Reynolds High School still welcoming students 100 years later

One of the city’s most prominent families helped make the campus a reality a century ago. Its design continues to inspire students to achieve their best.

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After the towns of Winston and Salem merged in 1913, the city needed space to accommodate an increase in students.

Photo by WStoday

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Students at RJ Reynolds High School are walking the halls of history. The school on Hawthorne Road opened in 1923 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a lot to learn on and about this campus.

Let’s go back to history class

RJ Reynolds High School is named after Richard Joshua Reynolds, the founder of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. Despite the namesake, he never saw the buildings go up — he died in 1918, five years before the school welcomed the first students.

His widow, Katharine Smith Reynolds Johnston, was a champion of education and was instrumental in the school’s founding. She donated the purchase price of the land and money to build the auditorium.

A fine facility

Charles Barton Keen began designing the school in 1919. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because the architect had another connection to the Reynolds family — he designed their estate, Reynolda House. Keen used Thomas Jefferson’s plan for the University of Virginia as inspiration for the high school. Supporters hoped appealing aesthetics would motivate students to be innovative (back then only about 5% of the US population went to college).

RJ Reynolds High School started educating teens on Jan. 15, 1923 out of necessity. Even though construction wasn’t complete, students at Winston High School needed a place to continue their education after a fire destroyed their classrooms at the building on Cherry Street.

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The high school and auditorium three years after construction was completed.

Photo via Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection

Teaching generations

Thousands of Reynolds students have gone on to achieve success (musician Ben Folds and the late ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott are among its well-known graduates). The school has an award-winning Arts Magnet Program and its supporters are looking toward the next big project so athletes can compete on their home turf — construction on the M. Douglas Crater Field + Stadium is currently underway.