Babcock family portrait, 1936. Ira L. Hill Studio, New York

A party in the basement game room showing murals, c. 1950

Mirrored Art Deco bar, with Mary Reynolds Babcock at left, c. 1937.

Airport dedication

President Truman, with Charles Babcock, Judge Hubert Olive, Odis Mull, and Harold W. Tribble, at the Wake Forest College groundbreaking, 1951.


The Babcock Era

In 1934, R.J. and Katharine’s daughter, Mary, and her husband, Charles H. Babcock, Sr. (known as “Charlie”), acquired Reynolda from Mary’s siblings. Mary’s worked to modernize the estate without changing its character. She and Charlie streamlined the farm operations and made several changes and additions to the bungalow, in keeping with the interests of their young family and their frequent house guests.

Among the first changes was the removal of the porte cochere and the moving of the house’s main entrance to a more private location in the east wing of the home. A sunken garden replaced the porte cochere. The Babcocks transformed the basement of the bungalow into a recreation area with an indoor swimming pool at the east end. This basement, containing a Streamlined Modern bar and game room, quickly became a favorite spot for family recreation as well as house parties. To accommodate frequent visitors, Mary and Charlie added a six-room guest house connected to the main house by a breezeway.

Initially the Babcocks spent only holidays and vacations at Reynolda, living primarily in Greenwich, Connecticut. As a founding partner of the brokerage firm Reynolds & Company, Charlie commuted daily to his office in New York City. During World War II, while her husband served in the U.S. Army, Mary and their four children--Katie, Charles, Barbara, and Betsy--lived in a cottage in Reynolda Village. In 1948, the family relocated to Reynolda year-round.

Over the years, the Babcocks donated or sold much of the estate’s acreage. The largest transformation came with the gift of 350 acres to Wake Forest College in 1946 for the relocation of the campus from Wake Forest, North Carolina to Winston-Salem. On October 15, 1951, President Harry S. Truman arrived in Winston-Salem to give the keynote address at the groundbreaking ceremony. Ultimately, the Babcocks gave 605 acres of Reynolda land to Wake Forest University, including Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village, now home to shops and restaurants.

Today, Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University maintains 125 acres of fields, wetlands, and woodlands as well as four acres of formal gardens. Originally designed to be enjoyed by the public as well as the Reynolds family, the formal gardens feature plantings adapted from Thomas Sears’s designs. They re-create his original plan, providing color and interest year-round. Likewise, the walks, walls, tea-houses and pergolas have been restored, creating a place of beauty, learning, and quiet reflection.