RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) – Located at one of the highest vantage points in downtown Raleigh in the Boylan Heights neighborhood, Montfort Hall has been a mystery to many in recent years.
Dating from 1858, the 10,000-square-foot Italian mansion is one of the few pre-Civil War homes in the capital and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Abandoned, covered by vegetation and rot, many wondered about his fate.
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“A lot of people hadn’t been in this house and it was that curiosity for them,” said Jeff Shepherd.
Shepherd and his wife have lived on the streets for about a decade.
They too were among those who found it curious.
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“We loved the architecture, the house, and it really appealed to us,” said Sarah Shepherd.
“There is a house that is almost invisible because of the extent of the overgrowth, but at the same time it is easy to say that this house is so grand and, as you know, just has so much character that we had at least to find out a little bit about it “said Jeff.
So they looked up at the owner.
And when she heard of the Shepherds’ plan to turn it into a boutique hotel and event center, she agreed to sell it.
It fits the history of the house.
The man who built it in the mid-19th century, William Montfort Boylan, was the son of a wealthy railroad magnate.
“He was an entertainer. He liked to have fun. He was a very cheerful man who wasn’t that interested in business,” Jeff said. “And that helped build a house that was built to entertain. And I think that’s kind of in line with what we’re trying to do to allow guests to be entertained by the property.”
After the property was closed in 2018, the couple had to redesign the property and plan the renovation work and an expansion.
They started building the roof to stop years of water damage.
The pandemic didn’t have too much of an impact, as they said, and may delay the opening by about a month.
“We feel very happy that we weren’t as badly affected as other companies,” said Sarah.
Now Montfort Hall in Boylan Heights is the Heights House, made official in a ribbon cut this month.
And while the pandemic is still with us, vaccination efforts are making a difference.
The shepherds feel that the opening is well timed.
“I had a strong feeling that one day we could go back to some sort of normalcy and that people would travel again and have events again,” said Sarah. “And I’m grateful that we’re starting now at this time.”
She noticed the house sits on an acre of land, a rarity in downtown Raleigh.
And that has enabled them not only to add four bedrooms to their floor space, but also to pitch a tent on the front lawn for weddings and receptions.
The Shepherds said the Heights House website is receiving bookings from locals who are not ready to travel but are curious about the house.
It is a market that the shepherds did not expect, but that they are happy to have.
“We look forward to letting people in to celebrate and have a nice, relaxing stay,” said Sarah.
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