Sunday, June 12, 2011

Graylyn Estate - Pour du Tour!

In the early years of my blog I told you about Graylyn and Reynolda house here. And,
as you know, we've been and are still on a mission to visit each of the 100 counties in
North Carolina - And, to visit historical landmarks and anything else we find worth
stopping for... So while we've been to Reynolda house several times, (the last time
here) and we've driven by Graylyn a thousand times... Today, we made it inside!   
Because Graylyn is now offering Butler-guided tours of the estate to include
a lovely wine and cheese reception they call the, Tour-Pour-Du Jour
And, while we don't drink wine, we were Very excited to take the estate tour!
And to tour the gardens again, of course!  
Once 80+ acres, Graylyn is now 55-acres but still, this is 55-acres of perfection!
We spied this Blue Heron doing a little fishing by the pond!
I've decided that this beautiful stone bridge is all that's
missing from the creek on our property... I love it!
Graylyn is constructed of all steel, stone and concrete and is said to
be fire-proof. This method of construction is credited for saving the
whole of Graylyn during a fire that broke out on the third floor in 1980 
If you appreciate such things then you'll love the interior of Graylyn too - For it
truly is an achievement in architecture and design, as well as construction. This
is the reception hall. Note the dimpling texture on the walls - Best visible over
the sconces. You might think this is a result of fancy plaster work... Until
you learn the walls are actually poured concrete. Pretty Incredible!
After checking in we were invited to wait in the Gray's
library where wine and cheese was served prior to the tour
This was said to be one of Mrs. Gray's favorite rooms. The paneling was brought over
from France - Salvaged from a hotel there. However, just before shipment, the French
government changed its mind and tried to cancel the sale. But Mr. Gray insisted the
sale was final so they let it go. But not before a mold of the design could be made!
The paneling is superb; but I love the ceiling more! In the doorway there
you can see an example of the thickness of the walls at Graylyn. Every
wall is at least a foot thick. This castle-like construction made heating
and cooling the 60-rooms and more than 46,000 square feet a breeze!
All of the French doors at Graylyn knocked me out! But once again, just like
RJ Reynolds and GW Vanderbilt, Bowman Gray, Sr., didn't live long following
the completion of his grand estate. And, probably more sad is the fact that
he died shipboard during a vacation cruise and had to be buried at sea!
This is the main living room at Graylyn. At the end of the room are
portraits of the Gray's two sons, Bowman, Jr., and Gordon, whose son,
C. Boyden served as White House counsel for George H.W. Bush. You can
read more about the estate and this prominent North Carolina family here
Our butler-guide, Joseph told us that the ceiling and wall paneling in this room,
located between the reception hall and main living room were original to a Mosque
This is my favorite room of the tour... The indoor pool! Unfortunately, the pool is
covered to accommodate a banquet brunch today. However you can see it here
Again... Those French doors! And, just look at the metal work on the railing here!
The extraordinary tile and metal work at Graylyn
was called out in almost every room of the house...
And for perfectly good reason...
Because all of it is stunning!
This floor, counter and wall tile in the Ice Cream room is another example
of the gorgeous tile and workmanship on display throughout Graylyn estate
We were told all the metal work was done by one man... A blacksmith
by the name of J. Barton Benson who was only in his early twenties!
In my opinion... His work makes this house!
The spiral staircase is as interesting as Benson's metal work. You see,
the steps are floating... They are only anchored through the walls 
You can see each step circling the tower outside...

More of Mr. Benson's work... Here he added a bit of whimsy by
incorporating the Gray's dogs into the design of this candle holder
I manipulated this photo to highlight the amazing brickwork that makes
up what is referred to as the Bee-hive at the top of the spiral staircase
It's easy to see why Graylyn is the choice for weddings in our area!
So many beautiful picture-taking spots... Both both inside the
manor house and throughout its surrounding landscape
I kept poking my head outside from every room to take in the views!
This spot in the house was once the drive way. Now it is enclosed
and one of the adjacent garages serves as a conference room
Through the driveway is the car park behind the house
How I'd love to have this wall around our house!
Down here in the basement, in a room now used as a fitness facility
for guests staying at Graylyn, you can see the house was built with
old RJR tobacco money in the tile motif used above the window!
Here is another fine example of Mr. Benson's ironwork, and more of
that interesting wall texture we first noticed in the reception hall
This is the grill room in the basement, host to several United State Presidents,
including our beloved Ronald Reagan. It is also where our tour ended at Graylyn!
At the end of our tour each of us was invited to select a bottle of wine
to take home from the line produced exclusively for Graylyn. We don't
drink appreciate wine the way I know we should so one seemed just as
fine as the next. Nevertheless, I picked a pretty Chardonnay and he
chose a rich Cabernet! All in all, this was a wonderful way to spend a
couple of hours on a stormy summer afternoon... And, we'll be back,
because I'd love to spend the night in one of these cozy rooms!

Everyone present at Graylyn today treated us like their very own house-guests... However, I want to give special mention and thanks to Shelley Brown, Graylyn's Director of Sales for her special attention during the reservations process. Also, our butler, Joseph for the information he shared during the tour and finally, the cute doorman, who so politely stepped inside to let me snap photos of the house, minus his big yellow umbrella!


  1. Janet!! Another fantastic travel and tour review! We can always count on you to know exactly where to go and the best places to explore in North Carolina! Graylyn is now on our list to visit too!

  2. Isn't Graylyn gorgeous! My husband and I were there the night the fire broke out in 1980. At that time, the concert shell that is currently located in Tanglewood, was located at Graylyn. The Winston-Salem Symphony performed free "Music at Sunset" concerts on Sunday evenings during the summer months. It was a great time for family picnics on the beautiful Graylyn Estate.

  3. The NC State Dept. of Tourism needs to hire you (not that you'd leave Hanes) but you certainly are one of the best representatives of the State. What a masterful piece of architecture Graylyn is and the grounds make me want to weep with their beauty. That stone bridge makes me think of the Swilcan Burns bridge at St. Andrew's golf course in Scotland and I just love that little child size armed chair tucked in the corner of the room.

  4. We've always planned to visit there. Your post has me all enthusiastic to plan a trip for certain. Lovely photographs.

  5. After reading your superb blog and seeing your masterful pictures of Graylyn I am even more proud to spend my days and many evenings at Graylyn as the special events coordinator for social events. Thank you for doing such a wonderful job of sharing my home away from home.

  6. What a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. I am so impressed with the poured concrete walls- how do they do that?!

    Oh and everyone needs an "ice cream" room in their house, don't they? :-)

  7. I grew up in the neighborhood behind the Graylyn estate during the 1970's. I spent many afternoons wandering the grounds without ever seeing anyone. I use to peek in the pool windows and wish I could see the inside of the house. Thank you so much for posting all the lovely photos. I had no idea you could now tour the estate. I would love for my children to see a special part of my childhood. I knew every part of the grounds, and I was always surprised that no one ever asked me to leave. I also use to visit during the "Music at Sunset" concert. I even have an entry in my high school diary about the fire at Graylyn and how sad it made me. Thanks again for all the wonderful photos and commentary from your visit.


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