The building we know today as Reynolds House has been called by several names: North Hall, the Women’s Dormitory, and the Music Building.
But when it was first built, it was called the Hotel Bellevue.
Amzi Lorenzo Barber bought the Cunard estate in 1889 and started leasing it out in 1894 as a resort hotel for New Yorkers escaping the city’s summer heat. The hotel became so successful that its managers started using the main house on the adjacent Jacob Vanderbilt estate, also owned by Barber, for overflow housing — until the Vanderbilt house was destroyed in an August 1904 fire. College records indicate that Reynolds House was probably built the following year to make up for the lost guest rooms.
Its architectural style is eclectic. When first built, it had the hipped dormers, second-story shingling and first-floor clapboard siding typical of the Shingle style, popular in the late 19th century in Northeastern seaside resorts — but its most prominent architectural feature was a two-tiered, full-height entry porch with two-story columns that was emblematic of the Folk Victorian style. That distinctive feature was removed in the building’s most recent renovation.
On Dec. 26, 1941 — during winter break — a fire broke out in the North Hall women’s dormitory, causing $18,000 in damages. Residents were housed for the remainder of the year in Cunard Hall, the faculty cottages on campus, and several private homes on Grymes Hill.
In 1970, Reynolds House was the scene of a historic event in the life of Wagner College. On April 23, 27 African-American students occupied the office of the dean of the college, which was located in what is now the Reynolds House library. The students were pressing the College to take specific steps to become more racially inclusive. Forty years later, those students returned to campus to recount their efforts at a widely celebrated 2010 alumni seminar. — Lee Manchester