The year was 1920 when Agnew Hunter Bahnson completed construction on his family home. Located on the corner of Fifth and Spring Streets, the home was built on land that once was the tennis courts and garden for the family estate of tobacco baron R.J. Reynolds. “Bonnie” Bahnson, as he was affectionately called, was the son of Dr. Henry Theodore Bahnson, and they were of the Moravian faith, being early settlers of the congregational town of Salem, NC. Mr. Bahnson’s career was spent in the family’s Arista Mills, where he was named President in 1915. By this time, his brother Fred had created a system to eliminate the problem of textile dust and tobacco mold in the area’s factories and warehouses. In 1915, the Bahnsons formed a new company to manufacture a highly effective machine named the “Bahnson Humidfier,” which operates much as today’s air conditioning systems do. The Bahnson Company still has headquarters in Winston-Salem, and operates as an international supplier of industrial HVAC systems.
After the R.J. Reynolds family moved to their self-sustaining farm, Reynolda, in 1917, the Bahnson home was completed in 1920. Mr. Bahnson chose Williard C. Northup to construct his two-story, stucco house in the English Country House style, featuring a Ludowici-Celadon green tiled roof, austere white stucco façade, and asymmetrical form and unusual fenestration. The style is reminiscent of C.F.A. Voysey and the English Arts and Crafts architectural movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
What would become Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar 92 years later, the A.H. Bahnson House stands out in downtown Winston-Salem as an icon of the city’s past. However, in its time as a residence, it was part of a long block of large homes along West Fifth Street known as “Millionaire’s Row,” home to many of the town’s leaders and industrialists.
As the years passed the Bahnsons kept the house in the family until 1968, when it was donated to Forsyth County for use as Public Library offices. During the 30 years the Library used the home, several alterations were made, including the removal of bathroom fixtures, fireplace mantles, and loss of original bronze door hardware. As the home became increasing difficult to maintain, the County “returned” the building and grounds to the Bahnson Family Trust in 2007.
The husband and wife team of Lynn Murphy and Lynette Matthews-Murphy acquired the A.H. Bahnson House in late 2010, and began extensive and historically appropriate renovations in the spring of 2011. As project manager for the building’s renovation, design, and concept development, Lynette had a vision for the stewardship of the historic homeplace, and lovingly and painstakingly breathed new life and new purpose into one of the last remaining homes on Millionaire’s Row.
The historic restoration and adaptive re-use project of the beloved architectural gem was undertaken with great sensitivity to the home’s glorious past. Minimal alterations to the home’s exterior and interior spaces were made, paying special attention to historical details. The extensive restoration included repairing all of the original windows and French doors, replacing broken or missing brass hardware and all original moldings and fireplace mantles, replacing broken bathroom tile with historically-appropriate tile design, stripping wall-to-wall carpet and refinishing the furniture-quality white oak floors, all while making the former home ADA compliant. The team repaired and painted the exterior stucco and replaced the wooden shutters that give the home so much of its aesthetic charm, Lush and lovely landscaping around the home was installed to create a calming oasis in the midst of the bustling downtown.
The interior of the home, and now restaurant, features a large stair hall with handsome staircase that opens to a large living room, now the Library Bar, with French doors flanking the fireplace that lead to the tiled sunporch, now the Sun Porch. A large dining room, now the Main Dining Room, with fireplace opens via French doors to the terrace. Also on the main level, the Magnolia Room opens to the terrace via French doors. The kitchen and butler’s pantry have been converted into Spring House’s commercial kitchen.
Upstairs, four principal bedrooms flank the hallway with four baths re-used as restrooms, and twin sleeping porches on the south end which are now offices. The back stairwell provides access to the attic which served as small quarters for the Bahnson household staff. Today, Spring House kitchen staff uses what was the basement for an efficient and tidy prep kitchen.
To fully realize her dream of establishing a unique gathering place in the heart of downtown, with a “fresh from the farm” seasonal culinary approach, Lynette forged into a creative collaboration with founding Chef/Partner Timothy Grandinetti, opening Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar in April 2012. Together they share the vision and commitment to bring progressive, Southern-inspired cuisine to Winston-Salem, all while keeping the architecture and hospitality of its earlier magical era alive for new generations to appreciate.
Today, the A. H Bahnson House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a living reminder of the city’s rich history. Like Winston-Salem – a city that continuously re-invents itself – the former beloved home is now a budding family enterprise, and a culinary destination. The spirit and reputation of Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar draws folks internationally to savor both the delicious food and the beauty of this architectural jewel. From a local standpoint, despite its illustrious past (and possibly because of it!) Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar is proud of its status as a welcoming neighborhood restaurant and retreat – inviting all to share in its storied history, and be a part of its exciting new culinary traditions.