The Duke Mansion turns 100 this year, which seems like a big deal. But when I first heard that, I realized I didn’t know much of anything about the mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I’d heard the name, but I didn’t even know where it was.
So earlier this week I drove out to Myers Park, turned off of Providence onto Hermitage Road and got a tour of the place from Director of Development Pat Martin.
Here’s what I learned:
(1) The Dukes didn’t build it and only lived there for 7 years.
Zebulon V. Taylor, president of Southern Public Utilities (which would eventually become Duke Energy) had the original home built in 1915, when Myers Park was a new streetcar suburb.
James B. “Buck” Duke — he of American Tobacco Company and Duke Power Company fame — bought it in 1919 and tripled the size to 32,000 square feet.
The original house was what is now the east wing, facing Ardsley Road, and is now made up mostly of the mansion’s kitchen.
Buck wanted a base of operations in the South for his hydroelectric operation and he wanted to introduce his daughter, Doris, to Southern living.
After Buck died in 1925, C.C. Coddington, owner of a WBT radio and a Buick dealership, bought the mansion in 1926.
(2) It hasn’t always been called The Duke Mansion.
The mansion was originally called “Lynnwood.” Martin Cannon, who bought the home in 1929, renamed it “White Oaks.”
So how did it become The Duke Mansion?
According to Pat Martin: When the non-profit that was established to preserve the mansion in the mid ’90s started talking to people in the community, they didn’t recognize the name “White Oaks.” When people finally figured out what house the non-profit was referring to, they would say, “Oh, the old Duke Mansion.” So the name stuck.
(3) The third floor was once gutted by a large fire.
It happened in 1966, when Henry and Clayton Lineberger were living in the home. They restored the top floor of the mansion.
From 1929-1976, the home had just two owners — the Cannons and the Linebergers — which Martin said likely helped preserve the mansion, keeping it from being split up and sold off or redeveloped into something else as Charlotte grew.
(4) The mansion was at one time converted into condos.
The mansion was converted into five condos in the late ’70s and, at one point, there was even a plan to divide up the lot and build single family homes on the property. That never happened.
In 1989, Rick and Dee Ray, founders of Raycom Sports, thought about buying one of the condos, but instead purchased the entire house and property. They also restored the property back into being one large residence.
(5) You can visit anytime …
Well, any time the back gate is open.
There’s a gate on the Ardsley Road side of the property that leads into the mansion’s new gardens. As long as that gate is open, visitors are welcome to stroll through the grounds.
The mansion also regularly hosts events and tours, and you can stay a night in one of the 20 hotel rooms. But it’ll cost you — usually between $200 and $300 a night. But breakfast is included!
Wanna get a look at the place yourself? Unfortunately, all the events surrounding the 100th anniversary of the mansion are sold out. But follow their Facebook page for information about other upcoming events.
Learn more by visiting The Duke Mansion website, www.dukemansion.org.
Photos: Critsey Rowe; Paul Purser; Courtesy of The Duke Mansion; Mark Hames/Charlotte Observer; Corey Inscoe
Corey Inscoe is editor of CharlotteFive and a big fan of big houses. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyInscoe.