A rainy drive through the historic Washington Park neighborhood one evening led Natalie Broyhill and her husband, Penn, to their 1912 Neoclassical Revival home on Park Boulevard.
“We were so charmed by the house, I took a picture. I called my friend Stephan, who lived nearby, and joked that he should tell his neighbors to move out of my house,” says Natalie. “Not long after, he called and told me, ‘Your house is for sale.’”
The Broyhills were the first to see the house once it went on the market. As they stepped up onto the broad wraparound porch, Natalie knew that this would be their home. Their offer was accepted, and they joined the neighborhood in the spring of 2015.
The historic house was built by local construction company executive William F. Miller as a home for his large family — which included Capt. Norman Mickey Miller, commander of Bombing Squadron 109 in the Central Pacific during World War II and recipient of, among other awards, the Navy Cross. But before this war or even before the towns of Winston and Salem merged to form the Twin City, the Miller family was making memories in this stately house, one of only two on the street at the time.
“The original owners loved to host parties on the porch, including an orchestra,” says Penn. “We’ve been told the divots on the floor are from the cellos.”
The porch has been a central part of their home, a way to connect with the neighborhood. And, as the pandemic forced people to stay home over the past year, it’s been a way to continue that connection.
“We love to watch people walk by with their kids and we have conversations from the porch,” says Penn, who serves as assistant district attorney for Forsyth County and has spent a good deal of time working from home, using the porch for a much-needed change of scenery.
The porch has offered a prime spot to watch the changing of the seasons, and holiday decorations have taken a starring role in the neighborhood.
“I went all out on Halloween decorations last fall,” Natalie says. “As children passing by commented on the decorations, I felt compelled to always have something new for them to see.”
That is the key blessing for the Broyhills: the neighborhood. Their warm and inviting porch, complete with a bead board ceiling painted “haint blue,” offers a safe refuge in uncertain times, with the promise of better times to come.
In fact, the house and its porch gave Penn an unexpected gift when his grandmother, who suffered from dementia, came to visit. She had grown up nearby, and as she rode through the neighborhood with Penn’s mother, her memories came flooding back.