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.
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.