property with beautiful homes and top-quality amenities. But to truly know the community, we invite you to get to know its developer, Rebecca Flowers (pictured left).
Born in 1950, “Ms. Flowers” (as she is lovingly called by her staff), believes she has a special purpose in her life. Her life’s experiences prove her life was more than coincidence. Rebecca’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Percy Flowers owned a large tobacco and cotton farm just 23 minutes east of Raleigh.
It all began in 1905 when her grandfather Joshua Washington Flowers and his wife purchased 265 acres in Johnston County. Dr. Josiah Ogden Watson’s family moved from Charleston in the mid-1700s and aquired thousands of acres. The Watson home was constructed in the mid-1700s and included the farm that later became the Flowers’ home place in 1905.
Joshua Percy Flowers was born in 1903 and was only two years of age when his family moved into the Watson home place. He accumulated more than 3,000 acres over 40 years from the late 1920s to the early 1960s.
In 1982 the Flowers’ farm lost its patriarch, Joshua Percy Flowers. It was then the responsibility of his wife, Dell Whitley and his only daughter, Rebecca Dell, to continue the family tradition. But, gradually that meant changing the farm’s path to the vibrant community that it is today.
“The most difficult aspect of planning and executing what was to become ‘Flowers Plantation’ was the fact that even though the farm was rich in history, it was poor in cash,” said Rebecca Flowers. When Rebecca was 26 years of age (and teaching third grade in the Wake County public educational system in Raleigh, NC), the expenses associated with the 3,000-acre farm and the income to maintain the farming operation were not sufficient. Tobacco farming was undergoing a U.S. governmental ‘Buy Out’ program.
Rebecca’s mother began to work with her to devise an estate plan that spanned over 13 years prior to her mother’s death. This plan, though not all encompassing, allowed Rebecca to create a way to save the family farm.
Ms. Flowers, married to John H. Bullock, Jr., does not believe it was a coincidence she was born with a creative, determined, visionary talent. She began in 1982, with the assistance of her mother, employing professionals (including well-known North Carolina land planner Mr. Lewis Clarke), to convert the farm into a destination where residents would enjoy living in a community of mixed-use and conveniences typically not found outside of the immediate Research Triangle.
The personal challenge for Rebecca Flowers was just how to make the farm take a new appearance and acquire a new history that made it not only historical as a southern plantation, but appealing and worthy of destination living. This challenge, coupled with the lack of cash flow from the farming operation to finance such a large land plan, has taken over 30 years to become a full reality.
Joshua Flowers Finch and Jordan White Finch, Rebecca Flowers’ twin sons, were born in 1982, just two weeks prior to her father’s death. Bringing up her sons while saving the family farm and making it a place of pride for the fourth generation was very difficult. Rebecca said, “Many events took place during the following years that almost resulted in giving up. Yet, it never happened! Each time I thought I could not continue, a miracle appeared to help me make it. Our sons graduated from The Savannah College of Art and Design and decided on their own to become the next generation to take Flowers Plantation forward, even to possibly a fifth generation.” They each actively engage in their own businesses, however, their businesses are within the Flowers Plantation. Their talents have already taken their mother’s vision to the next level.
Though the evolution of Flowers Plantation occurred slowly from 1982 to 2006, a long awaited goal of Rebecca Flowers became a reality. The Flowers Crossroads, once the location of a country corner store and the Percy Flowers home place, is now a mixed-use site with vibrant activity. Residents walk or drive golf carts to shop and visit. In 2014, this mixed-use site received the TCREW (Triangle Commerical Real Estate Women) award as ‘Best Development Project.’ Concerts at the Crossroads began in the Spring of 2014 with monthly bands from all over the East Coast.
The Club at Flowers Plantation offers many amenities for every stage of life. The 20,000-sq.-ft. club facility and 10,000-sq.-ft. fitness center are the centerpiece of the community. The 55-plus communities are quickly becoming the talk of North Carolina and the Southeast. Plans now include a health clinic and a continuing care retirement community on one of the four lakes. The parks and recreation programs are open to the community at large, including a 5K run series that helps local non-profit organizations. They even offer personal training sessions for those who have never participated in such events.
Be sure to make reservations at the historic Dr. Watson Inn when you visit. This Watson-Flowers home place, which dates back to the 1700s was carefully disassembled to preserve any materials that could be recycled or refurbished. In 2006, Jordan White Finch reconstructed it to what it is now known as the Dr. Watson Inn. This Inn represents all that is Flowers Plantation… a historical treasure.
When asked what has been the most rewarding aspect of creating a community from scratch, Rebecca answered, “The reward has not been the money. The money has been constantly reinvested to create the next vision. The reward is seeing the dream become a reality. My family, the staff and residents constantly inspire me. It is seeing beauty in the places and buildings. It is touching what was only a dream for years.”