Winston-Salem’s Reynolds Building, 1929

The Reynolds Building stands out in downtown Winston-Salem, circa 1940. Image from Digital Forsyth.

The Reynolds Building stands out in downtown Winston-Salem, circa 1940. Image from Digital Forsyth.

On April 23, 1929, the newly-completed 22-story office building for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem was officially opened for business. The public enjoyed access to the retail and commercial shops on the lower levels off the elevator lobby, including a barber shop, restaurant, pharmacy, telegraph office and a railway ticket office.

When the skyscraper opened, the Reynolds Company occupied half of the building, and insurance firms, brokerage firms, attorneys, architects and developers leased the other half of the space.

Looking down at the Reynolds Building from the  Wachovia Building, circa 1960s. Image from Digital Forsyth.

Looking down at the Reynolds Building from the Wachovia Building, circa 1960s. Image from Digital Forsyth.

Reynolds president Bowman Gray, Sr., commissioned New York City architects R. H. Shreve and William F. Lamb to design the dramatic corporate headquarters in the popular Art Deco style. The $2 million limestone faced tower became the tallest building in the South, surpassing the 1923 Jefferson Standard Building in Greensboro.

Shreve and Lamb, with new partner Arthur Harmon, went on to design Manhattan’s Empire State Building, completed in 1931. The two buildings share a sleek, streamlined exterior with a distinctive stepped ziggurat roofline.

Historic rehabilitation of the building for apartments and a hotel is underway.

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Librarian of Congress Lawrence Mumford of Pitt County

L. Quincy Mumford (left)  views an exhibit on the printing of the Constitution with  Archivist of the United States James B. Rhoads. Image from the National Archives.

L. Quincy Mumford (left) views an exhibit on the printing of the Constitution with Archivist of the United States James B. Rhoads. Image from the National Archives.

On April 22, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Lawrence Quincy Mumford for the post of Librarian of Congress. Mumford was the eleventh person to hold the office and the first trained as a professional librarian.

Born near Ayden in Pitt County in December 1903, Mumford began his education in a one-room school house and continued at Duke, where received an M.A. in English in 1928. He earned a B.S. in library science from Columbia the following year.

He worked first at the New York Public Library, where he also did work for the Library of Congress, before moving to the Cleveland Public Library, where he became director in 1950.

Confirmed by the Senate in July 1954, Mumford began his tenure at the Library of Congress under a dark cloud for the institution and its leadership. At his confirmation hearings, Congress expressed dissatisfaction with the library’s increasing public service role as a national library beyond its original mission as Congress’s legislative library.

Despite this and other tensions, Mumford’s 20 years at the Library saw extraordinary growth in its appropriations, completion of the Madison Building, adoption of the first computer-readable format for library catalog records and continued expansion of the its national role.

Mumford retired from the Library in December 1974 and died in Washington, D.C. in August 1982.

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Moonwalker Charles Duke’s Rare Distinction

Charles Duke salutes the American flag during his moonwalk. Image from NASA.

Charles Duke salutes the American flag during his moonwalk. Image from NASA.

On April 21, 1972, Charlotte-born Charles M. Duke became the youngest man to walk on the moon at age 36.

After graduating and receiving a commission from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957, Duke embarked on a career in the Air Force as a pilot. His dedication to aeronautics and advanced education at MIT made him an ideal candidate for NASA, which selected him and 18 others in April 1966 to form Astronaut Group Five.

Before visiting space himself, Duke served as the capsule communicator for the Apollo 11 crew, the first crew to land on the moon. The Earth-based capsule communicator’s job was to keep constant contact with the crew in space.

During the Apollo 16 mission, Duke was the lunar module pilot alongside mission commander John Young and command module pilot Thomas K. Mattingly. On April 21, Duke and Young stepped out onto the lunar surface, becoming two of only 12 people ever to walk on the moon. They spent 71 hours in the Descartes Highlands, a rugged region of the moon.

In just over 20 hours of moonwalks, the pair carefully surveyed the moon’s surface, collected samples and deployed scientific equipment. Duke was one of nine North Carolina-born astronauts.

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Hydroelectric Power Introduced, 1898

Idol’s Dam and Fries Power Station, circa 1898-1900. Image from the Forsyth County Public Library.

Idol’s Dam and Fries Power Station, circa 1898-1900. Image from the Digital Forsyth.

On April 20, 1898, the Fries Manufacturing and Power Company transmitted electrical power 13 miles from the generating plant to the Fries-owned Arista textile mill.

