Turn back time in Old Salem

Originally founded by exiles the historic North Carolina town of Old Salem now attracts folk who are interested in experiencing living history, and those who yearn to know what America was like in its earliest days of European settlement.

Old Salem is a precinct in the modern city of Winston-Salem, which, with its tall ball buildings and modern infrastructure is a far cry from the small village that was built on virgin soil in 1766.

The original settlers were called Moravians, because they were members of the protestant Moravian Church which was located in Bohemia and Moravia in what is now part of the Czech Republic.  They had to flee their homeland as their churches were closed and members of the church were executed.  After fleeing to the New World, they lived in several communities before establishing Salem.  Originally, the church owned all the land and would only lease it out to church members.

Today, Old Salem has been brought back to its former glory as it is now a living history museum that is run by the non-profit Old Salem Museums and Gardens.  The town’s preserved and reconstructed buildings have sprung back into life as artisans such as blacksmiths, tinsmiths, cobblers, bakers and carpenters practise their trades using the methods of 18th century America.

These days you are able to visit the Salem Tavern where George Washington stayed. You can also visit the Single Brothers’ House; Boys’ School; Winkler Bakery; and a host of restored homes and shops, and several stores including T. Bagge Merchant and the Moravian Book and Gift Shop.    

You can’t visit it, because it is no longer there, but Old Salem was the location of the world’s first Krispy Kreme store.  The donuts were made the Moravian way using potato flour.

Also of interest is a modern building which houses the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts which showcases furniture, paintings, ceramics, textiles and metalware from the 19th century.

Today, visitors can interact with costumed staff members through engaging conversation and by participating in hands-on activities.  Activities throughout the year include intricate paper cutting (called scherenschnitte), pottery, sewing, writing with quill pens, fireplace cooking, painting, and much more.

The Old Salem Museums and Gardens is located at 900 Old Salem Rd in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

If you’ve wondered why I haven’t mentioned any witches, there’s no record of any purges here, you need to go to Salem, Massachusetts for that.

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