801 East Main Street
Salem, Virginia 24153
(540)389-6760 info@salemmuseum.org


Touring the Salem Museum & Historical Society

 (or bringing the Salem Museum to you-- scroll down for available Offsite Programs!)

The Salem Museum exhibit galleries are self-guided and handicapped accessible. Group tours of the Salem Museum may be arranged by calling the Museum office at 540-389-6760 or emailing info@salemmuseum.org. We also offer walking tours of the downtown historic district or the East Hill Cemeteries for groups of 10 or moreon a donation basis. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are always welcome!


Walking Tour of Salem


Williams-Brown House-Store (c. 1845) - 801 E. Main Street

Built by William C. Williams, builder, merchant, hotel keeper, as residence/store/post office. In 1852 J.R.C. Brown, Jr., bought it. Used as fraternity house in 1930s, later as apartments. William Watts donated house to Salem Historical Society, which moved it to current site. Opened as The Salem Museum in June 1992.
East Hill Cemetery North (1871) - Longwood Park
Two-acre lot, bought for $82 in 1871, was burying ground for African American community of Roanoke County. Among prominent citizens buried here are the Rev. B. F. Fox, founder of Shiloh Baptist Church, branch of First Baptist.
Site of Longwood Mansion (1904) - Longwood Park
Thomas H. Cooper, coal operator, built luxurious 18-room residence on this 11-acre tract in 1903. Heirs sold it to Town of Salem in 1942. Used for meetings until fire destroyed it in 1968. Carriage house remains and is used by park services.
Old Courthouse (1910) - Main Street at College Avenue
After Roanoke County was established in 1838, first courthouse served as meeting place, muster point and hospital during Civil War. In early 1900s Salem erected this courthouse on same site. In 1980, the county built another courthouse immediately to the east and Roanoke College acquired the old structure. The Southern Cross Chapter of United Daughters of Confederacy dedicated the Confederate Monument on the lawn in 1909.
Monterey (c. 1840) - 110 High Street
Originally owned by Powell H. Huff, Monterey was constructed with bricks handmade by slaves on premises. Greek Revival home features 12 rooms, two-story entrance hall, twelve-foot ceilings. Served as hotel around 1900, boarding summer guests.
Roanoke College (1847) - north end of College Avenue
Originally established in 1842 as Virginia Institute in Augusta County, College was relocated in Salem five years later. Copies of Roanoke College Walking Tour are available from Admissions Office located in Roselawn, 226 High Street.
Streetcar Station (1890-1931) - 119 East Main Street
A bricked-in ticket window is still evident on western side of what is currently The Computer Store, marking site of station for electric streetcars from 1894. Earlier, streetcars to Roanoke and Vinton were pulled by steam engine.

As you walk along this part of Main Street, notice tops of buildings decorated with the original tin work so popular at turn of century. Many storefronts on Main Street are original.

1923 Post Office - 301 East Main Street
Constructed in program that introduced great architecture to many towns, this was Salem's first federally owned postal building. Earlier, post office was located at various points along Main Street.
Salem Presbyterian Church (1851) - Main Street at Market
Presbyterian congregation outgrew its original church on Academy Street and erected this building, using slave labor, with bricks fired on premises. Structure incorporates numerous architectural designs from popular antebellum handbooks. Benjamin Deyerle, known for Greek revival buildings, is thought to be architect.
Old Post House (1821) - 42 East Main Street
House first doubled as residence for builder Jacob Stevens and his wife Sarah. Initially providing travelers with a mail drop, an exchange for fresh horses, and possibly overnight lodgings, it was later used as private residence and tea house. St. Paul's Episcopal Church purchased it in 1952 and uses it for church purposes.
Farmer's Market - Main Street at Broad.
Operating in Salem unofficially for many years, city market was only formally established in 1992. Open from 6 a.m. to dusk, Monday-Saturday, April-December.
City Hall (1912) - 114 Broad Street
Constructed in Jeffersonian Revival Style, building served as Salem High School for over 20 years until fire caused it to close for renovations. It reopened and served as Broad Street Elementary 1934-76. Converted into City Hall in 1983.
Evans Webber House (1882) 213 Broad Street
Lavish example of Second French Empire architecture, the house, built by John Evans, still boasts its original carved wood cornices, brackets, eaves and 13-foot ceilings. Windows made of cast iron.
Rice House (1867) - 223 Broad Street
Built by Salem attorney D. B. Strouse, house did not originally support those massive Corinthian columns. Owner renovated original long, thin, one-story porch after seeing porch similar to this one on trip north in early 1900s. House still has fireplace in every room, including six bedrooms, and original wrought iron fence.

