The historic buildings, the catalpa, and the gentle spring where it all began endure thanks to a careful plan to preserve the Reynolds property and donate it to the university. Through collaborations between Virginia Tech and local organizations, the property remains a strength in the Patrick County community.
The last descendant of the Reynolds family left the property in the 1960s and the house sat vacant for several years until in 1967 a local schoolteacher stopped by to check and found a pony living in the house at next to the Reynolds family’s antique piano. Nannie Ruth Terry began a quest to save the historic landmark and wrote a letter to RJ’s youngest daughter, Nancy Susan Reynolds, inviting her to visit. This sparked a friendship and a plan to save the farm.
Nancy Susan Reynolds purchased the property and renovated the house and several outbuildings, including a kitchen, icehouse, creamery, and attic. Today, the restored home is filled with Reynolds family heirlooms and displays of 19th-century life.
But she had more in mind than just preserving her family’s history.
At the lawn’s grand opening in 1970, Nancy Susan Reynolds turned over the property to Virginia Tech. In doing so, she set herself a mission calling for programs designed to improve the quality of life in Patrick County “culturally, economically, and practically.”
“It’s the smartest thing she’s done. That’s what kept it going and how it stayed preserved,” said Richard S. “Major” Reynolds III, Hardin’s great-great-grandson. “If it had been passed down to the family it would inevitably have been broken, but thanks to Virginia Tech it has been preserved and has become even more important to the community.”
Today, as part of Outreach and International Affairs, the Reynolds Homestead serves as a place of learning and culture in a rural area where residents do not have easy access to theatre, art exhibits and other cultural experiences.
“Nancy Susan Reynolds realized that this community didn’t have the opportunities it had growing up. So she really weighed heavily in our mission to deliver arts, culture and history and to provide educational opportunities,” Steele said.
Today, residents of Patrick County and beyond celebrate their weddings on the farm lawn and enjoy nature along the 1 mile LEAF Trail. They attend concerts, festivals and conferences. The surrounding 780 acres of woods serve as the Reynolds Homestead Forest Resources Research Center, where Virginia Tech researchers and students study forest biology.
The longstanding ties between the Reynolds family, the university and the community remain strong with the Reynolds Farm Advisory Board, which helps guide the future of the farm.
Major Reynolds said he feels a deep connection to the property where his parents and brother, Virginia Lieutenant Governor J. Sargeant Reynolds, are buried in the family cemetery. More than 50 years ago, he listened to his brother speak at the dedication of the farm, and since then he has seen it “really become a place of good for the community”.
Over the years, the Reynolds family has continued their support, including building the Farm Community Engagement Center in 1978 and an addition in 1992. The two-story building houses several meeting spaces where community members can to gather. Education support in the community is also supported by the Nancy Susan Reynolds Scholarships, which have helped hundreds of Patrick County high school students attend college.
“The Reynolds Homestead fits very well into the kinds of things that our family cares deeply about, like helping the community and helping people who have fewer resources,” Major Reynolds said. “I think Nancy would be very happy to see it as it is today. She would see it as a very important part of her legacy.