Friday, July 31, 2009

The Christman House

The house at 500 Salt Street in Winston-Salem is shown above. It is in excellent condition given that it was built in 1825, and its little plaque notes that it is the "Christman House." The significance of this house or the role of Christmans in any but the most recent history of Winston-Salem (say, about the last 25 years) is not easy to find on the internet. In fact, which Christman the house is named for is unclear, as some sources refer to the Jacob Christman House and others refer to the John George Christman House. Zillow knows almost all (and estimates the value of this house to be $464,500), but discloses little else about the Christman House except that it has 3 bedrooms and a finished basement. Here's a follow up on the Green Park Inn auction mentioned in an earlier posting (July 18): the Blowing Rock property, hotel, and all of the hotel furnishings attracted a high bid of only $750,000. Given that the winning bid was expected to fall into the 2-3 million range (and given that the hotel only closed on May 24 of this year), what does this tell us? The blog is a little puzzled, but suspects that affluent vacationers to areas where the scenery is the main attraction just buy their own vacation home, prizing privacy over seeing and being seen.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Confederate etiquette

At the cemetery on Monday evening, Jon wondered why the confederate battle flag on several of the grave markers was depicted "backwards" - that is, left-facing instead of right-facing. The blog's research department believes that it has the answer, which saves sensitive blog readers from having to do their own search (some search terms, including "confederate," need to be deployed very, very cautiously). The answer appears to be that the confederate battle flag was often part of a two-sided flag, with the state flag on the other side. Most state flags (for example, the state flag of North Carolina) are only being flown correctly if they are right-facing (the same is true for the U.S. flag, as the canton should always go in the upper left corner). But the confederate battle flag does not have this requirement. So, there is unlikely to be a deeper meaning hidden in these grave marker depictions, which are clearly meant to honor a memory rather than to provoke.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Last night's walk allowed the blog to connect West Salem to Peters Creek Parkway and the Marketplace Shopping Center, proving that it's easy for anyone who lives in the Washington Park neighborhood to walk to a $2.50 movie. But the news of lasting interest comes from a small article in Wednesday morning's Winston-Salem Journal titled Old Roads: Maps from 1760s onward of this area now online. It's absolutely true: Today's photo is a building detail from the previous evening's stroll through Old Salem.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A walk in Old Salem

The blog took a friend of Nate's visiting from Illinois for a walk in Old Salem and the adjacent big cemeteries last night...and the blog therefore should have taken a historical turn...but instead Susan was captured by one of Jon's photos.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hilltop Drive & Hilltop Court

The blog "gets" that this was all once a farm, possibly a really big farm. What is amazing is that, within easy walking distance of Robinhood Road and Jefferson Elementary School, farmland persists. Even without a prolonged downturn in the real estate market, it will be a long time before Winston-Salem runs out of land for McMansions and cluster homes. By the way, a search of the internet reveals that the term "cluster home" does not appear to have a legal or fixed definition. Here's the best definition the blog could find, which seems too broad: subdivision technique in which detached dwelling units are grouped relatively close together, leaving open spaces as common areas. Susan would add that the homes are typically small and affordably priced, with modest amenities (e.g. landscaped open spaces but not greenways or club houses). Some municipalities specify the percentage of available space that must be set aside for common use - for example, in Lewisburg, PA, 40% of the land must remain undeveloped.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Visible from outer space?

Saturday afternoon was hot and humid, but the evening cooled down to the point that Jon declared it to be "Massachusetts-in-summer-like," and the blog walked the entire length of Hilltop Drive. It is amazing how rustic some parts of our city are, and the blog will say more about Hilltop Drive in the future. But we did encounter a spectacular rooftop, highly visible on all of the mapping sites. Jon, this is a screen capture from Zillow.

