All through 1964 and 1965, the legendary Winston-Salem Journal photographer Frank Jones was in a frenzy. For over three decades, the Reynolds Building, completed in 1929, had been the tallest building in Winston-Salem. There had been a number of aerial photographs of the Reynolds Building taken from aircraft flying high above the downtown area, but no one had ever been able to get a closeup shot of the building from above.
That was about to change, because a new building, which would rise 95 feet above the Reynolds Building, even clearing the flagpole by 30 feet, was under construction next door. The Wachovia Building project was announced publicly on December 30, 1962. Demolition of the existing buildings on the sight was completed in May, 1963 and construction began in December of that year. The steel framework was topped out on April 9, 1965 and the building opened on December 12, 1965.
The Wachovia lettering was added via helicopter on November 15, 1965
At 410 feet, it towered 95 feet above the Reynolds Building, even clearing the 65 foot flagpole by 30 feet. I am not sure when Frank got his first chance, but it was well before the building opened. I can imagine him bugging the builders as soon as the steel skeleton cleared 380 feet to take him up…and can picture him dangling from an I-beam snapping the shot. Here is what he saw:
But the best picture that he took that day was with a wide angle lens, looking west:
Buildings are identified by their original names or use, where known. Names or uses in parentheses are later uses. Most dates are the opening dates of the buildings. As always, click on the picture for a readable view.
It is surprising how few of these buildings we have lost. The most important of those are:
1. The Universal Auto Building, erected by the Gilmer Brothers to house their most ambitious auto business. It had on the ground floor, their offices and other retail businesses and a bank. On the next two floors were their auto repair bays, with auto parking above and on the roof. There were no ramps…cars were lifted to the upper floors by an elevator located at the south side of the building.
2. The Robert E. Lee Hotel, which was demolished in the 1970s to build a more modern hotel. Some may prefer the later version, but such National Historic landmark hotels as the Peabody in Memphis, the Pfister in Milwaukee and Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, CA are major tourist attractions in and of themselves. The Robert E. Lee, with its Balinese Roof ballroom, was no less grand.
3. The 1st National Bank (later the Mother & Daughter store), the demolition of which was the biggest mistake ever made downtown. One of the most beautiful buildings in the city, at its completion in 1895 it housed the 1st National Bank and some retail space. On the second floor were law offices, for many years those of Buxton & Watson, among the giants of the late 19th and early 20th century in the city of Winston. The first location of the Twin City Club was on the third floor, along with some very nice apartments, one of which was occupied by R.J. Reynolds, his last bachelor pad before he married Katharine Smith of Mount Airy and moved to their “new” house at 666 West Fifth Street. RJ’s neighbor was a young insurance man named Dunn, who ended up marrying Katharine’s sister Maxie. Since demolition, this site has been, for over 30 years, the ugliest parking lot in the downtown area.
Also worth mentioning is the Pepper Building, which even as the 1st National Bank was lost, was “saved”. Unfortunately, it has been necessary to “save” it at least twice more, but it will soon become a bustling complex of retail shops and apartments, with a first class restaurant in its basement space, former home of the legendary Sir Winston restaurant