The Historic Magnolia House was built by Daniel D. Debutts. It is a two story Victorian House with 4,000 to 5,000 square feet of living space. It has a granite stone foundation with the stone being quarried from Mount Airy, NC. It has six rooms on the first floor and eight rooms on the second floor. The house also contains five chimneys, bay windows, exterior molding, and a partially slatted roof The original address was 438 Gorrell Street and located at the corner of Gorrell street and Pearson Street. Pearson Street is now Plott Street. At the time, the neighborhood housed upper class, wealthy, White single families.
By the end of WWII, the neighborhood shifted to become a predominantly African American neighborhood.
In 1949 Arthur and Louise Gist bought the home and converted the house into a 14 room, six-bedroom bed and breakfast/hotel for African American Travelers during the Jim Crow Era. Because of its elevated status in the Green Book, The Magnolia Hotel hosted many prominent celebrities including musicians Ruth Brown, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Joe Tex, James Brown, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Duke Ellington’s Band, Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner, Count Basie, Otis Redding, Lena Horne, and Little Willie John; academics Carter G. Woodson, James Baldwin, and Logie Meachum; and sports legends Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, and Ezzard Charles. The hotel also served as a meeting place for civil rights activists including, The Democratic Club of Guilford County, NAACP, and training of CORE’s “Freedom Highway” drive. The Magnolia House Hotel not only functioned as a safe haven for Black travelers as a hotel, but it also served as an important cornerstone for the black community in the Greensboro community.
The hotel operated until the early 1970s when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 caused the hotel to no longer be in high demand due to integration. Therefore, the hotel was transformed into a boarding house, but because of low interest, the house was neglected and became dilapidated during the 1970s.
In 1996, Sam Pass bought the house and started the restoration process. Today, his daughter and current owner of The Historic Magnolia House, Natalie Miller, is continuing the process to repair the house to its former glory. The mission of The Historic Magnolia House is to honor the impact the hotel had on people of color during its heyday and serve the community through its education, arts, and music programming.
Featured: modern image of Magnolia House Motel, courtesy of Preservation Greensboro
Cannon, Jimmy. “Ole Satch Knows The $$ Value.” The Indianapolis Star, August
22, 1955, pg. 18.
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“Elections Set Tonight by Negro Democrats.” Greensboro Daily News, May 12, 1958.
“Girls travel,” Greensboro Daily News. April 6, 1960.
“Greensboro.” The Negro Traveler’s Green Book, 1955.
“Greensboro.” The Negro Traveler’s Green Book, 1956.
“Greensboro.” The Negro Traveler’s Green Book, 1957.