Tag Archives: Winston-Salem

Old Salem + MESDA

No visit to Old Salem Museums and Gardens would be complete without a visit to and guided tour of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (aka MESDA).

MESDA -- The Museum of Southern Decorative Arts
MESDA — The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts

Make sure to head over to the museum first and schedule a guided tour early — as they fill up fast.  I learned about this museum from Glen Huey’s book ‘Furniture in the Southern Style’. Just as he said, the museum staff were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. After my tour and talking to the guides, I was invited back to see some of the other rooms. I had a great time and made some new friends.

As someone who grew up in the Northeast and New England it was great to see some more of the vernacular pieces from the South and be able to compare and contrast the details with those of my own work. I hope to tackle some Southern style pieces soon. The museum also has a great research library and a staff who enjoy sharing what they know — I look forward to doing some research there in the future.

The Tavern at Old Salem
The Tavern at Old Salem

When lunch time came around we headed over to the Tavern at Old Salem. They had a newly revamped menu which included a lot of southern favorites and fresh local produce. I had a great pulled pork sandwich and warm German Potato salad — the best I ever had that was not made by family. I come from a long line of German ancestors, some of which were brewers, so much like the woodworking gene, I’m pretty sure a lot more things are hereditary. Love of beer, bratwurst, bacon, expressed construction in woodworking etc. I also think that German language has a nice sound to it — so that one must be subconscious as at a conscious level I don’t get it….

Ready to eat at the Tavern at Old Salem. (I had a great pulled pork sandwich)
Ready to eat at the Tavern at Old Salem. (I had a great pulled pork sandwich)

After lunch we had fun exploring the town’s many shops, houses and gardens.

Some of the beautiful gardens that are part of Old Salem Museums and Gardens
Some of the beautiful gardens that are part of Old Salem Museums and Gardens

Below on the blog is a gallery of some of the more interesting architectural highlights from my walk through the village:

You can easily spend a full day visiting Old-Salem and MESDA. In the evening things get pretty quiet in the historic area so plan your trip accordingly, but there are lots of other things to see in the surrounding area in the evening.

If you’d like to plan a visit to Old Salem Museum and Gardens you can check out their website here.

-Bill

The Historic Trades at Old Salem

This summer I had the chance to take a week long road trip and travel around to a lot of historic sites in Virginia and North Carolina. One of my favorite stops along the way was my visit to Old Salem Museums and Gardens in Winston-Salem NC.

Interpreters in the Joiner's workshop inside the Single Brother's House Shop
Interpreters in the Joiner’s workshop inside the Single Brother’s House Shop

I first learned about Old Salem while having dinner with Thomas Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg. (No joke).

Window sash, drill bits, and chisel rack
Window sash, drill bits, and chisel rack

I also heard good things about it from Glen Huey’s book ‘Furniture in the Southern Style’ which draws upon some pieces from MESDA (The Museum of Southern Decorative Arts)

Carving over a bench hook
Carving over a bench hook

During our visit, my wife and I had a great time exploring the historic area and visiting the many shops and buildings.

Great traditional bench -- note how the shoulder vise is cantilevered out and there is a set of dog holes in the skirt as well.
Great traditional bench — note how the shoulder vise is cantilevered out and there is a set of dog holes in the skirt as well.

As always, the most exciting part for me was visiting with all the craftspeople who work in the various historic trades.

Full chisel rack
Full chisel rack

In the Single Brother’s House there were a series of workshops housing various trades that were vital to the community.

Molding planes
Molding planes

I felt right at home in the Joiner’s shop and if my wife would have let me I would have spent my day at the workbench talking to people….

Joiner's bench with angled legs and wedged tenons
Joiner’s bench with angled legs and wedged tenons

The workshop had a great assortment of jigs, fixtures, tools and unusual benches. Look at the great wedged tenons on the bench above. (Also check out the floating shoulder vise and skirt board with dog holes on the bench further up. Looks like they did not see as much use, but an interesting idea)

The shoemaker plying his craft -- in this case making a leather bucket.
The shoemaker plying his craft — in this case making a leather bucket.

The single brother’s house was where young men of a certain age could learn the craft and ply their trade before they got married and moved on to their own homes. In the shoemaker’s shop we had a great chat with a shoemaker who was making a leather bucket which was one of the many other wares a shoemaker would make for the town.

Some wares made by the Potter in his shop
Some wares made by the Potter in his shop

In the potter’s workshop you could see on display a wide variety of earthenware dishes, cups, and other ceramic objects. Most interesting to me were the ceramic tile shingles which you can see in the restored village.

Other trades on display were the gunsmith, apothecary, tailor, tinsmith and gardeners.

If you’d like to learn more about the craftsmen and women who work in the historic trades at Old Salem you can read more here.

If you are ever in the Winston-Salem area I highly recommend visiting Old Salem and checking out the workshops.