2019 AIA Advocacy Award

Old Salem Museums & Gardens President Franklin Vagnone

Awarded the 2019 American Institute of Architects ADVOCACY AWARD


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (December 11, 2019) — In acknowledgment of the successful moves toward innovation and stewardship of its historical built environment, Old Salem Museums &  Garden’s President & CEO, Franklin Vagnone, has been awarded the 2019 Advocacy Award from the American Institute of Architects WSFC Chapter.

Vagnone, who holds a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University and undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, accepted the award noting the collaborative effort these innovations have required from Old Salem’s more than 150 staff members. “The real core and stewardship of Old Salem Museums & Gardens comes from the daily smiles, the welcoming conversations, and the sincere and thoughtful ways that the team moves toward a stable long-term future.”

Since arriving at Old Salem, Vagnone has provided strategic leadership for re-imagining the over 100 acres of interpreted landscapes and gardens and over 90 historic buildings. “The historic district is a complex mix of Old Salem interpreted buildings, The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Salem Academy and College, the Moravian congregations, the Moravian Archives, the Moravian Music Foundation, and over 60 private residences,“ Vagnone said. The historic district is not only a local and national historic landmark, many of the buildings are individually landmarked, which required approval through the Winston-Salem Historic Resources Commission,” he said. “Our challenge is to make the district relevant, and accessible, to 21s-century visitors.”

In recognition of Old Salem’s innovative forms of public engagement, The French Preservation organization REMPART, following a visit to Old Salem as well as a trip by Vagnone to speak to the REMPART Board of Directors in Paris, chose Old Salem as the only new site in the United States to form a Preservation Partnership for an annual Summer Preservation Institute. This Institute will gather volunteers from France as well as locally to restore historically significant buildings in Old Salem. This past summer was the first year for the new Institute, and exterior work on the tiny Shultz Shoe Shop was completed.

Under Vagnone’s leadership, several architectural environments devoted to retail have also undergone transformative renovations, and Old Salem is taking considerable efforts to make architectural sites more accessible and available to those with disabilities through its new Access Salem Initiative.

Since December 2016, Vagnone has worked with both the Board of Trustees, Historic District Residents, Staff members, and community stakeholders to introduce innovative new approaches to interpretation and visitor experience. Old Salem has received substantially consistent 5-star ratings on popular online visitor ratings sites such as Trip Advisor. In addition, Old Salem was recognized as the Best Museum in Forsyth County 2019, received the Community Award from the Winston-Salem Mayor’s Council on Disabilities and was named the #1 Attraction in the state by AAA North Carolina.

About Old Salem
Old Salem Museums & Gardens is a unique living history site with a tactile-driven, immersive visitor experience. Its museums—the Historic Town of Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), and the Gardens at Old Salem are quickly becoming nationally known for innovative and novel interpretive models and programs. 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.