This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Friday, November 05, 2010

Old Salem - A Colonial Moravian Village

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Old Salem is an historic district of Winston-Salem, NC. It was settled by a Moravian community in 1766 and intended as the central settlement of five other Moravian settlements consisting of Bethania, Bethabara, Friedberg, Friedland, and Hope. The community was governed by the Moravian Church, a Protestant denomination that began in 1457 in the kingdoms of Bohemia and Moravia, part of present-day Czech Republic. The photo to the right is of one of the churches in Old Salem.

The early Moravians were German-speaking individuals who followed John Hus, the Bohemian martyr who was burned at the stake in 1415. Moravians were persecuted in central Europe for several years and finally sought refuge on the estate of a Lutheran nobleman, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. Most people credit the first Moravian settlement to Bethlehem, PA, but it was actually in 1735 in Savannah, GA. When it became clear that the Moravians had irreconcilable differences with the local government, they moved to Bethlehem, PA and established a new settlement in 1742. It wasn't until 1753 that the Moravians purchased the Wachovia tract of land from Lord Granville in NC and first settled Bethabara. The home in the photo to the left is of the church bishop's home.

Old Salem was called "Salem" at this time and the land was owned by the Moravian Church. They leased the land to members of the church. Everyone in the community had to belong to the church and could be expelled from the town if they didn't follow the church rules. For instance, all girls and boys were expected to leave their parents home at the age of 14. The girls moved into the the Single Sisters Home and the Men moved into the Single Brothers Home (photo to right). Even if they had the money to purchase their own home and land, they could not do so if they were not married.

The Moravian Cemetery looks very different from most cemeteries. All the stone markers look like white flat pillars made of square stones about 1-2" thick. Families are not buried together. In other words, a wife wasn't buried beside her husband or children. Instead, Moravians were buried in neat rows, all the men in a group together, the women in a group together, and the children in a group together. The photo to the left is of the Old Salem Cemetery in the distance. Notice all the white stones in rows.
Many of the buildings and homes of Old Salem have survived and been reconstructed as they were in the 18th and 19th centuries. The living museum hires skilled interpreters who dress as the Moravians did in these centuries and tell the stories of the life and work of Old Salem's tinsmiths, blacksmiths, cobblers, gunsmiths, bakers, and carpenters. You can see them making and baking their goods just as they did back then. You can buy their famous Moravian cookies, cakes and honey wheat breads, as well as shop in their historic stores for Moravian custom-made items and gifts.

Other village features include the Salem Tavern (photo on left) where George Washington spent two nights on May 31st and June 1st of 1791, while passing through NC.  You can also tour the Boys' School, Winkler Bakery, and several restored homes, some which are private residences, and shops. A couple of stores include T. Bagge Merchant and the Moravian Book and Gift Shop. You can also visit the beautiful St. Philip's Moravian Church complex. Salem College has a few buildings in the area. 

Old Salem - (the official site)


Looks like an awesome place to visit

An Arkies Musings

Richard, Old Salem is so festive and fun. I love their fall activities and Christmas with the Moravians!