Charming House Reveals Treasure
Established in 1902
Walker Avenue was surveyed in 1883, part of a larger subdivision platted by Eugene Morehead from the estate of his father, Governor John Motley Morehead. The central avenue of this Victorian Era subdivision was named in honor of Eugene’s eldest sister and her husband, Letitia Morehead Walker and William Walker. By the turn of the twentieth century, Greensboro residents were commissioning some of the grandest expressions of Queen Anne architecture in the city.
As the avenue grew to become a prestigious address, those in the city’s cultural and intellectual circles were drawn to add their own homes. Such was the case with Laura Brockmann, born in Greensboro to German immigrant parents in 1863. Her Queen Anne house is typical of upper-income residents of the Victorian Era in Greensboro and survives as an outstanding example of its type in the city. Today, the house is lovingly cared for by new owners who are eager to enjoy the College Hill neighborhood and the urbane conveniences the location affords its residents.
Laura L Brockmann (1863-1943) was born in Greensboro to German-born parents Captain August Julius and Bertha Raven Brockmann of Hanover Germany. Augustus served in the German Navy before he and his family immigrated to North Carolina where he was a merchant and cigar-maker. The Brockmann family included seven children: John, Emma, Edward, Laura, Charles, Augustus, and Frank.
The Brockmann family held a high profile in Greensboro for their musical talent. Laura was a prominent musician who began her career as a music teacher in 1880. In 1885 she moved to San Antonio, Texas where she remained for two years, and then spent time in Germany before returning to Greensboro as principal of the Greensboro School of Music by 1893, later known as the Brockmann School of Music. Laura provided instruction with a specialty in piano and harmony. Her brother, Charles, was a musician, a music teacher, and ran a music store in Greensboro. Laura was the third president of the Coney Club, a women’s music organization founded in 1889 on the campus of Greensboro College. Renamed the Euterpe Club in 1894, the organization is the oldest federated music club in continuous existence in the Southern United States.
By the late 1890s, Greensboro citizens enjoyed concerts of the Brockmann Orchestra at their School of Music. The performance promised, “to give the people of Greensboro some good music – not classical selections, but music that will be appreciated by all who hear it.”
With the opening of the fall term in 1899, State Normal and Industrial College President Charles D. McIver announced “Miss Laura Brockmann will have charge of the instrumental music and will give lessons in her studio in the main college building instead of in a private studio near the State Normal and Industrial College as hereto.” By the fall semester 1900, her brother Charles followed, and the pair expanded the college department – including the assembly of the first university orchestra.
On the 20th of May 1902, the Morning Post of Raleigh announced that “contracts were signed Saturday for the erection of (a) handsome residence…for Miss Laura Brockman on Walker avenue.”
By 1910, the first census report that provides insights on Brockmann’s household reported that she lived with her sister Emma and a white servant named Anna Lemons. Both ladies ’ ages were conspicuously (and charmingly) left blank. Laura was identified as the head of the household, and both were single. Laura was annotated as the self-employed owner of a mortgage-free home.
Her health might have been a factor in several respites from Greensboro beginning in 1910. In 1912 she spent the winter in Lakeland Florida and in January 1913, an announcement in the Greensboro Record stated “Miss Laura Brockmann has sold through the Ham Real Estate Company to Mr. G. B. Royster, of Oxford, her home place on Walker avenue.” She moved to Lakeland, returning to Greensboro in her advanced years where she resided in the home of her brother Charles at 212 South Mendenhall Street. She died there at the age of 80.
The house passed through a number of families until it was converted into three apartments in 1950. In 1996, the dilapidated structure was condemned by the city, then placed on the market through the Redevelopment Commission of Greensboro. The work of the Commission was funded by a citywide bond vote in 1990 that provided $2 million to buying substandard historic houses in College Hill. Buyers would receive low-interest loans to facilitate private investment to finance the restoration. The Brockmann House was part of the program and was sold to Donna and Buddy Moore with requirements to rehabilitate the house for single-family and owner-occupied use for 15 years.
The present owners acquired the Brockmann House in 2020. They have enhanced historic features and restored some of the treasured details, such as a stained-glass transom in the front entryway that was curiously removed and rediscovered in the garage. The transom is thought to be an original feature commissioned for Laura Brockmann that incorporates musical themes such as a stringed lyre and a treble clef! In addition to preserving and enhancing important early features, the new owners have selected a warm and neutral color palette with contrasting trim color. The use of shutters at the windows controls light but also enhances bright interior spaces.
Special thanks to Gate City Preservation for researching the history of this house.
Preservation Greensboro contributes a key role in the growth of Greensboro’s economy and vitality through tourism, reinvestment, and place-making. With diverse initiatives that help you to restore, explore, and connect with your community, Preservation Greensboro provides a voice for revitalization, improved quality of life, and conservation of historic resources for future generations. As a not-for-profit organization, Preservation Greensboro earns its annual income through memberships, sponsorships, and donations from preservation supporters like you!