by Carole Miller ~
The Art in the City group visited The Duke Mansion for a tour of the mansion and the gardens. While the day was rainy and damp, our spirits were lifted by a delightful and educational tour of Charlotte’s “grandest home,” as it is described in their brochure, and after touring, we found that it lives up to its name. Located in the Myers Park area, and within easy driving distance from SCCL, it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is owned and operated as a nonprofit with all proceeds used to preserve and protect this historic treasure.
Our tour guide, history scholar Andy Faulkenberry, kept us intrigued throughout the tour. While the home is also a bed and breakfast with a total of twenty bedrooms and several dining areas, it’s focus remains preservation of the historic value.
The architecture is colonial revival style and was built in 1915 by Zebulon V. Taylor, president of what was then called Southern Public Utilities, now Duke Power Company. In 1919, James B. “Buck” Duke purchased The Mansionand tripled its size to 32,000 square feet. Duke’s legacies include Duke University, Duke Power Company, and The Duke Endowment. He used the house as a base of operations when he was building his hydroelectric company. He pumped water from the Catawba River for several fountains on the 14-acre property. Mr. Duke was most proud of three things: his daughter Doris, his fountain (it shot water 150 feet into the air), and his Rolls Royce. He liked to keep his Rolls Royce in the basement but did not like backing it up the steep driveway, which is why he installed a turntable so he could drive it out.
When Buck Duke died in 1925, the home was sold to C. C. Coddington, owner of the local Buck dealership and WBT radio station, but he only lived there for three years until his untimely death. Martin Cannon of Cannon Mills purchased the home in 1929 and changed the name to White Oaks. In 1951, it was bequeathed to Myers Park Presbyterian Church.
In 1957, Henry and Clayton Lineberger, members of a textile family, purchased the home from the church and restored the home and grounds to their original splendor. They had to restore a portion of it again in 1966 when the third floor was damaged by fire. When Mr. Lineberger died in 1976, the home was left to The Duke Endowment that works with the Junior League of Charlotte to protect it for its historical value and provide it for use as a conference center.
A developer, in 1977, purchased the house and converted some of it into condominiums, but, fortunately, in 1989, it was sold to Rick and Dee Ray, founders of Raycom Sports, who spent the next few years restoring it to its proper place as the “Grand Dame of Myers Park.”
In 1998, the mansion opened with a grand celebration as an Historic Inn and Meeting Place.
These are only some of the highlights of this glorious home and inn, but it is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of the Charlotte, NC, area. Free tours are available, but reservations are needed. With reservations in advance, the dining facilities are available for lunches or dinners. In fact, fresh vegetables and herbs are grown in gardens on the grounds. You can also drop in on weekends for cocktails in the grand living room and sunroom area (cash bar).
About the author: Carole Miller is a resident of Sun City Carolina Lakes and a regular contributor to Living @ SCCL magazine where this article was published in a slightly different format. Thank you, Carole, for sharing your experience with us at Charlotte Seniors.