Amongst the hustle and bustle of one of the most popular regions of Wilmington sits a 67 acre parcel of land abutting Bradley Creek. Magnificent gardens and stoic live oaks sit in remembrance of shades of the past to creatures and humans alike.
A rich history creates the backdrop for a home like no other. This elegant home sits on property whose history dates back to the early 1700’s. A land grant, from the infamous King George II, gave property rights of 640 acres to Jonathan Ogden, a local leatherworker.
In the year 1800, Joshua Grainger Wright and his wife Susan Bradley Wright purchased a portion of this pristine land for 110 pounds. The family prospered here and their son took the project on of building a chapel for his mother with the name of Mount Lebanon Chapel. Mrs. Wright believed that this was indeed holy land and called their land Mount Lebanon to honor the cedar trees that graced the property.
The 1800’s were a busy time for this area of Wilmington. People were drawn to the lovely blue green waters of the Atlantic Ocean and seaside communities were being sought out for their healing properties. People “took in the air” of the ocean which was rumored to help with breathing and rheumatoid ailments. Perhaps that is still true of our times today.
The Airlie property changed hands several times over the span of the 100 years. Mount Lebanon Chapel and its 6.5 acre tract were donated to the parish of St. James Church in Wilmington by the estate of Dr. Wright. A waterfront inn that was built was eventually renovated into a rambling mansion, also known as the Airlie House by Sarah Green and Pembroke Jones.
Sarah Green and Pembroke Jones were married and in a joint effort, they continued their quest to purchase a large expanse of the land that was originally granted to Mr. Ogden and then named the property Airlie in honor of Mr. Jones’ homeland of Scotland.
Sarah and Pembroke began transforming Airlie into the gardens that still draw people from the far reaches of our world. They worked with Fruitlands Nursery of Augusta Georgia (now Augusta National Golf Course). Paths and ponds were created and much of the famous gardens as we know them now were a part of this transformation. Sarah and Pembroke cultivated this land with the help of a full time staff and gardeners.
Airlie was the center for Wilmington social life in the early to mid 1900’s being the perfect place to entertain the high society friends that Sarah and Pembroke hosted with an annual budget over $300,000 for the pure pleasure of entertaining. The Inn that been built in the 1880’s had been transformed into a rambling mansion known as the Airlie House. Sarah continued the quest for landscaping with installations of gardens with spring bulbs.
The Joneses continued with land acquisitions around the area including the 2200 acre estate where Landfall now exists and the construction of “the Bungalow” where many famous people came to visit including the Vanderbilts and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Garden tours like the ones now began In 1931 and continued by personal invitation until Sarah passed away at age 84. The first Azalea festival began in 1948 and the “royal” tradition began with its own private visit by the queen and still is a huge part of the coronation.
The Corbett family then purchased the property from Sarah’s daughter Sadie Jones Pope.
The 67 acres of the gardens were later sold to New Hanover County for the purpose of public enjoyment and environmental education. The surrounding land has been uniquely preserved and developed by the Corbett family for their own personal use and enjoyment.
Keeping up with the Joneses brings an entirely new meaning. The property now belonging to the owners of 6612 Spring Garden Drive in the Corbett Place Subdivision will be available for purchase. This is a unique moment. The history of this property will carry on with the new owners. From King George II to current times, this home not only represents the coastal lifestyle that Wilmington has to offer, it also carves out a specific piece of the past with roots as deep as the live oaks that grace the property. Expansive views and direct water access will create an experience, the same experience from people standing on the shore in the 1700’s. Your own piece of Airlie Gardens awaits.
A brief history of Airlie Gardens
I hope that all these stories continue to create a friendship and a bond with us all.
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