In 1741 a small band of Moravian missionaries representing the Unitas Fratrum, founded in 1457 by followers of John Hus and now recognized as the oldest organized Protestant denomination in the world, walked into the wilderness of Pennsylvania and began a settlement on the banks of the Lehigh River near the Monocacy Creek. From the start it was to be a planned community in which property, privacy and personal relationships were to be subordinated to a common effort to achieve a spiritual ideal. On Christmas Eve of that first year the Moravians’ patron, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany, visited the new settlement. Over dinner, the Count christened the community “Bethlehem” to commemorate his visit.
The Moravians were industrious and eager to expand. In 1753 a small party set out from Bethlehem in search of desirable land for a new settlement. After hundreds of miles they came here to “the three forks of Muddy Creek.” The Moravians purchased 98,985 acres for about 35 cents an acre and called their land “der Wachau,” which was the ancestral home of benefactor Count Zinzendorf. It translated into English into the now familiar “Wachovia.” A town was planned at the center of the new lands and tradition holds that the Count again had a hand in the naming, this time picking the name “Salem,” meaning “peace,” just before he died in 1760. Work was begun on the town six years later.
Forsyth County was formed in 1849 and Salem was the obvious choice for a courthouse site. Church elders countered by agreeing to sell land north of town for a new county seat, provided that the streets of the new town be continuous with the streets of Salem. The new community took the name of Major Joseph Winston who won fame on Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War. Winston grew up as an industrial town, churning out tobacco and furniture and textiles.
The two towns merged in 1913, a political union that left the essential fabric of each town intact. Winston was off on a high-rise building spree befitting its position as the state’s biggest financial center. Salem continued its residential feel along shaded streets. Our walking tour will begin on Salem Square in the heart of Salem where we will see some of the more than 100 buildings from 1766 to 1850 that have been restored or reconstructed on their original sites...
WALK OVER TO THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF THE SQUARE.
Salem College Main Hall
northwest corner of Salem College at Academy and Church streets
In a time when education for girls was a rarity, the school for girls started by the Moravians in 1772 was a beacon for well-to-do families across the South. In 1802, it became a boarding school for girls and young women with an initial class of 30; in 1866, it was renamed Salem Female Academy. Today Salem College is recognized as the oldest women’s college in America. Main Hall dates to 1855, looking onto Salem Square through a face of stately Doric columns.
WITH YOUR BACK TO MAIN HALL AND FACING SALEM SQUARE, TURN RIGHT ON CHURCH STREET.
Home Moravian Church
529 Church Street
Church services were held in a community Gemeinhaus that was located where Main Hall stands until 1800 when this sanctuary of simple design and beautiful brick masonry was constructed. The church was originally slated for a spot of honor in the center of Salem Square but the Single Sisters were using that space for their laundry so it slid over here. Services are still conducted today and are open to visitors.
463 Church Street
This was the largest house in Salem in 1802 when it was constructed for Dr. Samuel Benjamin Vierling. Vierling received his doctoring training in Berlin and was recruited to the Moravian community in 1790. The house also contained the town apothecary.
In the Moravian church all folks are equal in death as they were in life so all the marble headstones are laid flat. The cemetery contains more than 4,000 graves dating from 1771.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO SALEM SQUARE AND TURN RIGHT ON ACADEMY STREET.
northeast corner of Salem Square at Church Street
This handsome one-and-one-half story building was constructed in 1811 for the head of the school. Additions in the 1830s and 1850s doubled its size. The main block is laid in Flemish bond brick with glazed headers. The entranceway boasts a wide, arched transom over a double flight of stone steps.
3 Academy Street
This was the first educational building constructed in Salem, in 1794, for the Boys’ School that had operated since 1771. It would continue into the 1900s and now serves to display exhibits on Moravian life.
TURN LEFT ON MAIN STREET.
Single Brothers House
600 South Main Street
Moravians lived in groups based on life circumstances, known as choirs. This half-timbered brick structure dates to 1769 and served as a home and workplace for the community’s single men and older boys. Across Salem Square was a similar arrangement for the Single Sisters’ Choir.
ACROSS THE STREET IS...
Market-Fire Engine House
west side of Salem Square
This building is a 1955 reconstruction but the original utilitarian building was built on the Square in 1803. Half of the building was used as a marketplace for fresh meat and produce and the other half was used to store the community’s fire fighting equipment. On display are two of the earliest fire engines used in North Carolina.
WITH YOUR BACK TO SALEM SQUARE, TURN RIGHT AND WALK UP MAIN STREET.
532 South Main Street
When Matthew and Henrietta Miksch moved into this log house covered with clapboards in 1771 it marked the first time a Moravian family lived outside a communal house. The family sold home-made baked goods, candles and tobacco products from the house.
