Hanes Park History

The August 1919 headline proclaimed, “Magnificent Park and Public Playground for Twin-City is Assured; Tentative Plans for the Development of the P.H. Hanes Park in Winston-Salem Provide for Many Splendid Features. Gymnasium Building to be Located on Site. Provision Made for Out-of-Door Sports—Property is Capable of the Most Beautiful Landscape Development.”[1]

“Magnificent Park and Public Playground for Twin-City is Assured”

In conjunction with textile magnate Pleasant H. Hanes’ donation of the 47-acre park, Katharine S. Reynolds, widow of R.J. Reynolds, amended an earlier offer and gave 25 acres just north of the Hanes land for the city’s construction of a high school, and subsidized an associated auditorium. Hanes’ initial proposal was changed to reflect Mrs. Reynolds’ donation; he had called for a high school building on the Hanes property as well as the gymnasium, “but the high school buildings, with the exception of the gymnasium will be built on the site offered by Mrs. Reynolds.”[2]

The land donated by Katharine Reynolds was also called a park. The use of the word on a plaque inside the school has been misunderstood by some to include Hanes Park. The plaque states: “The City of Winston-Salem named this park and group of buildings The Richard J. Reynold’s [sic] High School. This site of twenty eight acres and the auditorium were given as part of this memorial by Katharine Smith Reynolds-Johnston.” (The plaque reflects her 1921 marriage to Edward Johnston and a 1920 transfer of 3 acres to her initial 25.)

For his park, Hanes outlined conditions, among them “that the property herein conveyed is to be used forever exclusively for public purposes, such as a park, playgrounds, or school purpose,” “that this property be beautified and forever maintained and kept up by the City of Winston-Salem for the purposes mentioned in this donation,” and “that substantial progress be made within two years from this date in the establishment of the property for the purpose aforesaid, beautifying same, laying out the boulevard, walk-ways and water-ways, and a gymnasium erected thereon.”[3]

Park Location

From his extensive land holdings in the area, Hanes selected this location to benefit two neighborhoods, public recreation, education, and the city as a whole. Part of the land had been left undeveloped in the 1890 plan for the West End neighborhood and labeled a “lawn.” The western portion was pastureland for Hanes’s West End Dairy. Immediately west, Hanes in 1912 began development of the 75-acre West Highlands neighborhood on high land overlooking Peters Creek across from West End. Hanes’ plan for the park was in part to encourage property sales in West Highlands and to serve its residents and those of West End.

View of the West End Dairy owned by P. H. Hanes. This is the land he donated to citizens that would become Hanes Park.

Hanes hired national-recognized landscape architect Louis L. Miller of the New York firm Buckenham and Miller firm to design West Highlands with winding roads and a parklike setting of naturalistic landscaping.[4] Miller had designed the campus of Eastern Carolina University in 1907, and his firm was hired by Hanes for the 1909 conversion of Davis Military Academy to the Methodist Children’s Home. The firm was also the original designer of Reynolda, the Reynolds estate. Hanes hired Miller for the initial West Highlands, then for the second section of West Highlands today known as Runnymede, and again in 1928 for the third section.[5] And it was Miller he selected to design the park between West Highlands and West End in 1912 when West Highlands was laid out, well before the 1919 donation.[6] In his deed of the park to the city, Hanes suggested that Miller supervise the work.

“The finest public park south of Washington.”

Louis Miller described the park as “the finest public park south of Washington,” and the newspaper reported, “It is capable of the highest landscape development and has three fresh water streams on it which will make possible a large artificial lake in the future for boating and swimming in the summer and skating in the winter.” The plan also called for “a football field, half-mile running track, baseball field and tennis courts.” The newspaper predicted that the “park will come to be one of the city’s most precious and most treasured possessions.”[7]

A couple of young boys play by the water’s edge in Hanes Park circa 1940. At the end of the stream visible in the distance is the Spanish revival building that at the time was a drug store and is now home to Colony Urban Farm.

