Mary Reynolds Babcock died in 1953, and in 1954, Charlie married Winifred Penn Knies. They continued to live at Reynolda until 1962, searching for ways to give the venerable estate new life. The farm and dairy had long since been dismantled and the outdoor recreational facilities gradually fell out of use. In 1964, Charlie Babcock established Reynolda House, Inc., as a non-profit institution dedicated to the arts and education. Mary and Charlie’s daughter Barbara Babcock Millhouse became its first president.
Under Barbara’s leadership Reynolda House Museum of American Art became the setting for a premier collection of American art in 1967. From its beginnings as nine hanging in the historic house--including works by Frederic Church, Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt, William Harnett, and William Merritt Chase--the collection has continued to grow. Significant later additions include works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Grant Wood, Stuart Davis, and Jacob Lawrence. Paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture now total approximately three hundred works dating from 1755 to the present, many of which have been included in national and international exhibitions. The collections of decorative arts, furnishings, costumes, and children’s toys enhance the visitor’s experience and are among the favorite attractions of the historic house.
Katharine Smith Reynolds’s vision for Reynolda remains an inspiration. Continuing her family’s thoughtful stewardship of the historic house and exceptional art collection, in 2002, the Board of Directors, under Barbara Babcock Millhouse’s leadership, concluded a formal affiliation of Reynolda House Museum of American Art with Wake Forest University. Together the University and Museum are building a model partnership of national stature that will leverage the individual assets of each institution, while honoring their shared history and respective missions.
In April 2005, the Museum opened the 31,619 square-foot Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing, featuring education facilities, a 3,000 square-foot gallery for temporary exhibitions, an auditorium for programs, and fine art and archival storage spaces. The expansion greatly enhanced the Museum’s offerings for both the University community and the general public.
While the Babcock Wing was under construction, the historic house underwent a restoration and the first floor returned to its appearance in 1917 when the Reynolds family first moved to the estate. The basement recreation areas were also restored, in this case to the period when the Babcocks assumed ownership and created areas for indoor games and social activities.
Today, Reynolda House Museum of American Art continues to maintain its commitment to the community, offering an atmosphere of warm hospitality as it brings elements of an American story together in the beautiful historic house, the exhibition galleries, and in the educational courses and programs provided to the public. The Museum adheres to a set of Guiding Principles that direct all of its planning and activities.
In an agreement described as historic and visionary by University and Museum leaders, Reynolda House Museum of American Art became an affiliate of its longtime neighbor, Wake Forest University in 2002. Reynolda House President Barbara Babcock Millhouse and Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn Jr. announced the new relationship in an afternoon press conference on January 15 of that year.
"I am proud to announce that the board of directors of Reynolda House today approved an affiliation agreement with Wake Forest University," Millhouse said. "This will enhance both institutions. It will give Reynolda House long-term stability, further national visibility, and, therefore, access to additional resources."
Millhouse added that "this decision is based on a long and productive collaboration with the University and mutual recognition of the excellence of each institution. Our board has great confidence in Wake Forest to help us achieve our mission."
Faculty of Wake Forest are regular participants in Reynolda House programming, providing lectures, concerts, interdisciplinary courses, book discussions, readings and seminars. General admission is free for all employees and one guest, as well as for students. The Museum offers several events at no cost to students, faculty, and staff throughout the year. Students are also regularly involved at Reynolda House through internships, volunteer opportunities, and academic research. In 2012, a Reynolda House Student Advisory Council was formed by Wake Forest students to further deepen the level of engagement between University and Museum.
Follow what’s happening with the University and Museum at @WakeReynolda. Find events free to Wake Forest students, faculty, and staff.