This is an updated version of a post made on January 29, 2014, which was an update of an earlier post. In the very first post we were able to establish a correct date for the “R.J. Reynolds house”, but were unable, until now, to say for certain who actually built the house. Yesterday, I found the conclusive evidence for that in an October, 1900 edition of the Twin City Daily Sentinel. In the interest of maintaining a record of the research, I have retained the original text that is no longer in doubt in lined out format. I have also appended a map at the end of the post showing the close proximity of the homes of Reynolds family members and key Reynolds Tobacco employees along “Millionaires Row” in the early 1900s. There is also new information there about who the contractor and supervising architect were, along with some information about that architect and some buildings that he designed both locally and elsewhere.
About 4 1/2 years ago, I posted a history of the R.J. Reynolds house on West Fifth Street, where the Central Library is now located. Because of technical difficulties at the time, I put the story at an offsite location, with a link to it. Lately I was informed that that link can cause difficulties in viewing the story, so I am now reposting it here. Some of the images may be clicked for larger versions.
Reynolds house on West Fifth Street, Winston, NC, under construction, spring, 1900. FCPL Photograph Collection
Dating Construction of the Reynolds House, 666 West Fifth Street, Winston-Salem, NC
There is information on line at several sites dating construction of the R.J. Reynolds house anywhere from the 1880s to 1895, none of which are correct.
We do not know who had the house built. We do know that at the time of construction, William Neal and Kate Bitting Reynolds owned the property. But his brother Richard Joshua may have been the one who had the house built.
The plans for the house were bought by mail from George Barber of Knoxville, but do not have a client name on them. There is one drawing in the set that is titled “A sitting room for R.J. Reynolds”, but that is an internal compartment of the house.
There is no evidence to tell us who the actual builder was. Perhaps R.J. did have the house built and he and Will had some sort of agreement that at an appropriate later date, Will would transfer the land to R.J. as well.
In any case, the house was built in the spring/fall of 1900 and occupied from that year until 1905 by R.J. Reynolds, his brother William Neal Reynolds, his wife, Kate Bitting Reynolds and several orphaned Lybrook nephews and nieces.
Some sources have stated that the Reynolds brothers’ mother, Nancy Jane Cox Reynolds, lived there as well. There is no evidence to support that assertion. The city directories and census records show her living with her daughter Lucy and son-in-law Robert Critz at 533 North Spring Street, about a block from 666 West Fifth, until her death in 1903.
In March, 1904, William Neal Reynolds transferred ownership of the house to his brother. In 1905, R.J. married Katharine Smith of Mount Airy and moved his bride into the house. At that time, William and Kate moved into the Phoenix Hotel at the southwest corner of Fourth and Liberty Streets. Around 1910, William and Kate moved into the former Marshall M. Williamson house at 644 West Fifth Street, next door to R.J. and Katherine.
Here is the new information that establishes the actual builder of the house:
Twin City Daily Sentinel, October 19, 1900. Click the pic to read
It is now clear that Will and Kate Reynolds built the house. R.J. is not even mentioned in the story. By Thanksgiving, Will and Kate and their Lybrook orphans along with R.J. in his private apartment, were in residence.
Detail of the R.J. Reynolds house at 666 West Fifth Street. Note the Confederate battle flag. We do not know if this was a regular feature or whether the picture might have been taken during some sort of commemoration. R.J. Reynolds was too young to serve in the Confederate military. FCPL Photograph Collection
Where did R. J. Reynolds live before 1900?
Between 1875 and 1900, R.J. Reynolds lived in a variety of places, including, in the early years, his factory. City directories show that he also lived in a series of hotels such as the Merchant’s, Central and Fountain.
At one point, R.J. Reynolds lived in the Hotel Fountain on Main Street near the corner of Third Street. The inscription on this c 1890 photo says “Hotel Fountain was located in Winston N.C. on east side of Main St. between 2nd + 3rd St. Was property of R.W. Belo, Salem N.C.”
Robert W. Belo, the son of Edward Belo, proprietor of “E. Belo’s Leviathan”, on the ground floor of the famous Belo House, also operated the Belo House, a hotel on Main Street in Salem. The writing on the jitney says “Belo House”. FCPL Photograph Collection
Both the 1894-95 and 1899-1900 city directories show R.J. living at “cor. 3rd & Liberty, Bank Bldg”, which was the First National Bank Building, across Third Street from the old Wilson Hotel. There, he would have lived on the third floor, above the Twin City Club.
