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About Us

This Colonial Mansion was built in the 1920s by tobacco tycoon, James Duke. It is a double-winged, two storied wood framed mansion, with an over-sized kitchen, designed with the finest materials, a grand house befitting the Tobacco King! Such things as hand-carved marble fireplaces, marble hearths, gold-leaf painted in the rooms, classic mantels and ceramic tiles around the many fireplaces. When the Avery family lived here, the lighting in the mansion copied early Colonial candles or oil lamps of the time period. At this time, a magnificent crystal chandelier hung in the dining room.
Outside, there was a brick terrace that went all the way around the mansion. There were beautiful gardens full of flowers, dogwoods, cherry trees and azaleas, which gave the gardens plenty of color. Near the glorious fountains there was a circular garden.
As of 1992 or so, White Oaks was divided into private condominiums. Around 1996, The Lynnwood Foundation bought the White Oaks property with the goal of preserving the mansion. "To maintain and preserve the national historic site known as The Duke Mansion by operating it as a unique meeting facility and community gathering place, and to create and operate The Lee Institute, which focuses on building collaborative community leadership."
To raise money for its considerable upkeep, White Oaks was opened up to the public recently as a Bed and Breakfast Inn, a special place for events, meetings and public occasions.
Jon Avery's wife was confined to a mental hospital, while Jon Avery and his mother and sisters lived at White Oaks. When a young, female writer came over to do a story on the historical mansion, they were really attracted to each other, and started a friendship, that was moving into a love relationship The young woman put the breaks on it, when she realized that he would never leave his sick wife, and she didn't want to become more involved any further in this doomed romance.
This news devastated Jon Avery who had fallen deeply in love with her. He got her to promise to meet him a year later at 11:50 PM, dead or alive in the circular garden near the fountains and brick terrace. After this initial meeting, he got her to promise to come back one more time the following year, dead or alive.
However, this young woman became engaged, and didn't think it proper to meet him alone, so she brought along her room mate. She arrived at 11;50 pm, but no one was there. Her room mate stood at a discreet distance as to be able to watch her in the strong moon light, but not intrude. If he didn't show up by 12:00AM, she decided to leave. At nearly 12:00 AM, She started to hear his soft, distinctive footsteps, but the customary sound of his polio -induced foot dragging was only slight, and his steps were so slow! She watched him slowly come off the terrace and come toward her. He was dressed in dark formal dress clothes. When he moved almost right past her, she reached out to stop him, but he moved right through her arm , and turned to her and mouthed the words, "Dead or alive!" She heard his voice clearly in her head, but no sound came out of his mouth.
It seems that poor Jon had died a few days before the scheduled meeting, and had told the people by his bedside, "Dead or Alive? Will I make it?"
Not known.
Jon Avery hasn't made any more reported appearances. Hopefully, he had found peace after he saw his love one last time, but one does not know for sure. Upset ghosts have trouble letting go of this world.

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