National Park Service expands Old Salem’s national historic landmark district

Winston-Salem Journal

From the Winston-Salem Journal on Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The National Park Service has expanded Old Salem’s National Historic Landmark district, tripling its acreage and increasing the number of time periods considered significant.

The Old Salem Historic District was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and updated in 1978. The district initially covered 62 acres. Under the expansion, it now encompasses 193 acres with the Interior Department’s action and includes sections of the nearby Happy Hill community, the city’s oldest black neighborhood.

Sally Jewell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior in the Obama administration, signed the designation last month, the Interior Department said in a statement. The National Park Service is an agency within that department.

The updated National Historic Landmark designation is an important milestone, said Michael “Mo” Hartley, the director of archeology for Old Salem Museums and Gardens. “It recognizes Old Salem’s significance beyond the original National Historic Landmark designation,” Hartley said. “African-American history and archeology are two very important aspects of this (National Historic Landmark) expansion.”

The Interior Department took action because it “saw a story that emphasized a kind of significance that had not been recognized before,” Hartley said.

The property owners in the expanded district will not be affected by the new designation, Hartley said. There are no federal restrictions on how they can use or improve their properties, he said.

The local Historic Resources Commission, which is part of the City-County Planning Board, must approve exterior changes to houses and buildings within the original Old Salem Historic District.

The updated designation also includes two time periods of significance for the Old Salem National Historic Landmark, the Old Salem Museums and Gardens said in a statement.

Salem’s original National Historic Landmark designation encompassed the period from 1766 to 1856, the founding of Salem to when the N.C. General Assembly incorporated Salem.

Now, that period has been extended from 1766 to 1913, when Salem merged with the town of Winston. That’s when Salem ceased to be a municipality.

“Part of the significant history was after 1856, which was sort of the accepted end date of the National Historic Landmark until we got into this thing,” Hartley said.

The second significant time period starts in 1948, when what was then Old Salem Inc. began its efforts to preserve and restore the community. The period ends in 2010, with the completion of the reconstruction of the Shultz-Cooper House at 411 S. Main St. The house was restored to its 1840 appearance.

Hartley and his wife, Martha Hartley, the director of research and outreach in the Division of Restoration for Old Salem Museums and Gardens, compiled a 338-page nomination document that was submitted to the National Park Service to consider.

The Hartleys documented the history of Salem, including its people, the buildings, industries and houses within the town.

Salem includes “a substantial stock of Germanic architecture, but also is an exceptional reflection of the unique culture of the Moravian pioneers who settled in what would eventually become Forsyth County,” the Old Salem Museums and Gardens said in its statement. “The presence of a black population in Salem’s history, both enslaved and free, further increases the town’s National Historic Landmark significance.

“The historic architectural content of the Old Salem Historic District is unmatched and unique both in its representation of North Carolina Moravians and its character within the broader contexts of colonial and post-colonial America,” the statement said. “And, following the Civil War, Salem had notable industrial and economic influence, recognized in the National Historic Landmark.”

 The archeological work done at Old Salem over the decades played a role in the National Park Service expanding the National Historic Landmark designation for Old Salem, Mo Hartley said. Archeological projects have been conducted at Old Salem for more than 60 years, he said.

The expanded National Historic Landmark area also includes sections of the original Happy Hill neighborhood and the Happy Hill cemetery, the Hartleys said.

“There is a need to recognize black history in the National Historic Landmark designation,” Mo Hartley said.

The Happy Hill community is across Salem Creek from historic Old Salem. It is the city’s oldest black neighborhood. Slaves and freedmen who worked in the Moravian village lived in Happy Hill before the Civil War…

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