The historic buildings, the catalpa tree, and the gentle spring where it all began endure because of a careful plan to preserve the Reynolds Homestead and give it to the university. Through collaborations between Virginia Tech and local organizations, the property remains a force in the Patrick County community.
The last Reynolds family descendant left the property in the 1960s, and the house sat vacant for several years until, in 1967, a local schoolteacher stopped to check on it and found a pony living in the home alongside the Reynolds family’s antique piano. Nannie Ruth Terry started a quest to save the historic landmark and wrote a letter to R.J.’s youngest daughter, Nancy Susan Reynolds, to invite her to visit. That sparked a friendship and a plan to save the homestead.
Nancy Susan Reynolds purchased the property and renovated the house and several outbuildings, including a kitchen, an ice house, a creamery, and a granary. 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 grand dedication on the lawn in 1970, Nancy Susan Reynolds deeded the property to Virginia Tech. In doing so, she set a mission calling for programs designed to improve the quality of life in Patrick County “culturally, economically, and practically.”
“That’s the smartest thing she did. That’s what has kept it going and how it remained preserved,” said Richard S. “Major” Reynolds III, Hardin’s great-great-grandson. “If it had been passed down to family, it inevitably would have eventually been broken up, but through Virginia Tech it was 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 don’t have easy access to theater, art exhibits, and other cultural experiences.
“Nancy Susan Reynolds realized that this community didn’t have the opportunities that she had growing up. So, she really weighed heavily in our mission to offer arts and culture and history and to offer opportunities for education,” Steele said.
Today, residents of Patrick County and beyond celebrate their weddings on the homestead’s lawn and enjoy nature along the 1-mile LEAF trail. They attend concerts, festivals, and lectures. The surrounding 780 acres of woodland serve as the Reynolds Homestead Forestry Resources Research Center, where Virginia Tech researchers and students study forest biology.
The long-standing ties between the Reynolds family, the university, and the community remain strong with the Reynolds Homestead Advisory Committee, which helps steer the homestead’s future.
Major Reynolds said he feels deeply connected 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 homestead’s dedication, and ever since he has watched it “really become a place of good for the community.”
Over the years, the Reynolds family has continued its support, including building the homestead’s Community Engagement Center in 1978 and an addition in 1992. The two-story building holds several meeting spaces where community members can gather. Support of education in the community is also upheld through the Nancy Susan Reynolds Scholarships, which have helped hundreds of Patrick County high school seniors attend college.
“The Reynolds Homestead fits very well into the types of things for which our family cares deeply, such as helping the community and 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.”