The Babcock Era, 1934-1963

In 1934, R.J. and Katharine’s daughter, Mary, and her husband, Charles H. Babcock, Sr. (known as “Charlie”), acquired Reynolda from the other Reynolds heirs. Mary worked to modernize the estate without changing its character. She and Charlie streamlined the farm operations and made several changes and additions to the bungalow, in keeping with the interests of their young family and their frequent house guests.

Among the first changes was the removal of the porte cochere and the moving of the house’s main entrance to a more private location in the east wing of the home. A boxwood-bordered garden replaced the original forecourt.The Babcocks transformed the basement of the bungalow into a recreation area with an indoor swimming pool at the east end. This basement, containing a Streamline Modern bar and game room, quickly became a favorite spot for family recreation as well as house parties. To accommodate frequent visitors, Mary and Charlie added a six-room guest house connected to the main house by a breezeway.

Initially the Babcocks spent only holidays and vacations at Reynolda, living primarily in Greenwich, Connecticut. As a founding partner of the brokerage firm Reynolds & Company, Charlie commuted daily to his office in New York. During World War II, while her husband served in the U.S. Army, Mary and their four children—Katie, Charles, Barbara, and Betsy—lived in a cottage in Reynolda Village. In 1948, the family relocated to Reynolda year-round.

Over the years, the Babcocks donated or sold much of the estate’s acreage. The largest transformation came with the gift of 350 acres to Wake Forest College in 1946 for the relocation of the campus from Wake Forest, North Carolina to Winston-Salem. On October 15, 1951, President Harry S. Truman arrived in Winston-Salem to give the keynote address at the groundbreaking ceremony. Ultimately, the Babcocks gave 605 acres of Reynolda land to Wake Forest University, including Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village, now home to shops and restaurants.

Mary Reynolds Babcock died in 1953, and a foundation was created by her surviving husband, Charlie Babcock. Between 1958 and 1965, the Foundation donated another 130.89 acres to create Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University and 13.5 acres to create Reynolda Village. Babcock and his second wife, Winifred Penn Knies, continued to live at Reynolda until 1963, searching for ways to give the venerable house new life. The farm and dairy had long since been dismantled and the outdoor recreational facilities gradually fell out of use. 

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