Someday Indoor Pool Joining House?

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Someday Indoor Pool Joining House?

By Phil Archer, Director of Public Programs | @LearnReynolda

Mary Reynolds Babcock made some notes in the mid 1930s about her plans for her family home--the Reynolda bungalow  in Winston-Salem--which later became Reynolda House Museum of American Art.

Mary Reynolds grew up at Reynolda from the age of nine. She and her husband Charles Babcock agreed to buy the estate from her siblings in late 1934, a year of droughts throughout the Midwest, the first-ever general strike in the United States, and Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany.

This undated note (pictured above) includes her wishes for “Reynolda in future. Bungalow – must keep present style.” Referred to as the “master spirit behind the scenes” by her husband, Mary makes clear her plan to retain the Bungalow’s blend of Arts & Crafts, Neo-Classical, and Colonial Revival elements- but to add some modern touches. She lists amenities she would like to add, and specifies that these should all be “modernistic”: shooting gallery, golf practice, ping pong, bar, shuffleboard, other rainy day entertainment.

The recreational facilities that Mary later referred to as “basement fun,” were added to entertain the Babcocks’ friends in Winston-Salem. According to their daughter Barbara Millhouse, they of course provided fun for the children too, but were primarily intended for the Babcocks’ adult friends. Skating, shooting, bowling, drinking – maybe not in that order – these were playful ways to escape ordinary life and enter a carefree realm.

Mary’s correspondence with her interior decorator, housed in Reynolda’s Archives, gives a clear sense of her up-to-date color schemes for furniture and drapery.  She worked with Eleanor McMillen Brown, a pioneer in the field of interior decoration, who worked for many leading families, including the Paleys, Fords, Aldriches, and Lady Bird and Lyndon Baines Johnson on the private quarters of the White House.

Almost as an afterthought, Mary pencils in at the bottom of her note, “Someday indoor pool?” This question was answered definitively in 1937 when the pool was added, complete with aviaries for tropical birds, which she carried personally from New York by train.


This blog is part of a series that highlights the significance of Reynolda’s indoor pool and tracks the progress of the current Reynolda Pool Restoration Project. Follow #ReynoldaPool for updates.

Project Update from Rebecca Eddins, Project Director: the lead abatement process continues on schedule. See photographs of the project on our Flickr page.


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