Doing the Washington Park route when we start at West End Coffeehouse gives us a fairly good exposure to Winston Salem’s south side in general. We’ll head over to Brookstown Avenue toward Old Salem. We’ll pass by the Winston Salem Visitor Center that, along with the Brookstown Inn, is housed in former 19th century factories owned by Moravian industrialist Henry Fries. (The triangular shaped building at the corner of Brookstown and Marshall was originally a transformer station making the factory buildings the first in the city to have electrification).
Just beyond, we turn right onto a strollway that runs parallel to Old Salem and takes us to the round-about at the far end of the village. We circle over to Main Street to take a left on Waughtown Street. Shortly after the Moravians settled in Salem, they this area as a plantation for their farming needs. In 1872 part of the hillside was developed by the Moravians for their African American community who purchased lots there and built homes. The neighborhood came to be called Happy Hill. Both the name and the neighborhood still exist today.
Climbing Waughtown Street we start seeing the campus of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts on the right. The school is the first public arts conservatory in the United States and was founded in 1963. Winston Salem, being the first in the nation to have a city arts council, was particularly eager to have the school locate here. As we travel down Haled Street, we can see the original entrance when it opened in 1965. Winston Salem sealed the deal by raising money to renovate the old Gray High School we see there so the school could be move-in ready.
We will zig-zag through more of the south side in the neighborhood generally called Sunnyside. (It got it’s name from being where Moravian businessman Elias Vogler had his farm he called “Sunnyside” back before 1870. He sold it after that for residential development). The Sunnyside area had a recreational park that would later be named Washington Park–where we are heading. The south side area had economic growth during this time with the expansion of John Nissen’s wagon works as well as other industrial ventures. The Washington Park neighborhood would become an attractive area for many of these early entrepreneurs.
We’ll eventually turn on Park Blvd and Gloria Avenue and start seeing the stately old houses in this historic neighborhood. We’ll also ride by and overlook Washington Park itself. Part of the Salem Lake greenway runs through it and there are lots of ball fields, shelters, playgrounds and a dog park. But most intriguing was revealed in a feature on little known sites of the city in the Winston Salem Journal. The park once had a lake that supported sailing in the summer and ice skating in the winter. How long ago is unknown but we can still see some of the supposed remnants.
Heading back to town we’ll go by the Gateway YWCA and cross over the Salem greenway. A left on the greenway would go a couple of miles to the Marketplace Mall. We’ll retrace our route up the strollway and Brookstown to the coffeehouse.