The blog welcomes Nate back from camp

On Friday the blog drove west to pick up Nate from Falling Creek Camp, which is near Tuxedo, NC. It was a sunny day, and the blog was amazed to learn that Nate had tried mountain biking. Fortunately, it is likely to be several years before he qualifies for the ride known as the "death march." We're happy to have him back in Winston-Salem.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On quiet West Acadia Avenue in the Washington Park area of Winston-Salem... finds the offices of Branch 461 of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). Which turns out to be a real union, with unapologetic ties to the international labor movement and a strong sense of history . NALC was founded in 1889, riding the wave of labor's success in enshrining the 8 hour workday into law (prior to the 8 hour law, letter carriers worked 10-12 hours per day, 7 days a week). NALC has been affiliated with the AFL-CIO since 1917. If you go to the NALC web site, you can review the top 10 moments in letter carrier history. The Winston-Salem branch of NALC is active, and currently has 464 members.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"One of North Carolina's finest examples of an early 20th century streetcar suburb"

The blog returned to the Washington Park area on Wednesday evening to fill in the gaps from its earlier walk. Despite the fact that any child growing up in one of the homes here is losing IQ points as a result of lead exposure, and despite all of the no trespassing signs and home security company notices, it is hard to imagine a more appealing older neighborhood. That the residents appreciate what they have is revealed by the excellent Washington Park Neighbors web site. This site devotes much attention to the history of the neighborhood, including useful information from the National Register of Historic Places. The blog learned much, including the fact that for most of its existence (since the 1890s) the neighborhood has been known as "Sunnyside." The designer was a disciple of Frederick Law Olmsted, and the neighborhood was one of the first in Winston-Salem to have curved streets rather than a grid. It turns out not to be a coincidence that this is similar to the layout of the West End. "One of the most fashionable of the residential areas to emerge in the early decades of Winston's boom period, Washington Park was a planned development. It is situated on rolling farmland and on lands previously used by the Moravians as hunting grounds because it was thought too steep for development. The plan for its development was designed by Jacob Lott Ludlow who also drew the West End plat."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

They should be neighbors!

But one lives on Sunnydell and the other lives in Mallard Lakes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Curious and curiouser

Last night's walk took us into the neighborhood of older homes (early 20th century) around Washington Park. But the blog is still flipping through its photos from the Mallard Lakes' walk the night before. Two houses were thought-provoking: one because it appears to lack windows and the second because, when encountered, it appeared to be a clear contender for the title of "ugliest house in Winston-Salem." But Jon's photos do not do its ugliness justice. I wonder why this house looks better on line than in reality?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mallard Lakes

Sunday evening was pleasant and unusually cool. The blog found itself in Mallard Lakes, near Bethania. This development is so interesting that more than one posting will be required to cover everything we saw. But it was very exciting to find another obelisk! We even met the owner of the property the contains the obelisk. She had no background information AT ALL to offer. The blog, however, likes the way the boulders (low and sturdy) contrast with the shape of the obelisk.

Now that I think about it, there must be 50 ways... say no trespassing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Four different ways to say...

The blog wonders which approach is more effective. Three of the signs were found on a rustic, "land that time forgot" street adjacent to Greenbriar (Jon pointed out that upscale homes in the development itself have security systems decals instead of "no trespassing" signs.) The humorous (we hope) "Nodis" sign was spotted earlier this summer at the end of Piccadilly Drive.

Noted, and a sad Greenbriar story...

Jon felt that yesterday's post did not make it clear that he has, in fact, worked on a production at the Green Park Inn. Duly noted. Last night's cool weather was perfect for a return to Greenbriar. In a pleasant 5 mile walk we explored the boundaries of this development and found more support for our hypothesis that all "real" residents of Greenbriar have a basketball goal in their driveway. This made the discovery of an abandoned, possibly mistreated, goal at the end of a cul de sac all the more poignant.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thinking about career alternatives

Should Jon and Susan quit academe and run a big hotel (with a dinner theatre)? Almost certainly not, but an article in today's Winston-Salem Journal describing the upcoming auction of the Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock, NC provided some useful background information on the inn, which we saw on our July 4th excursion to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The inn opened in 1882, but closed May 25 of this year as a result of declining business during the last year and a half. Expected selling price is in the 2-3 million range. The inn is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Dept. of Interior has already approved a renovation there are tax credits to be had by the new owners. Jon took the photo on when we were homeward bound late in the afternoon of the 4th.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Successful implementation of a clever concept

From a walk earlier this summer in the Brownstone area. Note the way the plantings enhance the effect...

