A Christopher Architecture and Interiors Project
Cullman, Alabama. The fondest memories of childhood for Jeff Roberts were spent on the water—driving a boat, skiing, and swimming. His mother, Betsy Roberts, taught Jeff and his brother, Will, to enjoy each of these activities at an early age. Actually, she has taught hundreds of children to be confident swimmers and water enthusiasts. For more than thirty years, Jeff’s grandmother, Girlie Snyder, and his mother, Betsy Roberts, directed the prestigious Webb School Day Camp offered exclusively for girls. Now retired, Jeff’s mother was missing the water.
For Jeff and his family, the most natural place on earth is a Southern lake.
Jeff went searching for a future homeplace where his mother, now 75, could feel most at home. Smith Lake, located near Cullman, Alabama, is situated half-way between Jeff’s home in Birmingham and his brother Will’s home in Knoxville. Jeff has wanted his four nieces and nephews to have the summer camp experience he and Will had enjoyed. They would all benefit from a place where they could unplug, connect with nature, and swing a minnow bucket on their way to fish. For Jeff and his family, the most natural place on earth is a Southern lake.
This summer the dream was fully realized and best captured in the joyful splash of children’s laughter as they make their jumps from the dock into the water. Jeff named the new homeplace “Bebbie’s Pointe.” Situated on approximately three acres, the property offers a woodland and water nature preserve, a gorgeous 5,000-square foot home, a private dock, a two-car garage with attached carport, and 550 feet of shoreline.
Christopher Architecture and Interiors designed the lake home to sleep more than a dozen guests. The family enjoys built-in bunks in the third story guestroom, and for extra-large gatherings, window seats multi-task as highly comfortable twin beds. We expect there’s probably a fight over who gets the beds on the porches that are also swings.
The entire home, and easy access to the lake, tap the inner child of every guest. No matter the season, the views are well buffered from neighbors and bring wildlife into view. “Jeff had one particular wish,” said CAi Project Manager Bill Moore. “He wanted to be able to see the lake from every room. We designed a long linear footprint for the house to maximize those incredible views.”
The entire home and easy access to the lake tap the inner child of every guest.
“We’ve given more than a nod to the Craftsman lodge with our design,” said Bill. The Alabama brown stone piers are eight feet across at their base and work with heavy timbers to anchor the three-story home. “These elements frame an outdoor room that blurs the interior and exterior settings.” In winter it will be sheltered from winds and snow, so the family can enjoy their outdoor fireplace, and in summer it is a natural gathering place.
“Natural materials underscore Jeff’s lifestyle,” said CAi interior designer Emory Ratliff. She and Bill collaborated to develop the interior look and feel of the entire home. She selected the finishes and also worked with Jeff to furnish and accessorize the second home. “There’s nothing fussy here, but it is also not overly masculine.” The home appeals across generations and is a beautiful backdrop for a formal family holiday with all the trimmings, or a casual, spontaneous get-away that needs little
Enjoy this video from Christopher Architecture and Interiors featuring this Smith Lake home. Video Production by Pitts Media of Birmingham.
Jeff Robert’s has named the lake home “Bebbie’s Pointe” in honor of his mother and using her affectionate family nickname. His mother, Betsy Snyder Roberts, directed the prestigious Webb School Day Camp exclusively for girls. Her mother, Girlie Snyder had founded the program. Together, for more than 30 years, they offered one of the only progressive camps of its kind in the nation devoted to ensure equal access to skill-building and challenging activities for girls. The program proved popular with families in the region. Girlie Snyder also taught at the Webb School, and Betsy went on to become Assistant Athletic Director for the Women’s Division at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
“Both my mother and my grandmother were very progressive and strong advocates for women’s athletics and equality,” said Jeff Roberts. “Back in the 50s, women’s basketball in East Tennessee was played half-court. My grandmother thought that was ridiculous and had her female students at Webb School running the full court.”
“Leading the summer camp for girls was Girlie and Betsy’s way to be effective advocates for girls and women,” said Jeff. In addition to the four-week summer camp, Betsy Roberts taught private swimming lessons, he said. “Through their swim lessons and camps, hundreds and hundreds of young women in Tennessee became confident swimmers and were exposed to many other skills.”
The Webb School Day Camp offered a variety of activities: swimming, water ballet, canoeing, water skiing, archery, riflery, crafts and tennis. The women’s locker room at Webb School is named for Jeff’s grandmother, Girlie Snyder.
“Mother was a close friend of the late Pat Summit,” said Jeff, “and they were both in the Chi Omega Sorority and worked closely together when Mom was in the athletic department. I once heard Pat Summit say, ‘If it weren’t for women like Girlie Snyder, I would be coaching half-court basketball.’”
Coach Pat Summitt went on to have the most wins in NCAA basketball history upon retirement in 2013— all full court, of course—as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols from 1974-2012. Pat also won two Olympic medals for basketball, one gold as the coach and one silver as a player. Pat passed in June of 2016.
Girlie Snyder and Betsy Snyder Roberts must have been thrilled to witness the full-court equality they insisted upon for their girls’ basketball program find such a winning champion in Tennessee’s beloved Pat Summitt.
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Photography by Chris Luker