Preservation Greensboro celebrates five decades at Blandwood Mansion

In 1966 bulldozers were poised to raze a bloated antediluvian structure leaking and collapsing on a prime block of downtown Greensboro real estate, perched on a hill in one of the last residential neighborhoods in the shadow of the Jefferson Building.

For almost 70 years this compound served as a lonely outpost for The Keeley Institute, a live-in rehabilitation program promising drunks and drug addicts ‘That New Freedom’ after weeks of four times daily injections of bichloride of gold laced with alcohol, strychnine, apomorphine and willow bark.

The Keeley Institute’s methodology had fallen into disrepute long before the local proprietors’ death in a plane crash led to abandonment of this sanitarium delirium. Paint peeling, cracking plaster, sagging porch, shattered windows, a malingering Munster mansion entwined in knotted trees, runaway ivy and tangled weeds; a landscape nearly as terrifying as the Keeley Cure. They should have shot Dark Shadows there.

Two blocks away the glistening Carolina Theater was packing them in, which was great for Greensboro’s first Krispy Kreme, a block away on Greene Street. Downtown Greensboro was much larger in ‘66, a great deal more vibrant. Two high-rise and three smaller hotels, 40 restaurants, three lavish movie palaces, multi-storied department and dime stores, a buzzing hub of finance, commerce and, most especially, shopping.

With downtown bursting at the seams an expansion of businesses to the west was a natural. Kroger had their eye on the lot the Keeley Institute was deteriorating on so a crew was dispatched to clear the land. And they would have, had Anita Schenck and her mother Mary Lyon Caine not stood between the heavy machinery and that sacred place steeped in ceremony, where the Civil War came to an end in North Carolina, a once stately manor they knew as Blandwood.

(Yes! Weekly, 4/13/2016)

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