Old Salem’s National Historic Landmark Status Expands

Historic Landmark acreage nearly triples and time period increases up to 2010

News media contact
Scott Carpenter
336.722.9660 or scott@capturevalue.com

Winston-Salem, NC (JANUARY 18, 2017)— The National Park Service announced on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 that an update to Old Salem’s National Historic Landmark designation was signed by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior on December 23, 2016. The original National Historic Landmark District consisted of 62 acres and the expanded Old Salem National Historic Landmark District now encompasses 193 acres.

The Old Salem Historic District was originally designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and updated in 1978. National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, just over 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction.

Continued research by Old Salem Museums & Gardens staff, including John Larson, Vice President of Restoration (retired December 31, 2016); M.O. Hartley, PhD, Director of Archaeology; Martha Hartley, Director of Research and Outreach, Division of Restoration; and David Bergstone, Director of Architecture, revealed some limitations in the original National Historic Landmark nomination documentation. The updated documentation reexamined the district’s significance, both in the geographic, temporal, and thematic scope of the town, as well as the influence Old Salem Museums & Gardens has had in the fields of historic preservation, public history, and historical archaeology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

“This is a truly prestigious award and designation by the National Park Service,” said Mo Hartley. “It recognizes Old Salem’s significance beyond the original National Historic Landmark designation status. It is a fitting conclusion to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the town of Salem, North Carolina, which took place during 2016.”

The historic town not only 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 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. And, following the Civil War, Salem had notable industrial and economic influence, recognized in the National Historic Landmark.

With the signing of the update, two periods of significance are recognized for the Old Salem National Historic Landmark. The first extends from Salem’s founding in 1766 until the merger of the town of Salem with its northern neighbor, Winston in 1913, when Salem ceased to be a distinct municipality. The second, 1948–2010, addresses the significance of Old Salem, Inc., now Old Salem Museums & Gardens, as a leader in the American preservation movement. This period recognizes the preservation activity of Old Salem, extending from its inception in 1948 through the completion of the most recent reconstruction in 2010.

Critical to Old Salem’s work has been archaeological investigations conducted within the National Historic Landmark boundary. Old Salem Archaeology recovers, studies, and curates archaeological artifacts which are used alongside written records, historic photographs, and other archival material to increase understanding and inform interpretation, restoration, and reconstruction. Archaeological investigations at Old Salem have not only revealed important details used to better understand the history of the town and the people who lived there, but have helped to drive the direction of the field of Historical Archaeology. Old Salem has also now been recognized as a National Historic Landmark Archaeological Site.

About Old Salem

Old Salem Museums & Gardens is one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions. Its museums—the Historic Town of Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), and the Gardens at Old Salem—engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early South. Old Salem Museums & Gardens is located at 600 South Main Street in Winston-Salem. For more information call 336-721-7300 or visit oldsalem.org