Remembering Mazie Jones Levenson
Visitors to the Mazie Jones Gallery inside the Jones House
Community Center might think that Mazie Jones was a wealthy philanthropist who loved art.
The truth is those visitors are standing in the very room where Mazie Jones first entered this world.
“I was born in Boone in 1914,” said Mazie Jones Levenson in a 2006 interview when she was visiting the Jones House. “My father was a doctor, Dr. John Walter Jones, and my mother was Mattie Blackburn Jones.”
“I was born in this house, at least that’s what my mother said,” she said.
Jones, the woman who sold her family home to the town of Boone many years ago, died on Wednesday, March 6, at Arbor Acres in Greensboro. She was 99.
“My grandparents were Martha and Marley Blackburn, who owned a local hotel and grocery store across the street from the courthouse,” she said in 2006. “It was still there in my early childhood. My Jones grandparents were from Alleghany County, and I was named for my father’s mother.
“Downtown Boone is not so much different. Many of the buildings were here in my childhood. The Boone Drugstore and many of the others are the same. We had the Critcher Hotel here. But it was demolished to make way for Belk. And then Belk is where the Antique Mall is now.”
During her visit to Boone in 2006, Levenson reminisced about the Daniel Boone Hotel, an enormous inn that was located across Grand Boulevard from her family home.
“My father and some of the people in the 1920s contributed to have that hotel here,” Levenson said. “That’s how the built it — through subscriptions. It was a very popular place for people to come up from the hot regions. They had great food over there. The town people and the college people ate over there a lot.”
The Daniel Boone Hotel was torn down in the late 1970s.
Levenson’s father died in 1925, when she was 10 years old. To make ends meet, her mother, Mattie, took in boarders and worked at Belk Department Store on King Street.
Like many of the High Country’s ambitious young women of Levenson’s generation, she attended Appalachian Teachers College in Boone. (It officially became Appalachian State University in 1967.)
After graduation, she left Boone and the only house she had ever lived in to start her teaching career.
“I got a job teaching in a little community called Whitlett in Guilford County,” Levenson said. “I taught fourth and fifth grade. They were all farm kids and they were taller than I was. I’ll always remember that.”
Levenson inherited the Jones House and adjoining land when her mother died in October 1978 at the age of 95.
“I tried to hold onto the property until I thought that it had some possibilities,” she said. “The deed to the house said that we wanted it to remain as a green space. Because when I sold it, I didn’t have control on whether they would demolish the house or not. So, it was after we got help from preservationists that the town said, ‘Yes, we will help because we have conservation now. It could add something positive to our town.’”
In 1982, the town of Boone began the process of purchasing the property from Levenson.
The property officially exchanged hands in 1984 and the town began a massive renovation process, including installing modern heating and cooling units.
In 1988, the Jones House Community Center officially opened to the public.
“There was a reception and a big affair,” Levenson said. “Hundreds of people came to that.”
After moving to Guilford County, Levenson became active with the Greensboro Preservation Society. She and her husband started the Harold and Mazie Jones Levenson Fund at Appalachian State University.
And she became an ardent supporter of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy in Boone.
A memorial service celebrating the life of Mazie Jones Levenson will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at Christ United Methodist Church on Holden Road in Greensboro.