Elias Alexander Vogler
Several individuals have had a lasting impact on the town of Salem in North Carolina. Elias Alexander Vogler served on councils, oversaw building constructions and renovations, and even served as Mayor of Salem during a period of change in the Moravian town. His impacts can be seen today in the Old Salem Historic District and throughout Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Elias Alexander Vogler was born the third child of John and Christina Vogler, successful and respected merchants in the town of Salem, North Carolina. Elias was raised in the traditions of Salem until he reached the age of thirteen. The records on Vogler’s early life are not particularly abundant, but it is known that Vogler was educated to that point in the local Salem Boys School or Anstalt. In 1839 it is recorded that Elias went to Lititz, PA, along with Austin Bonn and Henry Fries. Brother Beck in Lititz ran the school. Among other things Elias studied architectural drawing. He made a study of the Lititz Square which now hangs in the John Vogler House.
Upon his return to Salem, he joined his father in his store in 1846. Three years later in 1849 Vogler married Emma Antoinette Reich. Six years later in 1855 he built the frame dwelling that became his home.
On January 26th 1852 he began building the office behind his father’s store. Vogler was emerging as a community leader throughout these years. In January of 1853 Vogler was appointed one of five fire inspectors in Salem. This was an extremely important position that aided in keeping the town safe. The Moravians were meticulous about fire safety.
In 1856 Vogler was appointed to oversee the repairs on Salem Square. In 1857 he drew a new town lot plan, including the older lots and the nearby town of Winston. Elias continued throughout his adult life to interest himself in art. Vogler’s collection of ivory carvings and his renderings of Salem Square and the architectural rendering of Lititz attest to this.
In 1858 upon the resignation of Mayor Charles Brietz, Vogler was elected the Mayor of the newly incorporated Salem. This election is noted having caught him off guard, but a week later took the oath of office for the position. Vogler held various civic positions for the rest of his life. He also seemed a bit of an advocate for the freedmen in the post-Civil War era. On August 13th of 1868 he offered a letter about appropriating land outside the town limits to build a town of their own. Vogler was instrumental in securing the land rent-free from the Church. The schoolhouse was located just south of Salem Creek and a ¼ mile from the African American church. With Vogler’s lobbying all African-American children were able to enjoy a tuition free education. In 1870 Vogler again proposed the building of a community, they wished to name the neighborhood Liberia in honor of Brother Schuman who had released his slaves in 1836. However, the name Happy Hill stuck, as “anywhere to live was considered happy.”
In 1866 he proposed a new store to succeed his father’s establishment. He was by this point a well known architect having drawn and overseen several projects. This is illustrated in his appointment to the board to oversee the changes to Home Moravian Church in 1869. Vogler was appointed the Chairman of the Building Committee.
In 1874 Vogler worked on the Dr. Shuman dwelling, then owned by Dr. Henry T. Bahnson, this building is now the Home Moravian Church Parsonage. The Winston-Salem Journal noted that the building: “…makes a fine appearance. The front is of pressed brick and the mansard roof is covered with slate put on by native workmen and in a manner which would be a credit to an experienced slater. The windows are neatly corniced and give the whole front an elegant appearance. Mr. Vogler the architect and superintendent of the building has shown a capacity of such work.” This building gained him further acclaim as was noted in later publications. “It would improve our venerable town if more of our citizens would follow the worthy doctor’s (Bahnson) and make use of the taste of Mr. Vogler, who has established a reputation as an excellent reconstructionist as well as a builder of new houses.”
In 1874 Vogler passed away leaving a lasting impact. His impressions can be seen in the town of Salem today. Without his guidance in administration, and his insights in architecture Salem would likely look much different today.