willowbrook farm

historic yellow springs


Life’s Patina

Wow! Check out this mill stone. This eeks with the patina etched on it over time.
I was able to go back to an incredible site this past weekend that is alive with the patina of the past. My husband and I, along with three of our sons, visited our daughter for Parent’s Weekend at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Adjacent to Wake’s campus is a beautiful old estate that the university now uses as a conference center and inn. We lucked out last year and were able to stay at Graylyn due to a cancellation.( Rumor has it that you have to book quite far in advance to get a room…this year we did not and stayed…at the econo lodge down the street. Perfect place when you are bringing your three sons.) TMI… but we were able to go back to Graylyn this time around to take some more pictures. Both my husband and I were caught totally unaware last year by the beauty of the place and snapped away…both of us lost the pictures when we upgraded our phones.
The 55 acre property is something out of a fairytale with stone buildings that evoke a different era…
and views that capture the magnificence of the former estate.
The Gray family began construction of the house in 1928 and finished in 1932.
They employed craftsmen from all over the East coast to build barns, outbuildings and a grand manor house fashioned in the Normandy Revival style using slate, cut limestone and brick.
The craftsmanship is astounding and the attention to detail even more impressive. There are delights around every corner…this is a place that speaks to admirers of the construction of years ago and to the hearts of dreamers.
Where even the basement windows were beautiful!

The property is a path that takes you to days gone by and let’s you glimpse the opulent lifestyle in which its inhabitants lived.

Indoor swimming pools…
(this is the original design…)
 and playrooms that were built for their sons that now house an entire restaurant.
 architectural moldings in rooms,
and furniture made from 16th Century French tapestries were all shipped over from France.
Stair towers were copied exactly after a grand estate called Laverock that was located in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, I read…Laverock… I have heard that before. The buzzer goes off in my head and flashes back to when my son and I found a book at Barnes and Noble which chronicled the works of a famous architectural firm. This firm worked on a number of houses in our area from the late 1890’s through the 1920’s. Christopher was doing his Senior Project on the history of our house and we were trying to find information. Low and behold, what do we find in the book, but a picture of brick pillars that are almost exactly the same as the ones in our driveway. The picture is from the LAVEROCK estate in PA! The architects at Laverock were the architects that did a major renovation at our house in the 1920’s and who were copied by the architects of Graylyn.
Brick pillars at the end of our driveway…see the similarities?
Whoa!!!…co-ink-e-dink or what????
Guess where this picture is from? The gates to the entrance of the stable at Graylyn!
Now I know why I felt like I had been here before. Many of the features of this house are similar to ours…not the indoor swimming pool, turret stair tower or huge billiards room etc. but the architectural styling and the use of stone, brick and slate.
We have almost the same wall that surrounds their stable as does our barn…done in 1923 by Mellor, Meigs and Howe! Theirs is covered in a lovely patina covering of moss.
The point in writing all this and giving so much detail was that I was floored by the fact that there was such a connection to the home that we love and this new home that our daughter has come to love attending Wake. There are paths through Graylyn that the students can run and it is within walking distance of the campus. I doubt that we ever would have stumbled upon it had she not gone to school here. I felt drawn to the place, it’s beauty and it’s testament to the past. For some reason I also felt drawn to the service areas of the house…just like I did when we toured the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.
 Why is that? Could it be that I am fascinated by the lives of the people who really RAN these grand houses or the fact that I spend so much time in the service areas of our own home?? You know, I have already expressed that I LOVE dish ware…maybe another sign that a) I either wash too many of them, or b) I worked in the kitchen of one of these grand homes in a past life? (Just for the record, I don’t believe in that kind of stuff…but it does make you wonder!)
 Thank you for staying with me through another one of my stories that depicts my appreciation of the patina of houses, objects etc. that have been worn by the hands of time.
 I also experienced my own share of Life’s Patina at the tailgate at the football game. There I tried to keep my younger boy’s heads from rubbernecking as they watched the frat boys plunge their heads in ice before doing a handstand on the keg and drinking up. Woa… knowing that they might be that boy in the not too distant future…I need some Restilyn to keep those signs of my life’s patina away!
“He who loves an old house never loves in vain.”
Isabel La Howe Conant
May your life paths cross in some meaningful way!

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  1. Jennifer Linnell says:

    I am fortunate enough to live in Winston Salem and virtually across the street from Graylyn. But it was a real treat to see this masterpiece thru your eyes. Thank you for sharing your photos and your blog. I really enjoy the blog and FB page.

    Jen Linnell
    Winston Salem, NC

  2. Lifes Patina says:

    So sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your comment Jennifer! I missed this one somehow…and I don’t get many comments so I so appreciate you taking the time to do so! Thank you as well for pointing out that it is interesting to see things from a different perspective. You truly have a treasure in your own backyard and in Winston itself. We love it!