The transmission, which originated near the Yadkin River bridge west of Clemmons in Forsyth County, was North Carolina’s first long-distance transmission of electricity.

Long interested in the use of electricity to power industrial machinery, Henry Fries of Salem founded the company to harness the hydroelectric capability of the river.

Construction on the power plant began in 1897 and it soon became known as Idol’s Hydroelectric Station, after a ferry that was once located on the same site. The dam built for the station was 482 feet long and the reservoir covered about 35 acres. The flow of the dam generated about 2,500 horsepower.

The station later provided power for other textile and grain mills, fertilizer plants, the Winston-Salem electric railway, electric street lights and wood and metal working shops in Winston-Salem.

Fries sold his power company in 1913 to Southern Public Utility Company, which was purchased by Duke Power in 1914. Duke Power, now Duke Energy, operated the Idols station until 1996. The station burned two years later.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

States’ Rights Champion, Governor and Senator David Reid

Then former Governor David Reid (in top hat, center) in front of the State Capitol, circa 1861. Image from the State Archives.

On April 19, 1813, David Settle Reid, governor and member of both houses of Congress, was born in Rockingham County.

Reid was raised in a community that in time became the city of Reidsville, named for Reid’s father. After first holding public office as a state senator at age 22, Reid won his second bid to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 30. Reid was elected governor in 1850, calling for sensible internal improvements, support for public schools and states’ rights.

Image from the State Archives.

Reid’s two terms as governor were marked by expanded internal improvements; appointment of Calvin H. Wiley as the first Superintendent of the Common Schools; initiation of a statewide geological survey; and confirmation of land titles held by Cherokee Indians who had remained in North Carolina.

In late 1854, the General Assembly elected Reid to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Reid in turn transferred his duties as governor to Warren Winslow. Reid served only one term in the Senate, where he championed the defense of states’ rights.

After being defeated for reelection in 1858, Reid retired to private life. He suffered a severe stroke in 1881 that left him paralyzed. He fought failing health for a decade before dying in 1891. He was buried in Reidsville.

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Battle of South Mills, April 1862

A map of the Battle of South Mills. Image from the British Museum.

On April 18, 1862, Federal forces landed in Camden County to begin a two-day march and fight directed at finding and destroying the locks on the Dismal Swamp canal system. Closing that system would prevent Confederate naval forces from sending ships from a shipyard in Virginia to the Albemarle Sound.

The landing action, now known as the Battle of South Mills, involved about 3,000 Union soldiers commanded by General Jesse L. Reno and 900 Confederates commanded by General Ambrose R. Wright. The battle was part of the Burnside Expedition, which had the wider goal of reclaiming northeastern North Carolina for the Union.

After the federal troops landed and moved toward locks on the canal, one group of men took a wrong road on the advice of their guide. That misstep led to an unplanned 10-mile march, and by the time the stray group reunited with the larger force, they found their fellow soldiers hotly engaged by entrenched Confederates.

The confusion prevented Union troops from reaching the locks, so the federal forces broke off the engagement allowing the Confederate troops to retreat from the scene. Both sides claimed victory—Union forces for retaining the field of battle and the Confederates for preventing the locks’ destruction.

Purportedly, Federal forces executed the guide who took the circuitous road.

Visit: Dismal Swamp State Park preserves land near where the battle was fought.

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Electrification Boost to Rural North Carolina

Power lines crisscross the skies above downtown Kernersville, circa 1940. Image from the State Archives.

On April 17, 1937, the first switch was thrown at the Eason-Tarboro substation, jumpstarting rural electrification efforts in North Carolina.

As part of his New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in May 1935 with the dual goals of helping rural areas get electricity and providing work to the unemployed. High startup costs and anticipated low returns on investments made existing electric companies unenthusiastic about entering rural markets, so communities turned to cooperative ventures instead.

North Carolina’s first co-op—the Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation, or EMC-EMC—was formed by citizens in the northeastern part of the state. After receiving a $32,000 loan in June 1936, work quickly began to bring electricity to the region.

The switch was thrown on April 17 at the Eason-Tarboro substation and electricity began to flow. The plant is still in operation today.

Before the EMC-EMC, North Carolinians had long been interested in rural electrification. The state actually established its own Rural Electrification Authority in April 1935, one month before Roosevelt’s REA.

North Carolina’s progressive attitude toward rural electrification helped to make the EMC-EMC more than a flash in the pan.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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