Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reynolda House and Museum

The Reynolda House and Museum, located just outside of Winston-Salem, was built just after the turn of the century. The one in 1900. It was home to R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco king. He didn't live there long though, he expired only six months after he moved in with his wife Katherine in 1917. Together they had a daughter, Mary, who inherited the estate after Mrs. Reynolds death in 1924.

Mary Reynolds Babcock, and her husband Charles, had grand visions to exceed her mother's goal in making the place a veritable Oasis. And she did just that. With acres of gardens and a staff of a dozen, she transformed the place into a wonderworld all of it's own, complete with a private bowling alley, indoor shooting range, glassed in pool, game room and everything you can possibly imagine. And along with this beautifully appointed home, which Mrs. Babcock referred to as her "cottage", she added a world class art collection which rivals many museums.

This is Mrs. Reynolds study. The furnishings are understated elegance from a bygone era. You can actually feel comfortable in this room. The beauty of the home is that there was very little that was roped off, and most things seemed so accessible. This added to the charm of the visit. There were guards, but they were more like guides. I was mildly rebuked for using my camera on the Frederic Church painting "The Andes of Ecuador", but in such a friendly way that I found myself in a 10 minute discussion of Thomas Cole with the guard, who was very well acquainted with all aspects of the house, as well as art in general.

In many of these carefully decorated rooms the visitor will find treasured artworks by Winslow Homer, Thomas Cole (one of my favorites) and his student Frederic Church, along with other notables such as Albert Bierstadt. These artists were the cream of the Hudson River School of landscape artists. There are also statues and busts that you might expect to find in the national Museum in Washington, D.C.
Here is Mrs. Reynolds bedroom. Again the understated elegance lends a comforting feeling to the room. The whole house is really divided into three sections. There is the main house, which is fashioned like a large bungalow, with 2 wings added, one on each side.

In the middle of the home is a Grand Reception Hall. The most amazing thing about this area is that it appears subdued and dark, old world classy, yet at the same time captures all of the bright daylight form the Lake Porch in the front and the Sun porch in the rear.

There is also a second floor with bedrooms and baths, as well as an attic that is organized along the lines of a museum. There are collections of vintage clothing, toys and even furniture. The gleaming white tiled bathrooms with their pedestal sinks are a wonderful look back in time.

Beneath the home is a private entertainment world which houses the bowling alley, shooting range and a swimming pool that exits out into the beautiful gardens. There is also a wonderful greenhouse for the aspiring gardener that lurks within us all.

The Gardens are now part of Wake Forest University, the first 400 acres were given to the school in the late 1940's. Over the years the estate has donated more land to the college, which has kept the Reynolda Gardens in bloom for all to enjoy.

Located about an hour and a half from Charlotte, this was a wonderful visit to a home that has stood the test of time. It has all the amenities necessary to get away from the daily grind. And there wasn't a TV set anywhere! Now that's gracious living.

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