Where did William Neal Reynolds live before 1900?
Like his brother, he may have lived in the factory at first. Later, city directories show him living at several hotels. At one point his address is given as “Waughtown, south of Salem.” By 1895 he had married Kate Bitting, the daughter of a prominent local tobacco man, and had built or bought a house at 137 North Cherry Street. He and Kate are still shown living there in the 1899-1900 city directory and on the June 5, 1900 census sheet.
Who lived at the southeast corner of West Fifth and Spring Streets before R.J. Reynolds?
The earliest known residences at that location are shown on the 1891 Bird’seye View of the Twin City, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, created by Ruger & Stoner of Madison, Wisconsin. This firm created similar panoramic maps of dozens of American cities. Many of those maps can be found in digital versions at the Library of Congress site. I have compared Mr. Ruger’s drawings with most of the buildings that remain from that time. The accuracy of the architectural details is remarkable.
Of course, Mr. Ruger’s map does not tell us who lived in these houses. But the city directories do. The illustration above is based on the 1894-95 city directory. The 1899-1900 city directory shows the same occupants except that Walter Leak had moved to 320 Broad Street.
But by June 5 that same year, when the 1900 US Census taker reached 302 North Liberty, where R.J. Reynolds was rooming, Robert L. Williamson was also living there. Williamson’s house at 662 West Fifth had been torn down to make way for the Reynolds house. Among others living at 302 North Liberty was James S. Dunn, a realtor who would later marry Katharine Smith’s sister, Maxie.
The 1900 US census shows R. J. Reynolds living on the top floor of the 1st National Bank Building at the corner of Liberty and Third Streets. His neighbors were James Dunn, a young realtor who would later marry Katharine Smith’s sister Maxie; Phillipp Lybrook, RJR’s nephew, who was the Winston postmaster; Robert L. Williamson, whose house had just been demolished to make way for the new Reynolds house; and Joseph D. Lee, a postal agent.
The “Hotel” listed below was the Hanes House, Jason Efird, manager. It stood in the Hanes Building between the 1st National Bank and the Phoenix Hotel, on the corner of Liberty and Fourth Streets.
What other evidence exists to prove the construction date?
Obviously, the Sanborn insurance maps. Here’s the lay of the land in 1895:
Self explanatory. And here is the piece de resistance:
This May, 1900 Sanborn map shows the whole story. J.B. Mosely’s house is still there, but Robert L. Williamson’s house has been torn down. And we can see the outline, even the grand porches, of the new Reynolds house. But it isn’t actually there yet. If we zoom in to the inset, we can plainly see the legend: “BEING BUILT.” Case closed.
The address appears as 652 West Fifth Street on the Sanborn map. But by 1902, it had been changed to 666 West Fifth Street and remained so as long as the Reynolds family lived there. Today, the site is occupied by the Central Branch of the Forsyth County Public Library and the address is 660 West Fifth Street. The only remaining vestige of what was known as “Millionaire’s Row” is a servant’s quarters between the library and Centenary Methodist Church, facing on Four and ½ Street, now used by the Centenary Boy Scout troop.
This undated photo shows a gathering on the grand porch of the R.J. Reynolds house at 666 West Fifth Street. Left to right are R.J. Reynolds, Katharine Smith Reynolds, Maxie Smith Dunn, unidentified and James S. Dunn. FCPL Photograph Collection
A note on the architect
George F. Barber (1854-1915) of Knoxville was the architect for the Reynolds house, despite the fact that he likely never set foot in Winston-Salem. Barber was a highly successful mail order architect who sold many boilerplate house designs to successful industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A number of those houses are now listed on the National Register.
A note on Mary Katharine Smith
Katherine Smith attended the State Normal School for Women (now UNC-G) for three years. Sometime while she was there, she changed the spelling of her name to Katharine. She transferred to Sullins College for her senior year and graduated from that institution in 1902. She spent the next year at home in Mount Airy, teaching at least one art class.
In the spring of 1903, at the invitation of R.J. Reynolds, she went to work at his company as a private secretary. Between that time and the time of her marriage to R.J. Reynolds in February, 1905, she lived with D. Rich and his wife Carrie at 657 West Fifth Street, right across the street from the Reynolds household. At the time, Rich was the cashier of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. He would soon become the treasurer. Later his contributions and encouragement would transform a small academy in Buies Creek into Campbell College.
