Events & Activities

Salem Museum Talk and Tour: Historic Monterey and The Quarters at Roanoke College
Talk: Monday, March 16 at 7 pm
Tour: Saturday, March 21, 11 am to 2 pm

The Roanoke College campus includes a number of historic structures, but three of them—a large antebellum mansion, the slave quarters that served the house, and a nearby family home—provide a rare window into life in Salem in the mid-1800s. This remarkably intact set of antebellum structures provides a great opportunity for students in the College’s Public History program to explore the past, but they are rarely open to the public. All three buildings have recently undergone award-winning restorations, and are finding new life as College facilities.

On Monday, March 16 at 7 pm, Dr. Whitney Leeson and Dr. Jesse Bucher, history professors at Roanoke College, will discuss the history of Monterey and The Quarters, the buildings’ restoration, and what has been discovered about the residents of each. The talk will be held at the Salem Museum, and is free and open to the public.

On Saturday, March 21, from 11 am to 2 pm, Roanoke College History students will offer tours of Monterey, the Quarters, and the Clay Street House, sharing information about the history and restoration of each dwelling. Dr. Mark Miller, professor of history at Roanoke College, has organized the tours. Guests are advised to arrive no later than 1:30 pm. Ample parking is available in the College’s Olin Hall lot off Thompson Memorial Drive, with handicapped parking at Monterey. Participants are invited to start at the Clay Street House, located on Clay Street across from the parking lot for the Roanoke County Circuit Court, and then walk up the steps by the Library to tour Monterey and The Quarters. The tours are free.

About the 1800s structures on the Roanoke College Campus
Located at the corner of High and Clay streets, Monterey has federal, state and local historic landmark status. The large, Greek Revival-style house was built in 1853 for Powell Huff, a Salem businessman. Monterey had been a hotel, a rooming house, a fraternity house, and was a private residence from the 1920s until the College purchased it in 2002. The historic home is now used as the Faculty House meeting space and serves as the College’s guest house.

Situated behind Monterey is a two-story building known as the Monterey Quarters. The unusual four-room brick structure was home to slaves who lived upstairs and worked below, spinning, weaving, and sewing. Students have identified 14 individuals who were enslaved at Monterey. The College has modernized the first floor for classrooms, with exhibit space on the second floor for interpreting the life of enslaved peoples living in southwest Virginia in the 1850s and 1860s. Roanoke College’s renovation work at Monterey and The Quarters was recognized by the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation with a preservation award in 2019.

The Clay Street House is a rare, surviving example of a modest, one-and-a-half story frame dwelling, one of the oldest standing structures in Salem. It was built in the mid-19th century, and originally had only two rooms, which would have been considered sufficient for a family at the time. When the College’s renovations at Clay Street House began, the building was seriously dilapidated. The restoration was so successful that the College received a preservation award from the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation in 2017. Students gained hands-on experience in preservation, interpretation and archeology at the site.

About the speakers
Dr. Whitney A. M. Leeson is Professor of History at Roanoke College and a former member of the Board of the Salem Museum. She has a B.A. in Anthropology and History from the College of William & Mary, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Virginia. Her research and teaching interests include Economic Anthropology, Historical Archaeology, Medieval France, Gift Exchange, Kinship and Marriage, and New World Contact and Colonization.

Dr. Jesse W. Bucher is Associate Professor in the History Department at Roanoke College. He holds a B.A. from The College of New Jersey and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. His research and teaching interests include Modern Africa, South Africa, East Africa, World History, History of the Atlantic World, Postcolonial Studies, and Environmental History. He was a MacArthur Fellow, Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, University of Minnesota, 2004-10.

Salem Museum Book Talk: The Roanoke Valley in the 1940s
A new book by noted historian Nelson Harris
Tuesday, March 17 at 7 pm

Noted local historian Nelson Harris will share fascinating stories from our region’s history as he talks about his new book, The Roanoke Valley in the 1940s. Six years in the making, the Rev. Harris’ book meticulously documents the history of the Roanoke Valley from 1940-1949. The talk is free and open to the public. The 1940s were a monumental decade nationally and locally. Nelson Harris gleaned all things noteworthy—in sports, business, religion, entertainment, civil rights, politics, municipal projects, disasters, crime, and medicine—plus an assortment of the odd and unusual. The 650-page book is thoroughly indexed and enhanced with 300 archival photographs from the collections of local museums, colleges, municipalities, organizations, and individuals. Proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the Roanoke Public Library Foundation which provided the underwriting for Harris’ research.

Nelson Harris is a native and former mayor of Roanoke. He has been the pastor of Heights Community Church since 1999 and is an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Western Community College. He holds degrees from Radford University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a past president of the Historical Society of Western Virginia and is the author of twelve books, including Downtown Roanoke, Roanoke Valley: Then and Now, A History of Back Creek, Aviation in Roanoke, and Hidden History of Roanoke.

It’s the Bee’s Knees! Salem in the Roaring Twenties
Main Gallery Exhibit:  Through March 21

The Salem Museum takes a look back at life in our hometown a century ago with a new main gallery feature exhibit which opens Saturday, February 22. The exhibit will include personal stories, artifacts, and photographs that explore everyday life—and the nightlife—of the Roaring Twenties. Icons of the decade are also included: a still that produced a lot of moonshine in the ‘20s and six flamboyant flapper dresses from the Museum’s collection. Read more…