House for Sale

Mayor’s Manse

A historic home is a microcosm of Winston-Salem heritage

By Nancy Oakley

If the walls of 1121 Arbor Road could talk, they’d divulge so much about the golden past of Winston-Salem. To a casual onlooker, the sprawling, two-story structure resembles many of its gracious counterparts in the Twin City’s leafy old Buena Vista neighborhood. But a more thorough examination of the house’s provenance reveals its roots as a stronghold in the city’s political and business and cultural scene.

Though it has often been referred to as “the Bowman Gray house,” for indeed, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco President and Chairman Bowman Gray II (son of Bowman Gray and Nathalie Lyons Gray) lived there starting in 1946, but the house’s original owner was George W. Coan, who served as the Twin City’s mayor for several terms, as president of the airport and N.C. Administrator of the WPA during the Great Depression. And of course, if you’re the major politico of a tobacco boomtown, who else would you hire to design your home but Charles Barton Keen? Its brick façade seems rather ordinary compared to Keen’s Craftsman-style signature, Reynolda House, and several similar stucco-and-green-tile-roof houses in the area. But like the god Janus, the house has two faces: Its rear exterior, covered in white clapboard framing a bluestone terrace overlook a lush 2.3-acre park — part of Reynolda Park — designed by Keen’s sidekick, landscape architect Charles Thomas Warren Sears. (In later years, local horitucultural guru Chip Callaway would spruce up the property.)

The house’s interior spanning something like 8,100 square feet is no less grand: a sweeping staircase leading to the front entry, plaster molding adorning the living room, a stately wood-paneled library, six bedrooms, five-and-a-half baths. But that’s not to say the house has not adapted to the times. Its kitchen, perfect for entertaining, has been fully renovated and gas logs heat the library where you retire on chilly afternoons. It has served well its most recent owners, Anne Philips Copenhaver and her late husband, W. Andrew “Andy” a longtime partner and stalwart of Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice, now Womble Bond Dickinson.

But as spring approaches, the house beckons new occupants who, among the ghosts of the past, will gaze out on that bluestone terrace with its seemingly endless verdant view, and dream of future about to blossom. 

Vital Details: 1121 Arbor Road, Winston-Salem

Priced at: $2.3 million

Contact: Stewart Austin, Leonard Ryden Burr

(336) 837-8924 or

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