In the time that Katharine worked at Reynolds, she won a one thousand dollar prize in an internal competition to supply the best advertising copy promoting the quality of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company products. After her marriage, she became a housewife and mother, but she was almost certainly responsible for numerous innovations at the company, including the creation of a company medical department, company operated cafeterias and a company sponsored day care center. She may have played a part in the famous and wildly successful advertising campaign that introduced Camel cigarettes to the nation in 1913-14.
While attending “the Normal” she had embraced the progressive ideas of the school’s founding president, Charles Duncan McIver, who earlier in his career had been the first principal of the 1884 Winston Graded School (later the West End Graded School) at West Fourth and Broad Streets. She was a thoroughly modern woman. It is unlikely that she was happy with her husband’s Queen Anne style house, a design already outmoded when it was built, or the grounds, which were equally passé. She did some remodeling and built a modern park, known as Reynolds Square, across Spring Street, with a garden and a tennis court. But by the fall of 1906, R.J. had bought her 104 acres of land northwest of town and her mind was on her future estate, a modern model farm that would come to be called Reynolda.
The contractor and supervising architect for the Reynolds house
The contractor was H.A. Abram, who built many of architect Barber’s houses. Both were based in Knoxville, TN. The supervising architect was H.J. Blauvelt, who moved to Winston from Richmond, VA in 1900 to oversee construction. While in Winston, he established a local office and became involved in a number of local and regional projects. One of those was a new auditorium, which, although it did not actually happen, led to the building of the magnificent Elks Auditorium on North Liberty Street a short time later. While here, Blauvelt did design a factory for the Imperial Tobacco Company in Greenville, NC, a magnificent Masonic Temple in Danville, VA, and the new East Winston Graded School. In 1902, Blauvelt moved his offices to Washington, DC, then later to Philadelphia and finally to New York City.
Masonic Temple, Danville, VA, 1902
The Reynolds “Compound”, early 1900s
This little map shows how concentrated R. J. Reynolds world was, with all the relatives and important functionaries within a stones throw of each other. In the late 1890s, R.J. had decided that he was going to marry his cousin Katharine Smith as soon as she graduated from college. But just as that was happening, his mother died. In those days, a certain period of mourning was required, which forbade an immediate wedding. Katharine had many ardent suitors, so R.J. hired her to work at Reynolds. Since she was from Mt. Airy, she needed a safe place to live, so R.J. arranged for her to live with D. and Carrie Rich right across the street. Since they were hard core Baptists, he knew that she would be well protected, plus he could easily keep an eye on her until the wedding bells were ringing.
D. Rich was an interesting man. At some point, at a Baptist conference, he met the headmaster of a struggling Baptist academy in Buies Creek. He liked the man’s thinking, so lent his support to the cause, support that grew over the years. The result was Campbell College.
Bowman Gray went to work as a salesman at RJR Tobacco and was an immediate success. R.J. believed that salesmanship was the secret to all business dealings, so nurtured the young man, sending him to the same business college that he had attended in Baltimore. When Bowman married Natalie Fontaine Lyons, who he had met in Baltimore, they bought the land next door to Will and Kate and built their first house there.
Twin City Daily Sentinel, October 19, 1900
Sanborn Insurance maps: 1885, 1890, 1895, 1900, 1907, 1912.
Winston-Salem city directories: 1879, 1884, 1889-90, 1891-92, 1894-95, 1899-1900 (available only on microfilm), 1902-03, 1904-05, 1906-07, 1908, 1910, 1911
1900 United States Census
Forsyth County, NC Register of Deeds
1891 Bird’s-eye View of the Twin City Winston-Salem, NC by Ruger & Stone, Madison, Wisconsin
Reynolds collection at Reynolda House
Howett, Catherine. A World of Her Own Making: Katharine Smith Reynolds and the Landscape of Reynolda. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
Neilson, Robert W. History of Government, City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Winston-Salem: Bicentennial Committee, 1966.
Tilley, Nannie M. Reynolds Homestead: 1814-1970. Richmond: Robert Kline & Company, 1970.
Photographs are from the picture collection of the Forsyth County Public Library at digitalforsyth.org