Replacing a Unique Tile Roof at Reynolda House
The Reynolda House Museum of America Art, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has maintained its distinctive green tile roof for over a century. Composed of individual tiles secured by copper flashing and fasteners, the roof has offered protection for the artworks housed in the 34,000-square-foot bungalow. Following a season of above-average rainfall and two hurricanes, however, the museum staff spotted areas of concern on the roof, which prompted the need for urgent repairs. Reynolda House turned to the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding through the Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants program.
Constructed at the turn of the century, Reynolda House was built as a family estate for Richard Joshua (R.J.) and Katharine Reynolds. Katharine took the lead in designing the grounds and house. She selected Charles Barton Keen as the architect and Buckenham & Miller as the landscape engineer. According to the Reynolda House website:
Katharine proved equal to her husband in drive and initiative, playing the dominant role in the creation of a self-sufficient country estate. Though her husband’s fortune financed the purchases her name alone stands on the deeds—altogether she acquired twenty-five tracts of land totaling 1,067 acres.
The area quickly became a hub for agricultural life and work. (R.J.’s tobacco factory was located a mile down the road.) It was not until 1964—forty-seven years later—that Reynolda House was established as a premier institution for American art by Katharine and R.J.’s descendants.
The museum’s permanent collection highlights the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederic Edwin Church, and Jacob Lawrence, among others. Their programmatic calendar includes movies, camps for youth, tours, and lectures. Throughout the roof renovation project, the staff was committed to maintaining their scheduled programming. Phil Archer, the Betsy Main Babcock Deputy Director, noted how difficult it was to balance a major renovation with continuing their programmatic schedule. The museum capitalized on the renovation by hosting a new educational opportunity: “The Raise the Roof Exhibition.” This display “focused on Reynolda’s architecture and historic preservation standards.”
The institution’s small staff marshalled their talents to craft the NEH application. The Reynolda House team learned of the grant opportunity just two months prior to the application deadline. According to Karl Erik, Director of Operations at Reynolda, the most stressful part of submitting the application in the short time frame was soliciting quotes and estimates.
Funding from the Office of Challenge Programs comes in the form of federal matching dollars, which means they must be matched by third-party, non-federal contributions. Infrastructure and Capacity Building grants “strengthen institutional base of the humanities.” The Reynolda House roof replacement project was not only an essential measure to protect the significant artworks housed inside the museum, but an important historic preservation project that maintained a character-defining feature of the bungalow: its green tile roof.
Like any renovation project, delays are bound to happen (even with the best planning). The renovation project was delayed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, workers discovered asbestos when the project began, which led to increased expenses for abatement. However, the staff used the asbestos abatement work as an opportunity to replace three of the HVAC systems. A grant progress report noted, “The units are thirty years old, thus reaching the end of their recommended service life and the roof rehabilitation provides a unique opportunity to upgrade these systems, funding permitting.” While not a part of the original workplan, an updated HVAC system will help to continue the longevity of the museum. The staff plan to update or replace the remaining HVAC systems and are seeking funding from local sources to do so.
Now that the roof renovation is complete, Reynolda House staff generously shared their time at an Open House event for the public to learn more about the Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants program and their specific project (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWnKuiun1Nc).
If you are ever in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, plan to visit the Reynolda House. As you approach the main house, be sure to look up and admire the green tiles!
The Reynolda House was awarded an Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge grant (CHA-261881-19) in 2018.