The History Of The Aerie

The Aerie Bed & Breakfast is an historic site in North Carolina that has been called home by a justice of the peace and hotelier, a State Senator, a social worker, and tenants that included a WWII nurse, a cousin of the Wright Brothers who happened to share Orville's name, and the son of Pepsi-Cola inventor Caleb Bradham!

The Street-Ward House is the historical name of this Victorian inn in New Bern, NC. Built by Samuel R. Street Jr. in 1882, who occupied the home until 1900. The Alfred D. Ward family resided here for the better part of the 20th century.

The earliest map to show the house, dated 1888, shows it to have had a typical open one-story front porch in the position of the present enclosed two-story porch. The porch was enclosed in the mid-1920s and the second story porch was added. The three-sided bay windows, ornamented with pediment style hoods and apron panel are original features of the home.

As constructed for Street, the house followed a center-hall plan, which was altered during the 20th century by the removal of a partition wall between the staircase and parlor. The original double entrance doors (left), now obscured by the porch enclosure, still retain their handsome etched-glass panels. The two centrally positioned interior chimneys served fireplaces in the front and rear rooms on both floors. Several of the original Victorian mantels were replaced during the Ward ownership with interesting Federal-period mantles. Rising to the rear of the hall, the stair has a massive turned and faceted newel, turned balusters and delicate sawn step-end brackets.


The Street Family Of Craven County

In March of 1882, Samuel Rogers Street Jr. purchased the lot on Pollock and soon thereafter had his new two-story late-Victorian residence built. Ironically, he was the proprietor of New Bern's famed Gaston House Hotel in the 1870s and had no way of knowing that over a hundred years later his home would become the luxury B&B hotel that it is today.

The coincidence goes back further to Street's great-grandfather Nathaniel Street who as a young man in the 1770s operated the Maiden Lane boarding house in New York City for a time. Sometime before 1774 he and his wife Elizabeth moved to Craven County, settling first in the Swift Creek and Neuse River area where he was a merchant and a contractor. In 1823 Nathaniel owned and operated a store in New Bern that kept leading articles for family consumption, but in 1824, he fell dead in his store at age 74. He and his wife Elizabeth are buried in New Bern's Cedar Grove Cemetery.

Nathaniel and his wife had six children. The second youngest, William Raymond Street (1789-1850) met a woman who shared his mother's name. William and Elizabeth Street's marriage produced seven sons; the eldest, Samuel Rogers Street (1815-1887) married Mary Dawson in 1833 and had ten children. Their eldest son, Samuel R. Street Jr., born in 1843, is the man that would later build the cross-gabled frame structure that we now know as The Aerie.

After his years as proprietor of the Gaston House, Street served New Bern as a justice of the peace, a notary, and as a bonded auctioneer, with his office located on South Front Street (pictured left). Living until 1922, he would reside in the house until 1900, when he sold it to Alfred D. Ward.


The Ward Family Years

Alfred Decatur Ward was a prominent attorney in New Bern, born in 1859. A former mayor of Kenansville and member of the State House of Representatives, Alfred Ward practiced law in New Bern for many years and was a member of the Board of Trustees of Wake Forrest University for over forty years where he served for some time as its president. From 1913 to 1917 he served in the State Senate.

Married in 1890, Alfred and Carolina Farrior Ward purchased Samuel Street's home in 1900. Of their six children, the eldest was Mary Pickett Ward who was educated in New Bern City Schools, Peace College and the University of North Carolina. After she finished college following WWI, Mary went to China to spend time with friends of the Ward family. Mary's mother passed away in 1933 and upon the death of her father in 1940, with her brothers and sisters married with homes of their own, the home on Pollock became her own. Living alone in a very large house she had it remodeled into a number of rental apartments with baths. Along with her neighbor and friend Miss Jane Stewart who was an interior decorator advising her on paint, wallpaper, draperies, and furniture arrangement, she made her reduced personal space into a very attractive apartment. She incorporated the art and furnishings that she had brought back from China as well as family pieces to make her home comfortable.

A caseworker in the Welfare Department, Mary rented the apartments out to service men and women who were stationed at Cherry Point and to locals. One such tenant, Ann Elliot, rented a room from Mary in 1944 and returned to The Aerie in 1995 to recount her memories of that time in the home's history. If you would like to read Ann's story as well as her description of the various "apartments" in the Street/Ward house, click here. One upstairs renter was a navy doctor named Orville Wright who was from Ohio and was a cousin to the famed brothers who flew at Kittyhawk. The son of Caleb Bradham, the inventor of Pepsi-Cola, occupied the apartment attached to the rear upstairs for a period of time, now the Hidden Room.

Mary retired and lived in the home the rest of her life and when she passed on, the home was sold in 1979. For a while, a law firm used the building as their offices and it wasn't until 1985 that it was renovated into a bed and breakfast. The Aerie opened its doors that year and your hosts Michael and Marty Gunhus purchased the property in 2002. After renovating large portions of the original bed & breakfast, they opened The Aerie Guest House and Conference Center across the street to offer two additional suites and a corporate meeting facility and event venue.

The Aerie has enjoyed more than a quarter-century of offering the New Bern, NC community and its visitors unparalleled hospitality and service.