Restoring Reynolda’s Century-Old Roof

The half-mile vista through Reynolda’s main gate to the bungalow has remained little changed since 1917. The broad green roof, punctuated with volcanic fieldstone chimneys, gives only a hint of what awaits after a sinuous drive along a former golf course and through dense rhododendron thickets. 

This bait-and-switch has a long tradition in Anglo-American country estates; as one famous designer put it, “The eye will often see with more pleasure a rude chimney in the distance, its wisps of gray smoke wafting out of the forest into the blue sky above, than an entire palace exposed to view on every side, without any enlivening interruption or gentle touch of nature’s embrace.” 

Though this vista has remained little changed for more than a century, a new feature could be seen embracing the house in July 2021: scaffolding across the central block. 

This temporary addition marked the start of Reynolda’s $1.7 million rehabilitation project to restore the signature green tiles that have been on the roof since its inception. Fifty-four individual, corporate, and governmental donors supported this once-in-a-century effort. 

Protecting the house since World War I, the bungalow’s roof is made up of 35,000 clay tiles weighing in at 77.33 tons, roughly the equivalent of thirteen adult elephants or forty-two midsize cars. Reynolda matriarch Katharine Reynolds ordered Ludowici’s Imperial tile style in three shades of green: light, medium, and dark. From a distance, the shades blend into a muted green tone resembling the patina of aged copper. 

To maintain the color and character of the roof, Reynolda used the same Ludowici Tile Company chosen by Katharine Reynolds more than a hundred years ago. 

With the expertise of Baker Roofing and Ludowici, Reynolda completed the milestone restoration in November 2021. Construction management was coordinated by the Frank L. Blum Construction Company and included the replacement of three large HVAC units in the historic house. This was the third major partnership between Reynolda House and Blum Construction.

Watch this Baker Roofing video to learn more about the process of restoring and preserving the treasured Reynolda House roof:

Reynolda is an important symbol of winston-salem’s history it was the centerpiece of this estate in 1917 when the house was completed it really was a community outside a community in order to keep it open to the public and to maintain the beauty of the interior decorations the notion developed in the 1960s to create a museum of american art what they’ve managed to do is to build what’s been called the finest concentration of american art in a public space south of washington dc it’s such a comfortable place it’s a place that feels like a park it’s a museum where a lot of people have their first experience of art it’s a place for school children and college students and university students to absorb american art history but american history in general as well so it’s a lot of things to the people of winston-salem it’s something we can all be proud of the entire estate was integrated with the same color scheme so these gleaming white exteriors and then the roofs were all green and it tied the whole estate together with the surrounding nature ronaldo house has aged well over its century plus the roof is often the first thing that needs to be attended to over time and it just became clear that since we have the good fortune of ludowici still being in business we have the good fortune of having baker roofing in north carolina which is one of the the national gold standards in roofing with ludowici tile it seemed that we had the correct pieces in place we were excited about starting

the reynolda-hunts project really concerning coming into a job of this scale is keeping the building envelope watertight throughout the entire duration that can be extremely challenging you’ve got furniture in here you’ve got paintings you’ve got handwritten letters from the family these are pieces of property that are non-replaceable protecting the integrity of this building is crucial to successful projects it’s got to be probably one of the hardest things to achieve out of job of the scale ludowici is a 400 year old company started in southern italy in 1888 they founded ludowici roof tile and that’s where the legacy of terra cotta roof tiles started i think clay tile is unique because of its longevity what we’re able to do is go back and look at that specific color blend that was done 90 years ago and try to recreate that with newer modern techniques and that’s what we were able to do the reynolda project was a dream team so first it’s ludowici and then you’ve got baker roofing who is such a trusted installer so i don’t even have to worry about that i can make a complicated color blend and i can hand it to them and they’re going to install it perfectly the best way to describe the relationship with a good roofing contractor is you know their willingness to listen we’re not roofing experts we’re clay tile experts we look for the roofers that can help us match the quality of our product with the quality of insulation that people deserve tile is a very unique product and it can be challenging to work with the guys do a great job of being aware of those challenges and they spent many many years working with these products and we’re able to kind of move forward very efficiently we were told this food project would complete in 2021 in terms of the roofing is just speedily moving along to have the confidence the assurance that we’re going with the best possible flavor roof material and it’s the same company that produced it 106 years ago and that’s being done with the greatest of care means that when we look at the paintings that have survived we know that we’ll do our best with this roof to provide for future people that follow us to enjoy these works as well it’s very rewarding watching it day to day week to week and seeing the progress is awesome i’m really looking forward to the final day though i can envision now we’re to have you know the whole museum the architects and everybody’s going to be walking around appreciating the new roof system and hopefully they can appreciate it for another 100 years you
A Closer Look
Bird’s eye view taken by Frank L. Blum Construction Company Project Superintendent Dan Gonzalez from atop a more than 130-foot “Ultra Boom”

The People Who Made It Possible Then & Now

Abbreviated Timeline

March 2018
Reynolda House was awarded a $420,000 Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund a portion of the roof rehabilitation project. Reynolda’s award came in the first year of the NEH’s infrastructure program and was the largest federal grant awarded in Museum history.

September 2019-June 2021
Raise the Roof: Restoring Reynolda’s Historic Roof exhibition was on view in the historic house. The exhibition told the roof’s historic preservation story through photographs, manuscripts, and aerial videography. 

May 2021
In preparation for the renovation, Miller Tree Service removed eight trees overhanging the bungalow, including two Southern magnolia trees facing the Lake Katharine wetland and six red cedar trees on both sides of the bungalow. 

July 2021
Scaffolding was erected and roof restoration began. Ludowici’s clay tiles arrived, and Baker Roofing began removing the existing tiles.

August 2021
Tile replacement was slightly ahead of schedule with Baker Roofing employees working early mornings and many Saturdays. Original roof tiles removed during the rehabilitation were available to purchase in the Museum store.

September 2021
Tilework, masonry repair, and new copper guttering were completed on both the central block and the east wing of Reynolda House.

October 2021
Tile replacement began on the fourth and final section of the roof. Baker Roofing began with the central block, then moved to the east wing, then completed the 1936 guest house. 

November 2021
The rehabilitation of the roof was officially completed! On November 5, Reynolda hosted a celebration picnic for its staff and Blum Construction and Contractors to mark the milestone. Work continued through December on the replacement of HVAC units within the attics of the historic house.