Last Updated on March 19, 2023
Last Updated on March 19, 2023
The Historic Magnolia House in Greensboro is an important reminder that for a long time, many hotels in North Carolina (and elsewhere) refused service to Black travelers.
In fact, this bed and breakfast near North Carolina A&T State University and Bennett College was one of the only hotels between Atlanta and Richmond that allowed Black people to stay.
Today, the house welcomes all travelers, and they hosted us for a stay that included a couple of their fantastic brunches.
All opinions in this article are our own and will detail more about those dishes, along with the house’s history, the once-essential green book, and what to expect from a stay at The Magnolia House.
Here’s how we’ve organized the guide if you’re looking for specific information:
- Where is the Magnolia House?
- History of the Magnolia House
- The Green Book
- Former Guests
- “North Carolina and the Green Book”
- Staying at the Magnolia House
- Sunday Brunch at Magnolia Bed and Breakfast
- Shoebox Meals
- Ready to Stay?
- More Things to Do in Greensboro
Read More: 30+ Awesome Things to Do in Greensboro (Truly Unique Places!)
Where is the Magnolia House?
Address: 442 Gorrell St, Greensboro, NC
The Historic Magnolia House is a two-story, 5,000-square-foot Victorian home that sits in downtown Greensboro between Gate City Blvd and Market St. It’s right around the corner from Bennett College and is very close to North Carolina A&T State University.
It’s also within a short drive from Elm Street and the center of Greensboro.
You can visually plan your trip there and to Greensboro either through our North Carolina Travel Map or our Central North Carolina Map.
Read More: Central North Carolina (and 100+ Amazing Places to Visit)
History of the Historic Magnolia House
The Magnolia House was originally built in 1889. It opened for business in 1949 and was then one of the only hotels between Atlanta and Richmond that allowed Black lodgers.
The Magnolia House first appeared in The Green Book in 1955 and was one of five hotels in Greensboro that were safe for Black travelers during Jim Crow.
By the 1980s, The Magnolia House had fallen into disrepair. In 1995, Samuel Penn Pass bought the house and restored it back to its beautiful state.
Read More: 25+ Important Places to Visit and Learn About Black History in North Carolina
The Green Book
The Green Book was an annual travel guide published by Victor Hugo Green during the Jim Crow Era. From 1936 to 1966, this book detailed services and places that were safe and friendly to Black people.
As Black travelers faced many difficulties such as sundown towns, refusal of service, and even deadly violence. The Green Book helped Black people stay safe and also assisted them in finding lodging, businesses, and gas stations where they would be served.
Former Magnolia House Guests
Many famous African Americans stayed at The Magnolia House including:
- Louis Armstrong
- James Brown
- Ruth Brown
- Ray Charles
- Jackie Robinson
- Joe Tex
- Ike and Tina Turner
- Carter G. Woodson
“North Carolina and the Green Book”
It wasn’t until 2018 that Green Book sites in North Carolina would gain recognition. A group of students at NC State University led a project called “North Carolina and the Green Book” and documented more than 300 locations across the state.
The goal was to determine the status of these sites and whether they were still in existence. Of the 327 Green Book listings in North Carolina, 66 of them were still standing.
The Magnolia House is one of them, and also one of four Green Book sites in North Carolina that are still in operation.
Staying at the Magnolia House Today
After reopening in January 2022, The Magnolia House operates just as it would have in 1949.
When you check in, you’ll enter through the side door, one of many ways Black people lived and traveled during Jim Crow. You’ll find that the house today has been restored to look the same as it did back when it was a safe haven for Black travelers.
There are four thoughtfully appointed rooms in The Historic Magnolia House, named after famous past guests. The decor in each of the rooms draws from the bold colors and mid-century design of the 1950s.
Just as guests during Jim Crow, some of the rooms have shared bathrooms which are considered key to the authenticity of the Green Book hotel experience.
