I was never as shocked on my travels as arriving at the Graylyn Estate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As I drove into what looked like a private residence, I was welcomed by a historic mansion that looked straight out of Downton Abbey. Immaculate grounds lined with mature trees enhanced the beauty of Graylyn Estate, a member of Historic Hotels of America, and I knew I was going to like it here.
Being a member of Historic Hotels of America is a commitment to preservation and authenticity of historic properties. Historic Hotels of America has nearly 300 hotels across the country.
A Little History
Graylyn Estate was built as the home to Bowman and Nathalie Lyons Gray, tobacco powerhouse R.J. Reynold’s first non-family member Chairman-of-the-Board, and later President. Graylyn came to life between 1927 to 1932. Nathalie Gray oversaw the estate’s building and the beautiful touches you’ll see throughout room after room of the 85-room boutique property. Bowman passed away after only three years of living at Graylyn. The family’s original furnishings are still in the places they were initially, and personalized photos add even more connection to the Gray family.
In 1946, Nathalie donated the Graylyn Estate property to the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, and in 1972, Wake Forest University was the recipient of the estate.
In 1984, a $6 million renovation of the magnificent property brought about the Graylyn International Conference Center, with private guest rooms, 15 meeting rooms, and one of the top-rated conference centers anywhere.
You will find Graylyn merchandise and sundries near the front desk, along with framed historical accounts here and throughout around the estate. It makes for great reading and is quite educational. Graylyn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has welcomed former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, Sr.
Graylyn’s Plentiful Rooms
Several common rooms are available for guests to meander through during their stay at Graylyn Estate (now owned by Wake Forest University). There are 35 guest bedrooms, each with private baths, ten meeting rooms, a swimming pool, and several others. You’ll find plenty of spaces to enjoy quiet reading, an intimate conversation, parlor games, and cocktails. Fireplaces are abundant. I would love to see them at work in the winter months.
Graylyn’s gorgeous interiors could keep you busy for hours admiring the original furnishings, French prints, and antique pieces. The paneling, done in two shades of walnut, is spectacular, while the wall sconces add a hint of romance to the large space. My favorite room was the card room, with “hand-carved gessoed and gilded wood paneling” imported from a small mosque in Turkey. I’ve never seen anything this intricate in the United States.
Pay special attention to the hand-carved doors and paneling (circa 1680) in the library, brought over from the Hotel d’Estrades in Paris. The stories behind these pieces are fascinating, and perhaps you can find Kathleen on duty to share the remarkable stories behind them. One associated with the paneling and doors is that they once belonged to King Edward VII.
Another breathtaking feature at Graylyn Estate is the circular stair tower, cavaliered through the outside wall. A Game of Thrones looking light fixture hung from it. It is sweeping, dramatic, and makes for perfect pictures.
A Unique Basement
The lower level of Graylyn Estate has a quaint bar with wine, beer, signature cocktails, and a game room with billiards and darts. There are magazines and books to peruse, too. It resembles a dungeon and has iron and metal screens and touches. Unfortunately, the incredible swimming pool (housed in a tiled room with intricate hand-painted murals) is covered to make room for weddings and convention space, but the room housing it is lovely.
Fun fact: If unoccupied, check out the men’s pool dressing room, whose tiles are decorated with “Old Joe” from the Camel cigarette package. Camel was an RJ Reynolds brand.
Rooms at the stunning Graylyn Estate are a lovely combination of modern and classic, working cohesively. Inside my room were a sitting room with a full-sized couch, desk, two round coffee tables, and a dormer window letting plenty of natural sunlight in. Down the hall, the spacious bedroom had another dormer window with a window seat, a King bed with elegant linens (and oodles of pillows), reading lights, and a leather chair. A flat-screen TV hung on the wall.
The bathroom was my favorite part of my room, with a non-typical glass shower door, stylish wallpaper, gorgeous fixtures and color combinations, plus Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, my fave. I immediately Facetimed my husband to show him how I want our bathroom redone to look like it.
There is also a whole floor of family rooms, such as Mrs. Gray’s room, dressing room, and Colonial guest room, still holding the special touches from the originally designed period.
Your Graylyn guest directory contains information regarding use of the bicycles, billiards, swimming, tennis, which are steadily busy throughout the day.
Graylyn has a noteworthy International Conference Center and a full fitness center in the Manor House’s basement level or inside the Mews Courtyard.
What will surely be the family favorite at Graylyn Estates is the tiled second-floor room (snack kitchen) with unlimited ice cream bars for you to help yourself. Guests can also indulge in Mrs. Gray’s butterscotch cookies and afternoon refreshments from 3 to 5 PM.
Overnight stays at Graylyn Estates include a gourmet breakfast. It can be delivered to your room or prepared for you to enjoy in one of the Manor House’s common spaces. Times range from 7 to 9 AM and are extended to 10 AM on weekends. Choose wherever you’d like, and they make it happen, no questions asked. I recommend Eggs Benedict (incredibly delicious hollandaise sauce and perfectly poached eggs) for breakfast, though the French Toast looked good, too.
You can also have the chef prepare a 3-course culinary experience from 6 to 9 PM with reservations, which can be discussed and planned with the front desk manager. In-room dining is offered from 11 AM until 9 PM daily.
My friend Angie and I enjoyed our three-course meal in one of the stately rooms overlooking the patio. Our dining experience began with a lovely cucumber wrapped salad (I chose Caesar instead), followed by salmon entrees. The salmon served over a bed of luscious risotto and fresh asparagus was so tasty. A tangy tropical sauce heightened the flavors of the dish. Don’t skip the housemade desserts, which I dove right into and forgot to take a picture of.
There are 55-acres of well-manicured grounds to explore around Graylyn Estate. An eye-catching pond is perfect for gazing or fishing. Bike and jogging trails, well-traveled from their looks, provided a great way to see the massive property and get some exercise. Stunning flowers and mature trees adorned the landscape and playful squirrels and black and white ducks.
I loved the back patio at Graylyn Estate, with several tables for enjoying a glass of wine or conversation. French doors lead to the picturesque setting, where you will also find a goldfish pool and its original 1930s cherub statues. There are exquisite views of the pond and the stone gazebo, a special feature. Pay close attention to the English man’s architecture and rounded stone arches—it is stunning.
Thanks to Historic Hotels of America and Graylyn Estates for hosting my accommodations. As always, reviews and opinions are 100% mine and unbiased.
Pin This Post For Later!
Read more of our Historic Hotels of America posts: