Docent Dateline: Fall 2020

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Docent Dateline

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Halloween at 666 by Bari Helms

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Opposite: Reynolds Fifth Street Residence and Garden, 1900–1905. Images of North Carolina / Digital NC. Now the site Central Library. Left: Reynolds Halloween Party Invitation, circa 1910, Estate Archives.

Addendum from Bari Helms: We know that (the Reynoldses) had very popular annual Halloween parties at their home on Fifth Street, but it’s not clear that the tradition carried on at Reynolda. The only description we have of the parties is from (Nancy Reynolds’s) oral history. The excerpt for that is quoted in the blog post (from 2014, below). Sadly I’ve never come across any pictures from the parties. After I wrote that article, I did find the invitations they sent out.

If your house number is 666, throwing a fabulous Halloween party should be a requirement. A night of fright and frivolity is exactly what Katharine and R.J. Reynolds created when they lived at 666 West 5th Street in Winston-Salem, the site of the presentday Central Library. Sadly, no paper documentation or photographs exist to memorialize these Halloweens, but youngest daughter Nancy Susan Reynolds reminisced about the events in her oral history conducted in 1980. Nancy only attended one of the Halloween parties, when she was seven, dressed as Bo-Peep, “with a little bonnet, and little false curls.” Too excited by the party to even remember what her mother, Katharine, wore, Nancy did recall that “they all went to a great deal of trouble, this was the occasion. This would be for all the Winston socialites, and everybody.”

As with any Halloween gathering, an elaborate costume was paramount. “I remember a Mr. Manly, a very prominent lawyer...was Robinson Crusoe. I think what people did was start planning their costume a year ahead. He had a sheepskin, with a soft side and a furry side. He had--oh, he was very daring--he had no shirt on. Imagine that in that time. And he had sheepskin breeches; is that what you call them? They were shorts to us, I think they called them something else though. And he had an umbrella, with the smooth side of the sheepskin on the outside and the furry stuff on the inside. Of course he got the prize.” To match their guests’ Halloween spirit, the Reynolds family made sure their Victorian residence was as spooky as possible. On Halloween, guests would enter the house through the basement where “dummies, or stockings with sand in them, cold wet sand, were sort of made up like ghosts or spooks. And you touched the banister of the stairs and got an electric shock. So they really went to town.” The food didn’t make an impression on young Nancy but the cocktails did. “And of course we had Prohibition in North Carolina. You could have, I think, one bottle a week. So all friends that did not drink would get their bottle for my father and he’d pay them back, so he’d have something to serve on an occasion like this. He had a wine cellar in Baltimore, and we’d transport it every time we went to Baltimore. There’d be one bottle in every suitcase.”

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Cousins

by Genie Carr

Anna Dorothea Foster and Charlotte Anna Dick, young cousins whose double portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1790-91, got around a bit in 200 years. Stuart painted the girls in Dublin, where he lived for some years and honed his art. Much later, they visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery. But mostly they stayed in Winston-Salem. The painting was owned by Phil Hanes, the active Winston-Salem industrialist and leader in the arts. And now they are at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, for good: a gift from Charlotte Metz Hanes. Anna Dorothea Foster and Charlotte Anna Dick was the first painting ever bought by her husband Phil, who died in 2011. “Phil was so committed to Winston-Salem’s legacy of the arts, and painting was such an early love for him,” Charlotte Hanes said. “I just knew that the first work that he bought belonged in Winston-Salem. Other museums were interested in the painting…but I thought it should remain in his beloved ‘city of the arts.’” Stuart didn’t paint many double portraits. Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis (Sally Foster), 1809, already in Reynolda House’s collection originally included Sally’s son Alleyne, but Stuart eventually painted him out. The Foster-Dick cousins, who bear a strong resemblance to each other, remain together and vibrant. Anna Dorothea was reaching the time when she would make her debut to society. Working on embroidery shows that she was refined and accomplished, well-suited to make a fine marriage. Charlotte Anna holds a paper pattern for her cousin, whose father, former speaker of the House John Foster, commissioned the portrait.

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Gilbert Stuart, Anna Dorothea Foster and Charlotte Anna Dick, 1790-1791, oil on canvas. Gift of Charlotte Hanes in honor of Philip and Joan Hanes, who had the vision of Winston-Salem being the City of the Arts.

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B

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Hello, Holly! by Mary Mascenik

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The Forecourt Garden in front of Reynolda House provided a consoling presence one overcast day in early September. Socially-distanced joggers loped along sidewalks and roadways, and lovers and friends walked side-by-side, masks at the ready for any potential encounter with someone outside their “pod.” The fountain arched its placid spray while toddlers frolicked and mothers chatted behind their masks. An exuberance of purple, pink, and white blossoms offered a joyful contrast to the neat rows of newly planted Inkberry Holly. It spoke of serenity and “all is well.” It reminded me that, despite our current challenges and fears, we are coping, adapting, savoring the moment. It was here that I met with Jon Roethling, Director of Reynolda Gardens at Wake Forest University, to learn how he is guiding the garden’s adaptation of current environmental threats. “Gardens are not meant to stop,” he said. “Everything changes. We have deluges of rain and new diseases, but also new resistant species.” Spring 2019, he and his team of about fifteen staff and volunteers removed 300 diseased ‘Justin Brouwers’ boxwood from the inner ring of the forecourt garden and replaced them with a similarlooking but more durable native evergreen. ‘Justin Brouwers’ is among the most vulnerable boxwood to succumb to the blight that is wiping out plants across the Southeast. Symptoms of this serious and highly-contagious fungal disease were first noticed in early Fall 2018 on the boxwoods in the

forecourt garden. Circular light or dark brown spots with darker borders, likened to frog’s eyes, appeared on the leaves. Black streaks developed on the infected stems and defoliation occurred soon thereafter. The pathogen spreads from a contaminated area by the wind, on garden tools, on our shoes, and from the rear of any landscaper’s truck who is improperly bearing away the diseased plants. Because boxwood blight can’t be cured, the gardener must choose between an endless fungicide dependency or surgical removal. Jon chose the latter, reluctantly, but informed by today’s safe practices and complying with Katharine’s guiding principles. “She researched and employed the latest technology both in the house and on the farm,” said Jon. “She would be looking at gardening catalogs every winter and updating her choices in light of past successes and failures. I want to embrace her progressive nature. She set up her farm to be a model of enlightened agricultural techniques. We should be doing this in the garden, as well.” Jon and his team chose the Gem Box® inkberry holly to replace the diseased ‘Justin Brouwers’ boxwood because it is a dense ball-shaped plant with small dark-green leaves, resembling the boxwood but not susceptible to the blight. A native of the Piedmont Triad, this inkberry variety was selected for its tendency to have ample bottom growth, and not to get “leggy” or naked of leaves near the soil.

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As Luther Burbank said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful: they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.”

“I hope to respect the design and history while adapting to current conditions,” Jon explained. The increasing humidity and heat in our climate has caused the very dense foliage of the English boxwoods to suffer the blight, while the more open-growth habit of the American boxwoods makes them less vulnerable. “I’m watching the boxwoods elsewhere on the estate for signs of the blight. If we should see evidence, we’ll remove the plant, bag it, and treat the surrounding area. If it should afflict the boxwoods in Reynolda Gardens, it would be a sad day indeed to have to remove them.” Reynolda’s Director of Operations, Karl Erik, noted that Reynolda is not alone in seeing boxwood blight infect our plants. Landscapes in the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond have also suffered. Homeowners look to us for our example, as farmers did to Katharine’s model farm in the early days of the estate. “Here at Reynolda, addressing changes in our historic landscape is a particularly sensitive task that we approach with caution and in consultation with experts in the field,” Karl said.

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For those of us concerned about our own boxwood care, Jon recommends visiting the Saunders Bros. Nursery website for its detailed boxwood guide. Located in Piney Creek, VA, this nursery has been at the forefront of boxwood husbandry since 1915. Learn more about their work here. Jon welcomes all the folks who have enjoyed their walks or jogs through the estate during the Pandemic who have been getting fresh air and exercise; watching Spring develop into Summer and soon, Fall; appreciating how the gardens change; listening to the sounds of frogs and insects. “The silver lining in all of this is that more people have discovered Reynolda and the Gardens, Jon said. “I hope that translates into more support and enjoyment of what we do every day here.”


