Salem, North Carolina has been around since even before the United States existed. Founded in 1766 by Moravians, a protestant group, Salem was the central administrative, spiritual, craft, and professional town surrounded by five outlying congregations. Today Salem reflects a history that is as rich and long as the town is old.
Walking down the streets of Salem your eyes feast on oak lined streets and gorgeous brick buildings and clapboard covered log buildings, built to withstand the test of time. Many of the first houses in Salem still stand there today.
The Miksch House, was the first house built in Salem to be occupied by a single family. Prior to this time houses had been constructed as shared living space. Today the The Miksch Gardens and House experience is the most intensive living history site in Salem. Visitors become immersed in the life-sustaining activities of the time like the potter at the wheel. Depending on the weather and time of year you’ll find yourself working in the gardens, orchards, yard and kitchen. You’ll find that many of the houses you visit in Salem transport you back in time. The houses give a glimpse of life for different families and occupations.
When you visit the Vogler house the year is 1840. John was a silversmith and was active within the community. He and his wife Christina had 3 children. Lisetta, Louisa and Elias. At the time you visit Lisetta is grown and married. Elisa is a teenager returning home from school. Stepping into the house you will get a glimpse of both the family’s public and pricate lives and living spaces. Many furnishings are original to the Vogler family. It’s like this any of the houses you enter. Whether your visiting Shultz Shoemaker Shop, Salem Tavern Museum, J. Blum House or the St. Phillips African Moravian Church you will step back into a moment of history. Seeing the lives as the people lived them. But it’s not just one moment in time for every house. Salem covered a large span of time through the 18th and 19th century.
Besides walking through every one of the houses, which is highly recommended, it’s possible to get a picture of what it was like through food. Through careful research many foods are grown, preserved and prepared the same way Moravians did in the 18th and 19th centuries. Cooking is done at different houses depending on the time of year and activity. At the Tavern Museum kitchen, you can also visit the cellar, which would hold many of the foodstuffs used in the kitchen and watch dinner prepared. Baking is done periodically at the Vierling House, and Christmas baking is done at the John Vogler House. Because preserving could only take place for certain foods at different times of the year you can also find people preserving seasonally at both the Tavern Museum and the Vierling House.
As nearly famous as the town itself is the largest surviving pipe organ built by David Tannenberg. David Tannenberg was a highly coveted, extremely skilled craftsmen. The restoration of this organ was 15 year project and the organ has actually been stored for over 100 years since it’s removal from Home Moravian Church in 1910. Even though Old Salem Museums restored the organ and provided a new home for it in the Old Salem Visitor Center, the organ is still owned by Home Moravian Church.