By Guest Blogger Christy Cox Spencer
The Industry Hill neighborhood of downtown Winston-Salem looks a lot different than it did when my husband, Will Spencer, founded JKS Incorporated in the 1980s. Since then, we’ve seen so much growth in this corner of the city and it’s continuing to become more diverse as new businesses open around us.
However, even with all of this new development, Will and I still felt like something was missing from Industry Hill. Enter our new multi-purpose event space and Airbnb, Robert Hall.
What’s in a Name? Giving New Life to “Robert Hall”
If you’re a Baby Boomer or grew up as part of Gen X, the name “Robert Hall” might sound familiar.
Robert Hall was an American retailer that flourished between the 1930s and 1970s. Known for pioneering the “big-box store” merchandising technique, Robert Hall made means by combining inexpensively made clothing with lots of television commercials and catchy radio jingles.
So why did we choose Robert Hall as our name? The answer is two-fold.
The building that Robert Hall occupies now used to be owned by Coe & Hartman Signs, once the largest sign company in the Southeast. When we purchased the property we knew that a few signs had been left in the basement, but it wasn’t until we started our most recent renovation that we realized just how many there were. Stowed away and forgotten, the neon sign that once belonged to the Robert Hall store that sat along Highway 52 in Winston-Salem throughout the 1950s and 1960s was ours to find.
In addition to having access to an amazing piece of our community’s history, we ultimately decided to refurbish the Robert Hall sign and adopt the name as a homage to our late friend, Bob McCormick.
Bob owned and operated his business, Bob’s Machine and Metal Fabricator, out of the very building that Robert Hall sits in now. We used to say that Bob was like a real-life Popeye. He raced sprint cars and motorcycles for more than three decades, but, above all, he was a true friend and mentor throughout the years.
The Huntley House: A Family Affair
Nicely tucked into Robert Hall is a set of boutique accommodations designed to make guests feel as if they have come to stay with their most sophisticated and eclectic relatives. Each room has its own personality, meticulously curated with family heirlooms and new “old” treasures.
The Huntley House was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin Huntley, Sr., the namesake of one of the biggest furniture companies in the South during the first half of the 20th century, and great-grandfather to my husband, Will.
With the creation of B.F. Huntley Furniture Co., which was operational from 1906 to 1961, Mr. Huntley became one of a few successful businessmen in Winston-Salem whose fortune wasn’t directly linked to textiles or tobacco.
Mr. Huntley’s backstory is anything but dull. At the age of 19, his left arm was severed from his body in a cotton gin accident. Unable to continue working on his father’s farm in South Carolina, Mr. Huntley moved north and started working as a salesman for a High Point furniture company. From here, Mr. Huntley’s interest in the furniture industry flourished.
The five, graciously appointed rooms inside The Huntley House are named for different members of the Huntley family, reflecting the interestingly diverse influences of our history and community. However, The Huntley House isn’t the only thing Robert Hall has to offer.
Experience Industry Hill in all its Eclectic Glory
In addition to housing this set of boutique accommodations, Robert Hall features three distinct private event spaces that can be used together or reserved individually.
On the second floor of the building through a set of stunning 1920s brass doors, you’ll find Capone’s. Its period-inspired tin ceiling, rich naval blue walls and salvaged knotty pine paneling set the mood for the authentic 1920s mahogany bar—said to have come from one of Al Capone’s hangouts in Michigan. Authentic down to the restored 1914 brass cash register and metal “vault” door, Capone’s 2,500 sq. ft. of gathering space creates a fascinating tale to tell over cocktails at a reception or among curious guests at your next party.
Down the stairs to the first floor of Robert Hall sits The Vault—2,500 sq. ft. of space preserved in its original, industrial look. Gray block walls, brick columns and exposed wood truss ceiling give you the feel of being in a secret space. Yet, The Vault connects to a 700 sq ft fully equipped commissary kitchen, perfect for caterers and pop-up restaurant innovators.
Finally, The Garden’s outdoor patio offers 2,100 sq. ft. of space that encompasses two outdoor fireplaces, beautiful landscaping and entertainment areas that offer ample seating. The Garden is also where you’ll find a wishing well that was discovered on the grounds during renovations, adding a touch of elegance and imagination to your next reception or intimate gathering.
After breathing new life into the name, we have transformed Robert Hall into a place where people can come and experience the vibrant neighborhood that is Industry Hill. Steps away from downtown and minutes from Wake Forest University, Salem College, Winston-Salem State University, museums, concert venues, makerspaces and more, Robert Hall is where the eclectic and unique are discovered, embraced and celebrated.
- Facebook – Facebook.com/
- Instagram – Instagram.com/
- Website – RobertHallWSNC.com
*Sponsored by JKS, Inc