A brief history of Reynolda EstateReynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, was part of the early twentieth century estate of Mr. and Mrs. R. J. Reynolds. Mrs. Reynolds began purchasing contiguous farms in 1906. Much of the property she purchased had been farmed for many years, using the non-sustainable practices that were in use throughout the South. By the early 1920s, the total acreage was 1,067. The Reynolda Estate, which was part of the Country House movement, included a large family home; formal gardens; extensive recreational facilities, including a nine-hole golf course; a polo field; the 16-acre Lake Katharine; and multiple farm operations. It was widely regarded throughout the eastern seaboard as a model for modern agriculture and land reclamation. By the late 1920s, after Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds died, the farms gradually became inactive. The prize farm animals were sold, as was much of the property. Their daughter, Mary Reynolds Babcock, became the owner in the mid-thirties, but she did not renew the agricultural component of the estate. Reynolds descendants donated approximately 300 acres of former farmland to serve as a new campus for Wake Forest College, which relocated from Wake Forest, N.C. to Winston-Salem in the early 1950s.
Between 1957 and 1962, three parcels of land were transferred to Wake Forest College to establish Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest College. Today, RGWFU is a 129-acre preserve that includes four acres of formal gardens, a greenhouse range, a wetland (the remains of the former lake), woodlands, and a twenty-four acre meadow (formerly the Golf Links). It is protected by the Deeds of Gift and is held in perpetuity by Wake Forest University.
A description of RGWFU today
The preserve is located in an active and growing urban area and has been affected by growth surrounding it. The lakebed has filled with silt and sediment deposited from the streams that help fill it. At first gradual and largely unnoticed, the siltation process accelerated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a dramatic influx caused by lack of erosion control at construction projects upstream. A dam prevents the return to the natural condition of wooded hillsides and streams, and so the former lake is now an artificial wetland, known as the Lake Katharine Wetland. Ornamental plants, such as Asian honeysuckle and English ivy, that enhanced the landscape design in the early twentieth century have escaped and have become highly invasive. Wildlife has been affected by changes in their environment, both inside and outside the boundaries. Deer and other wildlife, which once were rarely sighted on the property, are now present. The entire estate is open to the public free of charge. Visitation has increased in recent years; yearly numbers are estimated at 100,000+.
By the 1960s, College/University scientists were beginning to conduct studies throughout the property. Although there was not a systematic plan designed to document conditions, environmental influences, and changes, these studies have accomplished just that. Because the Deeds of Gift are so highly restrictive, the property is protected from major alteration, such as the addition of buildings and parking lots; consequently, current and future scientists associated with the University are and will be free to establish long-term studies. They can be assured that their projects will be protected and that their findings will be useful to researchers far into the future. Although the property, as described above, is far from pristine, plant and animal communities characteristic of the Piedmont are able to thrive. Because so much of the natural environment of the Piedmont is under continuing pressure from rapid growth, this property, even with its faults, may come to be seen in the future as a microcosm of the Piedmont environment, where scientists and others are still able to learn about Piedmont ecology.
Site under construction
The process of assembling these materials began on April 1, 2009. An index of early studies includes the names of the researchers and addresses where they may be contacted. Many articles have been published in other formats, and there are links to them wherever possible. University students have an opportunity to publish their (reviewed) findings at this site. Classroom teachers can find teaching materials on Piedmont ecology arranged by grade level and corresponding to the North Carolina Essential Standards, 2009.
For more information
See the website http://www.reynoldagardens.org
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