Visitors to the Central Library on 5th and Spring Street in the past 60 years likely remember the grand tree that shaded the property on the Spring St. side of the building, close to the entrance between the original library building and the 1979 addition. It was a majestic magnolia tree that towered over the building providing a cool and, in the late spring, fragrant spot. The grassy space below the tree provided a peaceful refuge in the midst of a bustling downtown. Children ran about playing games and adults tucked into a favorite book or caught up with friends under the tree’s sprawling branches. It is difficult to determine the exact history of this grand tree but evidence indicates that it flourished long before the Central Library opened in March of 1953. It may also predate the previous occupants of that corner, the family of R. J. Reynolds himself. Mr. Reynolds built a grand Victorian mansion in 1900 and brought his new bride, Katherine, to live there in 1905. They had their children while living on 5th St, and no doubt the young ones spent plenty of time playing under the magnolia. Eventually Katherine spearheaded construction of the Reynolda estate and the property on 5th and Spring was abandoned. Fast forward several decades and the Reynolds family donated the land for a new library for the community and the stately magnolia began its tenure as a library tree.
When plans were made for a new library building for the 21st century on the same site it became clear that the magnolia could no longer remain. Fortunately the wood from the tree was salvaged and made into commemorative pens, allowing fans of the library to hold onto a piece of its history for years to come. The magnolia tree can be seen through the windows of the main reading room in this 1953 photograph. Each pen comes in a protective box with a card that reads "This pen was hand-turned from reclaimed wood of the large Southern Magnolia Tree that once stood on the grounds of the new Forsyth County Public Library. May this pen symbolize the strong foundation built in the minds of those who turned pages within the walls of the old library and create new foundations in the minds of the future."
Pens can be bought in the Library Administrative Offices located on the 5th floor of the Government Center (201 N. Chestnut Street, Winston Salem). Pens are hand-crafted and one of a kind, expect variation in coloring and wood-grain pattern, and are refillable