Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moravians and Cookies

I’ve travelled to Winston-Salem, NC several times on business. On one trip, about 18 years ago, I stumbled upon Old Salem, which at the time, was a group of historic buildings, generally in need of restoration. There was also an old bakery which produced delicious, thin sugar and ginger spice cookies. I remember walking around Old Salem and learning that this was the remains of a Moravian settlement. Aside from the cookies, that’s all I remembered.

We needed a place to stop about midway between Asheville and Wilmington, and since Winston-Salem fit the bill, we found a campground there and planned to visit Old Salem on Monday. The campground turned out to be a magnificent place in a county park called Tanglewood, which was once the estate of a brother of RJ Reynolds, the tobacco baron. No wonder the town is named after two brands of cigarettes, or maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, Tanglewood Park is 1100 acres, including two golf courses (one a gem designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., which hosted the 1974 PGA tournament) two lakes, a tennis center, an equestrian center, hiking trails, swimming pool, etc. But I digress.

It turned out that Old Salem, which has now been restored and is operated by a non-profit organization, is closed Mondays. Se we went shopping instead and visited Old Salem on Tuesday.


The Moravians, a Christian sect with roots in Czechoslovakia and Germany, first settled in Bethlehem, PA before migrating to North Carolina. Old Salem consists of many of the original 18th century buildings, including the tavern once visited by George Washington, a man who apparently got around.


This is the Single Brothers House. The historic Moravians kept the sexes apart—the unmarried men lived in this dorm, and the unmarried women in a nearby building which is now Salem College.  Only married men could own businesses. The community was primarily a village of craftsmen who made products for sale within the community as well as to anyone who wanted to purchase their stuff.

The buildings open to the public are staffed with costumed interpreters DSC_0066who are very knowledgeable about the customs and lifestyle of the original residents. The Moravians, by the way, still exist as a Protestant denomination in congregations throughout the world with about  825,000 members.

Oh, and the good news is that they still make and sell the cookies. You can now order them on the web.

We’re currently in Wilmington visiting with our friends Kathie and Phil. Our next stop is scheduled to be Cape Hatteras, so we’re keeping a close eye on Hurricane Sandy. If he/she decides to visit the Outer Banks, we may have to change our plans.


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