Katharine Smith Reynolds

Katharine Smith Reynolds

Katharine Smith Reynolds, born in Mt. Airy, N.C., in 1880, was a woman ahead of her time in nearly every way. She knew early the life she wanted, telling her college roommate: “When I marry, I shall go to Europe on my wedding trip and I shall bring home a wonderful work of art. And then I shall buy a great estate and I shall have a thousand cattle on a hill and flowers all around.” These words foretold Katharine’s civic achievements and eventual impact on the arts in Winston-Salem.


After college, Katharine married the most eligible bachelor in Winston-Salem, tobacco baron R. J. Reynolds, with whom she enjoyed a loving marriage and four children. Fulfilling her early dream, she purchased 1,067 acres outside of town and created Reynolda, one of the grandest family estates in the country, and the adjacent self-sufficient village that included a model farm and dairy incorporating the latest in agricultural methods and machinery. Katharine supervised everything; it was said that she could read a blueprint like an architect.

Katharine’s strong social convictions (she founded local branches of the Junior League, Red Cross and the YWCA) were continued by female descendants. Wake Forest University resides on 350 acres donated by daughter Mary Reynolds Babcock and son-in-law, Charles Babcock, and Mary opened Reynolda to the public in 1965. Today, Reynolda House Museum of American Art is renowned for its significant masterpieces, and the museum is routinely selected as host to tours of major—even Smithsonian-caliber—exhibitions.

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