During our recent 2018 spring mother-daughter trip, we were blessed to be hosted at the Graylyn Estate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My mom and I are huge fans of historical architecture and love to stay in unique hotels, so I was excited to add another destination to my list included within the Historic Hotels of America by staying at the Graylyn. From New York’s Plaza Hotel to Jekyll Island Resort, if it’s an option to stay at a beautiful hotel with just as much character and charm as there is historical significance, I’m the first to book my stay!
So, after arriving in town for lunch with a bit of afternoon exploring, it was time to check-in to our room at Graylyn. We turned down the perfectly landscaped lane leading to the front of Graylyn and were welcomed by the warmest valet team. After we admired the impressive Tudor-style exterior design, we couldn’t wait to see the interior decor and our room. We were lucky enough to stay in one of the most coveted rooms on the property, the Nathalie Lyons Gray suite, located in the main Manor House. Walking into the room we felt like the hotel did a great job keeping the design authentic to the era of the estate’s origin. I immediately fell in love with the classic blue and white fabrics highlighted by pastel floral patterns that adorned the room. With rich deep colored wooden furniture, a gorgeous marble fireplace and original hand-painted tile in the bathroom, we reflected on how beautiful the suite was and how ahead of it’s time it must have been when it was built.
After we unpacked our bags, we took a tour of the rest of the interior of the main estate and learned a bit more about Graylyn’s history. The original Graylyn Estate was the home of Bowman Gray, Sr. and Nathalie Lyons Gray. Bowman was a son of the founder of Wachovia Bank and Trust Company and was Chairman of the Board for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Construction began in 1927 as Nathalie’s dream home in the countryside. The family moved into the completed house in 1932 and with nearly 60 rooms and 46,000 square feet, Graylyn was one of the largest private homes in North Carolina. Sadly, Bowman passed away during a vacation abroad only three years later. In 1946, the Gray’s gave the estate to the Bowman Gray School mom Medicine of Wake Forest University where it served as an academic psychiatric hospital until 1959. In 1972, Bowman’s son Gordon Gray purchased the estate back from the medical school but then immediately donated it to Wake Forest University where it was a place for university programs and served the community. A fire in the Manor House in 1980 led the university to complete a full restoration of the estate in 1984 bringing back all of Graylyn’s 1932 glory. It served as an educational conference center until 1993 when it began hosting individuals and organizations from all over the world. Wake Forest University assumed all management responsibilities of the estate in 2001 and runs the property present day.
You can tell from walking the grounds or touring the Manor House, Wake Forest has invested an enormous amount of resources into keeping the estate in authentic working order yet with all the modern upgrades you would find at any luxury hotel. I also loved the sweet little touches of the hotel that set it apart from other hotels in my mind like a fully stocked ice cream bar that guests can access 24-7 and regular afternoon tea for guests and the local community to enjoy.
Beyond stunning architectural features that Nathalie incorporated into the design of the estate, the extensive 55-acre property had plenty of space and amenities for anyone’s interest. A romantic outdoor wedding was in progress as we toured the grounds that first afternoon with a beautiful reception set up for celebrating after the ceremony. I was tempted to grab a seat at one of the perfectly decorated tables, but opted to finish our tour throughout the rest of the Manor House 😉
While Graylyn exudes classic luxury, my mom and I both noted how welcoming and comfortable we felt during our stay at the estate. Of course, what would a great hotel be without a great staff to run it, and Graylyn had just that. Everyone was incredibly friendly and so knowledgeable of the estate’s history that I was thrilled to hear some of the many backstories that created the culture and warmth of the estate. It was clear that the staff enjoyed working at the estate which made us enjoy our stay that much more. While the Graylyn was the perfect place to stay in Winston-Salem during our mother-daughter weekend getaway, I would definitely consider it for a romantic couple’s getaway, a family vacation, or the perfect solace for a solo trip. It was a pleasure to explore another historic hotel of America and I look forward to returning again in the future.