Old Salem, Winston-Salem NC

Old Salem North Carolina

Winston – Salem is the location of one the most quaint spots in North Carolina, Old Salem. Like other living history villages around America this is a slice of life from 1766 when Old Salem was settled by the Moravians, members of the Protestant faith that began in 1457, in the Kingdom of Bohemia, which is now a part of the Czech Republic. They were missionaries who came to North Carolina from an earlier settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and established a 98,000 acre tract of land they called “Wachovia”. Salem was one small settlement within. The Moravian Church and Salem kept precise records of everything; their lives, architecture, interactions and landscapes of the town. The architecture of Old Salem is still precisely today what it was then, with many of the town’s structures being the original buildings. The town produced tools, ceramics, furniture, metals and foods, and was known for its trades.

Today you can visit Old Salem and walk among its many citizens who are represented by costumed men and women who recreate life as it was in the 1700’s. A tour of the town will unveil the people who helped create and run the town. You will observe what a day in their life was like. There are several highlights to pay attention to on the self-guided tour. You’ll learn, for example, how the Moravians lived by their church choir system. People who had age, gender or marital status in common sometimes lived together.

The Single Brother’s choir was made up of the unmarried men of the town. The Single Brother’s House was built in 2 sections. One was built in 1769. The other, a brick addition, was built in 1786. They lived, ate and worshipped here. The Single Brothers also grew a garden, operated a bakery, brewery, distillery and a slaughterhouse located behind the house. When you view the house you see many demonstrations of the craftsmen who lived there.

Salem Square

Salem Square was not only a beautiful place in the center of town but also an important place for town functions. The Moravians clustered the church and various institutional buildings around the square. In 1766 they first picked a place for their square, planted 150 fruit trees and built the first houses along its perimeter. In 1768 over concerns about adequate water supplies, they moved the square to its present location, which still remains a beautiful place to congregate. Home Moravian Church was built in 1800, and continues to be staffed by its members. The church is open at various times, prominently posted on the church door.

The town chose, in 1799, to have Thomas Butner to be the new baker. He hired Gottlob Krause to build the bakery with a living area attached. When it seemed that Thomas preferred farming to baking they brought in Christian Winkler, a Swiss -born man from Pennsylvania, to takeover the bakery. He bought both it and the house in 1807. The dome bake oven is typical of ovens used in public buildings like taverns , workshops and private houses. In fact, the bakery oven is still heated by wood as it was then, and makes some of the best bread and cakes you’ll find anywhere. Their selection of rolls and breads using the same recipes as then are unmatched by any at the grocery. The pound cakes are a real treat, as well as the famous Moravian Sugar Cake which, if you’re lucky enough to catch it warm out of the oven, will make you sigh with gooey sugar joy.

Old Salem Tours

Old Salem has 26 sites and buildings of interest you should not miss, so plan on staying all day, and don’t forget to grab dinner at the Salem Tavern Restaurant which serves authentic Moravian style dishes. Built in 1816 as an annex to the original tavern next door, it was restored in 1969 using the records kept by the Moravians. The food is warm and rustic, and the atmosphere is very welcoming. This is a great experience after a day of experiencing what life was like then.

An all -in -one ticket which includes all museums, gardens and a self guided tour as well as a tour of MESDA ( Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) is $21.00 for adults and $10.00 for children 6 – 16. Its truly a great way to spend a day exploring and learning about a time that has long passed. Take the time to really enjoy your visit …and don’t miss the bakery!


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