“Salem” means “peace”, and after a beautiful drive south on US-220, we arrived in Winston -Salem. Our original plan was to arrive via Blue Ridge Parkway, but we opted for an easier and quicker alternative after three days of driving on curvy mountain roads.
This morning’s drive was just the ticket. Although it may not have been quite as beautiful as Blue Ridge Parkway, it wasn’t to the other extreme either of driving on an ugly billboard-littered freeway. There were just enough curves to make the drive fun, and the scenery was much better than I expected. The abundance of gorgeous trees was amazing (once again!) to this California girl who grew up in a concrete jungle!
We scored on a room for the night; a “last-minute special” at the Brookstown Inn saved us $25 on a fabulous room. Wanting to make these last couple of nights a bit more comfortable, we bumped our budget up from the $65-$80 range to what turned out to be a $120 room for $95 by booking the room online last night.
This historic inn, registered on the National Register of Historic Places, used to be the Salem Cotton Mill dating back to 1837. Fast-forward to 1984, and it opened as the Brookstown Inn. It was renovated again in 2013, so everything is quite nice.
Our room has exposed beam ceilings and an exposed brick exterior wall. The interior is huge; the bathroom alone we figure at 100 sq. ft. It has two queen beds (although we only need one), a refrigerator, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, and more space than we could ever need.
If you ever plan on seeing Winston-Salem, I would recommend staying here at Brookstown Inn. The Winston-Salem Visitor Center is right next door, and there is a lovely shaded walking path just up the street that leads right to the Old Salem Museum and Gardens. As you make your way up Main Street through the museum buildings, you will end up very close to Brookstown Inn for the short walk back. (An interesting side note is that Main Street where the museum buildings are located is actually a public street. Many of the old homes sprinkled between the museum buildings are now privately owned; however, they have kept them very well-maintained.)
Another short walk from Brookstown Inn is a wonderful restaurant, Willow’s Bistro, located in an old railway building. Dinner was tasty, service was excellent, and it was a very cool place to relax and dine.
How nice to arrive in town late this morning, park the car for free at the inn, and leave it sit in the shade for the remainder of the day while we got some exercise! Spending the entire afternoon at the Old Salem Museum and Gardens was an enjoyable and very interesting experience.
Old Salem was incorporated back in the 1950’s by a group of volunteers as a way to begin preserving and restoring the town of Salem for future generations.
The town dates back to 1766 when it was founded by the Moravians- a Protestant religious group that first organized in what is now known as the Czech Republic in the 15th Century.
For 200 years the Moravians faced persecution, so they fled and first settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Their next settlement (in 1753) was 100,000 acres of purchased land in “Wachovia” (which means “creek”) in the back country of North Carolina. (Does that name “Wachovia” ring a bell? Yes, it was the Moravians who founded Wachovia Bank.)
Old Salem has done an outstanding job restoring the historic buildings and presenting them as they would have been back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.
Old Salem’s oldest house, 1771
According to their website, “The Town of Salem has a rich and deep history, with the restoration supported by many different sources of historical documentation and research. Core material is the primary source information published in the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina based on records held by the Moravian Archives, Southern Province in Winston-Salem. In addition, documentation such as private papers, historic photographs, and artistic renderings, as well as ongoing research of buildings, objects, and archaeological resources, have been critical to understanding the Town’s history.”
As we strolled from building to building we learned so much about the culture from experts dressed up in period attire who demonstrated the various trades as they were done back in those times. They included: a gunsmith shop, shoemaker shop, furniture maker, potter, and others.
We also toured a few Moravian homes including the Single Brothers’ House where we viewed trade demonstrations and heard music played from the Tannenberg organ dating back to 1798.
Shultz Shoemaker Shop, 1827
This gentleman demonstrated how shoes were made in the early 1800’s.
This lady explained how sugar was processed. Sugar cane was brought in from the Caribbean, and the first pressing turned it into “sludge”. Molasses was the result of an additional pressing. The blue package shows how sugar was wrapped. The blue paper made the sugar appear more white. Chunks were broken off to place in tea. On the right, she is holding a dish of rock candy. The brown rock candy has brandy in it.
This organ dates back to 1798.
Touring St. Philips African Moravian Church and Graveyards was interesting, too. Before slavery, black and white Moravians worshiped together. It wasn’t until 1822 when the white Moravians buckled under the influence of “outsiders” that the races were separated in worship.
This log cabin was the original St. Philips African American church.
The church we toured is the oldest African-American church in North Carolina dating back to 1861. During worship, men and women were separated in the church by a partition in the pews.
It was interesting to learn that in the Moravian cemetary, all of the gravestones are flat as a reminder of equality in both life and death.
The Moravians were definitely ahead of their time regarding equality of the sexes, because they strongly believed in educating young girls and women. To that, I say, “Good for them!”
I was also impressed by the fact that although the Moravians were missionaries, their missions were not meant to convert; they were only meant to help others in need. Native Americans benefitted greatly from the help of Moravians, as did Africans and many others throughout the world.
Today, there are approximately 600,000 Moravians; however, 80% are in other countries. In the United States they reside mostly in North Carolina as well as Lititz and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Moravians are considered mainstream Protestant most similar to Lutherans or Methodists in beliefs.
Never having even heard of Moravians until we were in Pennsylvania, both Bruce and I were fascinated to learn about their history, culture, and beliefs.
On this trip, we have learned much about the Shakers, Menonites, Amish, and Moravians. Fascinating!
Ink well, 1810-183
Salem College was a school for girls and young women. It is currently a college for women.