December 1, 2011

Moravians and Decorative Arts

After a jaunt south through the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, we are making our way north again through the Piedmont area of North Carolina and then into Virginia.  It’s definitely a zigzag type of route, but it has enabled us to drive the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, spend Thanksgiving in South Carolina, and visit the mountains of North Carolina before the weather turned too cold or snowy to make RV travel in those areas problematic. 

We spent the day at Old Salem Museum and Gardens in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The town of Salem was founded in 1766 by the Moravians, a Protestant sect that began in what is now the Czech Republic.  Many of the buildings in the original town have been restored or reconstructed, and costumed interpreters recreate the life in the community.

Home Moravian Chruch and Salem College on the Square

Single Brothers' House, the Home for Unmarried Men

Interesting Architecture

St. Philips Church, the Oldest Standing African American Church in North Carolina

Reconstructed Log Church, the First Church in Salem
Built Specially for an African American Congregation
At least twenty buildings are open to the public, and many showcase the various trades for which Salem was known.  Many of the trades continue to be practiced, and we watched the gunsmith and joiner at work.  Naturally, my favorite was the baker, and we sampled sugar cake fresh out of the oven.  I found the ginger cookies that I still remember from my first visit to Old Salem at least thirty years ago.  They are paper-thin and so good, and we bought several tins to take with us.

Baked Goods Are Still Made in the Wood-Fired Oven

Various Spices, Roots, Barks and Seeds Flavored the Meals at Salem Tavern
Although the town was interesting to walk through and the tours in the various buildings well done, our favorite part of the day was our visit to the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), which is one of the museums at Old Salem.  The focus of MESDA is the preservation, documentation, exhibition and interpretation of Southern decorative arts from the 1670s through the early nineteenth century.

We had an amazing guide who led us through the twelve gallery rooms that contain furniture, paintings, pottery, silver and other decorative arts from the three regions of the early South – the Chesapeake, the Low Country and the Backcountry.  The rooms are not decorated as period rooms, although some do contain architectural elements removed from historic houses.  Instead, each room interprets a theme through the decorative arts on display.  MESDA is a great museum and one I’d highly recommend.

Many of the Historic Buildings in Old Salem Are Privately Owned

Various Periods Are Represented in the Buildings in Old Salem


  1. Where will you ever put the tins? I don't remember a tin section in the cat carrier.....


  2. Jane, For those cookies, I found a spot! Besides, the tins are cylindrical, and you know I've become a pro at utilizing vertical space. Sarah