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Graylyn Estate Collection

Finding Aid & Inventory

The Graylyn Estate was originally the home of Bowman Gray, Senior, and Nathalie Lyons Gray. The Graylyn Estate collection contains information about the planning, construction, and functioning of the buildings and grounds of Graylyn. Materials include blueprints, photographs and negatives of decor, design, interiors and exteriors, receipts for building materials and labor, architectural plans of Luther Lashmit, correspondence with architects and builders, oral histories about the estate on audio and video cassettes, research notes from Thomas Gray, landscape designs from Thomas Sears, and materials collected about the estate and related people by longtime Wake Forest University history professor J. Edwin Hendricks. The collection also documents the fire that destroyed part of the estate in the 1980s and its rebuilding.

Biographical and Historical Note

The original Graylyn Estate was the home of Bowman Gray, Senior (1874-1935), Nathalie Lyons Gray (1884-1961), and their two sons, Bowman Junior and Gordon. Bowman Gray, a son of the founder of Wachovia Bank and Trust Co., started work as a salesperson for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and by the time the home was built had risen to Chairman of the Board. In the 1920s, businessmen began building grand countryside estates for their families. In 1925, Nathalie Lyons Gray purchased 87 acres of pasture land and cornfields and set out to build her dream home.

Construction began on July 1, 1927, on a garage that was converted to a guest cottage and temporary home for the Grays during building. Groundbreaking for the new house was January 15, 1928, Bowman Junior's 21st birthday. As many as 136 people worked on construction of the estate at one time. The Grays moved into the completed house in 1932. With nearly 60 rooms and 46,00 square feet, Graylyn was one of the largest private homes in North Carolina.

In 1935, Bowman Gray, Senior died on shipboard in the North Atlantic Ocean while vacationing with his family. In 1946, Mrs. Gray and her sons gave the estate to Wake Forest University's Bowman Gray School of Medicine. The site served as an academic psychiatric hospital facility until 1959. In the 1950s, Gordon Gray was installed as the president of the University of North Carolina system. Mrs. Nathalie Gray Bernard, who had been living in Bernard Cottage, a guest residence on the estate, died in 1961. Gordon Gray was appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board by President John F. Kennedy in the same year.

In 1972, Gordon Gray purchased Graylyn Estate back from the medical school and donated it to Wake Forest University. Over time, the estate had many uses, but mainly housed university programs and students. On June 22, 1980, a fire ignited on the third floor of the Manor House during a performance on the lawn by the Winston-Salem Symphony. An audience of 7,000 watched as the top floors of the unoccupied house burned. The following day, University president James R. Scales announced that the home would be restored to its original 1932 condition and used as an educational conference center. Thomas Alexander Gray was the preservation consultant for the restoration.

On January 1, 1984, the restoration led by architect Edwin Bouldin, Jr. was completed. The house, once valued at $1.6 million in 1930, was now valued at over $15 million. Wake Forest University maintained ownership of Graylyn throughout the nineties, but the conference center was managed by Marriott Management Services until December 18, 1993. In 1993, Graylyn became an international Conference Center and began hosting individuals and organizations from all over the world, including former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. On July 1, 2001, Wake Forest University assumed management responsibilities. Since then, the property has undergone extensive operational, technological, and cosmetic renovations.

Source: "Graylyn." Graylyn International Conference Center, http://www.graylyn.com

Collection Overview

The records consist of architectural plans and drawings, financial and legal documents, a thesis, research files, and photographs, chiefly compiled and collected by Thomas A. Gray, relating to the Gray family property in Winston-Salem, N.C. Materials include blueprints, photographs and negatives of decor, design, interiors and exteriors, correspondence with vendors (1927-1930), receipts for building materials and labor, architectural plans of Luther Lashmit, correspondence with architects and builders including Northup and O'Brien, oral histories about the estate, research notes from Thomas Gray, whose family owned the estate, and landscape designs from Thomas W. Sears, and materials collected about the estate and related people by longtime Wake Forest University history professor J. Edwin Hendricks. The collection also documents the fire that destroyed part of the estate in the 1980s and its rebuilding. A few audiocassettes contain interviews with family members and preservationists and others conducted by Julia C. Parke for her thesis regarding Gordon Gray.

