The Gift of Good Food

History

Numerous other revival styles were popular across the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, but conservative Charlotte seldom experimented with them. Mrs. Blanche Reynolds Gormajenko, a world traveler and independent spirit who married a Russian emigre during a tour of Europe, built the city's only Tuscan Villa. Designed by New York architect William Lawrence Bottomley, the Providence Road residence resembled a Mediterranean movie set with its walled courtyard, picturesque massing, and drooping roof of antique Cuban tiles. A handful of Spanish or Mediterranean Revival residences were built in Charlotte in the decade. They stood out with their clay tile roofs, cream-colored walls usually stuccoed, and arched stuccoed window openings or rectangular openings with heavy hand-hewn wood sills and lintels.

While most people in Charlotte refer to our building as “the Villa”, it is actually the Reynolds-Gourmajenko House and has been designated as an historic structure by the Mecklenburg County Historic Landmarks Commission. The Reynolds-Gourmajenko House has a long and interesting history. That history explains why we took such pains with the furniture and materials we used in the build out of the space.

Blanche Reynolds, a native of Durham, NC, assembled, by purchases made in 1921 and 1923, the property upon which the Reynolds-Gourmajenko House stands. A woman of refinement, aristocratic tastes, and an independent spirit, Mrs. Reynolds inherited a considerable estate from Mr. Reynolds upon his death - an estate generated by the activities of the Southern Cotton Oil Co. Before beginning construction on the house in 1925, Mrs. Reynolds met Mr. Alexis Gourmajenko, a Russian emigre, in Italy during a tour of Europe. They were married and subsequently moved into the house upon its completion in 1926. On April 26, 1941, the house was deeded to Mrs. Gourmajenko’s only child, Mr. Morgan Ayres Reynolds. On August 30, 1963, Mr. Reynolds and his wife sold the house to Mr. J. Chadbourn Bolles.

Blanche was a woman who maintained an abiding interest in the arts. This aspect of her makeup no doubt played an important part in causing her to select the forceful and dramatic Tuscan Revival style of architecture for her home. Executed by William L. Bottomley of New York City, a renowned architect who designed several homes in Richmond, VA, where Blanche's sister lived, the Reynolds-Gourmajenko House exhibits features common to this exquisite form of revival design. The low-pitched, projecting roof, composed of tiles imported from Cuba, the walled courtyard with a circular fountain in the center, the piazzas extending perpendicularly forward from both sides of the structure of the dwelling, all attest to the basic Tuscan Revival rendering of the R-G House. The house also possesses a certain Spanish overtone, but this is not unusual, because Tuscan Revival was one of the most flexible styles in American Revival architecture. It was especially popular in the nineteenth century, when it competed for dominance with the more widespread Gothic Revival. It was a composite style ultimately derived from the timeless domestic architecture of the Italian Campagna - of Tuscany, Umbria, Lombardy, and the Veneto - but interpreted in the US with unrestrained freedom and endless improvisation.

Blanche spared no expense on the interior treatment of the dwelling. Drawings were prepared for the interior elevations of the principal rooms. Mr. William Griffin, an associate of Mr. Bottomley's, made several trips to Charlotte to supervise personally the rendering of the interior. Two original paintings were prepared by the head of the Academy of Art in Rome for placement in the dining room.

The Reynolds-Gourmajenko House has always been a place to celebrate. We were fortunate to find a picture of the grand celebration of Blanche’s son’s wedding in 1954. It is obvious that the Reynolds were having a wonderful time. We hope that you do as well.