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Photographs taken by Jon on walks earlier this summer. We see here two solutions created by citizens of Winston-Salem. What was the problem? Hard to say. Only a video would do the mailboxes justice, as they spin.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A bear in Winston-Salem

Over the weekend the Winston-Salem newspaper reported numerous bear sightings in the area between Country Club and Robinhood Roads, an area where the blog often walks. Tuesday morning's paper reported that the Winston-Salem police shot a bear to death on Monday night in a yard off Robinhood near Shattalon. The blog is not surprised, as it would be easy for whole armies of bears to move through the densely wooded gorges along the numerous creeks that collectively create an extensive (if fragmented) wilderness zone within the city. These wild areas are another underappreciated aspect of Winston-Salem hidden in plain view. The blog walked very near the area the bear was found in summer 2008, but has not been back there this summer (yet). No walk on Monday, as Jon was off working hard on getting the production of Dead Man's Cell Phone ready to go on Thursday.

Monday, July 13, 2009

100 miles!

The blog takes pride in reporting that since April it has walked a Path Tracker-verified 100 miles in Winston-Salem this summer. (In fact, it has walked exactly 104 tracked miles in our fair city in its capacity as a blog.) The rules for achieving this goal were strict. Only walks that were successfully recorded using Path Tracker were counted. Only walks taken by Jon and Susan together were counted. And only walks taken in Winston-Salem counted. The total was NOT inflated by trips to Greensboro, Washington DC, the Blue Ridge mountains, Asheville etc. The blog is feeling rather trim, and is also pleased that it spent the $1.99 for the Path tracker iPhone ap! To celebrate, the blog indulges its obelisk obsession one more time (this is a minor obelisk across the street from the Dixie Classic Fair, in front of the Wake Forest football stadium), an example of a sign that the blog can ne'er resist when it is out walking and talking, and a reminder of a brilliantly sunny day at Linville Falls (Independence Day in the Blue Ridge).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hidden in plain view

On Saturday evening the blog followed the Odd Fellows link to the abandoned Odd Fellows Cemetery on Shorefair Drive. Here we found what we expected: the largest African-American cemetery in Forsyth County, utterly abandoned. What was striking was that there appeared to be no plan in place. It was as if one day there were well-dressed mourners sitting on neat blue folding chairs (the chairs are still there), then everyone went home, and that was that. The grave markers recorded burials from the early 20th century through 1980, but most of the markers were from the 1920s through the 1950s. We need information! We know that the nearby minor league baseball stadium, Ernie Shore Field, was built in 1956, but need dates for the fairgrounds across the street (Wikipedia says 1952) to start putting events into a meaningful sequence. Meanwhile, Mr. Covington's grave marker is a record of the importance of fraternal organizations in African-American society after the Civil War. Mr. Covington was not only an Odd Fellow, but also a Knight of Pythias...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wall construction techniques

Back at the end of June Jon photographed workers putting the finishing touches on Reynolda Presbyterian's expansion: new walls at the entrance from Reynolda Road. The construction technique is very interesting - the traditional, old-fashioned looking stones arranged on a base of cinder blocks. The church is a great neighbor for Wake Forest in that, like the adjacent Summit School, its presence assures a lack of tacky commercial development along Reynolda Road. The blog, however, finds it extremely annoying that there is no information at all about the history of the church on the Reynolda Presbyterian website.

Friday, July 10, 2009

High end housing surplus

Steady rain on Thursday night forced the blog to stay inside and watch the Phillies beat the Reds. One highlight was Chase Utley's inside the park home run! So today's photo is one that Jon took on our June 15 walk in the Strawberry Lane area. Revisiting this walk reminded Susan to check to see if the house for sale on Cold Springs Road (the one with the koi pond) had cut its asking price by, say, several hundred thousand dollars. A quick check on Zillow showed that her house is holding steady at 789,900, but also revealed the shocking news that the house next door is now also on the market (895,000).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two odd things

