Old Salem is a local treasure. It’s a historical time capsule, a sacred historic space for residents of our city. Though the Old Salem history project started out mighty white, in recent years, Old Salem has come clean about Salem’s embrace of enslavement and white supremacy. Old Salem’s Hidden Town project is a fantastic opportunity to understand slavery and Jim Crow in a historical context.
But I’m still appalled that our city’s most historic African American neighborhood, Happy Hill, was sacrificed for public housing in the 1950s and Highway 52’s construction in the 1960s.
I have no animosity towards Old Salem Inc. Still, the Finance Committee’s Old Salem infrastructure debate last month was a stark reminder of the different and unequal treatment that Old Salem and Happy Hill have received over the decades. The City of Winston-Salem allowed a highway to be built through Happy Hill. But when it comes to Old Salem, they are willing to pay for decorative gravel (and significant infrastructure upgrades).
If the City of Winston-Salem can spend millions on Old Salem’s infrastructure and $600,000 on decorative gravel for its roads, they can do more to preserve Happy Hill’s history. They need to cancel the ‘College Park’ name officials have been applying to portions of historic Happy Hill. The Happy Hill Shotgun House Project needs to move forward. Every visitor to Happy Hill Park should have an opportunity to embrace the richness of Happy Hill’s history.
Fifty seven years ago, the City establisged an H district [historic] and set up stands that differentiated it from other residential areas in the city. And one of the most distinctive characteristics was with brick sidewalks, special lighting fictures. And of course they used a different kind of street material, copying Williamsburg’s pattern…
I think it’s important that everybody realize that Old Salem is a unique place. And part of what’s its uniqueness is the architecture, landscape gardens, and everything. So they set it apart from any other place in this whole state or in the country, really. And we need to protect that because it’s always been a major defining element of this city. It’s unique, it’s unique architectural charactor, that needs to be protected and preserved.
-Councilmember John Larson, 8/8/2022
Old Salem Chip Seal
Historic Happy Hill – HOPE VI = College Park. https://t.co/wy6rUR78iM pic.twitter.com/ELhfCBunui
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) October 26, 2021
Old Salem Infrastructure-City of Winston-SalemCARF - Change Order - Old Salem Infrastructure Improvement Project - Decorative Chip Seal (1)