Thursday, March 18, 2010

Doesn't My Son Look Good In a Bonnet?

Cute huh?

Okay, I'm kidding. 

But how in the heck did we ever get to this point?

Well, we did a homeschool day in Old Salem, North Carolina, which is about an hour and a half drive from our home here in Raleigh.

Old Salem is a unique community of original museum buildings from the late 1700's.

Salem was founded in 1766 by the Movarians, a Protestant faith founded in Czech Republic.

The Movarian Church and community kept meticulous records.  These records provided a detailed diary of the lives of those living and working in Salem.  Many of the building are original structures.

Salem was also know as a trades town.  When you visit  you will see costumed men and women recreating the trades people of the past such as bakers, crafters, silversmiths, gunsmith and others.

In 1950 a group of volunteers established Old Salem, Inc. as a way of preserving and restoring the town of Old Salem.

Today the historic site operates with more than 200 employees, four museums, 11 gardens, retail shops and book publishing. It can even rent out part of Old Salem for Weddings.  Way Cool.

We first arrived and went to the visitors center where you purchase your tickets for the day. 

 While tickets are not required to roam Historic Old Salem, they are required to get in many building and for any museum or tours.

Inside the visitor center is this original Movarian organ, the Tannenberg Organ, restored, I believe to the tune of a glorious $600K. Originally housed in the Home Movarian Church, it is America's largest eighteenth century organ.   It truely was beautiful to see, ufortunately this was as close as they would let us get.

After exiting the tourist center we crossed this reproduction bridge into the town of Old Salem.

Ethan made a few runs while waiting for us old folks.

Once across the bridge the first museum was the Old Salem Toy Museum and The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA).

The Toy Museum was amazing!  They wouldn't let me take pictures however, bummer.  Here are a couple of photos from the website to give you an idea of what it was like.

The Old Salem Toy Museum presents an amazing display of toys that span over seventeen hundred years.  From 225 A.D. to 1925, with more than 1200 American and European toys.

I personally really enjoyed this.

Next we headed into the Historic part of Old Salem.

The first building we went into was the Timothy Vogler Gunsmith Shop.

It was established in 1831.

Skilled tradesmen practices the trades of gunsmithing and blacksmithing in this shop.

Then we went into the back of his shop were he melted the metals to make certain pieces for the guns.

Hungry, we decided we better skip on over to the Salem Tavern for a meal before it closed at 2:00.

Established in 1816...

...The Salem Tavern Restaurant offers authentic Movarian food... for lunch and dinner most days.  I had the chicken pie.  Very, very delicious!

Afterward we went next door to the 1784 original Tavern in Old Salem were travelers used to stay when passing through or in town for business.

Before going in we had to first explore the barns, of course.

This is where the guest of the Salem Tavern would have parked their horses while in town.

Cool huh.

Then we took a guided tour of the Old Salem Tavern.

Established in 1784... was first built on the outskirts of town to minimize the influence of "outsiders" into the community.

Whether they liked the strangers coming into town and staying in the Tavern or not really didn't matter.  It was critical to Old Salem's business interests in particular to the craftsmen and merchants.

Think of the Old Salem Tavern like a modern day Bed and Breakfast although not so quaint.

Instead of paying by room you paid for "bed space."  So yes, the more they could cram in the better.  Prices also went up or down depending on how busy they were.  Men would bunk together but there were separate quarters for women and children.

This is a letter from their most famous visitor, PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON.  The larger parchment is a photocopy of the original letter sent to the Inn from President Washington.

There was something way cool, eerie and even oddly patriotic to know I was walking on the same wood floors, down the same corridors that President George Washington walked on.  Call me a sap but I got goose bumps.

Here is what the letter said, don't worry if you can't read it, scroll down for a close-up...

FYI - the Movarians used to refer to themselves and the area as Wachovia.

And that's what president George Washington had to say about it!

This is where the travelers would have dined while staying at the Tavern.

While they know for sure George Washington stayed here, they do not know which room he slept in.

While all the other beds are originals, this bed is a reproduction and therefore they allow visitors to lie down on it.  Just think, Ethan could be laying down in the same room George Washington slept in.  Can I say cool again?

This was the only private room that could be rented out. We've sure come along way haven't we.

Next we were guided down into the cellar...

...this was the Salting (for food only I hope) room...

...and what every good Tavern needs, lots and lots of vino.

The last leg of the Old Salem Tavern tour brought us to the kitchen.  This lady was so nice and informative.  I sure was digging the big fireplace, er stove,  but then I think living in the dessert is living the high life.

Check out that broom.  It's bad enough I even have to use one but you mean I have to make it first.

And ladies, welcome to your kitchen sink.  Could you imagine!  I am not ashamed to say here that this made me very thankful for modern conviences - except for that fireplace.  I want that fireplace!

Okay, enough hanging out at the tavern, time to move on to the Vogler House...

...established in 1819 it was the home to John and Christina Vogler and their children.  (The lady not in costume is my husbands Grandmother, Jeanette.  She was visitng from Iowa.) 

The house is where John Vogler had his silversmith shop here in the front room.

The house was restored to what it would have looked like in 1840.

