When I stayed with Britney and Brandon in Knoxville, I mentioned to Bee that I had a few extra days in my trip to play around with, and - knowing my reputation as a history nerd - she suggested that I spend a few days in Winston-Salem. In addition to Old Salem, the restored Moravian settlement that is now a living history museum - which will be my next post - she mentioned the Reynolda House as a place of interest. And that is exactly where I headed on my first afternoon in town.
Reynolda House was the home of the RJ Reynolds family. Conceived of and designed by his wife, Katharine Reynolds, the "bungalow" is now a museum showcasing many of the family's treasures as well as some great works of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
For $14 [or for free, if you have a valid student ID] you can get a headset and take your time wandering through the house, learning about Katharine's vision for the house - open reception hall, organ in the house, fantastic porches, etc - and seeing the basement additions - billiards and shooting room, beautiful bar, and amazing roller skating floor - that RJ and Katharine's daughter Mary made when she and her husband took over the care of the house in the 1930s.
My favourite bit was definitely seeing the pipe room for the organ. The organ itself was in the reception hall, but Katharine and her architect devised some intricate way of hiding the pipes and rods in the upstairs and attic levels of the house...it's difficult to describe, and even when I was in the house, I didn't fully understand it all until I walked up to the attic and suddenly there were hundreds and hundreds of pipes in front of my face. It was pretty incredible. Unfortunately there is no photography allowed inside the house, so I don't have a picture of said pipe room, but trust me when I say it is awesome. Or, better yet, go visit the house and see for yourself.
And when you finish inside the house, go take a wander through the extensive gardens. At the time the Reynolds family moved in, the Reynolda estate was a fully self-sustaining community, complete with church, school, outdoor activities, and a fully-functioning produce and dairy farm. There were houses within walking distance of the main house so the servants could return to their own families in the evenings. There was a pond for the children - Reynolds and servants alike - to swim and enjoy some fresh air.
So yes, the gardens. They are still meticulously maintained and are completely free and open to the public. There are gazebos and benches throughout, if you feel like sitting and enjoying the view for a time. I spent close to an hour just wandering and taking pictures and could probably have stayed longer had I not been hungry and in need of some sustenance. Of all the places I visited in my 5 weeks on the road, those gardens were some of the most spectacular I encountered.
There is also a small village with restaurants and shops, should you wish to stay on the premises a bit longer. I ate at the tavern - those shrimp and grits were pretty good - but didn't visit any of the shops. They are more boutique as opposed to souvenir, so I decided to pass. The ice cream place looked pretty good, but I was too full after lunch to partake.
All told I probably spent about 3.5 hours on the Reynolda property and loved every moment of it. I'm a sucker for history in general, and I especially loved learning about what a progressive family the Reynolds were. Katharine was a working woman before she married RJ, and following their marriage she raised four children while overseeing the building and then maintenance of the entire estate. According to the stories, Katharine was RJ's main advisor on home and business matters until his death, following which she took over many of his duties. Yay for women's empowerment.
|[the front of reynolda house: what used to be the front drive]|
|[entrance to the reynolda gardens]|
|[i love me some gazebos]|
|[beautiful gardens to stroll through]|
|[my mother would have gone crazy for these gardens]|
|[walking toward the greenhouse]|
- 2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27106
- Open Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm; Sunday 1.30-4.30pm; Closed Monday
- General Admission is $14 and includes the audio tour guide. Admission is FREE for children under 18, students / active military with a valid ID, museum members, and employees of Wake Forest and Wake Baptist Medical Center
- Gardens and village are FREE to visit
- If you're doing the house and garden, give yourself at least 2 hours to fully enjoy both
- The pool was under renovation when I visited, so I didn't actually get to see it, but I bet it will be awesome when that bit reopens. Should be completed later this year
Reynolda was one of my favourite stops on my road trip, and I would definitely urge you to visit if you are in the area.