Due to preservation issues, some correspondence with construction-related companies was heavily sampled; the remaining correspondence has been cleaned as possible.

The Grayly Estate Collection is arranged in eight series: Architects' Plans and Drawings, Articles, Financial and Legal Documents, Historical Files, Pictorial Materials, Tom Gray Research Materials, Subject Files, and Vendors Files. Arrangement and description was completed first in 1982 by John Woodard and revised in 2017 by Tara Coady and Stephanie Bennett.

Collection Inventory

  • Architects' plans and drawings
    • Reynolda area plans (1922-1925)
      • Reynolds Estate adjoining property map (1922 April) box 1 folder 1
      • Reynolds property map (1925 February) box 1 folder 2
    • Graylyn Estate preliminary sketches (1928)
      • Nathalie L. Gray estate, area plan (1928 February) box 1 folder 3
      • Preliminary sketches, negative (1927) box 6 folder 17
    • Graylyn Estate landscape drawings and planting plans (1925-1941)
      • Topographical survey (1925 August) box 1 folder 4
      • Bath house plans (1927 October 8) box 1 folder 5
      • Entrance and services drives plans (1929) box 1 folder 6
      • Paved entrance plans (1929 October 24) box 1 folder 7
      • East entrance plans  (1927 January 20) box 1 folder 8
      • West entrance (1927 January 20) box 1 folder 9
      • Farm Group plans (1930 January 25) box 1 folder 10
      • Garage plans (1928 January 10) box 1 folder 11
      • Garden plans  (1927 December 27) box 1 folder 12
      • Residence group planting plans (undated) box 1 folder 13
      • General plans (1928 December 10) box 1 folder 14
      • Nathalie Bernard estate map and study (1941 September 14) box 1 folder 15
      • Marion Follin driveway plan (1929 July 20) box 1 folder 16
      • Swimming pool plans (1927 July 11) box 1 folder 17
      • Swimming pool plans (1927 July 25) box 1 folder 19
    • Graylyn Estate site plans (1928-1962, undated)
      • Farm group
        • Farm group grading (1929 June 27) box 1 folder 19
        • Farm group plans (1929) box 1 folder 20-22
        • Farm group chicken house plans (1929) box 1 folder 23
        • Farm group plans (1929) box 1 folder 24
        • Farm group kennel plans (1929) box 1 folder 25
      • Gate
        • Main entrance gate sketches, A-C (undated) box 1 folder 26-28
      • Guest house
        • Gardeners cottage plans (undated) box 1 folder 29
        • Cottage guesthouse plans (1962) box 1 folder 30
      • Palm house
        • Front greenhouse plans (1928) box 1 folder 31
        • Greenhouse plans (undated) box 1 folder 32
      • Tool Shed
        • Tool shed plans (undated) box 1 folder 33
        • Workroom building plans (undated) box 1 folder 34
    • Graylyn Main House Architect's Plans (1928-1958, undated)
      • Addition floor plans and elevations No. Y-2 (circa 1958) box 2 folder 49
      • Additions to Bowman Gray Institute of Medical Research (Northup and O'Brien) (1958 January 21) box 2 folder 50
      • Additions to Bowman Gray Institute of Medical Research (Northup and O'Brien) (1958 January 21) box 2 folder 47
      • Main house additions, first and second floor plans (Southwell) (1939 January 4) box 2 folder 46
      • Electrical drawings (numbered) (1928 June) box 2 folder 39
      • Electrical drawings (numbered), Northup and O'Brien (1928-1929) box 2 folder 40
      • Elevations, side: No. 991, Sheet No. 7 Northup and O'Brien (1928 April 12) box 2 folder 37
      • Elevations, main house tower details (undated) box 2 folder 38
      • Floor plans, no. 102 and 103 (undated) box 2 folder 41
