For the first time in more than 50 years, the historic Magnolia House in Greensboro will reopen next month as a tribute and a near-visual version of what it once was: one of the few hotels in the southern US that allowed black travelers to stay overnight in the mid-20th century, due to restrictions imposed by Jim Crow laws (which legalized apartheid).
The institution became popular after it appeared in six editions of The Negro Driver’s Green Book, a popular resource for African American road dwellers created by Victor H. Green in 1949, the same year Magnolia House was founded. Explains Natalie Miller, hotel owner and founder of Magnolia House Foundation. “Its main job was to make a list of safe places for African American travelers to stay, eat and visit, but it really provided more than just a list — it was an important safety communication tool.”
The hotel—which has served as a haven for many prominent blacks, including Ray Charles, Jackie Robinson, Ike, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, James Baldwin, and Louis Armstrong—is one of four Green Book institutions still operating in North Carolina. Redesigned by local design firm Vivid Interiors (which drew inspiration from a classic ’60s jazz lounge), the renovated hotel is virtually identical to what it was in when it first launched 72 years ago.
“The entire staircase in the house, including the stairs themselves as well as the handrail, are originals from the historic Green Book Hotel,” Miller says. “There are also some tiles on different fireplaces throughout the house as well as wood components such as parts of the flooring that were original at the 1949 hotel.”
The gently updated space showcases a rich palette featuring bold hues, from neon pink and teal to chartreuse—along with a few other sparkling spaces (a nod to the history of the Green Book). The boutique inn consists of four guest suites, each named and designed to reflect the spirit of famous former guests.
While the Carlotta Room celebrates soul queens (Knight and Turner), The Legends Room pays tribute to star athletes like Robinson. The Baldwin Room honors African-American thinkers such as the famous writer, while Kind of Blue celebrates the friendship between famed musician Miles Davis and the hotel’s original owner, Buddy Gist.
The hotel’s on-site restaurant will revive its signature Sunday Brunch, featuring classic Southern dishes like cream grits and fried fish. In addition, the kitchen will offer “shoebox lunches” – a homage to the packaged meals often carried by black travelers on the road.
Miller’s father, Sam Bass, bought the dilapidated building — located minutes from downtown Greensboro — in 1996 and immediately began restoring the long-neglected property, which had fallen into disrepair in the 1970s.
“The world means to me being able to continue the important work that my father did,” Miller says. “I am honored to take his vision across the finish line and see it in action. When you hear about continuing the legacy of family and business, you often think of that relationship between father and son – but in our story, it is the special relationship between father and daughter that keeps The Historic Magnolia going. House after all these years.
“Reclaiming this property is our way of continuing our family’s legacy and continuing the great work and activism accomplished by the African American pioneers in our family,” she continues. “We are preserving this important piece of black history, and we are honored to be able to reveal its untold story and share it with the world.”
Rates at the historic hotel — which will also double as a venue for weddings and other special events — start at $200 a night. Ready to book accommodation? right this way!
Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and is imported on this page to help users provide their email address. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io