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Visit Winston-Salem

Past, Present, Future

Winston-Salem. Rarely a day goes by that we are not asked how our famous "hyphen" came to be. The short story is that we're the result of our forward-thinking and highly enterprising forefathers.  And to many, it's quite surprising that we've only enjoyed our "Twin City" status since 1913. 

The slightly longer version behind the birth of the dash began first with Moravian settlers some 250-plus years ago. In 1753, the Moravians -- a devout, religious group originally from Eastern Europe – were attracted to the central portion of North Carolina due to its fertile soil, abundant water and temperate climate. They settled on more than 100,000 pristine acres in the heart of our current city, and called their new home the Wachovia Tract. It was on a portion of this expansive tract in 1766 that the Moravians established Salem. Soon thereafter, the Moravians' handiwork established what would become another hallmark of our city that survives to this day -- a reputation for arts, culture and innovation. Their pioneering work as fine craftsmen and artisans of pottery, tannery, iron works, cloth and furniture making established the city of Salem as a thriving, sought-after trade center. Too, Salem's manufacturing prowess played a pivotal and prominent role as a supplier during the American Revolution and the Civil War.

At the same time, a similar Southern industrial center was being formed just to the north of Salem. Winston, a more secular city was officially established in 1851 in honor of a prominent Revolutionary war hero and legislator, Major Joseph Winston. But it was not until after the Civil War that the city of Winston was catapulted to national prominence as a bustling industrial center. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of business tycoons such as R. J. Reynolds and the Hanes family, Winston continued to grow in popularity, industrial and financial importance, ultimately emerging as a national leader in tobacco and textile manufacturing.

So what became of these two successful cities, both living side by side? Although each town played key pioneering roles, by 1913 it was clear there was more to be gained from uniting the region than from remaining apart. And just as they did with the factories that fueled them, the cities merged enabling them to efficiently pool resources and streamline bureaucracy. This united spirit remains today in the emerging economies of finance, medicine and technology.

Over the years, Winston-Salem has remained true to its independent roots. Nicknamed the City of Arts and Innovation, Winston-Salem is synonymous with a zeal for exploration, innovation, and an entrepreneurial spirit, both in business and in culture. In fact, our ability to strike the balance between commerce and the arts is what makes us so attractive to businesses and cultural icons alike.

Our early success as an industrial center brought wealth to the community that fueled the start-up of other successful businesses, among them, Piedmont Airlines (now US Airways), Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation, T.W. Garner Food Company (makers of Texas Pete hot sauce) and Goody's headache powders. The perfect storm indeed.

And, our strong connection to creativity in all its forms bears fruit in our history of artistic "firsts." As home to the first Arts Council in the United States, Winston-Salem paved the way for public-private support of the Arts, and created the model for Arts Councils nationwide. Before that, the city of Salem was the first city in the United States where classical music was composed. Winston-Salem is also the site of the first state-supported arts conservatory in the country, the internationally regarded University of North Carolina School of the Arts. And our numerous galleries, performing arts groups, theaters, collectives and collections continue to attract and appeal to arts lovers worldwide.

Today, Winston-Salem is the fifth largest city in North Carolina. And it is home to six colleges and universities including Salem College, the longest, continuously running women's college in the U.S. as well as the prestigious Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University. 

Winston-Salem continues to build a diverse business base, including leading in nanotechnology research, finance, manufacturing again reaffirming it's time-honored tradition of forging boldly ahead. So regardless of where your historical search of Winston-Salem's roots begin -- past, present or what lies ahead -- you'll soon discover that a central theme that embraces and even rewards an explorer and entrepreneurial spirit. It started at our very roots and remains ever true to our core today. Winston-Salem, the city of arts and innovation.