The Baldwin Room
The Baldwin Room is dedicated to the writers and intellectuals that shaped our history. Featuring black and white patterns and a vintage typewriter, this room was themed for James Baldwin and Carter G. Woodson.
It features a king-sized bed and a shared bathroom with a walk-in shower.
The Carolotta Room
The most remarked about room in The Magnolia House is The Carolotta Room. Themed in the era of 1957, the bright pink and bold colors honor the “Queens of Soul” who stayed in these rooms.
Iconic singers like Tina Turner, Lena Horne, and Gladys Knight embody the soul and heart of this room.
The name “The Carlotta” comes from the Carlotta Club, an important musical spot in Greensboro that was part of the Chitlin’ Circuit.
The Chitlin’ Circuit was a series of music venues for Black musicians, comedians, and entertains up and down the East Coast, and many notable performers would stop at The Carlotta and play.
1960-Kind of Blue Room
We stayed in the 1960-Kind of Blue Room which did have a private bathroom and walk-in shower. Named in honor of jazz musician Miles Davis, the room is filled with various shades of blue and brass notes.
It is the only room in the hotel that features a private bathroom and walk-in shower.
Read More: 50+ Bands from North Carolina
The Legends 1961 Room
The final room in The Magnolia House is The Legends 1961 room. This room honors the sports legends that stayed at The Magnolia House including Jackie Robinson, Satchel Page, and Ezzard Charles.
The subtle plaid and leather accents bring strength and masculinity to this room.
Read More: Minor League Baseball in North Carolina (+ 15 Interesting Teams to Watch)
Sunday Brunch at The Magnolia House
Sunday Brunch at The Magnolia House is absolutely a must. Open to the public on Sundays, the menu features Fried Chicken and French Toast and a special Fried Fish, Shrimp, and Grits!
Starting at 10:00 am, the menu reflects Southern soul food that’s elevated a few notches.
We loved brunch at Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast so much that we listed it in our Greensboro restaurant guide despite it only being available once a week! Another reason we’ve included this place is because of the historic shoebox meals they offer.
Read More: Breakfast in NC (40+ of the Best Places to Eat!)
While traveling, there would sometimes be long stretches where a Green Book site wasn’t available. To compensate, many Black travelers would carry a shoebox lunch, also known as a shoebox meal.
They were made with shelf-stable foods that wouldn’t spoil and didn’t require utensils. A typical shoebox meal would usually have fried chicken, boiled eggs, fruit, and pound cake.
While these shoebox meals eventually became obsolete, they reflect the ingenuity of Black Americans, especially during Jim Crow.
Today, The Magnolia House Greensboro NC gives guests an opportunity to take a piece of history with them. Shoebox meals can be ordered for takeout or delivery and come packaged in a signature shoebox with historical information included inside.
Read More: 7 Fun Museums in Greensboro (Kid-Friendly, Contemporary Art, and More!)
Ready to Stay at The Magnolia House?
The Magnolia House is an important place to visit in North Carolina because of its history. Also, how cool is it that Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Tina Turner all stayed here at one time?
Because of its historic significance, the tasty brunch, and its location in the amazing city of Greensboro, this is clearly one of our favorite places to stay in North Carolina.
If you’ve been lucky enough to stay at the Magnolia House, we’d love to know what you thought of it. You can let us know in the comments section or by email.
Don’t forget to share your adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.
More Things to Do in Greensboro
If you would like to expand your Black history in North Carolina experience, we highly recommend visiting the International Civil Rights Museum in downtown Greensboro.
The museum covers not only the historic sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, but does an excellent job of describing important historical events throughout our nation’s history.
Here are some more interesting things to do in Greensboro beyond that essential stop:
- Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
- Greensboro Science Center (Museum, Zoo, and Aquarium All in One Wonderful Place!)
- McLaurin Farms (known for Woods of Terror and Christmas Festival, among more events)
For further reading, here are some more Greensboro North Carolina Travel Guides.