It had been a long time since I had visited historic Old Salem in North Carolina. Almost thirty years had passed between visits and I managed to pick one of the hottest days of the summer.
Entering the Visitor’s Center, I welcomed the relief of the air conditioning as I stepped inside. I purchased my ticket to visit the historic Moravian community and debated lingering inside a little longer or heading out into the heat and humidity.
The community of Salem was founded by members of the Moravian church. The Moravians first settled in Savannah, Georgia, before moving northward into Pennsylvania in the 1740s, founding the communities of Bethlehem, Lititz and Nazareth. In 1753, Moravians from Bethlehem purchased land in North Carolina and founded the community of Bethabara and in 1766 the construction of Salem began. The lands built upon were owned by the Moravian Church, which leased out lands to members; all those living on church owned property had to be members of the Moravian Church.
In 1849, the Moravian Church sold off land north of the community to become the county seat of the newly formed Forsyth County. This land would become the community of Winston. In 1913 the community merged with Winston and the town became officially known as Winston-Salem. In 1950, the desire to restore the historic properties created Old Salem Inc., which restored the historic properties and ran the living museums.
Armed with a map of the community and my visitor pass, I prepared to wander the grounds. I planned on stopping at various buildings that were operated by skilled blacksmiths, gunsmiths, bakers and other interpreters who shared their knowledge of their craft and history.
Stepping out of the Visitor’s Center, I could not miss the first thing I wanted to make sure I saw while touring the historic town. Immediately outside the Visitor’s Center stands the Old Salem Heritage Bridge, also known as Old Salem Pedestrian Bridge in some articles. The bridge was erected in 1998 and was designed in a style that would have been similar to those that had been erected by the Moravian community in the past. Note: Despite being a covered bridge, the Old Salem Pedestrian Bridge does not appear on many of the lists of North Carolina’s covered bridges.
Although it is a modern covered bridge, it has the appearance of an older bridge, erected to fit into the design of the historic area. The bridge provides a safe way to access Old Salem from the Visitor’s Center and unlike many of the covered bridges I’ve visited, this one does not have wooden outside walls to protect the truss – the outside walls are made of plexiglass, which gives a view of the street below.
This covered bridge was erected with a Burr arch truss and spans one hundred and twenty feet over Old Salem Road. It features a single span supported by concrete abutments at each end. Note: A couple places state it has two arches, but it is a single arch. What I believe these articles mean is there is an arch on each side of the bridge, giving it the two arches.
The Old Salem Pedestrian Bridge was built to meet American with Disabilities Act requirements, so each side it has steps and ramps to access the bridge from the Visitor’s Center and Main Street.
I passed through the bridge and headed into the historic grounds of Old Salem Village, ready to explore the village that had been calling for my return.