In the 1920s, America’s titans of industry left their city mansions for nearby countrysides to build even grander estates to showcase their wealth. Graylyn, situated on 55 acres just minutes from downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was one such property. Then boasting 60 rooms, 46,000 square feet and 87 acres, Graylyn was the state’s second largest private residence next to George Washington Vanderbilt’s Biltmore in Asheville.

Today, the Graylyn estate is a renowned international conference center. Open to the public, it offers visitors a step back in time with its monthly Tour Pour Du Jour (Tour For The Day). The 90-minute walking tour, led by a tuxedo-clad butler, reveals a behind-the-scenes look at the grandeur, history, mysteries, and current use of the Norman Revival-style manor house that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Refined taste at Graylyn in Winston-Salem

Graylyn in Winston-Salem manor house glows at night.

Graylyn manor house glows at night (Photo credit: Graylyn)

Graylyn in Winston-Salem was the dream home of Bowman Gray, Sr., chairman of the board of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and his wife, Nathalie Lyons Gray.

The Grays spared no expense to construct their masterpiece, which they completed in 1932 after five years.

They employed artisans and craftsmen from across the U.S. and Europe who created such features as the distinctive fieldstone veneer, custom ironwork, slate floors, and hand-painted tiles. Many furnishings were imported, including a 15th-century French carved doorway, hand-carved fireplaces from London, Louis XV wall paneling from Paris, and hand-painted wall panels from a Turkish mosque. Bathrooms featured gold-plated fixtures and solid marble tubs.

Great Hall fireplace at Graylan (Credit: Mary Gilbert)

Graylyn’s Front Hall reflects the Medieval period, with the antique stone mantle imported from France (Photo credit: Mary Gilbert)

Georgian Revival-style living room featuring the original fireplace mantle, bronze and iron chandeliers, and sconces (Photo credit: Mary Gilbert)

Georgian Revival-style living room featuring the original fireplace mantle, bronze and iron chandeliers, and sconces (Photo credit: Mary Gilbert)

Guests cap off their tour amid old-world charm with a welcome sampling of Graylyn’s legendary Southern hospitality: Included in the visit are two glasses of Graylyn wine and a fruit and cheese reception.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and open to the public, Graylyn is a historic residence turned modern conference center.
  • The $20 tour fee includes wine and cheese refreshments. Following the tour, visitors are encouraged to stay for Graylyn Dining, a tempting four-course experience created by Graylyn’s award-winning culinary staff at an addition cost.
  • While the guided tour is indoors, guests are free to explore the landscaped grounds at their leisure.
  • Graylyn will appeal to discerning 50+ travelers with interests in architecture, historic design, art, and rarefied lifestyles.       

Take note

  • Tour dates are listed on the Graylyn website. Reservations are preferable to ensure availability; they can be made online.
  • Tour Pour Du Jour is a walking tour, so access to certain rooms may be limited for those with walking challenges or who use wheelchairs, even with the small elevator. Guides endeavor to make reasonable accommodations with ramps and congregating in outside spaces for commentary.


Graylyn, Winston-Salem, North Carolina