Harriet Morehead Berry and the Professors of Laurel Lane
By Stanley W. Black, February 2010
One of Little Switzerland Founder Judge Heriot Clarkson's close associates in his work as legislative chairman of the North Carolina Good Roads Association was Harriet M. Berry. She was born in Hillsborough in 1877 and worked for the State Geological Survey from 1901. She became acting director of the Good Roads Association in 1917. Together with Clarkson, she helped pass the landmark Highway Act of 1921 to create the State Highway System. In 1928, Ms. Berry built a house on Laurel Lane, which she occupied in summers, while living in Chapel Hill. Her sisters Margaret Berry Strout and Mary Berry Brown were frequent visitors, along with her brother John Berry's family. John Berry's daughter Mary Berry Barnes fondly recalls visiting with her family in the 1930's.
Upon Harriet Berry's death, her sister Mary Berry Brown of Chapel Hill became the owner of the property. Mary Brown took pride in the garden, which she developed extensively. Mary's husband Kent was a Professor of German and they soon invited friends from Chapel Hill to join them on Laurel Lane. Those who did so included George and Colette Lane, Paul and Mary Guthrie, and Arthur and Kathleen Fink. It created the nucleus of a friendly and compatible group of people on the Lane, which grew to include Judge Francis and Cama Burgess Clarkson, who took over the Burgess home at the head of Laurel Lane.
George Lane was a Professor of German at UNC who published extensively on Germanic languages, Tocharian, and Sanskrit and served as President of the Linguistic Society of America. His wife Colette came from Louisiana and was a teacher of French and Russian. Their son Eugene became a Professor of Classics at the University of Missouri, and his wife Carol and children Helen and Michael continue to use their house, which George completed around 1960.
Paul Guthrie was a Professor of Economics at UNC, specializing in labor economics and the arbitration of labor disputes. He built his house in the early 1960's as well. He and his wife Mary had two children, Paul, Jr. and Robert. Robert Guthrie and Sandy Snow currently own the Guthrie house, which they have been restoring.
Arthur Fink was the first Dean of the UNC School of Social Work and a noted professor and author in the field of Social Work. He and his wife Kathleen acquired their house on Laurel Lane in 1970, having previously visited with the Guthries in the 1960's. They became year round residents in the mid-1970's, with Kathleen taking a role in the LSCA. The Finks' son Chris and his wife Carol now own the property and have restored it extensively.
Stanley W. Black is Lurcy Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He and his wife Roberta acquired the former Berry house on Laurel Lane in 1990 from Carrie Washburn and reside there in summer and fall.