History, art meet in Winston-Salem

Reynolda House – a Winston-Salem landmark for nearly a century – offers a view into the lifestyle of American high society prior to the Depression. It also serves as a showcase for masterpieces of American art. Nearby gardens, estate buildings and village shops make for a full day of activity.


Winston-Salem is 81 miles from Charlotte, less than a 90-minute drive (one way).

Getting there

Take Interstate 85 North to U.S. 52. Follow U.S. 52 North to Winston-Salem; head west on I-40 Business to Exit 5C (Cherry Street). Turn right on Cherry. The name of the road changes to University Parkway. Turn left on to Coliseum Drive, then right on to Reynolda Road. Reynolda House's entrance will be on your right.

To see and do

The Reynolda House and estate show you never can tell where an office romance might lead.

In 1903, tobacco magnate Richard Joshua Reynolds hired Katharine Smith as his private secretary. Two years later, the 55-year-old bachelor married the attractive employee, who was 30 years his junior. Beginning as early as 1906, the couple began acquiring land for their dream home, and from 1912 to 1917, their 1,067-acre estate was in development.

The low roofline, recessed porches, squat columns and shed dormers characterize their country house as a “bungalow,” but with 42 rooms it was, and remains, anything but average. The house was designed by noted Philadelphia architect Charles Barton Keen.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour through most of the house. The admission fee includes an orientation video, oral history kiosk and an audio tour.

The house has been carefully restored to its 1917 appearance, and the furnishings reflect the owners' eclectic tastes. A two-story reception hall, surrounded by a cantilevered balcony, is at the heart of the house, with a dining room and library on either side, sun and tea porches to the front, and three separate porches overlooking a lake to the rear. The bungalow's west wing includes a butler's pantry and private kitchen, while the east wing includes the individual studies for both Richard and Katharine.

One of the house's most remarkable features is the Aeolian organ. Although the organ is positioned in one corner of the reception hall, its pipes occupy portions of both the second floor and attic.

Several attic rooms showcase vintage family clothing. In the basement, visitors will see the indoor swimming pool, squash court, game room, shooting gallery and one-lane bowling alley installed in 1936 by Mary Reynolds Babcock, who inherited the property from her parents.

Since 1967, Reynolda House has served as a showplace for some of the best works of American art, from 1755 to the present. Featured portraitists include Gilbert Stuart, Charles Wilson Peale, Thomas Sully and John Singleton Copley. Frederic Remington's bronze statue “The Rattlesnake,” done in 1908, is on display. One of the smaller landscapes decorating the walls is “Witch Duck Creek,” an N.C. scene done in 1835 by Joshua Shaw.

Having enjoyed all that Reynolda House has to offer on the inside, you can then relax in the adjacent Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University. The gardens, originally a part of the Reynolds' estate, were given to the university in 1958.

Restored to the appearance of the original design, the gardens are divided into two distinct sections. Perennials and flowering shrubs, hundreds of rose bushes and two decorative fountains are found in the Greenhouse Gardens. The less formal Fruit, Cut Flower and Nicer Vegetable Garden features fences, pathways, arches and shelters amid a variety of herbs and vegetables and more than 800 rose bushes. Gary McCullough