521 South Main Street
This brick building was constructed in 1800 for the newly appointed town baker, Thomas Butner. Butner never took to the craft and in 1807 church elders imported Swiss-born Christian Winkler from Pennsylvania to be the new town baker. Winklers would man the wood-fired brick dome oven for the community until 1926.
501 South Main Street
This brick structure was erected in 1797 as the office and home of the church warden who administered all town affairs, including the sale of land. It has served the community in many official capacities through the years including Office of the Salem Treasurer, Land Office and Residence of Ministers. Since 1942 it has housed the archives for the Moravians who kept detailed records of life in the community from the day of founding. Like most Moravian residences, it was built flush to the sidewalk and stands as a beacon of Moravian architecture. The first floor walls are of stone - some of the blocks being more than eight feet long - and the second floor is of hand-made brick.
AT CEMETERY STREET TURN LEFT AND WALK DOWNHILL TO LIBERTY STREET.
Salem Town Hall
50 Cemetery Street
This was Salem’s last municipal building before the Town’s consolidation with Winston in 1913. The red brick Town Hall had just been completed a year earlier and continued on for the next fifty years as a Winston-Salem fire station. Leading local architect Willard C. Northup designed the building with a distinctive bonnet hood at the entrance as a nod to the local Moravian architectural influences.
TURN RIGHT ON LIBERTY STREET AND WALK UNDER THE HIGHWAY INTO WINSTON.
1st Street West at Liberty Street
The Brown & Williamson Company warehouse once occupied this space. The public park is named for Wayne A. Corpening who was mayor for 12 years through the 1980s. The glass tower looming over the space is a 1987 creation.
TURN RIGHT ON 1ST STREET. TURN LEFT ON MAIN STREET.
100 North Main Street
At 460 feet, this is Winston-Salem’s tallest building. It was constructed as the world headquarters for Wachovia Bank in 1995. Cesar Pelli, an Argentine-American architect with many of the word’s tallest buildings on his resume, drew up the plans for this tower with an eye for the town’s Moravian traditions. He used the Moravian star to decorate the lobby and crowned the building with the world’s only granite dome, inspired by the Moravian arch. The Olympia white granite comes from a single quarry on the island of Sardinia. Wachovia merged with First Union in 2001 and sold the building in a package of bank properties.
101 North Main Street
This plot of land was purchased in the original auction of town lots by Judge H.D. Starbuck who purchased three for $503.00. The land was still in the Starbuck family in 1920 when it was sold to the City for $82,500 as the site for the new City Hall. The price tag was $82,500. Go-to local architects Northup and O’Brien provided the plans for the monumental Renaissance Revival structure, which was financed by $550,000 of bonds. It was the largest municipal building in North Carolina at the time. The first Board of Aldermen Meeting was held in the new City Hall on November 19, 1926. With renovations, it remains the seat of city government.
Wachovia Bank and Trust Company Building
8 West 3rd Street
In the 1870s William A. Lemly looked over from his bank in the staid Moravian community of Salem into the newly vibrant town of Winston and began to yearn to be where the economic action was. To move the few blocks required a new charter and new name, both of which became effective on June 16, 1879 and Lemly began taking deposits in his new Wachovia National Bank. In 1893 textile and railroad entrepreneur Francis H. Fries opened a small two-man bank in Wnston that he called the Wachovia Loan and Trust Company. In 1911, the two Wachovias merged to form Wachovia Bank and Trust Company and, flush with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco money, the bank built this new headquarters, Winston-Salem’s first metal-framed skyscraper and the tallest building in town. Frank Pierce Milburn, one of the busiest architects in North Carolina and the first to establish a truly regional practice across the South, designed the light brown Neoclassical headquarters. After the nearby O’Hanlon Building was erected in 1914, rising a few feet above their bank, restless directors brought Milburn back to add another story. Wachovia Bank would ultimately lose the early “race to the sky” but after staying in these quarters until the 1966 the bank would not surrender that battle again in creating its next two Winston-Salem homes.
Forsyth County Courthouse
Courthouse Square bounded by Main, Liberty, 3rd and 4th streets
Frank Pierce Milburn designed a picturesque Romanesque Revival courthouse in 1896, resplendent with turrets and a soaring bell tower. In 1926 the courthouse was drastically renovated and expanded. The building was not demolished but gone were turrets and bell tower and Victorian-era accoutrements. The walls instead supported a new, more staid, limestone Beaux Arts house of justice. It has since been expanded and modified again.
301 North Main Street
This was called the Wachovia Building when it became Wachovia Bank’s first high-rise headquarters in 1966. At 410 feet it was the tallest building in North Carolina until 1971. The glass and steel tower was a stand-out example of the International Style but after the bank moved on in the 1990s the building remained vacated for several years. It reopened in 2003 after an extensive make-over that included the replacement of all 6,033 windows with energy-saving tinted glass and was re-christened the Winston Tower.