The City quickly followed Hanes’ wishes; by 1921 two baseball diamonds and six tennis courts were “ready for community recreation purposes,” and a track, with “probably a football field in the center” was to follow.[8] The city built the gymnasium in the park in 1923; it included a swimming pool available for public use.[9] Wiley Elementary School was added to the park the next year, high on a rise with its prominent Classical Revival façade facing the creek.

The Depression brought the New Deal, and Hanes Park benefited from the Civil Works Administration and Emergency Relief Administration’s programs in 1933-35, when workers built the welcoming stone entrance and steps at Clover Street, as well as footbridges and stone pavilions. Landscaping continued in the late 1930s under the Works Progress Administration (WPA).[10] Photographs from the 1930s and 1940s show tree-lined paths through the park and both Wiley and the gym an integral part of the park’s design. The front and sides of Wiley were a garden of curving walkways and stone steps amid flowering trees, tall shade trees, and abundant shrubbery.

The park vista as seen from the entry at Clover and West End Blvd. Wiley School presides over the pastoral landscape in the distance, framing Hanes Park’s outer edge on the West Highlands side at the corner of NW Blvd and Hawthorne Rd.
1948 Wiley School

In 1959, the second of three gyms was built in the park as part of Wiley’s conversion to a junior high school, designed in the Modernist style by the prominent local firm Lashmit, James, Brown and Pollock.

R. J. Reynolds High School (at upper center), Reynolds Auditorium (at upper right), the gymnasium (at left), and the walkway forming a central axis connecting the park entries at opposite sides of Hanes Park.

A Land Transfer to Schools

A major change took place in 1963 when a distinct area of the park was set aside for school use rather than joint public and school. With the merger of the city and county school systems to form the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Board of Education (WSFCS), the city delineated 11.9 acres, or 23 percent, of the park for school use and deeded that parcel to the school system.[11] In 1968, the third gym was built in the park, known as the Girls’ Gym, on land by that time under WSFCS ownership.

Over the years the schools expanded their use of facilities in the remaining portion of the park, at times in conflict with residents. A 1999 Agreement between WSFCS and the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission acknowledged and allowed school use of Hanes Park for specified activities and classes, confirming that the general public retains full use of the park except for posted times and locations when a preapproved school activity is underway. The Agreement stipulates that changes proposed by either party will first be reviewed by representatives of nearby neighborhoods.

Some Highlights in Hanes Park History

Charles Lindbergh visited W-S in 1927: Aviator Charles Lindbergh was greeted by hundreds when he flew his Spirit of St. Louis for a visit to the city in October 1927, and spoke at Hanes Park before an evening banquet in his honor.[13]

Charles Lindberg parades down N. Hawthorne Road on a visit to speak in Hanes Park. Wiley School is visible in the background

In 1943 during World War II, Hanes Park was the location of the first dress parade of the Army specialized training unit of Bowman Gray Medical School (now Wake Forest School of Medicine).[14]

Army Specialized Training Program medical students are seen here marching at Hanes Field in the 1940’s.

 

Footnotes

[1] Winston-Salem Journal, 14 August 1919, p. 1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/80922719/?terms=%22hanes%2Bpark%22

[2] Ibid.

[3] Deed book 179/300.

[4] Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem’s Architectural Heritage, p. 229.

[5] Heather Fearnbach, Forsyth County Survey Update Phase III, 2009, p. 71.

[6] Winston-Salem Journal, 14 August 1919, p. 7.

[7] Ibid., pp. 1 and 7.

[8] Twin-City Daily Sentinel, 28 March 1921, p. 7.

[9] Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem’s Architectural Heritage, p. 169.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Deed book 865/174, tract #5, 1 July 1963.

[12] Winston-Salem Journal, 16 June 2016.

[13] Statesville Record and Landmark, 17 October 1927, p. 2., See also Tales from the Attic.

[14] Statesville Daily Record, 2 November 1943, p. 5.

[15] James Gordon Hanes, nephew of P.H. Hanes, donated a small triangular plot adjacent to the park, announced by Board of Aldermen 3 July 1919.