R. J. Reynolds Building

Built in 1929, this twenty-one story building was the tallest in the United States south of Baltimore.  The final cost was $2.4 million in 1929. ($33 million in 2019).  It was a design inspiration for New York’s Empire State Building that was built three years later. Every year, the staff of the Empire State Building sends a Father’s Day card to the staff at the Reynolds Building to acknowledge its role as a predecessor.

The stock market crashed only a few months after the Reynolds Building was finished, and the subsequent Great Depression hurt the building’s leasing business. Even so, the building was more successful than most similar buildings at finding tenants;  it rented many of the offices to organizations related to the tobacco industry – railroads, insurance companies, and attorneys.

The inscription “R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company” is still over the main entrance although today, it is a luxury hotel with the upper floors converted to private penthouse residences, one of many examples of how tobacco influence is fading in Winston-Salem.

For my first fifty-seven years, I nearly always lived in sight of the Reynolds Building. It was prominent on the skyline, and every evening its lights could be seen from miles away. As a small child on a Davie County farm, the road from our farm took us atop a hill where I could see the building about fifteen miles distant. It was an impressive sight and a symbol of the “big city” to a very young country boy.  It seemed impossible that I would someday have an office in that building, where I worked for six years.

(Photo – Linda Weaver Studio)

Wikipedia. “Reynolds Building.” Last updated March 9, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_Building