401 North Main Street
Richard Joshua Reynolds grew up in a tobacco family. His father grew tobacco and sold it in plugs from his Rock Spring Plantation in southwestern Virginia. Richard was nearsighted and read so slowly his family at first didn’t think he was bright. He was schooled in Baltimore and returned to manage the family factory. Reynolds became convinced his future in tobacco lay elsewhere. He left and settled in Winston, North Carolina in 1874 at the age of 24. Winston was a dusty town of 1,400 but it did have two things to recommend it: it was in the center of the new flue-cured leaf country that made the best chewing tobacco and a newly built railroad line split the town. Reynolds bought a tiny spec of land by the railroad tracks and built a two-story factory that couldn’t hold a tennis court. He lived on the second floor of “The Little Red Factory” and turned out 150,000 pounds of tobacco the first year in the plant down below. By 1900 Reynolds had 25% of the nation’s plug market but was looking for a new product. He blended a tobacco using Kentucky burley and packaged it in nickel cloths and 2-ounce tins. Prince Albert tobacco became wildly popular. Production in the first four years increased from 250,000 pounds to 14,000,000 pounds. Next came Camel cigarettes, introduced at a time when most smokers rolled their own. Quickly 1/2 of all cigarettes smoked in the United States were Camels. RJ Reynolds died in 1918 at the age of 68 as his plants were turning out 18 billion Camels a year. The company moved into this Art Deco skyscraper in 1929. The New York architectural firm of Shreve & Lamb, who were to build the Empire State Building two years later used this 21-story tower - the tallest building south of Baltimore at the time - as a prototype with setbacks from the street as the building rises. The 395-foot, Indiana-limestone-clad office tower remained the company headquarters for 80 years.
TURN LEFT ON 4TH STREET.
One West Fourth Street
1 West 4th Street
This twin tower from 2002 was limited to 250 feet so it would not disturb the view of the Reynolds Building next door.
104 West 4th Street
Michigan-born Willard Close Northup spent time in Asheville, where his father owned a hardware store, before embarking on an education in architecture. In 1906 he gravitated to Winston and opened his own practice at the age of 24. By the next year he was able to hire a local draftsman, Leet Alexander O’Brien, and the shop became one of the busiest and most respected in North Carolina. Northup and O’Brien worked in various styles and tackled residential and commercial commissions. Here they pioneered the Art Deco style in town for a new office building in 1928 for Thomas Pepper, who owned tobacco warehouses around town. Pepper tore down the Phoenix Hotel to make way for the seven-story building with rich terra-cotta tiles. Over the years the Pepper Buidling housed offices, eateries and a department store but in its current dilapidates state has been dodging a date with the wrecking ball in recent years.
105 West 4th Street at Liberty Street
After his apothecary business burned in 1913, pharmacist Edward O’Hanlon retained Willard C. Northup to design his new building. In the convention of the day, Northup created a Colonial Revival tower to resemble a three-part classical Greek column with ornate ground and top stories and relatively unadorned central floors. The building lasted as Winston-Salem’s tallest building for only a few years but you could still buy sundries at O’Hanlon’s Drug Store on the first floor until 1962.
216 West 4th Street
Although the ground floor of this 1922 masonry low-rise has been compromised, look up to see the Colonial Revival detailing such as varying keystones above the end windows, the stone beltcourse between the fourth and fifth stories, the finely detailed cornice and stone urns on the roofline.
310 West 4th Street
Tycho Nissen was born in Denmark in 1732 and came to North Carolina in the 1770s where he crafted wagons. His son left the trade for farming but his grandson John Phillip Nissen began building wagons on his own and by 1834 the Nissen Wagon Works had formed. During the Civil War Nissen gun carts and supply wagons were in high demand in the confederacy and after the war the next generation of George and William continued constructing the nation’s finest wagons. William Nissen sold the venerable company in 1925 and he used the money to construct North Carolina’s tallest building. He hired architect William Lee Stoddart of New York City, known for his many grand-scale hotels across the South to design his building. Stoddart delivered a Neoclassical twin tower of buff brick and limestone trim. Although it included retail and office space, it was primarily a residential affair and it was the first air-conditioned building in the Southeast. Miniature golf, or “Tom Thumb Golf,” as it was called was all the rage at the time and a course was available in the basement. William Nissen and his wife Ida lived on the top floor of the 18-story building until 1954.
405 West 4th Street at Marshall Street
This building began life in 1929 as the Carolina Theater with an opulent movie palace on the ground floor and apartments and hotel rooms above. Lynchburg architect Stanhope Johnson contributed the Renaissance Revival design with an ornate terra-cotta crown on the floors above dark brick. In the 1980s the building received a multi-million dollar transformation into the Roger L. Stevens Center, operated by the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
WALK BACK A FEW STEPS TO CHERRY STREET AND TURN RIGHT. AT 1ST STREET TURN LEFT. LOOK FOR THE ENTRANCE TO THE STROLLWAY ON THE RIGHT, ACROSS FROM CORPENING PLAZA.