The Carriage House on the lakeshore property of Sid Morris in Cornelius, NC is very likely the most unique in America! It doesn’t house horses and horse buggies. It doesn’t house antique autos—though there's one inside. It's true purpose is to house the homeowner's R44 helicopter. For takeoffs, the chopper is transported via electric dolly to a helio pad at the end of a 200' long dock. During its journey it travels through a pair of Schweiss hydraulic doors, finished in a style consistent with the carriage house's overall design. The custom doors serve as yet another apt illustration of the capabilities of their manufacturer, Schweiss Doors of Fairfax, MN.
Morris is the CEO of Morris International, a 4AAAA advertising/marketing organization headquartered in Davidson, NC. The firm does sports marketing for NASCAR, NHRA and other high-profile accounts. He’s also into commercial development of offices, restaurants, marinas, etc., at his home port of Cornelius, which hugs the shoreline of Lake Norman, about 80 miles north of Charlotte via Interstate 40.
“I’ve been into building design and architecture all my life. My father was a builder and I guess the genetics just kept on working,” Morris modestly acknowledged. He’s actually a design graduate, East Carolina University.
So how did this remarkable Carriage House happen? More modesty perhaps but Morris simply said, “This was just a piece of dirt and for a few years I’d been thinking about how to make this more useful. I’ve got a place in the Virginia mountains where I built a runway for my airplane. Then I got a helicopter, built a helio pad and hangar up there.”
But it was still a two-hour drive from his mountain retreat to his home on Lake Norman which got Morris to thinking. "I started tinkering with the idea of putting a landing pad on top of the boat house, but I didn’t want to leave my helicopter sitting outside. After about 3 years of doodling various ideas, we decided on the concept of an elevated dock running directly to the carriage house. Or perhaps more accurately, my helicopter hangar.”
Hangar indeed. Some would contend Morris has actually built for himself the world's most unique helicopter airport. It's fitting though, considering Morris' helicopter. It's a beautiful 4-passenger bird with a cruising speed of about 110 mph. “It’s now 45 minutes to my Virginia mountaintop place,” said Morris.
The carriage house encompasses about 2,500 sq. ft. and includes a rather spectacular 24’ long x 12’ wide ‘bonus room’ over the shop. The center section where the helicopter is housed is 10’ wide. Another 14’ section, complete with model train displays, sits to one side while on the other is a 12’-wide x 24’-long miniature model shop, suggesting another of Morris' hobbies.
Parking space for the helicopter is provided in a 43’-long and 16’-high center concourse area. Two Schweiss hydraulic doors, each 10’ wide by 12’ vertical, provide access to this remarkable structure. Both of the Schweiss doors are designed with French doors on their exterior. “So when these doors are closed, they match perfectly with the rest of the exterior design" Morris explained. "You don’t have any impression of looking at a garage door.”
Morris knew about Schweiss doors before this project began. His mountain hangar is fitted with a 40’ x 18’ Schweiss bifold door.
“Delivering that door up a 4,000 ft. mountain was quite a task but the Schweiss guys got it there. It was through the woods, up the hills, over the bridges, etc., but they got the job done.
“So it didn’t take much thinking to go Schweiss for my carriage house too. I needed a 12’ vertical clearspan and didn’t want to build higher to hook up bifolds. So these two hydraulics are perfect. No loss of headroom. Very well built. Lots of structural integrity.
“I see the Schweiss guys each year at Oshkosh for the big experimental air show. Plus I see their doors at hangars wherever I go. They make a very good product and we’ve been very happy with their service." The doors were delivered on time as scheduled. “It’s the only door I would consider,” concluded Morris. Coming from a business man with a history of building name recognition across America, his endorsement speaks volumes for the Schweiss name.
The contractor for this impressive facility was Dominick Ristino of Metropolitan Builders, Charlotte, NC. Ristino also worked on Morris' home, which used to be a 900 sq. ft. A-frame, and the helio pad, where once an A-frame boat house sat. Ristino, Morris and crew removed the A-frame; engineered some I beam structures fastened to the boat house footings and from there constructed the new dock and helio pad 12’ higher and directly above the existing dock.
To see more on this project on the Schweiss Doors website, click here.