Thursday, April 18, 2024

Monica and Daniel Edwards


Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Durham’s Morehead Manor is one of the state’s most successful bed-and-breakfasts. It represents a bustling, tech-heavy city that has undergone dramatic transition since James Cobb, CEO of Venable Tobacco, built the home in 1910. 

Daniel and Monica Edwards are standard-bearers for the change. He’s a former police officer who trained in hostage negotiations. She’s an MBA who has been a tax officer and accountant. Their duties now include cooking and baking for as many as a dozen guests at a time in their five-room inn. “We see ourselves as ambassadors for the city of Durham,” Monica says. 

The couple met at N.C. Central University  and in 1997, paid $310,000 for the 8,000-square-foot Colonial Revival house. Its location in Durham’s historic Morehead Hills neighborhood was in a transitional zone of old estates, some deteriorating. Others such as their B&B were still linked to families that built them nearly a century earlier.

“We’re part of one of the greatest social experiments you can imagine,” says Daniel Edwards. “We’re bringing people together and connecting them. We’re making a safe and comfortable space for people to relax and enjoy themselves. After all that’s transpired in the United States in the last few years, that’s really important.”

Monica, 60, had limited experience in the hospitality business, while Daniel, 58, had none. Her first job was at Mid-Pines Inn in her hometown of Southern Pines. She’s since headed the N.C. Bed and Breakfast Inns Association and had leadership positions in the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. Daniel is a native of Newark, New Jersey.

They were inspired after a friend gave them a stay at Durham’s Blooming Garden Inn. 

On Vickers Avenue, on a rise that overlooks downtown Durham, they found a stately, yellow-brick mansion with a circular drive and carriage house. Still owned by a relative of another Venable Tobacco executive, the home wasn’t for sale but the couple twisted arms until striking a deal.

Today, much of the house is as Cobb left it, with antiques, sunny rooms and original paintings. But it also has a modern feel, avoiding a stuffy B&B stereotype. Monica does much of the cooking, tailoring menus to visitors with dietary restrictions. Guests include both domestic visitors to Duke University, N.C. Central University and other Durham institutions, along with global travelers from Germany, Switzerland, India and other nations.

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