@ArchiveReynolda: Reynolda Village

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@ArchiveReynolda: Reynolda Village

By Bari Helms, Director of Archives | @ArchiveReynolda
Visit the Reynolda Village Online Gallery for archival images
 and j
oin us for the Reynolda Village Tour on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 10 a.m. 

“And you talk about a place for a kid to grow up? If you had a bicycle, you had the world by the tail. I mean, you could go anywhere on the place. One of the highlights was getting about a half pint of chocolate milk at the dairy,” was how Robert Conrad Jr., son of Reynolda’s head gardener, described growing up in Reynolda Village. Well before the Reynolds family moved into the bungalow in December 1917, Reynolda Village was a thriving community for the farm workers and their families. One might assume that Reynolda House was the first structure completed on the estate, but according to Jess Anthony, a former Reynolda employee, the first thing built was the barn, followed by the power plant and houses for the farm workers.

Pictured: 1914 appraisal of the village buildings, Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Described in a 1917 newspaper article as an “experiment station,” Reynolda was a model farm where local farmers could learn progressive techniques in agriculture, dairying, livestock raising, and horticulture. Now home to shops and restaurants, the Village played a central role in Katharine Reynolds’ dream for creating this experimental farm.  The estate produced a wide range of fruits and vegetables, and a herd of Jersey cattle provided milk for the Reynolda dairy, which was considered to be one of the most modern in the country in producing more sanitary milk to help halt the spread of tuberculosis.

Charles Barton Keen, the same Philadelphia architect responsible for Reynolda House,  created a working village of quaint English-style white stucco buildings with green tile roofs. The entrance to the Village, off what is now Reynolda Road, was marked by a massive stone water trough. The post office was straight ahead with the greenhouse complex on the right and the superintendent’s office on the left. Among the Village’s focal points were the white stables and dairy barn and silos set up on the hill overlooking the rest of the Village. Other buildings included a power plant, school for white children, workshops, garages, employees’ houses, servants’ quarters, and a blacksmith shop and forge.

The buildings were modern for their time with coal-powered hot water and steam heating systems, telephone lines, and sewage and sanitation infrastructure. Pipes and wiring ran underground in tunnels of concrete and terracotta. Reynolda’s horticulturalist J. Alfred Drage described the Village’s self-sufficiency in an interview in 1993: “They had their own water, sewer, heat, electricity, all underground in tunnels. When we were kids, we played in those things.”

The residents of Reynolda Village created that special sense of community. The 7 July 1917 edition of the Twin City Sentinel referred to the Village as “a happy community... formed of about twenty resident families, each allotted a garden plot for their own personal use with the privilege of cultivating as they will.” The Village was home to the estate’s superintendent, treasurer, stenographer, horticulturist, gardener, dairyman, poultryman, electrician, plumber, bookkeeper, and chauffeur.

However, Reynolda Village was home to only the white workers employed by Reynolda. The only African American workers allowed to live in the Village were majordomo John Carter and his wife Marjorie and chauffeur Cleveland Williams. Other domestic staff from the house could use the servant’s quarters to rest, shower, and to occasionally spend the night if their duties required it.  The rest of the African American workers lived in Five Row, a community without electricity or running water, approximately a quarter mile walk from Reynolda Village. To learn more about Five Row, see these earlier blog posts.

The children of the staff probably enjoyed Reynolda Village most of all: “It was a real joy to live on this place. For us kids, we had a ball. We had the run of the place. They had a couple of ponies. We had a goat pull a cart…. You had access to tennis courts. We swam in that pool behind the house. Just about anything you wanted to do, ” J. Alfred Drage recalling his childhood at Reynolda.

Learn more! Join us for the Reynolda Village Tour on Saturday, September 27, 2014  at 10 a.m. 


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