Winston-Salem is at a crossroads, really. Let’s remember a time when travel was via oxen cart, horseback, or on foot. A map was an important tool, and the one drawn by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father, documenting the Great Wagon Road was one of the first based upon first-person surveys.
Salem, founded in 1766, was the southern terminus of the Great Wagon Road. Travel in the 1700s was arduous, but you could say that this Road was a super highway of its time. It connected Philadelphia and the Moravian settlements of Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania to the southern outpost in Salem. People were flowing south and goods from North Carolina were headed north.
Textiles became a vital part of the economy in Salem in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The Single Sisters Choir had a successful business weaving linen and sewing leather gloves, which were needed for everyday life in Salem and the excess could be sold to other settlers. Soon, bigger mills and automated weaving looms found a home in Salem processing both wool and cotton.
In the late 1800s, tobacco warehouses and processing plants began cropping up. It was a central place for farmers to bring their crops for sale and manufacturing. These warehouses and plants grew into an empire and set Winston-Salem, as the town became known in 1913, up as a center for manufacturing and finance.
As time passes, many things change. Tobacco fell out of favor and much of the textile business has moved away, but that hasn’t squelched Winston-Salem’s will to survive and excel. With the same industriousness of the turn of the 20th century, Winston-Salem is fueling its drive toward the future with a past rooted in the arts and a determination to find a better way to do things. When innovation and arts come together, they create a synergy that is exhilarating and a city that is vibrant, alive, and welcoming.
The Mast Store in Winston-Salem is in a building that was once the largest retailer in town. Today, we hope you’ll find an experience that hearkens back to “the best place to get it.”