Estate’s historic red oak tree finds new life as custom Thomas Sears benches

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (March 10, 2021) —  A century-old historic red oak tree on the Reynolda estate in Winston-Salem has been used to create custom furniture pieces. The tree, which had lived on the 170-acre property established in 1917 by Katharine and R.J. Reynolds, fell on May 1, 2020. Staff at Reynolda Gardens ensured that the tree was salvaged and nearly 3,000 board feet was milled by Roots Originals, LLC, for future intentional use in support of the Gardens.

In January, Reynolda commissioned Roots Originals to re-create exact replicas of several of the benches designed by the estate’s renowned landscape architect Thomas Sears. With access to the original design plans, Roots ensured the specific measurements, attachments, and functionality of the newly-designed benches were a match to the original furniture specifications.

During the construction of Reynolda, Thomas Sears was hired to design Reynolda Gardens. Sears was a graduate in the first class of the first academic program in landscape architecture—the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard—where he studied with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. He then worked in the office of the Olmsted Brothers in Brookline, Mass. Starting in 1915, Sears designed gardens and plantings around Reynolda’s main bungalow and throughout Reynolda Village, and he returned over several decades to adapt and revise plans throughout Reynolda. With attention to create a space that could be viewed and experienced holistically, a series of eight benches—now serving as inspiration for the newly-available custom replica benches—were designed, built, and placed around the estate and gardens.

The story of the red oak 

Beginning in 1906, Katharine Reynolds began assembling tracts of played-out farmland to establish the thousand-acre estate that came to be called Reynolda. Numerous natural springs recommended the site, and Reynolda’s first landscape architects, Buckenham and Miller, planned a dam system to form a sixteen-acre lake, named for Katharine.

The estate’s second great transformation was a long, undulating lawn, more than two-thirds of a mile long and terminating in a private nine-hole golf course. Through this expanse, a driveway wound toward the front entrance of the main house. On one side of this newly-sculpted lawn stood a young, 20-year-old red oak tree that was to witness a storied family’s life for the next 100 years —a Reynolda red oak.

For over 100 years, this red oak saw the family grow. It saw Z. Smith land his plane on the front lawn. It saw family and friends play golf, attend parties, enjoy long walks, and revel in the natural beauty that accepted the Reynolds family as its keepers.

When the tree fell on May 1, 2020, it’s time had simply come.

Mike Haggas, owner of Roots Originals, says: “ We focus on creating pieces made from woods that have their own stories and history.  All of our former projects come with a sense of creating an heirloom with a story; not just a piece of furniture or item. The opportunity to acquire the Reynolda Red Oak and put forth a plan to honor the estate, family and Thomas Sears while supporting the Reynolda Gardens was one that we couldn’t pass up. For Roots Originals, it also serves as tribute to the countless furniture makers in the area whose talents benefitted so many people. Their legacy is not forgotten. Rather, it is being remembered and paid forward. We are honored to play a role in this initiative.”

History lives on as custom furniture 

The following benches have been selected for replication:

Reynolda Gardens Thomas Sears Bench Series

Bench C
(currently on view in the lower lobby of Reynolda House and shown above)
3’ 9” length
2’ 8” height
1’ 7” depth
(1’ 2” in seat depth)
47 custom cut and assembled pieces

Bench D
3’  length
2’ 8” height
1’ 7” depth
(1’ 2” in seat depth)
45 custom cut and assembled pieces

Bench F
5’  length
2’ 8” height
1’ 7” depth
(1’ 2” in seat depth)
50 custom cut and assembled pieces

Sales of these benches support Reynolda Gardens.  Benches are suggested for indoor use.
Contact Beth Warren at to reserve your bit of history.

About Reynolda
Reynolda, in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a rare gem among the nation’s cultural arts institutions and historic greenspaces. The 53-year-old museum at the center of Reynolda’s 170 acres, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, features a renowned art collection in a historic and incomparable setting: the original 1917 interiors of the country manor of R. J. and Katharine Reynolds. Spanning 250 years, the collection is a chronology of American art, and features artists such as  Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederic Edwin Church, Alexander Calder, Romare Bearden, Stuart Davis, Martin Johnson Heade, Lee Krasner, Jacob Lawrence, John Singer Sargent and Grant Wood. The Reynolda experience includes taking in world-class art exhibitions in the museum’s Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing; exploring  lush formal gardens, nature trails, and even a waterfall at Reynolda Gardens, which are always open and free; self-touring with a free app called Reynolda Revealed; and shopping and dining in more than 25 of the estate’s original buildings in Reynolda Village. Reynolda, located at 2250 Reynolda Road, is part of Wake Forest University. For more information, please visit

Connect at and @CurateReynolda on Instagram.


Media Contact
Kaci Baez
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