A BBQ at Reynolda

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A BBQ at Reynolda

Guest blogger: Lora Smith,Marketing & Communications Summer 2013 Intern. Lora is a graduate student at Wake Forest University in the Department of Communication.

Reynolda is a natural gathering spot for many visitors and locals in the Winston-Salem area. When I first visited Reynolda, I wondered what it would have been like to live here. Walking through the outside areas such as the gazebo and in the front near the fountain, I could envision the sound of laughter and music filling the air. I let my mind wander to envision events that may have occurred on this land. I was trying to rack my brain to think of what the people were eating, what they were drinking and what they were wearing. Not surprisingly, Reynolda hosted many events, one which will be detailed in the paragraphs below.

On July 4, 1916, before the Reynolds family occupied their bungalow, the estate was the site of an Independence Day barbecue for the district managers, salesmen and heads of departments of the entire tobacco company. According to the somewhat flowery Winston-Salem Journal article the following day, “Reynolda, the magnificent country estate of Mrs. R.J. Reynolds was the scene yesterday afternoon and evening of one of the most pleasant and delightful gatherings ever held in this section, the occasion being the Fourth of July barbecue given by Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Reynolds to the division men, salesmen and heads of the departments of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, along with their wives and a few invited guests. More than 400 enjoyed the hospitality…and the barbecue, with all of the many accessories, was par excellence, the whole combining to satisfy the internal man and to sooth the external….


Picturesque scenery surrounded the guests who utilized all parts of the estate, “the guests gathered on the slope near the boat house, and spent half-an-hour enjoying the cool of the evening and the scenery around the lake….Just as the sun, a fiery circle, was sinking behind the horizon, the bugle sounded, summoning the guests to a real barbecue. Barbecue is not the word to use in this connection, although there was barbecued pork and barbecued beef, for the barbecue was only a small part of the many delicious things served. It is also worthy of note that everything served at this barbecue (except pepper and salt only) was grown or raised on the Reynolda farm."


Since the BBQ featured hogs, it is important to note that the hogs were Tamworths. *Mr. Reynolds had the meat cured in a smokehouse in Reynolda Village In the photo below, the smokehouse is in the left foreground. It was significantly enlarged sometime before 1927. Around 10,000 pounds of pork was processed each year. 


As the smell of BBQ filled the air, it was said after the dinner festivities, the guests sang along to patriotic and sentimental favorites performed by a band, including “The Star Spangled Banner,"  "The Old North State," and “Auld Lang Syne."


*Clarification: While the Reynoldses did cure meat on the estate, the barbecue served at the July 4 event was not cured. Thanks to a savvy blog reader for pointing out this discrepancy.

Historical information provided by Phil Archer, Reynolda House Director of Public Programs

Images courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art


Interested in the comment implying that the meat used for the BBQ was "cured" in their smokehouse. Cured meat is not used for BBQ. I am guessing they used whole, freshly slaughtered pigs. The Lexington, shoulders-only style would have been impractical since a tremendous number of pigs would have hed to be killed to get enough BBQ for this many people. Huge amount of pork would have been left over at hottest time of the year when it could easily spoil. I doubt they had cooler capacity to store that much meat or had a need for that much extra meat in mif summer. And I doubt they had large freezers. Any pictures of the pigs cooking?

Carroll, thanks for your comment; we've clarified the original post. Unfortunately we don't have pictures of the meat being cooked for the July 4 event. Regarding large freezers, there were electrified coolers in the barns but they weren't used for meat -- they were part of the dairy operations. 

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