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Saturday, June 09, 2018


The Tavern Museum was the original Tavern in Salem.
So much to learn inside!

Visiting Old Salem is stepping back in time, but as we walk the main thoroughfare, many of the houses are not open to visitors.  These are private residences, and the people who live there maintain their homes according to the rules of an historic district.  That’s not always easy, but it is necessary.  Most of the homes, however, have plaques giving the name of the original owner as well as the date.  Later in the afternoon, a docent told us that probably no more than two of these houses are owned by Moravians.  Rather, they are owned by people who want to live in the city of Winston-Salem but without the hustle and bustle of city life.

We walked up the main street to the Tavern area. The Tavern seems to be a dividing line between the earliest homes and the later development of the community.  Originally it was set on the outskirts of the town, a location that would prevent mingling with “Strangers” from outside the community.  No town residents other than the carefully vetted tavern keeper were allowed inside.  As Salem grew, the Tavern found its way toward the middle of town when buildings on the other side were erected.

 Today the complex includes a huge wooden barn, dating back to 1835 and  relocated in 1961 from Bethania, North Carolina where another Moravian community existed.

Pretty big barn

Inside we get a view of the construction as well as the hay in the loft.

Next door is the Tavern Museum where much is original including the floorboards on which we walk.  This building, actually, was the original Tavern.  The sign below includes a diary excerpt that is disturbing but authentic and a saddening lesson in history.

Difficult as this is to internalize, I applaud that there is no attempt to hide or to erase history.
Rather, there is an attempt to reveal and to learn from it.

George Washington, in 1791, spoke to the residents from the front porch.  While possible, it was not believed that he actually slept here, not because he was a Stranger but because the best bedroom was on the first floor.  Other bedrooms were upstairs, and his six bodyguards would have been forced to be upstairs, unable to do their jobs should that be necessary.  In 1791, there were still Loyalists around.  It is not known where the President slept that night.

Residents’ diary entries say Washington addressed the people from the front porch.  The people were in a field.  Today there are buildings dating from the 1800s across the street, further evidence that as the town grew, the Tavern became part of the center.

The Moravians are not teetotalers, and there was the public room within the tavern where drinks were served.  The “bar” as we know it today did not exist back then, but it’s interesting to learn that the word “bar” originated because the liquors and beer were kept in a room with bars to prevent theft.  The word became associated with drinking, and it was kept.

In the Tavern Museum, you can see how liquor was locked up behind the bar.
Is that costumed docent standing guard?

 The dining room of the Tavern was on the second floor.  Food was laid out buffet style and remained on the table for several hours.  The second floor location meant people could not just run in off the street, grab some food, and run out again.  The location was meant to prevent thievery.

The kitchen, however, was down some stairs and out the back.  It seems very well stocked.

Perhaps the most astonishing building we visit this day is the Single Brothers’ House.  Single Sisters had their own house.  Residents in the Single Brothers’ House ranged from about age 14 into the 70s.  Whites and African Americans lived together, and as the docent informed us, that did not change until segregation became the law.

Notice the two sections of the Single Brothers' House.
The first was built in 1769.
As the town grew, the addition was built in 1789.
The entire building was restored in 1969.

Among the Moravians, marriage was arranged by lot.  Should a man want to marry, he would present his case, and lots were picked.  There were three lots:  yes, no, and neutral.  Yes, he was allowed to marry but the prospective bride had the right to refuse. No, he was not allowed to marry.  If the neutral lot was chosen, it was interpreted as a “not sure” (so no) or “not at the right time” (so no).  Seems to me, the odds were not in the man’s favor.

Music was a great part of the Moravian life and religion, and the people were divided into choirs.  Choirs were the social divisions in the community, and people basically lived and died within their choirs. In the cemetery, God’s Acre, which we will visit when we return, the people were even buried according to their choirs.

The docent in the Single Brothers’ House who also masterfully played the organ for us, explained the lot system and the choir system to us.

Don’t underestimate the importance of music in their ministry.  The Moravian Music Foundation has 10,000 early manuscripts, sacred and secular.

The organs are spectacular.  The organ crafted in 1799-1800 by David Tannenberg for the Home Moravian Church has been fully restored and has been lent to Old Salem.  It resides in the Visitor Center and there are free recitals, last year in December.  PBS even did a documentary of the restoration. 

I'd love to come back for an organ recital in this hall.
What a magnificent , and huge, organ!

The organ in the Single Brothers’ House has also been restored, in 2007, but it dates back to 1798.  For more incredible information, take this link:

This beautiful organ, played by the informative docent in the Single Brothers' House, dates back to 1798.
It was totally restored.
Originally, someone had to pump the bellows to allow it to work.  Not easy work.

I’ll talk about our lunch at the Tavern in a separate post, but before I get to the last stop of the day, I want to post an example of what the organization is trying to do.  In several places on the street and in buildings were signs similar to this one but about various subjects.  It will be interesting, now that we are members, to come back and learn more about the Hidden town within the town.

This aspect of Salem is something that should interest everyone.
It's good that in recreating another era and bringing it to light that the bad is recognized as well as the good.
In the years to come, I think there will be even more to learn here.

 Our last stop of the day was, as you would have guessed, C, Winkler Bakery built in 1800 with an addition in 1818.  Moravian sugar cookies are sold here, and they are available all over North Carolina.  Wafer thin and delicious.  There are artisan breads, pastries, etc., and there are demonstrations of the old ways of baking, the way Mr. C. Winkler did it.  I would love to end with a picture of what we bought, but….uh oh, it somehow disappeared shortly after we left the shop.  So I will leave you with a photo of the handle of the front door to the Single Brothers’ House. 

Nothing was plain and simple in the artistry of Salem.  

There’s so much more in Old Salem, but time just didn’t allow.  As I said, we became members, and we will be back, I guarantee that you will hear more about this remarkable place.  If you get an opportunity, please visit.

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