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Southeast Excursions

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Take a time trip at Old Salem

By Gary McCullough
Correspondent

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    The visitor center is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday. Exhibit buildings are open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays. Admission – $21; $10 for ages 6-15 – includes the historic town and the Museum for Early Southern Decorative Arts. MESDA showcases the nation’s finest collection of pre-1820 decorative art from Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, including furniture, textiles, paintings, ceramics and metal ware. ($3 discount when purchased in advance online). Ticket not required to visit the Old Salem gardens or retail shops.

    Info: 336-721-7300; www.oldsalem.org.



The restored area of Old Salem, in Winston-Salem, covers several blocks surrounding the original town square. With a little imagination, you can make a day trip 200 years back in time.

Distance

Winston-Salem is 81 miles from Charlotte. Plan on a 90-minute drive.

To see and do

Salem had its origins in the mid-18th century, when Lord Granville sold a 98,985-acre tract in the North Carolina backcountry to Moravians living in Bethlehem, Pa. Count Zinzendorf of Austria had been a benefactor and protector of the Moravians in the Old World, so they named this new tract “der Wachau” – Anglicized as “Wachovia” – in honor of his ancestral estate. In 1753, the first Moravians to arrive in the Carolina frontier established a temporary settlement called Bethabara, which is Hebrew for “house of passage.”

It was not until 1766 that the permanent village of Salem – the Hebrew word for “peace” – was established. Salem, along with other Moravian settlements in the area, flourished until the mid-1800s, when surrounding settlements gradually absorbed them. In 1913, Salem merged with Winston (founded in 1849). The original Moravian village had all but vanished by 1950 when Old Salem was established to preserve and restore what remained of it. The re-created village now draws thousands of visitors annually.

Start at the modern visitor center, then cross a covered wooden bridge to begin exploring Old Salem. Much of the restored area is centered on Salem Square, where a dozen or so buildings are open to the public. The oldest (1769) is the Single Brothers’ House. Moravian society called for individuals to be grouped with others based on age, sex and marital status, so male adolescents were moved to the Single Brothers’ House and were expected to become proficient at one of the many guild trades. Besides living quarters, the house has workshops for tinsmiths, weavers, tailors, potters, joiners, coopers and gunsmiths. Other buildings open to the public include the Miksch Tobacco Shop (1771), the first privately owned house in Salem; the Market-Fire House (built in 1803 and reconstructed in 1955), which served as both public meat market and fire station; the Samuel Vierling House (1802), home of Salem’s most renowned physician; the John Vogler House (1819), the home and shop of Salem’s best-known silversmith; and Salem Tavern, where President George Washington was entertained during his 1791 tour of the Southeast.

The merchant shop of Traugott Bagge (1775) is still open for business, operated by Old Salem as a museum store. The alluring aroma of fresh baked breads, pastries and cookies will make it plain that the famous Winkler Bakery (1800) is likewise open for business. The Home Moravian Church also greets visitors to Old Salem.

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