Tour Blandwood - once the Greensboro home of John Motley Morehead, one of North Carolina's most accomplished governors - and you'll see a mansion that helped launched an architecture style popular in America in the 1850s.
It's only a few blocks from downtown Greensboro. From Charlotte, it's about 90 miles, just under a two-hour drive.
To see and do
Morehead was a leading statesman and entrepreneur in the years leading to the Civil War. A Chapel Hill graduate, he initially embarked upon a legal career but soon found himself in the role of public servant - on UNC's Board of Trustees for many years, serving in the North Carolina House of Commons, and filling two terms (1841-1845) as state governor.
Described as a man of great vision and sometimes referred to as the "father" of modern North Carolina, the governor advocated establishing common schools, a school for the deaf and blind, an insane asylum, and a penitentiary system. A proponent of women's education, he established Edgeworth Female Academy in Greensboro, in part as a means to educate his five daughters.
To further the state's Carolina's economic development, he also promoted a statewide system of railroads. After leaving office, he served as president of the North Carolina Railroad.
In 1844, Morehead engaged famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis - designer of the state capitol in Raleigh - to draft plans for a new addition to his private home in Greensboro, something that would befit Morehead's political and social stature. The oldest portion of the house, built in the late 1700s, was a simple two-over-two frame structure. When newly married Morehead purchased the house from his wife's stepfather in 1825, he had an addition put on that doubled its size.
Architect Davis saw in the second expansion an opportunity to introduce a new architectural style that was to become known as Italian Villa. The two-story addition included east and west parlors on opposite sides of a central hallway on the ground floor, and two bedrooms on either side of the hallway upstairs.
Extending in the front center of the addition was a three-story tower. Two matching outbuildings complemented the additions - one a kitchen, the other as Morehead's law office - joined to the main house by decorative arcades.
A sketch of the Blandwood estate helped popularize the Italian Villa style in America. The original watercolor of Davis' plans for Blandwood is now in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Gas lamps still illuminate the grand entryway. Inside, family portraits adorn the walls of most rooms, giving you a sense of visiting a home where the governor and his children still reside. Personal effects are scattered throughout the house, including the cradle Morehead slept as an infant. The replica of Morehead's law office holds a massive safe from the North Carolina Railroad.