Walkers may proceed along alley between the Evans Webber and Rice houses, a typical nineteenth century passageway for townspeople on horseback or foot.

Academy Street School (1890, 1895) - 121 Academy Street
These two buildings, of Italian style of Flemish Bond construction, served students for better part of century, until 1977. Initial structure, on right, was used for lower grades; second school was added for upper level students. Buildings are now condominiums.
Union Street (1802)
In early 1800s, headquarters of Roanoke Navigation Company, on southwest corner of Main and Union, which sent several shipments of cargo on canal running down Union Street to Roanoke River. In 1859, railroad eliminated need of canal. During Civil War, Northern troops marched down Union Street toward rail depot to destroy tracks, creating, according to newspaper account, "a lively spectacle. There were wagons, carriages, carts, omnibuses, horsemen, footmen, citizens, students, running pell-mell hollowing Yankees."
New Castle (c. 1820, 1853) - 12 Union Street
Early Republic brick building at rear of house, one of oldest structures in Salem, originally served as residence but became slave quarters when larger house was constructed. New Castle was later converted into factory that produced chewing tobacco. After World War II, Mrs. Howard Butts founded private North Cross School here. It currently houses Olde Salem Furnishings.
Queen Anne House (c. 1888) - 103 Union St. at southwest corner of Union and Calhoun
Rare example of its type in area, home was built when trends moved away from simple Colonial architecture to more flowery and creative styles. Note fan-type decorations and many spindles on porch and cupola over front bay window.
First Baptist Church (1867)
After meeting in private homes for many months, First Baptist Church was constructed under direction of the Rev. J. R. Cooper. A pioneer Baptist congregation for African American Salemites, this church spawned two others, Shiloh and Calvary churches.
Oakey Duval House (c. 1880) - 206 East Calhoun Street
Built by W. D. F. Duval, hotel proprietor, this Victorian era home has served both as private residence and business location in Salem for many years. It hosts seven fireplaces and floors of white oak.
Old Manse (1847) - 530 East Main Street
Built by John Day, local blacksmith, this building was later sold to Salem Presbyterian Church, which used it as home for their ministers until 1939. Since then, it has been a private residence and bed and breakfast.
East Hill Cemetery (1869) - East Main Street
After older burial grounds in Salem became too crowded, thirty stockholders in Roanoke Cemetery Company purchased these ten acres from estate of Nathaniel Burwell. General Andrew Lewis' body was moved to East Hill in 1897 from an overgrown family graveyard. Confederate soldiers who died in battles and hospitals in and around Salem are buried here as well.

Historical presentations available from the Salem Historical Society

 As part of fulfilling our mission of “preserving the past, informing the future” the Salem Museum & Historical Society offers a variety of talks to civic groups. The talks are given on a donation basis, although those involving out-of-town travel may require an appropriate travel stipend. Most use slides or Powerpoint presentations.

 The Founding of Salem 1802 Speculator James Simpson platted the original town in 1802, but unlike many similar towns in southwest Virginia, Salem survived its adolescence without disappearing from the map. What factors allowed for Salem’s early growth and prosperity?

 Forgotten Founding Father: The Life of Andrew Lewis Though crucial in developing the Virginia frontier and securing her independence from Britain, pioneer patriot Andrew Lewis is little known today. Why should Lewis be honored two centuries after his death?

