Ownership of Blandwood Mansion and Carriage House, a National Historic Landmark property located in downtown Greensboro, has been transferred from the John Motley Morehead Memorial Commission to Preservation Greensboro Incorporated.
Preservation Greensboro Incorporated is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic and architectural treasures in Greensboro. Established in 1966, the organization’s first project was the preservation and restoration of Blandwood on its two-acre site at 447 West Washington Street. In 1969, Blandwood was deeded to the John Motley Morehead Memorial Commission, an entity created by the North Carolina General Assembly ten years prior, as a step in transferring Blandwood to the State of North Carolina for use as a museum. Since that time, Preservation Greensboro has leased Blandwood from the Commission, and opened the house as a museum in 1976.
Recent overtures made by representatives of North Carolina state government have shown interest in reducing the number of state commissions such as the John Motley Morehead Memorial Commission. In the context of an uncertain future for the Commission, Commissioners voted unanimously to transfer ownership of Blandwood to Preservation Greensboro with a preservation easement that will assure the stewardship of the property as a museum into the future.
According to Anne Daniel, chair of the John Motley Morehead Memorial Commission “we are pleased that the transfer of Blandwood to Preservation Greensboro moved smoothly and we are delighted that PGI, a conscientious and meticulous custodian of the Mansion for many years, is now the owner of John Motley Morehead’s historic home.”
Preservation Greensboro has raised funds for Blandwood since 1966 and that role will continue. A majority of funds are raised through donations and special events such as the Blandwood Ball. Blandwood receives no state funding.
Preservation Greensboro’s Executive Director Benjamin Briggs remarks, “The significance of Blandwood to our state’s history assures that we will continue to operate the house as a museum for citizens and visitors to Greensboro. Few sites embody the history of our city and state as does Blandwood.”
The earliest portions of Blandwood Mansion were built around 1795 by Charles Bland as a four-room farmhouse. By 1827, attorney John Motley Morehead occupied the house with his wife and eight children. Morehead successfully ran for Governor of North Carolina twice, in 1840 and 1842 on a platform of improved transportation, education, and social reform. He is remembered today as the Father of Modern North Carolina based on his progressive agenda. In 1844, Governor Morehead invited architect Alexander Jackson Davis of New York City to design additions to his home. His design today represents the earliest example of Tuscan Villa design standing in the United States.
Architectural historian Catherine Bishir recognized Blandwood as the “embodiment of the antebellum spirit of improvement” – including innovative features such as a central prospect tower, sliding-sash windows with louvered blinds, and formal rooms featuring imported marble mantels and plaster crown moldings. Blandwood also contains an exceptional collection of antebellum decorative arts and Morehead family items. The site is open to visitors six days a week. North Carolina school groups are admitted for free with advanced notice.
According to Briggs, “North Carolina has many architecture treasures, and Blandwood stands among the most important in the nation as a turning point in American design. Greensboro is fortunate to have such as distinguished property in the heart of the city, and we will work to engage this property with all of the great projects happening downtown.”
Preservation Greensboro Incorporated is the city’s only non-profit membership organization dedicated to the protection of architecturally significant places. PGI’s programs range from the Tour of Historic Homes to preservation awards, children’s activities and an online newsletter. Its community initiatives include Architectural Salvage of Greensboro, Blandwood Mansion and Museum Shop, the Blandwood Carriage House, the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund, and the Blandwood Ball.