For many in North Carolina, Winston-Salem is known as the Twin City for the dual towns that eventually merged into one. In addition, this city has grown based on its bent toward the arts and technology innovation. Yet, there are also many historical aspects of this same city that harken back to the early days of North Carolina as a farming community. These aspects are captured in the neighborhood known as Old Salem.
The design of Old Salem reflects the original settlement, which includes public buildings grouped around Salem Square. Residences line streets behind or off the main square. Many of the original buildings have been rebuilt or restored to capture the flavor of the original settlement.
Today, these buildings are part of the Old Salem Museums and Gardens
The buildings are staffed by living history interpreters that assist visitors to understand the Moravian lifestyle in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of these include blacksmiths, tinsmiths, gunsmiths and cobblers. These all ply their trades in the traditional way while interacting with visitors to the area.
This is also the home to the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). The museum offers residents and visitors the opportunity to learn about the regional decorative arts. This includes paintings, furniture and metal wares to name just a few. The arts are not limited to North Carolina, but also have examples from other southern states, such as Mississippi and Kentucky.
This particular district also has strong ties to the historical religious aspects of the area. After all, Salem itself was founded as a religious community. Business and industry were shuffled off to Winston, prior to the merging of the two towns. The square and a historical Moravian Graveyard (God’s Acre) are part of a large Easter celebration that has been drawing visitors since approximately 1772. The tradition includes a sunrise ceremony that is sponsored by all the Moravian churches within the area. This is just one example of the religious ceremonies that are part of the area’s primarily Christian religious culture.
Old Salem was built on a tract of land called Wachovia, which would later be the name of a banking institution whose headquarters were in Winston-Salem. By 2011, Wachovia’s brand name had been retired. Even local businesses harken back to the 18th century. The Tavern in Salem has been in business since 1784. In 1816, a building annex was developed to give the tavern more room. The Winkler Bakery opened in 1799 and has remained in continual operation within the neighborhood. Residents and visitors alike can stop in for original Moravian cookies, as well as other handmade baked goods.
New Yorkers also have a special tie to this urban area. The design for the Empire State Building was based on the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem. As a result, a father’s day card is sent from New York to Winston-Salem every year. Today, many residents can enjoy the blend of historical businesses and residences along with modern conveniences within this amazing neighborhood.