More than 80 years ago, S. Clay Williams, president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, fell in love with a patch of gently rolling acreage along the Yadkin River and decided to build a country retreat for himself and his family. From the start, his plan was bolder than creating a space for idling away the weekends. Soon after the land was cleared, the property became a fully functioning dairy farm. Herds of the finest Red Poll cattle meandered the grounds of one of the largest such farms in the state.
Mr. Williams called this special haven Win-Mock Farm. The name referenced the property’s location midway between Winston-Salem and Mocksville.
At its heart was a collection of buildings that served both leisure and labor. The expansive family home was known as Willsherr Lodge. Scattered nearby was an assortment of finely built farm structures, crowned by the most magnificent barn in all of North Carolina.
The barn is enormous—and yet the architect managed to imbue it with surprising grace. The roof suggests the inverted hull of a great ship, or an extended series of Gothic arches, creating a spellbinding atmosphere.
For years, the barn housed as many as 7,000 bales of hay. The nearby bottling plant hummed along, providing fresh milk for customers across several counties. The complex was built to take advantage of new processes and technologies that enabled higher levels of production. (This emphasis on advanced technology would emerge again during renovation years later.)
Over the years, Win-Mock Farm became less remote, as nearby towns grew and new roads were built. The biggest such thoroughfare was Interstate 40, which the state proposed to run straight through the Win-Mock property. By now the farm was in the hands of the Bahnson family. The family put up some resistance to the highway but was eventually persuaded to allow it to go through, in return for a few concessions from the state. The government agreed to build a tunnel below the freeway, and a bridge over it—for the cows. For years, herds of bellowing cattle would cross high above the speeding traffic (as well as underneath it) on their way to a pasture on the other side.
Eventually, Win-Mock Farm’s role as a working dairy farm came to an end. The property languished and the buildings were neglected. It was still a magical place but in order to see that vividly, one would need to peer through the air of resignation hanging over the place and see it for what it once was.
There aren’t many people who can do that. But there are a few, and in 2011, one of them found himself strolling the grounds of the faded estate. Wayne Thomas, an entrepreneur in the events industry, had heard about Win-Mock Farms and as he surveyed the scene he was entranced by the slumbering spirit of the place. When he stepped inside the cavernous barn and took in the muted scene—dim light filtering through dusty windows—he was electrified. He knew immediately that he would restore the farm to its former glory and create a remarkable place for people and businesses to congregate. It would retain the peerless craftsmanship of the original structures; but behind the hardwood walls would be installed the most advanced information infrastructure, so that events held here would sacrifice nothing for the extraordinary experience of meeting in such a place.
Wayne poured countless hours into bringing Win-Mock Farms out from the past and into the future. He tweaked the name and dubbed the new center WinMock at Kinderton. Three historic buildings were fully restored—the iconic dairy barn, the bottling plant and the granary, where threshed wheat had been stored for feed. The renovation of this magnificent place earned it an individual listing on the United States Register of Historic Places.
Wayne’s vision has come to fruition. WinMock at Kinderton hosts business conferences, social events and weddings throughout the year. Attendees know, the minute they arrive, that they will be spending time in a captivating place imbued with history—the polar opposite of the indistinctive (and indistinguishable) events venues that are so common.
For all our descriptions, it’s hard to beat the experience of actually being here. We welcome all those looking to host an event at this historical place, and often find ourselves giving unofficial tours daily. WinMock stands as an exceptional testament to the beauty of our region—a place Mr. Williams called, and we’re still happy to call, our home.