A historic North Carolina house will get a new life. According to The Philadelphia Tribune, the Magnolia House Motel—an establishment that is embedded in the fabric of Black history—will be restored.
The motel—which is located in Greensboro—opened its doors in 1949. Owners Arthur and Louise Gist transformed the property into a bed and breakfast that included 14 rooms, a dining room, and several sitting rooms. During the segregation era, the motel was featured in the 1955 edition of The Green Book as a safe place for African Americans to stay while traveling in the South. Several music legends including Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Tina Turner all stayed at the motel. Sports figures like Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson spent time there as well. The house, which was constructed in 1889, also served as a meeting space for the NAACP.
“It was a horrible period in American history,” said Benjamin Briggs, who serves as the executive director of Preservation Greensboro. “The Magnolia House showed the determination that people had to overcome the obstacles put in their place by the legal system. It is a symbol of overcoming obstacles.”
The property—which is steps away from Bennett College—operated as a rooming house until it shuttered in 1980 following the death of Arthur Gist. In 1996, Greensboro local Sam Pass purchased the house to transform it into a museum and bed and breakfast. He invested $70,000 into the project and would sell food near Bennett College to raise money and spread awareness about the historic home. He received two grants to revitalize the motel.
After years of focusing on the renovation of the historic space, his daughter Natalie Pass Miller has come on board to further his efforts and bring his vision for the motel to fruition. She currently hosts jazz brunches and private events at the space and plans on finishing the interior so it could operate as a bed and breakfast.
Pass Miller’s mission is to preserve a significant piece of Greensboro’s history and use the Magnolia House Motel to unite the community. “What really blows me away is when the community comes in now to hold meetings, I’m sitting here looking at them thinking this is a version of what went down back then,” she told the news outlet.