Early History of RJ Reynolds High SchoolandThe Richard J Reynolds Memorial Auditorium
At a 7 PM called meeting on July 7, 1919, of theWinston-Salem Board of Alderman, Katharine Smith Reynolds (widow of R.J.Reynolds) gave $50,000 to go towards the purchase and improvement of a 45-acre tract of land called “Silver Hill”. This site would be where the City would build its new high school, and where Mrs. Reynolds would build an auditorium (if it were considered a memorial to, and named for, her deceased husband). Both of these requests were approved by the Board that evening. The total cost of the Auditorium was planned to be $394,000, and an additional $100,000 was to be provided by the Reynolds estate for interior decoration and equipment.
During that same Board of Aldermen meeting, Mr. P.H. Hanes, along with the estate of his brother (John W. Hanes), donated a 75 acre tract of land (which used to be P.H. Hanes' farm) to be used as a park. The value of the land was estimated to be $250,000.
This land was to be owned and used by the City as a site for school buildings, playgrounds and park purposes. Today this is known as Hanes Park. (Wiley Middle School and its gymnasium, along with what is now known as the Herman Bryson Gymnasium, and the RJR girls gymnasium were later constructed on this land). Click to read the minutes from this Board of Aldermen meeting.
The preliminary plans for Hanes Park included a six-acre lake (fed by three streams)...to be built below the Glade Street bridge for boating, swimming, and ice skating. The park land was accessible by railroad, streetcar, and automobile...and the street beside Hanes Park (from Glade Street to Brookstown Road) was to be widened to seventy feet…broad enough for cars to park along the curb to watch athletic events. Other features were a race track, a football field, tennis courts, and a baseball field. The newspaper announcement of these plans called for this to be “the grandest park south of Washington, DC.”
When combined, these two gifts (from Mrs. Reynolds and theHanes families) were the 3rd largest gift from private individuals to a public school system in the history of our nation!
Later in 1919, the City overwhelmingly passed a bond referendum for $800,000 (half of which went to construct R.J. Reynolds High School). The original plans called for two school buildings…one on either side of the Auditorium. The Household Arts and Industrial Arts Building would be built at the completion of the construction of the Auditorium and the first school building (referred tp as the Academic Art Building).