During the Country House Era (1890 – 1940), many American industrialists created extensive estates where they and their families could enjoy clean air, healthy food, and active leisure pursuits. The Reynolda estate, which was developed and remained under resident ownership between 1906 and 1924, was one of few such estates in the South. It is further distinguished by the fact that it was guided to fruition and managed by a woman, Katharine Smith Reynolds, who was the wife of Richard Joshua Reynolds. Much of the property was dedicated to farming and other commercial enterprises. The property that now comprises Reynolda Gardens includes important elements that were located at the heart of the estate.
Louis L. Miller and Horatio R. Buckenham, who were partners in the landscape engineering firm, Buckenham and Miller, created a landscape plan for the estate and designed several important features between 1911 and 1913. Beginning in 1915, Thomas W. Sears made changes to the Buckenham and Miller plans and designed additional plantings.
Lake Katharine, the Boathouse, and the Water System
Buckenham and Miller designed a rock-faced dam to block the flow of Silas Creek and several smaller streams. The lake was completed and filled to capacity by 1913. The boathouse was completed at that time. A water system for the estate included several above-ground structures: an irrigation basin, which was also used as a swimming pool for the Reynolds children; a concrete pumphouse on the lakeshore nearby; and a cistern at a higher location.
Gardens and Greenhouses
The greenhouse range, which included a conservatory and four growing houses, was completed in 1913. Louis L. Miller designed gardens nearby in 1913. Thomas Sears re-designed the formal gardens in 1917 and 1921.
Natural Areas and the Golf Links
Woods that were part of the farms purchased to create the estate were retained and enhanced when the estate was established. Small plantings of trees and shrubs framed large, open views. Sheep grazed on the nine-hole Golf Links, located near the entrance gate.