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.