Wednesday evening's walk started near the intersection of Lindbergh and Country Club, a hodge podge neighborhood of quiet dead ends, little houses estimated on Zillow to be worth about 100K, and what surely must be the largest woodpile in Winston-Salem (the blog is convinced that the wood pile is visible on Google maps). We then crossed Country Club Road to look at a new development on Park Ridge Circle next to South Fork Park (about which more may be said in a future post) and strolled further down the street. This took us past the impressive Odd Fellows Clubhouse and a very odd abandoned chimney that appears to have once been part of a house. Although the Odd Fellows are certainly mysterious, it proved possible with a little online sleuthing to find out that they are a fraternal organization derived from societies formed in England in the 18th century. The organizing principle is one of Christian altruism - originally members supported other members in need, but now the focus is on community service, international charity, and on having the best possible float in the Rose Bowl Parade (it's not possible to make this stuff up). The blog also learned that Winston-Salem is the site of what might be thought of as the North American mothership, the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, that the clubhouse is occasionally used for weddings, and that the largest African-American Cemetery in Forsyth County was supported by none other than the Odd Fellows. But the old chimney at the corner of the Odd Fellows property keeps its secrets...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Zillow knows all, and mending a wall

Tuesday evening we returned to the Country Club Road area to see what was on the other side of Bennett Road. No surprises here - an upscale neighborhood. In the end we wandered down to the Breckinridge community of cluster homes, where we found much to admire, although Jon did not like the ubiquitous brown paint. This is a large subdivision, built in 1984, and we were amazed not to encounter any For Sale signs. Could any community in Winston be so settled and happy that no one wants or needs to leave? Zillow revealed that by and large this is true: only 3 nicely-priced houses for sale (and one is "pending"). But hear this plea echoing from 128 Breckindale Circle (284 days on the market): SELLER WILL PAY FULL 1ST YRS HOA DUES W/ACC OFFER!! ML everything-no steps inside! Recent HVAC (2006), roof (2005) and recent carpet & paint. Gas log frplc & nice patio. Community pool, tennis and clubhouse included in HOA fee. Best value in Breckinridge! Jon, note the "no steps inside." The photo is of the newly mended Merrimont Hills wall, showing a nice view of Silas Creek Parkway.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More country than club

We were back in the Country Club Road area again last night, walking the entirety of Philips Bridge Road between Country Club and Styers Ferry Roads. This is one of the least walker-friendly roads we've encountered recently, used mainly for access to the National Little League Fields (built in 1965 on land given by the Hanes Corporation) or as a cut-through to Country Club Road. Here is where Winston-Salem's rural edges are most evident - the transition from megachurches (Calvary Baptist, founded in a tent during a revival meeting in 1919, dominates the area) and shopping centers and condo developments to Lukon Lane is surprisingly abrupt. Two small, closely adjacent houses that we walked by that were well stocked with dogs and abandoned cars are not even considered to be houses on Zillow (follow this link and then move to the left on the map down Lukon Lane and try to spot them)...but this is a good place in Winston-Salem for views of the sky, and to make the point here is Jon's July 1 photo of moonrise over Country Club Road.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The farm vs. the estates

Would you rather live on a farm or an estate? Citizens of Winston-Salem can choose between Greenbriar Estates and Greenbriar Farm. The blog has visited both recently. The "farm" is larger and definitely upscale relative to the "estates," but it still seems that a developer might have wanted to avoid the potential for confusion. The blog would further like to note that both developers were creative spellers (a greenbrier is a real thing - the prickly woody vine commonly seen in the woods in the eastern US - it's unlikely that any actual greenbriers would be tolerated on either the farm or the estates). For the record, Google Maps adheres to the dictionary spelling (and therefore does not match the signage at Greenbriar Farm).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

NOT on a summer schedule

The blog sincerely regrets missing a few days of posting. Things started to go wrong when Susan realized that Friday was a Wake Forest holiday, and decided that Thursday was therefore functionally Friday, and therefore, wine should be drunk on Thursday...fortunately, a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains on Saturday brought some needed fresh air, perspective, and several hundred new photos. The trouble with photographing the mountains is that they are SO BLUE that they look artificially colored. Jon spent a lot of time photographing a tree growing sinuously around an enormous boulder near the Linn Cove Viaduct (the very last piece of the parkway to be completed - not until 1987 - and an important element in the movie Goodbye Solo). Later in the hike we climbed the same boulder (Jon boldly, Susan with trepidation) for an even better views of travelers on the parkway.