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Reynolda Hosts 600 Guests at Centennial Ball, Raises $450,000 for Museum

Founding President Barbara Babcock Millhouse awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine During Ceremony Before the Ball 

Last weekend, nearly 100 Reynolds family members gathered from points around the world at Reynolda House for a historic celebration. They came to mark the centennial of Reynolda House, the grand country estate of R. J. Reynolds. It was also an occasion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Reynolda House Museum of American Art, the 1967 conversion of the house into a public art museum. The descendants — the largest gathering in more than more 40 years — were joined at a gala on Saturday night by 500 guests.  The gala raised nearly a half million dollars for the museum, making it the largest fundraiser in museum history. 

Nearly 100 Reynolds family members came to Reynolda House Museum
of American Art on Saturday to attend the Centennial Ball, marking the
100th anniversary of the Reynolda House estate built by Katharine and R.J. Reynolds.
Photo: From Parris with Love

The Reynolda House Board of Directors intends to designate a quarter of a million dollars from the money raised to the museum's unrestricted endowment. These funds support all mission-driven activities such as education programming, collections care, research and all other operations that support the museum in delivering exceptional experiences to the visiting public.

Reynolds family festivities began on Thursday and continued throughout the weekend with cocktail receptions, brunch, and a dinner at The Katharine in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, formerly the headquarters of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, as well as a trip to the Reynolds homestead in Critz, Virginia. Barbara Babcock Millhouse, granddaughter of R. J. and Katharine Reynolds, and founder of Reynolda House Museum of American Art, led a presentation on the museum’s history and legacy. On Saturday evening, Millhouse received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a governor’s award for exemplary service and her significant impact on the State of North Carolina.

The weekend was capped with the black-tie Centennial Ball on the estate’s front lawn, planned by Apotheosis Events, a New York City-based event company founded by University of North Carolina School of the Arts alumnus Ryan Hill. His company is well known for having staged numerous Broadway opening night parties, including Hamilton, as well as the Hamilton Tony Awards after-party. The Reynolda Centennial Ball was his company’s first North Carolina event. 

One highlight of the décor was a large-scale mural, 45 feet long by 10 feet high, designed by Howard Jones, Director of Scenic Art & Scene Painting in the UNCSA School of Design and Production, and students at the school. The mural featured an imagined exterior scene of the historic house. “When Howard showed me the rendering of the mural depicting Reynolda and Katharine Reynolds in the window, it occurred to me that seeing her inside the house would be quite a poignant element for all of the people who came to honor her vision 100 years later,” said Hill.

In her remarks at the Ball, Millhouse said that she always wanted Reynolda House to become a place where anyone, of any age, could come and learn about American art and take with them an appreciation and understanding of it — a vision that has come to life in the museum’s first 50 years. “It has been my joy and privilege to serve alongside some of the most creative people I’ve ever known as Reynolda House fine-tuned its preservation and stewardship capabilities, broadened its curatorial expertise, expanded its educational and public programming, and, since the addition of the wing named for my parents, initiated its remarkable series of changing exhibitions,” she said to the crowd. “It’s all been amazing and gratifying to watch.”

Reynolda House Executive Director Allison Perkins 
addresses the crowd while Barbara Babcock Millhouse
and Jock Tate look on. 
Photo: From Parris with Love

Reynolda’s Centennial Ball was planned with support from many sponsors and volunteers. Presenting sponsors were PNC and Hawthorn, PNC Family Wealth, and Wake Forest University. Co-chairs of the event were Susan Conger and John Davis. The full list of sponsors is available online at reynoldahouse.org/theball. 

Today, Reynolda House is the cultural crown of Winston-Salem. The museum has a stellar and national reputation for an exceptional collection of American art. Art experts also acknowledge that viewing such significant art in a residential setting is an exception to the typical museum experience. The house likewise earns praise as one of the nation’s best-preserved examples of the American Country House Movement. More than 85 percent of the furnishings are original, dating to when R. J., his wife Katharine, and their four children moved into the house in December 1917. The museum’s collection also holds more than 5,000 photographs, hundreds of personal letters, gowns worn by Katharine on her European honeymoon, and hundreds of documents that all help tell the story of the family’s legacy of economic, cultural, and civic impact across North Carolina and beyond.

Decades after the passing of R. J. and Katharine Reynolds, their immediate descendants decided to create an art museum as a way of preserving the house and making a contribution to the education and culture of the region. Millhouse was put in charge of acquiring art to install throughout the 64-room house. In September 1967, Reynolda House Museum of American Art opened, becoming the area’s first public collection. True to the family’s intent, the museum now attracts half of its visitors from outside North Carolina. Though she was not yet 30 years old when she undertook the task, Millhouse proved she was wise beyond her years: Reynolda House Museum of American Art opened with nine works in its permanent collection, each painting an outstanding example of the oeuvre of Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Gilbert Stuart, Martin Johnson Heade, Childe Hassam, Eastman Johnson, William Harnett, William Merritt Chase, and Joseph Blackburn. Millhouse continues to be a curatorial and creative, force and the collection continues to grow, now with 200 works spanning from the 1700s to the present day.

Last year, the museum and estate with its Beaux-Arts gardens, manicured grounds, and walking trails welcomed more than 130,000 visitors. Tobacco is long gone from the city scene, but today, the Reynolds family’s forward-thinking philanthropy has turned this one-time company town into a cultural mecca – something truly to celebrate.

About Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is recognized as a rare gem among the nation’s cultural institutions. The museum presents an exceptional collection of art by America’s most noted artists in an incomparable setting: the 1917 country home of Katharine and Richard Joshua (R. J.) Reynolds. Spanning 250 years of painting, prints, sculpture, photography and video art, the collection has been guided with the prescient and unerring eye of Barbara Babcock Millhouse, granddaughter of Katharine and R. J. Reynolds. Highlights include important works by Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Chuck Close, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Martin Johnson Heade, Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keeffe, Nam June Paik, Martin Puryear, Gilbert Stuart, and Grant Wood. In addition to its collection of fine art, Reynolda House holds decorative arts and estate archive collections and mounts exhibitions from all periods in the 2005 Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing. Established in 1967 and now affiliated with Wake Forest University, the museum will mark two anniversaries in 2017—the 50th of its founding and the 100th of the completion of its estate—with major exhibitions and events. The complete Reynolda experience includes Reynolda Gardens, composed of formal gardens, walking trails and wetlands, and Reynolda Village, now an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants in many of the estate’s original buildings. For more information, please visit reynoldahouse.org.

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