Restoring The Historic Magnolia House
The Historic Magnolia House is a Green Book site that provided a critical safehaven for African American writers, actors, athletes, and musicians as they traveled south to perform during the Jim Crow era. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this former motel was recognized in six editions of The Green Book as a highly recommended place to stay for Black travelers in North Carolina. Of the more than 250 Green Book sites, the Magnolia House is one of very few that continue to operate within their historic context.
The landmark house at 442 Gorrell Street was built in 1889. Today, owner Natalie Pass-Miller has restored the fabric of Black history by transforming the iconic Magnolia House in Greensboro into a bed and breakfast, featuring a traditional Sunday brunch, and a 150-person special events venue. In 2021 Magnolia House started offering shoebox lunches to-go, hosting virtual tours and small groups while they continued to renovate guest rooms. They were doing what all small businesses did (and are still doing!) in a Covid world - they pivoted and made it work. Then disaster struck.
In January 2022 as the omicron variant was surging, we had a North Carolina ice storm (read: “a dusting of snow with plenty of ice”). The kind that breaks tree limbs and wreaks havoc on outdoor structures – like the one Magnolia House was using that collapsed during the storm. An emergency plea from ArtsGreensboro went out to Greensboro’s philanthropic community on behalf of Magnolia House. The needed $7,500 was in-hand (including support from CHF) within hours, allowing Historic Magnolia House to host planned events through the spring and to keep its budget in the green.
Places like Magnolia House are important to Greensboro’s history. Telling the stories of the injustices endured by Black people is a crucial part of our nation’s story. Despite progress that many may feel we have made, there is more work to do to change mindsets about how we view ourselves and one another.