      • Floor plans, no. 104 (undated) box 2 folder 42
      • Floor Plans and Elevations for Graylyn addition
      • Heating and swimming pool equipment materials (undated) box 2 folder 43
      • Main house plans (1927) box 1 folder 36
      • Main house plans (1928) box 1 folder 35
      • Main house plans (1928) box 1 folder 37-38
      • Main house structural plans (undated) box 1 folder 35
      • Steel Layouts for Graylyn (Northup and O'Brien) (1951 March 7) box 2 folder 48
      • Structure plans for footings, no. 100 and 101 (undated) box 2 folder 44
      • Terrace, walls, steps, pool detail (1928) box 1 folder 39
      • Water Tank Plans (Reynolda, Inc.) (1929 December 19) box 2 folder 45
    • Roaring Gap House, Summer Home of Mrs. B. Bernard (1954)
      • Roaring Gap House alteration plans (1954 Fall) box 2 folder 51
  • Articles
    • "The Story of Graylyn" by Jane A. Carmichael, final draft (1984 July 18) box 3 folder 103
    • North Carolina Architect. Cover photo of entrance in color and article "Rebirth of the Graylyn Estate" by Whitney Shaw, pp 4-13 (1984 March-April) box 3 folder 104
    • Historic Preservation. "The Quiet Power of Gordon Gray" by John Greenya pp. 26-29. (1983 September-October) box 3 folder 105
    • The Independent, Rural Hall, NC. "Rural Hall Man Recalls 19 Hardworking but Happy Years at Graylyn" by Debbie Dunn. [Interview with photos of Louie D. Baker] (1982 June 10) box 3 folder 106
    • Architecture and Design, Vol. V, No. 21, devoted to the work of Thomas W. Sears, with negative (1941 September ) box 9 folder 1
    • Architecture and Design, Vol XVII, devoted to the work of Thomas W. Sears (1953 November) box 9 folder 2
  • Financial and legal documents
    • Financial and legal documents (1927-1928) box 2 folder 52
    • Financial and legal documents (1929-1930) box 2 folder 53
    • Financial and legal documents (1931-1936) box 2 folder 54
    • Report of Examination on Graylyn by Ernst and Ernst, Accountants box 2 folder 55
    • Cost Figures for Graylyn Estate box 2 folder 56
    • Payroll (1939-1940) box 2 folder 57
    • Record of Deeds, Bill of Sale (1926 October 29) box 2 folder 58
  • Historical files
    • Sarenz-De Santa Maria Family Crest for Mr. Bernard box 2 folder 59
    • Graylyn booklet, Department of Psychiatry and Neurology of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine box 2 folder 60
    • News clippings box 2 folder 61
    • National Register of Historic Places materials box 2 folder 62
    • Swimming pool materials box 2 folder 63-64
    • News clippings (1973-1974) box 2 folder 65
    • News clippings (1976-1977) box 2 folder 66
    • Fire news clippings (1980 June 22) box 2 folder 67
    • Conference center proposal clippings (1980) box 2 folder 68
      • Gray Family Appointment Book (1940-1947) box 2 folder 69
    • Gray family diary (1939) box 2 folder 69
    • Gray family diary (1940-1944) box 2 folder 69
    • Mrs. Bowman Gray's east entrance, gardens, garage, swimming pool materials box 2 folder 70
    • Graylyn furnishings box 2 folder 71
    • Mrs. Bernard's partial inventory box 2 folder 72
    • Mrs. Bernard's inventory (1939 September) box 2 folder 73
    • Graylyn telephone directory box 2 folder 74
    • Mrs. Bernard's shipping receipts (undated) box 2 folder 75
  • Pictorial materials
    • Bernard cottage, garage elevations box 2 folder 87
    • Exterior photographs box 2 folder 76-77
    • Fire photographs (1980 June 22) box 3 folder 87
    • Gray family, estate workers, and estate negatives with descriptions (circa 1930-1938) box 6 folder 16
    • Gray family home movies, VHS videocassette (1926-1965) box 6 folder 2
