Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Devotion: The Country Farm Estate of Blitz and Dick Reynolds

We are re-posting our article on The Devotion Estate. With a wedding about to take place on the property, the owner decided that the views and the architecture should be a complete surprise. We will post and toast the happy bride and groom in our next installment!

As many of you know, I live across the street from the Historic Reynolda House Museum, Gardens and village. Our pastoral, small city is highly cultural and well preserved greatly, by the perseverance and generosity of the Reynolds family. I noted in my last post, on the Reynolda Estate,  that R. J. Reynolds was a highly progressive thinker who married an educated and energetic wife, to whom he accorded a great amount of personal autonomy. The estate was purchased in her name and Kate had full control over the vision, execution and management of this self sufficient enterprise--in 1917.  R.J. Reynolds died soon after the house was completed, which was a terrible loss.

From left: Mary, R. J., Katharine, Nancy, Dick, and Smith.

I mentioned that I recently read: Kid Carolina: R.J. Reynolds Jr. /A Tobacco Fortune and the Mysterious Death of a Southern Icon, by Heidi Schnakenberg. It is a fascinating read. This is the story of the eldest son, Dick, who took his father's death very hard. Kate, his Mother had been warned by her doctors, owing to a rheumatic heart, that she should not have any more children. When she remarried a significantly younger man and died in child birth, Dick embarked upon a life long search for love and happiness that sadly left a great deal of scorched earth.

Owing to his spectacular wealth and notoriety, not to mention looks, Dick Reynolds went on the lamb from time to time, much to the horror of his family. He would simply evaporate, and the family would have to hunt him down. I believe he experimented with anonymity to test his self worth. When he checked back in, he threw his energies into new technology and projects, receiving his pilot's license from Orville Wright, founding the earliest airfields and airline companies, using his family name and wealth to secure success. The burden of legacy is heavy. Dick Reynolds inherited his family's entrepreneurial genius, yet he was plagued by loss. He cycled through presence and absence. When he was good he was very, very good, and when he was bad, he was horrid. So, through my interest in design and architecture regarding various local Reynolds's estates, I was able to visit a spectacular portion of the Devotion Estate he developed with his first wife, Blitz--Elizabeth Dillard Reynolds.

Above: In 1934, on his 28th birthday, Dick and Blitz took possession of his inheritance of more than $25 million. “I know it’s a lot of money, but I can’t get excited,” Dick Reynolds told reporters.  I wonder what it would take? 

Tobacco sold briskly during the depression and fueled by the massive inheritance Dick and Blitz assembled 11,000 pristine acres of wilderness along the Mitchell River, naming their rural retreat "Devotion,"  reflecting their strong feelings for each other.  Inspired by FDR's WPA programs, Dick sought to employ as many of the rural population as possible. The rural retreat movement was on, and with Architect, Roy P. Wallace, who had worked with Charles Barton Keen on Reynolda house, they utilized the chestnut trees that had been lost in the blight and the regional stone quarried on site. Long, deep verandas, gabled roofs, board and batten walls, with exaggerated rock chimneys all combine to create charming, unpretentious rural dwellings that compliment and transition between farm and wilderness. Fish Hatcheries, turkey, pheasant and chicken houses, cattle and horse barns are scattered around the portion that I visited.

The trout hatchery still operates and the different sections hold the fish as they mature. The magnificent lake where we spotted a pair of massive Herons that look liked Pterodactyls--I kid you not. I am just going to walk you around and let nature speak for herself!

I am not going to show you the photo of me laying on the ground clutching branches for dear life, as we scaled the hillside.

My favorite quote on design is from Hutton Wilkinson
"Every night I go to bed and pray that people with money will get taste, and that people with taste will get money." I think this is why I am so enamored with the Reynolda family estates, as they had both taste and money. 