A volunteer plants hollies in the Forecourt Garden, April 8, 2019. Ken Bennett / WFU

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E n g i neering Reynolda

Nick Lutzweiler’s engineering students at Wake Forest University last year may have had a slightly more cutting-edge project at Reynolda House if only they could have taken a chainsaw to the second-floor balcony. Nick, a structural engineer, is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Practice in Engineering at WFU; he also has a structural engineering consulting business. The students in his Materials and Mechanics class in 2019-2020 were analyzing the size and strength of one of the beams that holds up the balcony surrounding the Reception Hall below. They were getting out of the classroom and into Lab#2—a project involving a historic structure. On this day the museum was busy with visitors and Nick’s students (pre-COVID19) who stood in the inglenook and looked upward, measured, took notes, and did calculations. Amber Albert, Reynolda’s Manager of Community and Academic Learning, choreographed the visit of engineering groups and house activities alongside regular museum operations. One set of her notes reads: “November 1, 2019: class visit, 2 sections, 25 students + 1 professor (Friday before Gala, same time as 1 elementary school group & WFU Family Weekend).”

The professor gave his students a detailed description of what they needed to think about in this “Measuring

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and Applying Knowledge” lab exercise. He noted that, for whatever reason—insurance requirements, let’s say—a building’s owner(s) need to know how much weight their building could support. In this case, the WFU students would “estimate the ‘live’ load-carrying capacity of an existing beam.” (Because there were differences in the original plans, the actual live load capacity could not be determined in an official sense. It could be done, but would likely require more intrusive methods than would be allowed or necessary at this time. So, Nick said, he went with 100 psf [pounds per square foot] for his teaching purposes. He explained: “When you measure ‘live loads’ [think people, furniture, things that can move], they are measured in pounds per square foot [psf ] in the engineering world. It's an average. A typical house in today’s world is designed for 30 psf in sleeping rooms and 40 psf in other rooms. So Reynolda appears to be built stout!”) Often, he said, original blueprints do not survive. As we well know, Reynolda House has plans. That is, it had Katharine Smith Reynolds, one original owner who, unlike most owners, could probably make a pretty good stab at reading and understanding such plans. Nick added, “... Reynolda House has a rich history and is a place where engineering meets liberal arts. This lab will allow engineers to work for a liberal arts museum, all while using a liberal art (history of materials, construction, and practice).”

no harm is done on our watch. The hoops involved protection of guests and collections, yet let the students learn and explore the space. To those ends, they were provided their own security officer. Nick did some preparation for the students. “I did all the calculations that showed students how much weight the beam holds up,” he said. He made copies of the drawings of the original construction along with the materials used, such as steel and concrete. It was a heavy type of construction, and steel in 1915 had some different properties from today’s steel. He used information from 1920s Bethlehem Steel, but said that if the project had been a working one, he would have kept looking for more timely information. As they finished the project, the students had to “write an engineering letter to (their) ‘client,’ Reynolda House.” It would tell the client, among other things, what they had analyzed and how they had done it, a summary of results, and limitations of the report such as seeing only the one beam, and not really seeing the beam because it was enclosed by finishes that Reynolda House obviously would not want disturbed. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all template to this in the consulting world,” he told them. “And if there were, your clients would be ignorant of what it was anyway. They care about one number, the live load capacity. But they want it presented in a way that is professional and complete. Complete enough that you could hand your report to another engineer and they would be able to make sense of it.”

By the way, some of the students had never been inside the house.

All in all, Nick said, the Lab#2 “Materials and Mechanics” exercise got good feedback.

As for the museum, Amber said, “there were hoops to jump through.” We all know the care that the staff takes—as we do—to make sure

And just maybe the engineers-in-making will want to come back and visit their beam again, and the rest of Reynolda House.

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