Old Salem Blog

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    Excitement is building about the Boys’ School restoration project. The structure, built in 1794, will be used to share the story of education in Salem


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    250 Years of Salem, NC by Old Salem Inc.
    Via Flickr:

    2016 marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of the town of Salem, North Carolina by the Moravians—which, in essence, also marks the birth of Winston-Salem. Our 250th anniversary celebration began last year on January 6, which is the day in 1766 when the first tree was felled on the site of what we now call Old Salem. A little over a month later, on February 19, 1766, a group of men walked from Bethabara to set up residence in Salem, the first step towards establishing this new community.

    Throughout 2016, Old Salem Museums & Gardens, along with partner institutions in Winston-Salem, commemorated and celebrated the beginnings of this beloved city and its roots in innovation, trades, medicine, the arts, and so much more.

    Thank you to all our visitors, members, and community partners for being a part of this special year. We have much to look forward to in the coming years as Old Salem Museums & Gardens continues to engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early South.  We invite you to take a look back at our 250th celebration with this 250th photo gallery.


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    As our commemoration of the town of Salem’s 250th year draws to a close this Friday, we would like to express our appreciation to several special partnerships during the anniversary year.

    We would like to thank our two 250th media partners— WXII 12 NEWS and the Winston-Salem Journal . Both provided a significant amount of support including public service advertising and editorial features sharing informative details about the fascinating history of this amazing place and its people, Salem, North Carolina.  

    Additionally, we would like to thank Visit Winston-Salem, our marketing partner for the 250 anniversary celebration, for its help in promoting visits by out of town guests to Winston-Salem for our 250th year.

    We are grateful to all of our 250th sponsors, members, and guests! Thank you for your support of Old Salem Museums & Gardens and we look forward to a memorable 2017


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    On display in the John Vogler house in Old Salem, a traditional, small Christmas tree with early 19th century-style decorations, including gilded nuts, marzipan in paper cones, and other handmade ornaments. Under the tree, visitors can see a Moravian “putz” or miniature landscape—most often displaying a nativity scene.

    Come enjoy all of our traditional seasonal decorations tomorrow and Christmas Week (December 27-January 1). We will be closed on December 24-26.


  • Who built the Town of Salem?

    Who built the North Carolina Moravian town of Salem? The answers can be found in a new MESDA Journal article written by Nathan Love celebrating the 250th anniversary of the founding of Salem. The article presents 65 biographies of the tradesmen—black and white; free and enslaved—who left a significant and lasting mark on the buildings of the town of Salem.

    Click here to read about the talented and industrious individuals who created Salem out of the wilderness and continued to shape its architectural legacy well into the nineteenth century.

    Other questions answered in  recently posted MESDA Journal  articles are:

    • Who painted a portrait of Brigadier General William Washington that has surfaced after 200 years? The answer is provided here by Christopher Bryant and Sumpter Priddy.
    • How did the master of an urban 19th-century cabinetmaking shop hire, supervise, and pay a journeyman specialist working in his shop? J. Christian Kolbe reveals and explains the professional relationship of cabinetmaker Willis Cowling and turner Seth Haywood here.

    The MESDA Journal is available to read for anyone with an Internet connection and a curiosity about our past. Visit www.mesdajournal.org to read current articles about the material landscape of the early South as well as over 150 articles published since the Journal’s launch in 1975.


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    Just hear those sleigh bells ring-a-ling

    This one-horse open sleigh, owned by Salem doctor John Francis Shaffner (1838-1908), is currently on display at the Old Salem Visitor Center.

    Upon graduation from Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia, Dr. Shaffner returned to Salem to work as a community doctor briefly before joining the Twenty-First Regiment, North Carolina, as an army surgeon at the beginning of the Civil War. After the War, Shaffner returned to Salem, married Caroline Louisa Fries, and resumed his town medical practice. According to family tradition, this is the very sleigh Dr. Shaffner used to travel to see his patients during snowy weather.


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    Christmas decor in the historic district

    Old Salem’s period-appropriate greenery consists of 3,000 feet of fresh pine garland and 60 Fraser fir wreathes. The greenery has to be replaced at least once during the season as it dries. 


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    The Town of Salem Putz

    Did you know that the Salem Putz (miniature replica of the Town of Salem) that is constructed each year for Home Moravian Church’s Candle Tea in the Single Brothers’ House requires 170 hours to assemble and is 30 feet long? Work begins the first of October to have the project completed before Thanksgiving.

    Learn more: http://www.homemoravian.org/candletea


  • The history of celebrating Christmas in Old Salem


  • Hearth cooking at Old Salem


“The Moravians used the Lot to determine God’s will in spiritual and secular matters. This practice was based on biblical references contained in Numbers 33:54 and Acts 1:26. Neither a lottery nor a random act of drawing straws, the Lot was a ritual of serious, sacred significance. Only the church board of elders was authorized to use it.

After the elders had done everything possible to reach a sound conclusion about what should be done in a matter two or three outcomes, or Lots, were written on slips of paper, encased in slender tubes cut from reeds, and placed in the Lot bowl. Often, one slip bore the word ja, or “yes,” and another nein, or “no.” A third slip was left blank, meaning that more prayer and deliberation were needed. One Lot was then solemnly drawn from the bowl, and the answer it gave was heeded. Sometimes scripture verses would be inscribed on slips of paper, and the elders reflected on how the verse chosen could illuminate their decision.”

—Old Salem Official Guidebook, text by Penelope Niven; Architecture Keys and Street Guide by Cornelia B. Wright.

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Mark your calendars for our 2017 Summer Adventures camp dates:
- Rising 1st and 2nd Graders: June 26 – 30
- Rising 3rd–5th Graders: July 17–21 or July 24–28
- Rising 6th–8th Graders: July 10–14

Summer Apprentice Program (Grades 9–12)
- Beginning apprentices: July 11–14 and 18–21
- Advanced apprentices: June 2o–23 and June 27–30

Details posted at www.oldsalem.org/summer-camps

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Exciting things coming to the previously unopened Boys' School building, built in 1794 (restored in 1954) on Academy Street. Details posted soon. ...

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Today is national #MuseumSelfie Day! Historic interpreters Brother Wilson and Brother Godwin in the Single Brothers' House are always up for a fun photo opportunity in #OldSalem ...

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A lovely image of St. Philips captured during last week's snow.

Did you know: The Women’s Missionary Society of Salem funded construction of the African Moravian Log Church in 1823. Due to growth of the congregation, a brick church (pictured) was constructed in 1861. In 1914, it was renamed St. Philips Moravian Church. It’s now the oldest standing African American church in North Carolina and holds the original pews where the end of slavery was announced by a Union cavalry chaplain in 1865.

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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