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2013 Bus Tour - Ride the Rails: A tour of the past that made the future
Saturday, October 26, 2013, was a beautiful warm fall day. A group of enthusiastic folks met at the Visitor Center of Old Salem Museum & Gardens, and after enjoying hot coffee and donuts boarded the bus for an exciting 2013 tour presented by the Wachovia Historical Society in association with Old Salem Museums & Gardens. Entitled “Ride the Rails,” it was a tour of Winston-Salem’s historic streetcar routes with stops at significant sites of the “trolley car” era.

After leaving the Visitor Center, we headed north on the Main Street trolley route. Our first stop was at the Pepper Building, built in 1928. There we were met by historical architect and Society member David Gall, who gave us a tour of the building and told us of plans for it. The Pepper Building is to be converted into apartments with an upscale restaurant planned for the first floor. Next we continued on the north trolley car route and stopped at the Brown Rogers Dixson Building. Here we were updated on its future, which includes the Mast General Store opening in 2015 and some upscale apartments.
      Pepper Building under renovation                     Brookstown History    
Our next stop was on the western trolley route at the Nissen Building. When it opened in 1927, it was the tallest building in Winston-Salem, surpassing the height of the old Wachovia Building. The Nissen Building was supposedly the first air conditioned building in the southeast and housed offices, a bank, and shops. One of the highlights of our tour was a trip to the top of the Nissen Building. There we had great views of Pilot Mountain, the Sauratown Mountains, and much of Winston-Salem. The pool atop the Nissen Building was also a high­light for many. The Nissen family lived on the 18th floor until 1954. Now the Nissen Building is one of Winston-Salem’s premier living places, fully occupied with a waiting list.

We continued now on the western trolley route past Hanes Park to Reynolds High School and then returned to Brookstown Inn, where we had a delicious lunch and were given booklets about the history of the inn and the influence the Fries family, devout Moravians, had on the industrial development of Winston-Salem. Their contributions in textiles, hydroelectric power for factories, streetcars, street lighting, construction, and transportation provided much of the ground­work for Winston-Salem’s tobacco and textile industrialization.


                         Washington Park Old Shell Station (Sprague St)    

After lunch, we followed the southern trolley-car route first stopping in the Washington Park neighborhood. Washington Park and West End were designed by Jacob Ludlow and were neighbor­hoods where some of Winston-Salem’s most prominent citizens lived. In Washington Park, we saw the Henry Fries home and other beautiful stately houses, and stopped at Washington Park itself for a brief visit to the probable spot where there was once a lake for swimming and ice skating.

We continued on the southern trolley route to the Sprague Street Shell station, which we had a chance to tour. It was built by Quality Oil and is a good example of architecture of the time designed to attract the attention of motorists.

          Closed Rock Quarry (Reynolds Park Rd)           Inside 1926 Union Train Station    

Our next stop was a highlight for many on the tour, the quarry near Reynolds Park. Deep, steep-sided, and gorgeous, the quarry holds a beautiful blue pool supplied from underground. In fact, the quarry was closed because the water could not be pumped out fast enough. Now the pool is home to freshwater jellyfish and fish. The trip to the bottom of the quarry was long and beautiful every step of the way. Plans are in the works to develop the quarry into a park.

Our final stop was the 1926 Union Station, which had its last passenger train come through in 1970. We toured the facility and heard and read about its history. Plans are now being developed for its use, possibly as a part of future streetcar or light rail use.

This was another wonderful tour, leaving us with an even greater appreciation of our past and insight into our future. At the end of the tour, folks said, “This was great, one of the best ever. We can’t wait for the next one.”           
                                                                                 —H. Lester Morris
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