Salem Tavern Museum
812 South Main Street
Constructed 1784, restored 1965
Ticket required, open during operating hours.
The Salem Tavern dates to 1784, when it was rebuilt in masonry after an earlier wooden tavern burned to the ground. Parts of the basement walls are from the original 1775 Tavern building.
The Tavern was an important facility for the town of Salem. Leaders decided to place the Tavern on the outskirts of town to avoid the influence of “strangers” on the town as much as possible; however a tavern was necessary for the town to prosper. Food & lodging were needed for the customers Salem leaders hoped to bring in for their store and for their craftsmen.
The Tavern was owned and operated by the Moravian Church who selected a married couple to run the facility. It was important that the couple could run a successful business as well as set a good example of the Moravian community. In addition to the couple, the Tavern required several workers. A hostler and female workers were usually part of the workforce. An enslaved African American family also lived and worked in the Tavern in 1791.
Many important meetings took place at the Tavern, and several important guests stayed there. Salem’s most famous visitor stayed here in 1791. President George Washington, touring the southern battlefields of the Revolutionary War, spent two nights in Salem, attending a service, studying the waterworks system, and speaking to the townspeople.
The building reflects the special concerns of the residents, such as no front windows on the main level so that activities inside would not be visible from the streets. It had a larger lot to accommodate the barns and facilities needed for the visitors. This was also the first building by mason Johann Gottlob Krause, who built most of Salem’s largest and most important masonry buildings in the subsequent 20 years.