The Old Salem Historic District was Forsyth County’s first locally zoned historic district. Designated by the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen as an Historic District in 1948, Old Salem was also the first local district in North Carolina. In fact, the ordinance establishing Old Salem as a local historic district served as the model for the State’s first historic district enabling legislation. Old Salem is internationally recognized as one of the premier museum districts in the United States. Founded in 1766 by German Moravians, Salem was a place where the Moravians could practice their religious beliefs free from the persecution experienced by their brethren in Europe.
The concept of Salem as a planned community was largely realized by 1772 when most of the major buildings had been completed. Salem thrived as a center for commerce and education for generations, yet it was slowly engulfed by the surrounding development of the town of Winston (founded on land donated by the Moravians in 1849).
In 1913, Winston and Salem merged, and the historic structures and environment of Salem became threatened as the city expanded in the early 20th century. In 1948, the potential deterioration of Salem was halted by the establishment of the local historic district. In 1950, interested citizens created the nonprofit organization of Old Salem, Inc. The results of that effort are experienced by thousands of visitors each year and by the status of Old Salem as not only a local historic district, but as a National Historic Landmark district. It is also home to many of Forsyth County’s Local Historic Landmarks as well. For more information on Old Salem, visit the Old Salem Museum and Gardens web site.