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  • From the Winston-Salem Journal

    Our view: A happy celebration of Salem

    Those Moravian pioneers were wildcats.

    Yes, we think of them today as moderate and businesslike, qualities that helped build this town and endure to this day. But they were also courageous and tenacious.

    We’ll soon be celebrating their lasting impact on our area and the influence their geographical choices had on the development of our home. Feb. 19 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of Salem, half of our namesake, the Journal’s Melissa Hall reported. (Winston combined with Salem in 1913.) We hope everyone will find a way to participate.

    1766 seems a very long time ago. But in comparison to the countries from which our forebears departed, 250 years is barely a blink in time, just several long generations. And thanks to the meticulous record keeping and preservation of the Moravians and their friends, it’s a world to which we can return.

    In 1766, authorized by their European church leaders, a group of workers — “brethren” and “the strangers,” as the Moravians put it — walked the eight miles from their home in Bethabara to the banks of Salem Creek, where Old Salem now still stands, and began developing the site they intended to be their commercial center, the Journal reported. A great deal of forethought and examination went into the site selection and a great deal of work went into building the town that eventually superseded their settlement of Bethabara.

    By 1770, Salem was a bustling metropolis of 37 people. In 1793, President George Washington came calling. Salem eventually became a cultural and commercial success. And in the mid-20th century, it became the living, breathing historical exhibit we all know and love as Old Salem, introducing the world to our Moravian pioneers.

    Schoolchildren from across the state take field trips to Old Salem to get a sense of how our forebears lived and developed their society. They are among the thousands of tourists visit every year, enjoying the structures that have been preserved over time and demonstrations of living arts.

    Read the complete story at journalnow.com


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    Did you know?

    In February 1950, a group of dedicated volunteers established Old Salem, Inc. as a way to begin preserving and restoring the town of Salem for future generations. As Old Salem grew, more buildings were restored and new facilities were added—including the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). In 2006, Old Salem changed its name to Old Salem Museums & Gardens to better reflect the increasing importance of the garden program and to clearly distinguish that there are multiple experiences available within the Old Salem district.


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    Records of the Moravians In North Carolina, Volume I, Adelaide L. Fries, M.A., Ed., 1920


  • On this day in 1772

    Salem’s “choir of musicians” plays for the first time, and the tune is 151 A, “Passion Chorale.” This is the beginning of the Salem Congregation band, and it still plays 151 A.

    Source: The Founding of Salem, 1766, A Time Line, Moravian Archives 


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    On February 10 (1766), the brethren were selected who should move to Salem, but a severe snowstorm delayed the start until Wednesday, February 19, when eight unmarried men went to  the new town “to make a real beginning there.” These eight pioneers came from widely scattered homes, ranged in age from twenty-six to fifty-one years, and had been trained to different trades, though for the nonce they were all to be town builders.

    Records of the Moravians In North Carolina, Volume I, Adelaide L. Fries, M.A., Ed., 1920


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    When you first visit Old Salem Museums & Gardens, the architecture of the original buildings in Salem usually catches your eye. Many Moravians were arriving from Germany, and the significant Central European influence is prevalent in the architecture still witnessed today. Over time the Moravians adopted the national styles in the United States, so that early regional examples of Greek Revival and other popular styles are evident. Often, however, with some unique ‘Moravian’ details that persist, such as the arched hood.

    As seen first in an 1800 design by Frederic William Marshall (the Moravian administrator in North Carolina) for the Home Moravian Church front entrance, the elliptical shaped hood has become a local symbol of the Moravians and used on many other buildings, from churches to funeral homes to banks to homes.


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    Archaeology at Old Salem

    The Old Salem Department of Archaeology, under the direction of Dr. Michael O. Hartley, conducts an active program of research and exploration into the material and cultural evidence of the Moravian experience in North Carolina. 

    Research conducted by the Department of Archaeology focuses on the archaeological resource within Salem, the relationship of this central town to the broader tract of Wachovia, and the Moravian population of Salem and Wachovia through time. The Archaeology Department carries out careful study of the historic resource, site evaluation, preparation of research designs, and excavation. Reports produced in this work include cultural information gained through study and excavation, and through processing and analysis of recovered artifacts in the Archaeology Department’s laboratory. Reports and articles prepared by the Old Salem Museums & Gardens Department of Archaeology, as well as presentations to professionals and the broader public, increase awareness and understanding of the significance of Old Salem and Wachovia.

    Read this July 2015 piece the Winston-Salem Journal about the recent archaeological dig on the site of the first building in Salem, the builders’ house. The builders’ house will be the inspiration and location of a very special public art display in honor of the 250th.                  


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    On this day in 1772…

    January: Br. and Sr. Traugott Bagge move from Bethabara to Salem, where he will keep the church-owned Community Store until his death in 1800.

    Source: The Founding of Salem, 1766, A Time Line, Moravian Archives 


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    On this day in 1766…

    A herd of 75 pigs is driven from Bethabara to the new town site. They find Salem so unfit for porcine life they all hightail it for home.

    Source: The Founding of Salem, 1766, A Time Line, Moravian Archives


  • Lunchtime Lectures

    The Moravian Archives and Moravian Music Foundation are continuing a series of lunchtime lectures

    January 14, 2016
    Mapping Salem
    Speaker: Richard W. Starbuck

    February 11, 2016
    More Fun Finds in the Vault
    Speaker: Nola Reed Knouse

    March 10, 2016
    Salem’s 250th in Music
    Speaker: Nola Reed Knouse

    April 14, 2016
    So You’re a Genealogist, Eh
    Speaker: Richard W. Starbuck

    May 12, 2016
    Music Foundation at 60
    Speaker: Nola Reed Knouse

    The lectures begin at 12:15 p.m. and are free and open to the public (BYO lunch). They are held in the in the Spaugh Lecture/Recital Hall of the Archie K. Davis Center.

    For more information, contact the Moravian Archives at (336) 722-1742 or moravianarchives@mcsp.org.


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The Town of Salem

Experience early American history in the unique Moravian settlement of Salem. Original structures, gardens, tours, artifacts, hands-on workshops, fun family events and shopping.


Stroll through award-winning restorations that create a landscape reminiscent of early Salem where utility, practicality and beauty united. Tours, workshops and plants for your garden.


View history through objects and material culture. Tour a wide range of early southern artistry, craftsmanship and stories found in the world class collection of decorative arts from the early American South, 1660-1860.

Old Salem Museums and Gardens, 600 S. Main Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101 Phone: 336-721-7300 | visitwinstonsalem.com