This home is an example of some significant changes that were going on during the mid 1800's.

In such a safety conscious society as ours today, it is hard to imagine a wood stove right out there in the open in a child's room.

Not sure but guessing this is a nursery...

...and the Master Bedroom.

Next we were off to the Single Brothers House.  Here they explained just how they ran their Movarian society in Old Salem.  Wait till you hear this.

This very large house served as a home as well as a spirtiual center and workplace for the unmarried men of Salem.  As we go through this home together you will see a variety of trades the Single Brothers of Salem would have learned.

Boy was this an interesting explanation.  I'll try to make this short and sweet.  See this lady dressed in traditional Movarian costume?  On her head is a type of bonnet.  It is tied with a white ribbon which meant she was widowed and therefore had to go live in the Single Women's Home. 

You see, no one owned their homes here.  Guess who did own the homes?  That's right, the church, and everyone would rent their home from the church.  So if your husband died and he didn't set aside the money and make it know in writing that he wanted his wife to continue living in the home, then out she went off to live in the home with all the other widows and single women.

There were other colored ribbons as well.  One was for single, eligable women who had to live together as already explained above.

One was for young girls around fourteen and under and the other was for married women.

How's that for control of the population?

Many of the buildings had a tile heater like this one or something similar to it.  They were installed on site by the local artisian.  Isn't it beautiful.  The little built-in shelves would be used to put tea kettles or the such on.

This was one of the word working rooms where the Single Brothers would learn this craft...

...and here is where they learned pottery.  Ethan really enjoyed this one.

The brothers made their own shoes while learning the art of being a cobbler.  This is the room for that trade.  Notice a black tile furnace similar to the green one I showed you earlier.

Here is where they learned to tailor clothing.  Notice the pattern laid out on the table.

This is the other side of the room above.  Here you find the various dyed and spun yarns and threads.

And now we have where the Single Brothers learned the trade of silversmith.  This gentlemen showed how they made things out of tin like cookie cutters, food graters, etc.

Here is where he melted the metals for casting such things as silverware.

Which brings us to how my son ended up in a bonnet.  There are several shops throughout that offer an array of souvenirs as well as many authentic Movarian items handcrafted on site.

We only touched on a small portion of the buildings available to visit.  I think one could easily spend two full days here to see everything.

But for now our visit to Old Salem was up...

...we'll leave the rest to see for another day.

Things to know before you go:

You're going to walk a lot so make sure you wear comfy shoes.

Tickets are purchased at the Old Salem Visitor Center upon arrival.

They are closed on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, December 24 & 25 and on Mondays.

For more information on ticket discounts and special programming visit their website at

There was so much more to see than we were able to in the one day, things like:

An 1823 Log Church
The Graveyard
An 1861 Brick Church
Blum House - Home and shop to a Salem Printer
Shultz Shoe Shop
Market-fire Engine House
Any of the 11 gardens

Also, though not on the Old Salem tour, the Salem Academy and College represents the thirteenth oldest college in the U.S.  The house of the former Single Sisters' House (1786), it is currently part of a  four-year liberal arts college for women.

My recommendation is to visit Old Salem if you ever have the opportunity.  It truely is not only a part of North Carolina's history but early American History as well.


  1. Such a cool trip. I love it! The picture of your son in the bonnet is priceless! Glad you enjoyed yourself!

  2. Looks like you all had a great time! I'd love to get down there one day and check it out. we are all big history buffs around here, I think maybe when my son is a little older though!

  3. Wow what a great trip and photos to show!! Stopping by from TMC!

  4. How neat! I love stuff like this, maybe I'll get to visit one day. Thanks for all the photos :)

  5. The picture of him in the bonnet is cute, but I LOVE the one of him running across the bridge! Sounds like a great trip.

  6. Great post! I love historical places. I am in Seattle so I doubt I will ever get the chance to go visit,but I do have family in Raleigh. My favorite part was what you said about walking the same floors as George Washington, love that!

  7. Thanks for the words of encouragement.
    I was catching up on your blog. You might want to look up information about the Zoarites. They were a society that lived in Southeast Ohio and sound similar to the Movarians. I've visted Zoar village. It's really interesting.

  8. Ohhh...this was as if I did the historical museum trip too....MAGNIFICIENT and so very interesting.....WONDERFUL inspiring work!!!!
    Your little cute sweeeeeet!!!!!
    Thanks for bringing me on this great trip!!!!!!
    Where are we going next time????????
    ciao ciao elvira

  9. Thank you for sharing these. My husband took me all over the U.S. but this is one place I missed...its so full of history. Wonderful to share. Blessings from Australia

  10. Love the bonnet picture!

    Hello there!

    I’m following your nice family blog on Google Friends Connect, and am your latest Friday Follower. I would appreciate a follow-back!


  11. My husband would LOVE this! He's very into history!

  12. That looks so fun! We are in the Charlotte area - and haven't been to that part of NC yet, but will be sure to check it out! Great blog - and thanks for visiting mine!

  13. What an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing :)

  14. Looks like you had an incredible field trip! I'm certainly jotting this down in my notebook so we can plan a trip when we're in the area. Happy Field Trippin'!:)


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