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Blandwood: History of the Mansion

History        Alexander Jackson Davis        Architecture        Archaeology

Innovative...

Newly restored rear facade of BlandwoodBlandwood's story begins in 1795, when Charles Bland built a four-room Federal style farm house on a hill in rural Guilford County. It predates the founding of City of Greensboro, 1808.

The house was expanded from four rooms to six rooms in 1822 by a subsequent owner, Henry Humphreys, a local businessman who opened the first steam powered textile mill in NC, Mt. Hecla Cotton Mill.

John Motley Morehead purchased the home in 1827. Morehead (1796-1866) first came to Greensboro at age 16 to study under Dr. David Caldwell at the renowned "Log Cabin School." Upon completing his studies with Dr. Caldwell at age 19, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, entering as a junior. Upon graduation Morehead read law with Archibald Murphy, a well-regarded North Carolina lawyer.

Photo of John Motley MoreheadAt the age of 25, Morehead began his illustrious political career. On August 9, 1821, he was elected by the voters of Rockingham County to serve in the NC House of Commons. Shortly after, on August 25, Morehead married Ann Eliza Lindsay and moved to Guilford County. Thus he served his first term in office for one county, while living in another. In 1826 he was elected by the voters of Guilford County to the House of Commons.

Morehead would eventually be elected to serve consecutive two-year terms as North Carolina's governor from 1841-1845. He supported an ambitious program of internal improvements including a statewide rail and water transportation system, free public schools, more humane treatment of deaf and blind children, prisoners, and the mentally ill. These policies were very progressive for the Old North State, earning him the nickname, "Father of Modern North Carolina."

Blandwood front facade.During this time, the Morehead family, which now consisted of eight children, continued to live in the six room farmhouse that was Blandwood. Upon election to the governorship, Morehead felt the time was right to expand and glorify his home. He chose an architect he was familiar with, Alexander Jackson Davis, co-designer of the NC State Capital. It should be noted that Morehead was the first governor to use this newly designed Capital.

In 1844, Governor Morehead commissioned architect Alexander Jackson Davis to design a substantial addition to Blandwood. This addition, completed in 1846, was built in the Italianate style and is the oldest surviving example in the United States. The Davis addition more than doubled the square footage of the main building, and created two dependencies, an office and a larger kitchen.

1873 Map of Greenesboro, shows footprint of Blandwood.

Governor and Mrs. Morehead would live at Blandwood until their respective deaths in 1866 and 1868. At the time their youngest son, Eugene Morehead, was unmarried and living at home, subsequently, part of his inheritance was Blandwood. After living at Blandwood for a few years, during which he built a windmill on the property, Eugene married Lucy Lathrop and they moved to her hometown, Savannah, Georgia.

 

1891 bird's eye view of Blandwood.The last members of the Morehead family to live at Blandwood were Julius and Emma Morehead Gray who purchased the home from her brother. During the Gray family's tenure more additions were added onto Blandwood and the dependencies. Julius Gray was one of the founding members of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, the Greensboro Bank and Trust and served as President of the Yadkin/Cape Fear and the NC Railroad Companies. The Gray's lived at Blandwood until 1896, when most of the family passed during a tuberculosis epidemic.

Once Emma Morehead Gray passed away in 1896, her remaining brothers and sisters were faced with the dilemma of what to do with Blandwood. They were approached by Col. William Osbourne, who wanted to rent Blandwood for use as a Keeley Institute, a franchise of hospitals to treat alcohol and drug addiction. Initially renting Blandwood, the Keeley Institute would purchase Blandwood in January of 1906. The Keeley Institute operated at Blandwood until 1961.

1966 View of Foyer from the West ParlorBy 1966, Blandwood stood empty and in danger of demolition. At this time, 1966 East Facade with demolition bulldozer. Preservation Greensboro Incorporated formed to save and to restore Blandwood.

The restoration of the main building took ten years and Blandwood was opened to the public in 1976 as part of the country's bicentennial celebration. In 1984, after archeaological investigation on the property, the two dependencies, law office and kitchen, were reconstructed.

Blandwood is now owned, operated and maintained by the private non-profit Preservation Greensboro Incorporated.

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