The PlayhouseReid Garrett




Rockingham, North Carolina



About the Artist/Site

In 1964, dentist Reid Garrett began building the Playhouse, a home in Rockingham, North Carolina that would eventually comprise four stories and include four waterfalls, a series of sundecks, several fireplaces, and an exterior waterwheel built of salvaged drink crates. Dr. Garrett was born around the turn of the 20th century, likely in North Carolina. Though he had an early interest in engineering in college, a football injury led him to study dentistry, the field to which he would dedicate the rest of his professional life. Garrett first pursued academic studies at Carolina Military Naval Academy in Hendersonville, North Carolina, followed by a program at Trinity College (now Duke University). Though he had built aircrafts and gliders as a teenager, Garrett’s first substantial engineering feat was building a “car out of junk” in Trinity’s Alspaugh Hall, foreshadowing his later salvage architecture practice. After its completion, Garrett and the head of the engineering department successfully drove the car to California, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon to test the car’s capacity for long trips.

After Garrett graduated with a dentistry degree in 1929, he practiced in Atlanta for six years. The dentist moved to Rockingham, North Carolina in 1935, the town where he would begin building the Playhouse three decades later. According to Garrett, the home began in the mid-1960s with “two pieces of lumber” and a fireplace. Stray bits of wood and other junkyard finds were added to the structure a piece at a time: “If it works then I’ll brace it up and leave it there. If it doesn’t then I’ll look for another place to put it.” Occupying the home and yard were a number of inventions—Garrett’s waterwheel, for instance, powered a turning barbecue spit. On the third floor of the home, the artist had installed a dog house for the sake of sheltering a concrete dog sculpture. A constant traveler and hobbyist, Garrett discussed homebuilding as part of an effort to keep constantly occupied: “I’m not ever going to retire. I plan on doing something for the rest of my life. When a man stops doing things, he is certainly going to die. People would live a lot longer and lead a more active life if they kept an interest in doing things. When you sit down you shrivel up and die.”
It is known that Garrett continued adding onto the home into the 1970s, though information as to the Playhouse’s current state is unknown. If you would like to send along information related to this site, please contact us at

Narrative by Gabrielle Christiansen, 2023


  • Dr. Reid Garrett, “The Doctor Still Leads A Mighty Exciting Life.” Interviewed by Gloria
    Hurley. Richmond County Daily Journal, Rockingham, North Carolina, March 13, 1973.
  • “Dr. Garrett’s Junk House.” The Boston Daily Globe, August 6, 1967.

Map & Site Information

Rockingham, North Carolina
Latitude/Longitude: 34.9393201 / -79.7739457

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