A historic district of Winston-Salem, Old Salem history dates to 1766, when it was occupied by the Moravian community. Old Salem is well known for its living history museum. This museum is operated by Old Salem Museums & Gardens, which is a non-profit organization, that is organized by Old Salem Inc.
This non-profit organization started its restoration work in 1950 though several old buildings were restored by the private residents by then. Old Salem was declared a Historic landmark in 1966. This district is well-known for showcasing the cultures of Moravian settlement during the 18th & 19th century. It showcases some of the popular houses, communal buildings, houses, and shops.
National Heritage Landmark
In Old Salem district, there are two buildings which are designated as NHL – these buildings are Single Brothers’ House and Salem Tavern. There are several other properties and buildings that have been added to the National Register and which expand the historic areas. These buildings include Single Brothers Industrial Complex Site and St. Philips Moravian Church. The ownership of such land and the buildings are divided among private owners, Salem Congregation, Wachovia Historical Society and Old Salem.
The town has several reconstructed and restored buildings now. These are now able to present the visitors a complete view of Moravian life in the 19th and 18th centuries. These include skilled interpreters like bakers, cobblers, tinsmiths, carpenters, gunsmiths, and blacksmiths practicing their trades and interacting with the visitors who come along. This is a unique living history museum because around 70% of the buildings of this district are original.
Built in 2003, the Old Salem’s Visitor center is the main location from where the visitors of the museum buy tickets. There is a large concourse along the serpentine glass wall. There are different interpretive panels which depict the history of Salem and Wachovia. The design was primarily developed by Venturi Scott Brown & Associates with the help of local firm Calloway, Moore, Johnson and West who were involved in completing the projects. The building includes gift shops and foodservice as well.
Old Salem provides several opportunities for community interaction by supporting various non-profit venues which include The Cobblestone Farmers Market. This market encourages great community engagement by creating space for various low-income households.
There are several interesting highlights of this town which include Salem Tavern. It is known that George Washington had spent 2 nights here (on May 31st and June 1st, 1791, as he was passed the region during his Southern Tour.
People who choose to visit Old Salem, often come to Home Moravian Church. This place opens the sanctuary to its visitors on a regular basis. There are many special events which are held in this region through the year, which includes a series of band concert series during summer. In the southwestern corner, is the famous water pump which was restored.
Visiting Old Salem Historic District
Old Salem Historic District occupies around 75 acres which means one had several opportunities for guided walking tours or self-guided tours. Visitors can start with Old Salem Visitors Center, walk through the streets and browse the shops – everything FREE. However, tourists can also buy an all-in ticket which will provide easy access to different historic buildings and provides a view to the living museum demonstrations besides MESDA’s galleries that are self-guided.
Visitors are recommended to respect the property and privacy of residents who live in the region.