Reynolda Profile: Sherman Hart, Director of Facilities

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Reynolda Profile: Sherman Hart, Director of Facilities

By Trish Oxford, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications | @TrishatReynolda

In March of 1996, Sherman Hart took on the role as the first Director of Facilities at Reynolda House. Prior to that point, most facility demands were contracted to outside vendors as needed.  “Everything I know I learned on the job,” Sherman recounted as we sat in his office, overlooking the north side of the house, as if perched in the trees. His office is tidy, with shelves filled with binder after binder of meticulous records documenting the maintenance of the 97 year old house.

Sherman has seen many changes during his 18 years at the Museum. He described how in the early days he had a second “control station” at his home to monitor any climate changes at the Museum. If something was imbalanced, he would receive a page on his beeper and had to fire up the control system to see what was occurring. “There were many a night that I came to the Museum at 1 a.m. and had to come back at 3 a.m.,” he remembers with a laugh. Thanks to advancements in technology, these middle-of-the-night alerts are few and far between, and Sherman needs only log on to his computer to address them.

Today as Director of Facilities, Sherman works with his wife, Wanda, and five other team members, who he declares proudly as “the best crew I have ever had.”  Managing the inner workings of a historic, nearly 100 year-old  house is an art form in itself, and Sherman is clearly a master of his role. Anyone who visits Reynolda House can attest that the Museum’s standard of excellence for orderliness is immediately apparent.

Earlier this month I spent a wonderful afternoon with Sherman and got to ask him a few questions.

What is your favorite work of art in the Museum’s collection?

“ I have two. Birth by [Lee] Krasner and The Old Hunting Grounds.” (A print of the Whittredge painting hangs in his office.) Hart describes the first time he saw Birth, “I immediately asked ‘who painted that?’” Hart is a painter by trade and has professionally painted interiors and exteriors of residences, offices, and Wake Forest facilities for decades. Over time he admits that he started seeing things in the Krasner canvas.

“When I saw those colors, I thought ‘this is very interesting. You mean I have been painting walls...I don’t know...we’ve got the same thoughts because I have been painting walls for so long. If I ever leave here [the Museum], I will buy some brushes or two and some canvases.”

Hart shares that every time a mechanic or contractor comes to the Museum, he takes them to see Birth if it’s on view. “They just start staring and are like, ‘Who did this? What is this?’ But I tell you their initial reaction is always different from when they leave.”

As for Worthington Whittredge’s The Old Hunting Grounds, Hart shares that the imagery reminds him of his youth growing up in Winston-Salem when he spent a lot of his time playing in the woods. “That moment when the sun comes through the woods, it reminds me of my younger years.”

What is your favorite part of the historic house?

“The bathrooms have always interested me. I remember a time when the bathrooms were not attached to the house.” At Reynolda House, not only are the bathrooms in the house, which was quite advanced for 1917, but their design, which seems unremarkable by today’s standards, were quite forward-thinking for the time. “They were walk-through bathrooms [between two rooms] and they had a stand-up shower and a bath tub.”

Have you attended a program at the Museum outside of your work duties?

“Wanda and I came to see a play about the ‘Bicycle Lady’ [in the early 2000s. It was done in the Reception Hall. Later I saw the 'Bicycle Lady' in the grocery store and asked her what she thought about [the play.] She was pleased with it.”

Penned by playwright Sharon Agnew, The Bicycle Lady  was loosely based on the life of Esther Deaver, a highly recognized woman that was often seen pushing her bicycle while carrying many of her belongings through the Winston-Salem.

What historical perspective, story, or person of Reynolda most interests you?

“Growing up here [in Winston-Salem] everyone knew someone who worked for Reynolds Tobacco Company. At one point, Reynolds had 16,000 plus employees. [The warehouse] was so huge that employees wore rollerskates.”

“I don’t know if anyone knew this house (Reynolda House) was here. No one talked about it, not my grandmother or her sisters. In the 1960s I visited this house on a school trip. I know Winston-Salem would not be the same without R.J. Reynolds. My life and the lives of a lot of people were made better because of him.”


More to come. This blog is the first in a series that will profile staff at the Museum.


Comments

Love this and the insight Sherman has after so many years at Reynolda. 

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