In 1925, Nathalie Lyons Gray purchased eighty-seven acres of pasture land and cornfields from R.J. Reynolds, Inc. Nathalie and her husband, Bowman, set out to build the home of their dreams. With nearly 60 rooms and 46,000 square feet, Graylyn is a massive house.
(A room at "The Mews)
The Gray family employed artisans and craftsman from across the United States in order to make their home a masterpiece in and of itself. The Manor House showcased an imported fifteenth-century French carved doorway, custom ironwork, hand painted tile motifs, and rare Louis XV paneling imported from Paris. Guest and family accommodations were equally impressive. Each of the original bedrooms on the second floor had private baths. Amenities were very lavish and truly unique for their time. Gold-plated fixtures, solid marble tubs, heated towel racks, built-in scales and shower with 17 shower heads were what made Graylyn.
(The Mews - once the stables, now rooms)
The Grays’ attention to the elaborate design of the home extended to the intricate networks of pipes and wires. The home is wired with over 160,000 linear feet of copper wiring with water and steam lines made of solid brass. Graylyn also boasted an original telephone system consisting of fifty outlets and a radio system, which channeled high fidelity entertainment to the major living areas of the house. A floodlight system controlled from the main building aided in the security efforts of the watchmen. Such luxuries were at the cutting edge of technology for the 1930s. The Grays moved into the completed house in 1932. After Mr. Gray’s death in 1935, Mrs. Gray lived in the house until 1937, and each son lived on the estate for the first years of marriage. In 1938, Mrs. Gray married Benjamin Bernard, and she lived in the guest cottage, now called Bernard Cottage, until her death in 1961. In 1946 the family gave the estate to the Wake Forest School of Medicine. It was first used as a psychiatric hospital from 1947 until 1959, and then for academic programs. In 1972, Gordon Gray bought Graylyn back from the medical school and on the same day, donated it to Wake Forest University.
Today, this glorious and historic estate boasts 86 private guest rooms, 15 meeting rooms and is considered to be one of the finest conference centers in America. It continues to be owned and operated as a non-profit organization by Wake Forest University. Graylyn's primary mission is to support the University by funding student scholarships.
If ever in Winston-Salem, make a trip to see Graylyn. It is truly an extraordinary place!