    • Graylyn Estate photographs box 6 folder 3
    • Interior photographs box 2 folder 78-79
    • Ironwork and tiles photographs box 2 folder 85
    • J. Barton Benson family visit to Graylyn Estate, VHS videocassette (circa 1995) box 6 folder 1
    • Kingsholm photographs box 2 folder 84
    • Landscape photographs box 2 folder 80-81
    • Main house attic floor plan soundproof flooring box 2 folder 91
    • Main house basement floor plan box 2 folder 88
    • Main house first floor plans box 2 folder 89
    • Main house second floor plans box 2 folder 90
    • Negatives box 5
    • Original photographs box 2 folder 82
    • Tiles and ironwork by Benson photographs box 2 folder 83
    • Tile and ironwork photographs box 3 folder 86
  • Subject files
    • Baker, Louis D., "Diary of Our Family's Nineteen Years at Graylyn" (1995) box 8 folder 1
    • Chandelier and lantern sketches (undated) box 6 folder 5
    • Docent history and fact documents (circa 1980s) box 8 folder 8
    • Estate photograph (undated) box 8 folder 15
    • Furniture inventory (undated) box 6 folder 7
    • Garvey, Robert, on preservation act and Gordon Gray, audiocassettes (1990 June 19) box 7 folder 6
    • Genealogy materials  (undated) box 8 folder 9
    • Gray, C. Boyden, audiocassettes (1990 November 16) box 7 folder 2
    • Gray, Gordon, biographical information (undated) box 6 folder 8
    • Gray, Gordon, military service materials (undated) box 8 folder 13
    • Gray, Gordon, New York Times clippings (circa 1950-1980) box 8 folder 12
    • Gray, Gordon, talk at Graylyn, audiocassette (1974 September 19) box 8 folder 2
    • Gray, Gordon, talk at WFU, transcript (1974 September 19) box 8 folder 5
    • Gray, Gordon, talk on historic preservation transcript (1974 September 19) box 6 folder 4
    • Gray, Gordon, writings about (undated) box 8 folder 14
    • Gray, James, Graylyn usage correspondence (undated) box 6 folder 15
    • Gray, Nancy M., regarding Gordon Gray, audiocassette (1990 June 14) box 7 folder 1
    • Gray, Thomas, regarding Graylyn and Gordon Gray audiocassette (1989 November 17) box 7 folder 3
    • Graylyn Estate poultry department materials (undated) box 6 folder 10
    • Graylyn Estate projects (circa 1980s) box 8 folder 11
    • Historic preservation correspondence and planning (circa 1974-1984) box 8 folder 7
    • Interior design for mansion (circa 1989-1995) box 9 folder 3
    • Landscaping news clippings (1993 February 12) box 6 folder 9
    • Murtagh, William, on preservation act and Gordon Gray, audiocassettes (1990 June 20) box 7 folder 7
    • National Register of Historic Place nomination form (undated) box 6 folder 6
    • News clippings (undated) box 8 folder 16
    • North Carolina Museum of Art accession records and agreements (undated) box 6 folder 13
    • Parke, Julia C., "Gordon Gray, a public servant in Historic Preservation," thesis (1991) box 8 folder 4
    • Persian card room schematic and translation (undated) box 6 folder 12
    • Presidential Learning Center materials (undated) box 8 folder 10
    • Promotional materials (circa 1984-1985) box 8 folder 6
    • Room interiors negatives (undated) box 8 folder 3
    • Scales, James R., on Gordon Gray and Graylyn audiocassettes (1990 October 24) box 7 folder 5
    • Stables, garden, and poultry photographs (undated) box 6 folder 14
    • Summit School news clipping (undated) box 6 folder 11
    • Walter, J. Jackson, regarding historic preservation, audiocassette (1990 June 20) box 7 folder 4
  • Tom Gray research materials
    • Berthrong, Merrill G., materials (1975) box 3 folder 89
    • Enfield Pottery and Iron Works (1970-1972) box 3 folder 90
