Friday, August 15, 2008

Forsyth County: Old Salem

While in Winston Salem (Forsyth County), North Carolina, last month, George and I visited the historical community of Old Salem. It was founded in 1766 by Moravians, and was a thriving community through part of the nineteenth century. In 1913, Salem merged with nearby Winston to become Winston-Salem, and in the 1950s, Old Salem became a not-for-profit to maintain and restore the historic buildings of the community.

Old Salem reminds me somewhat of a smaller version of Historic Williamsburg (though it's probably been 30 years since I've been to Williamsburg). George and I started in the Visitor's Center, which included a couple of shopping areas and a mini-film theater, where we watched a well-done introductory film about the area (including what we'd expect to see).

Although it was after lunch, we decided to buy passes to see as much as we could. (We were inspired by the film, and had several places in mind already.) It's a walking tour, and some of the buildings have people dressed in period costumes, explaining different places and activities around the community. Those places required the pass to get in, and we decided it would be worth it. I'm so glad we did, because it turned out to be a fascinating and fun afternoon!

In addition to visiting Home Moravian Church, we stopped by the apothocary, the Single Brothers' Home, and the bakery (yum!). (George and I bought a couple of small loaves to share, and I got some of the lemon cookies to share at work.) We also enjoying walking through the Toy Museum, where I was charmed by the lack of technology.

I was impressed by the history of this Moravian village, where people seemed to work together for the survival of the community. After children finished their education (around 13 or so) they moved into the single brothers or single sisters homes (like boarding houses), where they contributed to the upkeep (rent, cooking, cleaning, etc) on a regular basis. It was a skill-based community, and both men and women learned trades needed by the community when they came of age. They were grouped by "choirs," and Moravians buried in God's Acre in Old Salem were buried based on the choir they were in.

Although those choirs weren't the musical type, Moravians were also known for their music, with musical groups that played for a number of occasions, including the Easter sunrise service that's a local tradition which draws hundreds to the Moravian cemetery there.

The Single Brothers House

Here are two pictures from the sidewalks of Old Salem. I especially like how the shot on the right turned out. If you look carefully (or enlargen the picture), you can see a lady in her period costume (either heading to her post in the village or heading home, I suppose), next to tourists like George and me. I like the contrast in attire.

The picture below was taken from a second floor window of one of the buildings we toured.

Although Old Salem wasn't a farming community, many people had gardens, so several gardens are maintained within the community today.

Here's George in front of God's Acre, where a number of Moravians are buried. While the cemetary is much bigger than "God's Acre," this is where people who chose to be buried with their "choirs" were buried. (Families buried together were not part of God's Acre.)

The white stones are part of God's Acre at Old Salem. The building on the right holds the Southern Province Headquarters of the Moravian denomination. The building in the background on the left is the Wachovia Center, the largest building in the Triad (which includes Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point). It served as the headquarters for Wachovia Bank, until it merged with First Union, and the headquarters for the merged bank of Wachovia moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Although I was pretty tired from my 10-mile run and the hike at Pilot Mountain State Park from the day before, I really enjoyed the afternoon at Old Salem. If I had it to do over, I'd plan to give Old Salem more of the day, including lunch at Old Salem Tavern.

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