Modernist architecture celebrated at garden party

Event an appreciation for Preservation of Wilson supporters

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This year’s Garden Party and Art Show will be held in the garden of one of only a dozen modernist homes in Wilson. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. on May 6. The doors will open at 1120 Watson Drive to experience first-hand the modernist architectural style during Preservation of Wilson’s 11th Annual Garden Party and Art Show. 

Owners Vernon Mason and Andy Summerlin will share their garden as well as open their home for tours during the event. 


Along with Wilson’s historic bungalows, Colonial revivals and Victorian-style homes, you will find an impressive number of homes with modernist architecture. North Carolina is the third largest concentration of modernist houses in America.

Designed by John Judson (Jack) Rowland, AIA (1903-1963) the house was built in 1956 for the Anne and John N. Hackney Jr. family. It was purchased in 2010 by Mason and Summerlin. 

“Rowland bravely brought in modernism despite Wilson’s resistance and indifference,” said George Smart, founder and executive director of North Carolina Modernist Houses.

“He knew that living in a modernist house is a completely different experience, but you can’t see that from the outside,” Smart said. “You have to visit, or better yet stay overnight, to get the vibe. Any architect who designed modernist houses in a small North Carolina town was brave!” 

“While obvious to many as 'different' from the traditional style of the time, many of the characteristics that define 'modern architecture' and 'mid-century modern design' remain easily observable today at 1120 Watson Drive,” said Jay Hood of Hood/Herring Architecture. 

“An open plan, generous glass areas, lack of ornament, honesty and simplicity of materials, use of traditional materials in new ways and the use of modern materials, emphasis on the horizontal and vertical lines of planar forms, broad overhangs of horizontal roof, relationship of interior spaces to the site are all incorporated into this 1956 residential design.” 


Building on the artistic spirit of current owners, Mason and Summerlin, featured this year will be an art walk where guests stroll through a presentation of local art from artists in Wilson and across North Carolina. All art pieces will be available for sale during the event.  

Anne Sauerborn Joyner and Betsy Peters Rascoe, co-chairs of this year’s art show, say they hope the 2018 show will expose the organization’s mission of revitalizing and restoring the historic community to wider audience.


With Preservation of Wilson’s recent purchase of the Nadal House, a circa 1916 Western stick bungalow with stone work by Oliver Nestus Freeman, the non-profit found a creative way to keep the home’s history current with a new twist.  

Garden party attendees will be invited to take a piece of the Nadal House with them as selected art prints salvaged from the Nadal House will be for sale.  

“The prints that will be for sale were found deep in the storage area of the Nadal House,” said Joseph Dlugos, chairman of the marketing committee for Preservation of Wilson. “The marketing committee took the opportunity to clean them up and is happy to assist finding them a new home” 


All refreshments are homemade and with a Southern flair, including tomato sandwiches, pecan cheese spread and homemade desserts.  

Margaret Clark McRae and Bill Hamilton will be acting as co-hosts and will bring together a combination of Southern tradition from McRae and creativity and event planning experience from Hamilton.  

This year’s garden party will be tailored to best reflect the homeowners’ vision and style making this a unique version of what is becoming a long-standing spring event.


The garden party is an appreciation occasion for the supporters of Preservation of Wilson to celebrate the growing preservation spirit in historic downtown Wilson. The only ticket for the Garden Party and Art Show is a donation of at least $25 to be a member of Preservation of Wilson. Register at the door or online at www.preservationofwilson.com or call 252-234-7694 or email kfb@preservationofwilson.com.

Preservation of Wilson is a nonprofit corporation that provides leadership in the revitalization efforts of Wilson County’s unique architectural properties. It actively promotes historically, architecturally and culturally significant properties.  To learn more, visit www.preservationofwilson.com.