    • Grafflin, A.C. (1970-1974) box 3 folder 92
    • Gray, Gordon (1971-1974) box 3 folder 91
    • Gray, Thomas, Graylyn, a Normal Revival Estate in North Carolina, thesis box 3 folder 97
    • Historical home clippings and brochures box 3 folder 96
    • Initial Interviews with A.C. Grafflin  (1973) box 3 folder 93
    • J. Barton Benson ironworks materials box 3 folder 88
    • Luther D. Lashmit materials (1974) box 3 folder 94
    • Sears, Thomas, materials (1973) box 3 folder 95
  • Vendors files
    • Audiffren Refrigerator Machine Co. (1929) box 3 folder 107
    • A. B. See Elevator Co. (1929) box 3 folder 108
    • Briar Hill Stone Co. (1929) box 3 folder 109
    • B. Ridgeway and Son (1930) box 3 folder 110
    • Carolina Steel and Iron Co. (1929) box 3 folder 111
    • Charles Hess Co. (1930) box 3 folder 112
    • Concrete Steel Co. (1928) box 3 folder 113
    • Construction records (1938-1942) box 3 folder 114
    • Endsield Pottery and Tile Works, Ewsley, Sloan and American Tile (1930) box 3 folder 115
    • Garage construction daily reports (1938) box 3 folder 116
    • Garage construction - daily reports (1928) box 3 folder 117
    • Graylyn accident reports (1929) box 3 folder 118
    • Hilgartner Marble Co. (1929) box 3 folder 119
    • International Casement Co. (1929) box 3 folder 120
    • Jacobson and Co. (1930) box 3 folder 121
    • Janes and Kirtland, Inc. (1929) box 3 folder 122
    • Jewett Refrigerator Co. (1929) box 3 folder 123
    • John D. Emock Co. (1929) box 3 folder 124
    • J. Barton Benson (1929) box 3 folder 125
    • J. G. Valiant Co. (1928) box 3 folder 126
    • Langenbacher Co. (1929) box 4 folder 1
    • Lord and Burnham Co. (1929) box 4 folder 2
    • Meyer-Sniffen Co. (1929) box 4 folder 3
    • Murta, Appleton and Co. (1929) box 4 folder 4
    • North Eastern Construction Co. (1929) box 4 folder 5-6
    • North Eastern Construction Co. (1930) box 4 folder 7
    • Roddis Lumber and Veneer Co. (1929) box 4 folder 8
    • Thomas W. Sears (1929) box 4 folder 9
    • Todhunter, Inc. (1929) box 4 folder 10
    • Vandor Slate Co. (1930) box 4 folder 11
    • Vitaglass Co. (1930) box 4 folder 12
    • Wiley and Wilson Consulting Engineers (1928) box 4 folder 13
    • Wyoming Cut-Stone Co. (1928) box 4 folder 14

Summary Information

Repository
Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Title
Graylyn Estate Collection
ID
MS176
Date [inclusive]
1922-1995, undated
Extent
8 Linear Feet  3 record cartons, 5 document boxes, 1 oversize box

Administrative Information

Publication Information
Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Revision Description
 Revised by Tara Coady and Stephanie Bennett, Stephanie Bennett 2017, 2020
Access Restrictions
This collection is open for use. 
Copyright Statement
The nature of the WFU Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Archives and Special Collections of ZSR Library claims only physical ownership of most materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. 
Preferred Citation
Graylyn Estate Collection (MS176), Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA. 

Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

Family Name(s)

Personal Name(s)

Subject(s)

The following volumes were removed from the collection:

  • Meigs, Arthur J. An American Country Home: the property of Arthur E. Newbold Jr. Esqu., Laverock, Pa. Mellor, Meigs and Howe, architects. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Co., Inc., 1925.
  • Di Nerdo, Antonio. French Farm Houses, Small Chateaux, and Country Churches. Cleveland, Ohio: J.H. Jansen, 1924.

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