Jamestown house has rich history
By Mary Browning

Sandra “Sandy” Wiley Overly, the oldest daughter of Samuel Richardson Wiley and his wife, Estelle McCormack, now lives in the old Gardner-Wiley House, appreciating its elegant Federal detail as well as its family associations. The house, at 5003 Grandover Parkway sits well back from the street, dignified and unpretentious among its neighbors, some of them quite flashy, as you will agree. It has a very nice new front porch, though that word doesn’t quite do justice to the house-wide expanse of floor and columns and roof.

Sandy remembers growing up on this place, when it was tough to keep the dairy farm going through the lean years. She also recalls that later her father won wide recognition for his corn crops and advanced farming methods. But, when the interstate was built, the farm was cut in half and its life as a dairy farm ended. The cows could not cross the road, and farm machinery wasn’t allowed on the interstate.

Stephen Gardner, a Nantucket Quaker who settled in Guilford Co. in 1772, built the old house on a large tract of land, in 1827, three years before his death. The two-story brick house has a central hallway, but otherwise conforms to the “Quaker plan.” Gardner’s youngest son Abel inherited and he and his wife Abigail Pinkham lived in the house until 1856, when they joined other abolitionists who were leaving the South for the Midwest. 

Abel Gardner sold the house and a large tract of land, which included a gold mine, to Shannon Wiley, who was purchasing it for his son William Millis Wiley, a teacher, merchant, postmaster, and legislator. The latter was supposed to provide a home for his two unmarried sisters, and he did, but they both later married. So did William, to Julia Idol. From William the property passed to his son William Gaston Wiley, a machinist and dairy farmer, and from him to Samuel Richardson Wiley, Sandy’s father.

Following Sam’s death in 1983, Sandy and her husband, John Louis Overly, Jr., and their daughter Jane took up residence. By then, the neighborhood along Wiley Davis Road had changed. There was the Wiley Park development, and Trailwood. There had been rumors of even greater changes to come when Anheuser-Busch announced it had options to buy more than a thousand acres between Groometown Rd. and Vickrey Chapel Rd. There would be a brewery, it was said, no, a theme park. Neither of these panned out, but, about 1993, developer Joseph Koury, who had purchased those options, revealed his plan for Grandover.

Well, there it is, and what are you going to do? It’s worst if you have to wait for a light at the junction of Grandover Parkway and Vickrey Chapel Rd., because waiting gives you more time to brood about having to wait for a light. While you wait you can experience the big old metaphorical steamroller that passed through this neighborhood not so long ago. 

Not quite everything got flattened, though. There’s still a pleasant bit of old Wiley Park left, and, even better, a bit of the time before Wiley Park, when it was a farm run by the Wiley family.

Sam Wiley had the perspicacity to get the house put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and to preserve 23 acres of land, along with some of the old out buildings. In recent years Dianne Cotton ran a riding school and kept horses in the four horse barn. She has moved her operation to Magnolia Farm in Jamestown now, so the barn is available to rent. 

As to the house, “Well, it’s our home,” says Sandy.

Greensboro News & Record, Sunday, March 27, 2005

Reprinted with permission of the News & Record  and of the author