Historic Survey

Forsyth County Survey ReportOver the past three years, the Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission, in conjunction with the City-County Planning Board and the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, has funded the update of the 1980 survey of historic architectural resources in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. The survey update has involved the photography of historic buildings and sites throughout the county and the collection of related historical background information. The project will serve to help the city and county better direct and manage growth and development while protecting and promoting our historic resources.

Heather Fearnbach, an architectural historian with Fearnbach History Services, Inc., is the survey's principal investigator. The survey's purpose has been to identify and record the full range of historic resources that contribute to Forsyth County's unique character. While some surveyed buildings are of National Register of Historic Places quality, others were included simply to provide context. Including a building in the Forsyth County architectural survey means only that it has been recorded for documentary purposes.

Phase III of the survey update, which began in January 2009, has recently been completed. The goals of this phase were to document overall development patterns from the 1930s through the 1960s and to survey representative and the most significant examples of domestic, religious, commercial, and industrial buildings and subdivisions from the period. At Phase III's conclusion, 17 individual properties and 10 districts were added to the North Carolina Study List.The North Carolina Study List recognizes properties that merit more intensive research and documentation. This preliminary step in the review of properties that may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places is not a requirement under federal program regulations, but serves as an early screening mechanism to remove consideration of resources that are clearly not National Register candidates. North Carolina is unique in that this process is codified in the state administrative code and that the National Register Advisory Committee (NRAC) is directly involved. The Study List has been part of North Carolina's program since the first National Register nominations were reviewed and submitted from the state in 1969.

Inclusion on the Study List does not prevent any lawful actions by a private property owner involving a building or land. Study List boundaries are preliminary and for planning purposes only. Any Federally-funded projects require historic resources review prior to project commencement.

The following link is to the complete report from Phases I, II, and III of the survey Update. The properties and districts that were added to the Study List during Phases II and III are listed in the appendices at the end of the report. 

Complete Report from Phases I, II, and III of the Survey Update [pdf/1,894kb/pdf]

Frontier To Factory

Forward b Gwynne Stephens Taylor - December, 2009

Frontier to Factory
Frontier to Factory [pdf/47.94mb/269p]

Thirty-two years ago, on December 4, 1978, before personal computers, Google Earth, GPS systems, digital cameras and cell phones, I began the work of inventorying and cataloging all of the existing historic resources in Forsyth County's built environment. With the able assistance of Vicki Smith (now Miller), I traveled every road, paved and unpaved, in Forsyth County for the next eighteen months using U.S. Geological Survey maps made from aerial photographs. On the USGS maps every building erected before 1950 was shown as a small, black square. Anticipating new discoveries, Vicki and I drove on long-abandoned roads to reach some of those black squares on the maps, and incredible buildings, long forgotten, rewarded us as they came into view. On other occasions we not only discovered wonderful buildings, but also wonderful people who were eager to relate to us their family's history, often reaching far back into the early days of Forsyth County.

While the original edition of From Frontier to Factory was the published result of all of the information gathered during those eighteen months of discovery, it was far from the end result. As I wrote in 1981 in the preface to the book: “The first step in the preservation planning process has been this comprehensive inventory, and the study will change constantly as the status of properties changes and as new information becomes available.”  Truer words were never spoken. Many historic districts, including large neighborhoods such Ardmore, West End, West Salem, and Washington Park have been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places since 1981. Many more individual properties have also been listed on the National Register, and a study of Winston-Salem’s African American community, its neighborhoods and landmarks, has been accomplished. Fortunately, important new information about our past has come to light in the last thirty years. Unfortunately, important historic resources have continued to disappear over the same time period. 

In 1981, I wrote that our county needed to grow and develop, but that much of our county’s early architectural heritage, especially in the rural areas and inner city neighborhoods, had already disappeared. In 2009, Heather Fernbach, an architectural historian whose extensive work has updated the original inventory (her report is also posted online), found that almost thirty percent of the buildings we surveyed from 1978 to 1981 have been lost forever. The rural areas of our county have experienced unprecedented growth over the last three decades. Heather’s work in assessing Forsyth County’s current historic resources, including the addition of buildings that were not considered eligible for historic designation thirty years ago, will be invaluable as we plan for future growth.

We are fortunate in Forsyth County to have many citizens of diverse backgrounds who care about preserving the tangible reminders of our past. I hope that posting From Frontier to Factory on the World Wide Web will allow all of them to share in the sense of discovery and pride about Forsyth County that Vicki Miller and I experienced more than thirty years ago.

revised: 3/15/2012

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