Visiting Reynolda House Winston Salem NC

Reynolda House is the home that Katherine Smith Reynolds built in Winston-Salem. She was the wife of tobacco baron R.J. Reynolds. Theirs is a unique love story, a May-December romance of the owner of the company and his private secretary who together planned and built the house that they would refer to as “the bungalow.”

At the time, it was unusual to have the deed for the house strictly in a woman’s name, it is very telling of their relationship. Katherine was college educated and R.J. respected and admired her mind and her ability to think clearly. In the case of Reynolda House, she had a clear vision of a self-sustaining home where everything they would need would be produced on the estate.

 Charles Barton Keen was the architect for the house, the farm and the village which gives the estate a unified appearance. The style of the house reflects the style of the times it was built in. It is Arts and Crafts with a little Colonial Revival thrown in. Craftsmen moved into the village and farmers worked the farm. Everything they needed was right here at Reynolda including a school and a church.

The family moved into the house in 1917. The interlude was short; R.J died 7 months after they moved in. Four years later Katherine married the principal of the school in the village and she herself died in childbirth 3 years later. It was the end of an era.

 The stewardship of the house passed to daughter Mary Reynolds Babcock and then to granddaughter Barbara Babcock Millhouse. It was Barbara who began the art collection that is so much a part of Reynolda House today.

Enough about the history, let’s get on to visiting the house. There is plenty of parking both regular and handicapped. The entrance fee is $10 for adults but there are also discounts available for seniors, AAA and children. A headphone tour is included in the price of admission.

The first stop is an orientation center where you can watch an 11 minute video that tells you the background story of the house. Large wall plaques provide information and pictures that you can read and there are phones where you can listen to firsthand accounts about the family and the house.

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The house was opened for tours in 1967 and the public immediately came to love the house and its amazing collection of art. We went on a private tour of the house on February 1, 2011. Sharyn Turner from their Public Relations Department gave us a wonderful hour long tour and introduced us to this lovely house. A note for anyone visiting, there is an elevator which makes this home accessible for people with disabilities.

The house is decorated much as it would have been in 1917. Structural changes have been made to the house and a few other things are different but overall you get a very World War I time period feel. The butler’s pantry is very interesting, certainly one of the largest I have ever personally seen.

 A few things in particular are of interest to visitors. A huge Aeolian Organ in the home provides concerts for guests on some Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The costume collection which has many pieces that belong to Katherine Reynolds and her daughters is also interesting. Of special note are the hats and shoes and a nice selection of children’s clothing. A great collection of toys that belonged to the children of the house is on display. Keep your eyes open for the Sonia Henie doll. I will give you a tip, she is near Charlie McCarthy.

A trip to the basement of Reynolda House is an eye opener. There is a shooting gallery, a squash court, a bowling alley, a great bar area and an indoor pool. While it is obvious that this is a mansion, this part of the house feels like a family home.

We were particularly interested in the important collection of American Art that Barbara Millhouse bought for the house Paintings by Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Hart Benton among others are displayed around the house in a natural setting.

A new wing was opened in 2005 and this gave them some much needed gallery space. They hold two exhibitions a year and have classes for children their parents every month to introduce them to art.

Gardens as well as much more are open to to visit and of course a great gift shop. On the way out of the estate you will drive into Reynolda Village. A variety of very upscale shops and a few places to eat are located there. It is worth just looking around to appreciate the concept of the self-sustaining estate.

 

 


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