 Edward Beyer’s Vision of Salem, 1855 German artist Edward Beyer traveled through Western Virginia and painted the towns and landscape he experienced. In Salem, he produced three paintings and a lithograph which is lost. His canvases give us one of the clearest glimpses of what life was like in the Salem of the 19th Century.

 The Salem Flying Artillery This local unit of the Confederate Army played a surprisingly active role in the War Between the States, from First Manassas to the “last shot” at Appomattox. Learn more about the boys in Gray who became men too soon…

 Lakeside: Sixty-Six Summers of Ups and Downs The Roanoke Valley’s favorite playground from 1920 to 1986 was Lakeside Amusement Park, where generations spent many an hour seeking thrills. Relive the memories of speed, cotton candy, and carousel music on hot summer days…

 Losing the Farm: A 19th Century Gypsy Scam About 1886, local farmer David Trout was duped by a passing “Gypsy Queen” out of a small fortune, resulting in the loss of his farm and likely his untimely death. Why would a solid citizen and community leader be so foolish?

 The Battle of Leyte Gulf The largest naval battle in history turned on chance, misperceptions, miscommunications, and human error. Learn why fortune favors the bold, and sometimes the lucky!

Community and Courage: The African American Experience in Salem The Water Street Community of Salem was for generations a haven in a world of segregation. Learn more about the hidden history of perseverance and faith of this fascinating neighborhood.

 Fork Me out The Dimes:” Carrier Addresses of 19th Century Salem For much of the 19th Century, the newsboy who delivered your paper was unpaid—except at Christmas. Then he presented to his customers a special holiday poem in exchange for a tip. He got his dimes, but also left behind a unique body of folk poetry and an interesting glimpse of small town life.

The Indian Captivity of Charles Johnston In 1790, Charles Johnston, one of the early developers of the Roanoke Valley, was captured by Shawnee Indians on the Ohio River. His experiences later were told in his memoir, the first book written in our area. His fascinating tale deserves to be remembered...

The Poorhouses of Salem In the early 20th Century, the most desperate residents of Salem could find refuge in the local almshouses. Their forgotten history, including a lost pauper cemetery, emerges from the shadows of history in this talk.

Local History Resources: An Annotated Bibliography Researchers interested in local history often hit roadblocks in finding sources. What books are available? Which are reliable? How can I find the answers I seek in our local past?

Our National Anthem-- In Its Entirety Did you know there are four verses to “The Star Spangled Banner?” Hear the full story Francis Scott Key’s account of a battle won and a nation that would not accept defeat.

"'I ain't going until they catch me': The story of Jack, a runaway slave." Hear a story lost for more than a century: a runaway slave’s account of surviving by his wits in the last months of the Civil War in Franklin County, VA. Jack, the only name by which he is known, was sent to Richmond to build fortifications under a draft for laborers. Jack managed to escape the dangerous work and survive through his own resources in isolation--right in his master’s back yard.

John D. Long, Director of the Salem Museum, has taught history at Radford University, Virginia Western Community College and is Senior Lecturer in History at Roanoke College.  A magna cum laude graduate of Roanoke College, Mr. Long earned his Masters of Arts in History from the University of Virginia in 1991.  With the Salem Museum, he has spearheaded a school outreach program, overseen a popular college internship for museums, curated substantive historical exhibits, researched and written numerous articles for the Historic Salem newspaper and other local publications, and initiated an innovative living history tour through Salem’s cemeteries.  He is a contributing columnist for the Roanoke Times, and is the author of South of Main: A History of the Water Street Community of Salem, Virginia and co-author of A Town by the Name of Salem.  He is winner of the 2002 Heritage Award from the Roanoke Valley Preservation Society.  Long is active with his church, the Boy Scouts, and other community groups. He and his wife, Candy, live in Salem and are the parents of three daughters and two sons.