If you are as fascinated as I am, regarding the Reynolds family and their estates, I recommend  you read: Devotion Rural Historic District Draft of Research for Application to The National Register of Historic Places and The National Register of Historic Lands by William Noah Reynolds. It is beautifully written and detailed. As a grandson of Dick and Blitz, he chronicles the phases of their life with honor and authority. As to the dispersal of the estate, and addressing this portion, he explains : "As part of the divorce settlement, Blitz Reynolds was awarded sole ownership of the rural estate. For the next few years, she and the four Reynolds sons -Josh, Will, John, and Zach lived year-round at Devotion. After Blitz Reynolds’ death in 1961, the property was divided equally among her sons. To this day, William Neal Reynolds II and other heirs of the Reynolds family possess large parcels of Devotion. In the 1990s Raleigh resident Charles C. McKinney purchased a key portion of the estate. During the past decade, Mr. McKinney has undertaken a major restoration of more than a dozen buildings and structures on the site,  Owing to McKinney’s stewardship, one is able to sense the original rustic architectural character of this 1930s-era mountain estate designed for R. J. Reynolds, Jr. and Elizabeth D. Reynolds."

The Reynolds boys at the main house, which is on a different portion of the property.  
More Later! 
Written by Liz Morten 
with Ashley D'Auria
My brilliant intern from Wake Forest University
Congratulations on your graduation Ashley!

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  1. A very interesting post. I just stared at the precious photo of the two of them together. Such an intimate moment captured by the lense

  2. Liz this is the most fascination story of a family I have read in a lone time. Kid Carolina is so good and the Devotion Rural historic Draft! Thank you so much for this enlightenment...

    Art by Karena

  3. Liz-
    You are one fabulous teacher of history! I have enjoyed reading these post.
    Keep them coming, and thank you.
    Happy Thursday.

  4. beautiful! What a great place to live!

  5. Hi! I told you that my godmother was married to Charles Babcock; and she and her daughter lived at Reynolda when I was in boarding school; and I visited! Her daughter lives here in Montecito now!

    I forwarded your blog to her; and she LOVED it! She said she spent a lot of time at "Devotion" and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth!!

    Loved this post!

  6. amazing blog!keep posting!!! can we follow each other?

  7. Your photos are just amazing! I am so in love with them!

  8. I grew up on a 200+ acre farm that bordered the Devotion estate, and part of the estate was purchased from my great-grandparents, Will and Florence Luffman. The last time I saw Will Reynolds, he told me he had restored my great-grandfather's cabin, and I could spend the night in it if I wanted to. I never went, and I have always regretted not going.

  9. http://dvr-streaming.mirc.sc.edu/autogenerated/MVTN_21-988_Mez1_CMS_451_Acc.m4v

    1. I have met only one person in my life with your name. Did you happen to be a counselor at Tbird late 80's/early 90's? if so, small world!

  10. Video of grandparents at the Red Mile in Lexington KY ( RJ Reynolds Jr "Dick" and Elizabeth McCaw Dillard Reynolds "Blitz"


  11. Devolution estates is a Federal Gov't compound used for secret purposes which I am unable to reveal at this point in time. If interested then go investigate but be careful.

    1. We’re I live on the Blue ridge we have a lot of military traffic in the air and myself and my wife think something is going on in that area.

    2. We have seen large drones flying over the mountains

  12. There is a great deal of history in that area of Surry County. From Kapps Mill to Devotion.

  13. Interesting read. I was born in Winston-Salem. I have heard about Devotion. I have been a volunteer at Reynolda House since 2002. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I intended to post you that little observation so as to thank you so much over again for your personal nice suggestions you've documented on this page. This has been quite surprisingly open-handed of you to give easily what exactly a number of us would've advertised for an e-book in making some money on their own, chiefly since you might well have tried it in the event you wanted. These good ideas in addition worked like the good way to fully grasp that most people have the same zeal like my own to figure out much more with regards to this matter. I know there are many more pleasant moments ahead for many who find out your blog post.
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  15. i overnighted at the main house the weekend of July 4th,1976. In celebration of the 200th anniversary of America’s independence, Will fired a cannon shot across the lake from the cannon his brother Zach had given him. Amazing place : Devotion

  16. My great grandma lived there before they purchased the land and she had a son named Noah who was killed by being crushed by a Steam shovel working on the project , he was just 34 at the time of his death. His mother was a full blooded Cherokee and she is buried not far from the property.


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