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Reynolda House Museum of American Art
museum in Salem, North Carolina
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Reynolda House Museum of American Art
museum in Salem, North Carolina
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2250 Reynolda Road
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
United States

Works at Reynolda House Museum of American Art

gstecyk's picture

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The Reynolda House Museum, proudly giving you lung cancer since 1875, was also the scene of a grisly unsolved mystery.

 Reynolda House is the former mansion of Richard Joshua (“R. J.”) Reynolds.  Reynolds built a tobacco empire, and was the first person to come up with pre-packaged Camel cigarettes.  His family is also responsible for Eskimo Pies, Reynolds kitchen wrap, Del Monte food products, and Hawaiian Punch.  The Reynolds/Nabisco merger was one of the biggest business deals of all time, the basis for the bestseller Barbarians at the Gate (later a TV movie).

R. J. married his cousin Katherine Smith Reynolds, in the best Southern tradition.  She was a former Reynolds secretary who had won $1,000 in a company contest, and he joked that he only married her to get the money back.  Despite the blood relation, R. J.’s slightly insulting sense of humor, and a whopping 30-year age difference, they were a true love match.  They built Reynolda House as their dream home between 1912 and 1917, largely under the design supervision of Katherine.

One summer night in 1932, their son Zachary was shot through the head during a friend’s 21st birthday party at the house, following a quarrel with his pregnant wife.  It didn’t help that his wife was Libby Holman, a promiscuously bisexual Broadway star and fashionista (she may have invented the strapless dress).  Libby was indicted for murder, but Zachary’s death was ultimately ruled a suicide.  Libby later asphyxiated herself in a Rolls Royce, high society’s most glamorous exit since the Suicide of Dorothy Hale.

Reynolda House has overcome this tawdry, real-life pulp fiction to become the Southeast’s finest collections of American art.  From traditional fare like Gilbert Stuart (George Washington’s portrait painter), to the radical brushstrokes of underrated female abstract expressionist Lee Krasner (Jackson Pollock’s Wife), the collection is a 300-year hodge podge of American masters from diverse movements and walks of life.

The house itself is a rare jewel of craftsman-meets-neoclassical architecture, and a true piece of Southern Gothic history.  On a humid Carolina day, feel free to excuse yourself for a refreshing stroll through the Japanese gardens, or to explore the teeming wildlife of the estate’s wetlands.  If you’re an antiques enthusiast or just a morbid scandal seeker, the family’s private rooms have been restored to look as they did that fateful night in 1932, when Zachary Reynolds may or may not have shot himself in the delirium of a prohibition-era party.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Reynolda House Museum of American Art

The Reynolda House Museum of American Art displays a premiere collection of American art ranging from the colonial period to the present. Built in 1917 by Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband R. J. Reynolds, founder of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the house originally occupied the center of a 1,067-acre (4.32 km2) estate. It opened to the public as an institution dedicated to the arts and education in 1965, and as an art museum in 1967. The house holds one of the country's finest collections of American paintings. It is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Reynolda House Museum of American Art.