Gain a greater understanding of local history and an appreciation for natural beauty through a visit to one of several former estates in North Carolina. These homes have been at the crossroads of history and many have been rescued from damage to become showplaces, meeting spaces, and special event venues. What were once family homes now welcome people from all over the world to enjoy natural and curated beauty in luxurious settings. (Opening photo: Front of Duke Mansion, Courtesy of Aniesia Williams)
The Duke Mansion
Run by the Lynwood Foundation, the Duke Mansion in Charlotte is one of the most recognizable examples of Colonial Revival architecture. It was built in 1915 and greatly enlarged by James Buchanan Duke. The family estate now functions as a bed and breakfast and an event venue. The guest rooms are traditionally styled and have private baths attached. An executive chef and full staff prepare meals for guests on-site. More than four acres of beautifully landscaped gardens are the perfect backdrop for wedding photos, walks, and special events.
The Graylyn Estate
The Graylyn Estate in Winston-Salem, the former home of the wealthy Gray family, functions today as a boutique hotel and conference center on 55 acres in Winston-Salem. After a rich and storied history as a family home, hospital, and educational site, the building is maintained by Wake Forest University and money raised through event fees goes to support scholarships. The estate is known for its architectural and interior design details, as well as technological feats of the day, like built-in electronics that made radio available throughout the home, and an outdoor floodlight system. An on-site executive chef and staff provide overnight guests with continental breakfasts and made-to-order dishes, as well as dining room service open to the public nightly.
Not all former estates are hotels and conferences centers, though. The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem represents visual and theatre arts, dance, and education. The site is the former estate of industrialist James G. Hanes, founder of the company that’s now Hanesbrands, Inc., makers of clothing and hosiery. SECCA’s activities emphasize local arts and engagement with local communities. The site’s uniquely Southern landscaped grounds feature wisteria trees, a lake, and a lovely boxwood garden. The site also serves as an event space for weddings, performances, and more. SECCA hosts films, lectures, and other events at the site’s McChesney Scott Dunn Auditorium, and the lobby area, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, is a great place to host luncheons, dinners, and receptions.
The Duke Mansion, Graylyn, and SECCA are just three of the many former Southern estates transformed into museums, galleries, and event spaces that honor the past while looking toward the future. It’s a wonderful thing to see these magnificent homes reinvented with luxury and now open to the public.