President’s Home

The President’s Home of Wake Forest University

Built in 1929 for Ralph and Dewitt Hanes, the house was donated to the University in 1988 for use as the president’s residence. Conceived and designed by famed New England architect Julian Peabody, the house remains a wonderful example of the country estate style popular at the time. Today the house continues the tradition of warm and gracious entertaining and hospitality extended by the Hanes family.

Ralph and Dewitt Hanes, and their three children, Anna Hodgin Hanes (Chatham), Martha Lenoir Hanes (Womble), and Ralph Philip Hanes, Jr., moved into their new home on October 29, 1929 — the day the stock market crashed. According to family lore, Ralph stayed up all night wondering whether they would be able to keep their new house in the midst of such a financial crisis. But Dewitt would not hear of it, and they stayed.

Ralph Hanes (1898-1973) was the son of John Wesley Hanes, who founded Hanes Hosiery Mills after selling the family’s tobacco business to another prominent local businessman, Richard Joshua Reynolds. Ralph Hanes graduated from Yale University and worked in sales at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and in banking in New York City before returning to Winston-Salem where he founded Hanes Dye and Finishing. When he was twenty-five, he married Dewitt Chatham (1899-1997), whose family owned Chatham Manufacturing, at one time the largest manufacturer of blankets in the world.

They first lived in Winston-Salem’s West End section, where the city’s leading families resided. In the late 1920s, following the growing trend of America’s wealthy to escape urban life for life in the country, they planned a new home outside the city at Chatham Farm, owned by Dewitt Hanes’ father. The site was near the Reynolds estate, Reynolda House (1917), and the Gray family’s Norman revival mansion, Graylyn (1932).