Photography by firewater photography
The Osterfeld house on Lake Jocassee, S.C.
Supper conversation at the Osterfeld house in Lake Jocassee, S.C., includes the sounds of fish plopping into the water and geese flying overhead.
There are a lot of things that people love about living on the lake and many of them start at sunrise, when the day dawns fresh and promising.
“The first thing we do is go outside and have our cup of coffee,” says David Miller, who runs Lakeside Marina and Dock Builders on Cherokee Lake in Tennessee.
“That sets the tone for the day,” he says. “It’s what you work hard for, why you do what you do.” Many mornings, Miller watches a pair of otters cruise by the marina. And many evenings, he’ll see them cruise back, going home. Seeing them enjoying the lake makes him feel part of a larger ecosystem that exists around the nurturing waters. Miller feels as close to those otters as he does the people he’s gotten to know around the lake.
The warmth he has for his community is common among many people who live around mountain lakes in the Southern Appalachians. And what’s not to love? Living on the water tends to reduce life to its most simple elements. Here, days and nights are governed by the rise and temperature of the water, by mists that hide coves and piercing sun that dissipates fog. More so than in the cities and towns from which many of us hail, we go to the lakes to be reminded that life happens slowly, one sunrise at a time. It’s why many people like Miller choose to live there.
“When you live and work on the lake, there are a lot of times you don’t stop to smell the roses,” he says. “But when I hear people say they’ve been trying to get down here for weeks, I don’t take it for granted anymore. It makes me glad to be right where I’m at.”
Lake Jocassee, S.C.
Standing low to the ground on a point jutting out into Lake Jocassee is the welcoming home and respite of a busy businessman and his wife. Jeff and Sheri Osterfeld have been coming to their rock and copper house for nearly four years and love it more than ever.
“Everybody calls it a castle,” Jeff Osterfeld says. “It’s stone completely, and when I say completely, I mean completely.” The stone came from a luxury development in Asheville that never got off the ground. Excavated, the rock had been lying on top of the ground for centuries when the Osterfelds’ builder got hold of it. It had just the weathering to make it look like it belonged in a castle.
Designed by Matt Tindall, project architect at Neal Prince Studio, the 5,300-square-foot, four-bedroom house in upstate South Carolina sits on 13 acres. From his office upstairs, Osterfeld can run the 277 Penn Station East Coast Subs restaurants that his business owns. Founder and CEO, he’s scaling back to enjoy more time with his family, much of it at their home on Lake Jocassee. He and his wife found the lake about 10 years ago on their way home to Cincinnati from Georgia.
“We came home and decided if we ever have a second home, we wanted it to be in the mountains,” he says.
Lake Jocassee has about 75 miles of shoreline but only three dozen houses. Fed by four rivers, including the national wild and scenic Horsepasture River, it’s one of the clearest lakes Osterfeld has ever seen. In December 2012, National Geographic magazine named Jocassee Gorges one of the 50 “last great places” in the world, noting that the gorges have one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls in the eastern United States. Jocassee Lake has produced five state record-sized fish and is a great place to hook red eye bass and rainbow and brown trout.
The Osterfelds started their castle by buying two lots on the point and then adding another 10 acres to protect their privacy. Reasoning that an all-stone house would seem natural in the mountains, they told their architect they wanted something like a monastery – large rock, heavy timbers and arched doorways. The house took two years to build.
The Osterfelds have four children ranging in age from 21 to 28. Once every month or so, some configuration of the family gathers at the house. Jeff has a private pilot’s license, so the 85-minute flight from Cincinnati often includes the Osterfelds’ two daughters who live there as well (a third daughter lives in Houston, a son in nearby Greenville, S.C.). The family loves getting away to the lake home.
“It’s such an escape kind of place,” Osterfeld says. “I find any excuse that I can just to tinker in the house.” He spends a lot of time hiking in Jocassee Gorges; two years ago, he and son Jake, then 24, spent six days hiking 66 miles on trails there. Osterfeld cherishes the memory.
Closer to home, he loves his regulation-size shuffleboard court beside the house, not far from the dock. After the day’s activities, he and his wife will often relax beside the outdoor fireplace. Or they’ll soak in the stainless steel hot tub after a pleasant meal in the outdoor dining room. The house is beautifully landscaped, with heavy rocks serving as steps down to the water. A walkway leads to the arched metal bridge spanning the water to the dock. The dock, covered to keep the weather off the boat, gets plenty of use come swim time.