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Why Salem Square is Where It Is
In planning the town of Salem, Wachovia Administrator Frederic William Marshall wanted to be sure he got it right. He sent to Moravian towns all over the world to get diagrams of their streets, main buildings, etc. (They are still in the Archives). He took the best ideas from all of these, adapted to the hilly Piedmont terrain, and came up with the master plan for Salem.
In 1765, before construction had begun, Marshall took other Moravian leaders to the site and showed them where things were to go. He particularly pointed out the location of the central square.
Shortly after that, Marshall was obliged to return to Pennsylvania on church business, and this came to involve a lengthy trip back to Europe also.
In the meantime, in January of 1766 actual construction of Salem began. Soon, however, the Moravian leaders got to thinking. The area just north of where Marshall had located the square looked to be a better location, all things considered, so they decided to lay out the square there instead. Construction continued, and the first house was built just north of the newly relocated square.
Br. Marshall’s journey extended quite a while more, and it was not until 1768 that he returned to Wachovia. Of course he hastened to Salem to check progress on the new central town. His surprise was considerable when he saw what had been done – the square was laid out a block north of where he had planned. The other leaders explained their good reasons for doing so. Br. Marshall replied with a very Moravian thing: he called for a conference (board meeting) to consider the issue.
During that conference, Br. Marshall said in effect: Everyone gets a vote, but I get one more vote than all of you put together. PUT IT BACK!
And that’s why Salem square, and all the structures in conjunction with it, stand where they do today -- except of course for the first four houses, built in relation to a square that never was to be.
- C. Daniel Crews
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