Since its founding in 1970, the Salem Historical Society has been one of the most successful groups in our region in promoting historic preservation. Below are some of the projects in which we have been involved prior to Preston Place.
The Williams-Brown House
In 1986, the owner of this important structure (1845) donated it to what was then a fledgling group. Conditions of the donation required the house be relocated, a major undertaking which was accomplished and paid in full over the next few years. The building today houses the Salem Museum, and has recently been expanded with a $3 million addition.
Monterey and The Clay Street House
Longtime Salem Historical Society member and supporter Katherine Burke lived in the spectacular antebellum mansion Monterey on High Street. The Salem Historical Society assisted her in the mid-1990s in listing her home on the National Register of Historic Places and in advising her on preservation of the property. When Roanoke College acquired the property after Katherine’s death, we again assisted in providing information and encouragement to the new owners. In addition, we encouraged the College to preserve two other structures on the site: a rear outbuilding and a circa-1850 frame building at the corner of Clay and Thompson Memorial (known as the Clay Street House or the Tanyard Cabin). The College has committed to saving these important structures.
Andrew Lewis High School
When the City of Salem envisioned plans to renovate or possibly replace the 1934 school building, The Salem Historical Society encouraged the City and School Board to preserve the historic façade and other architectural features. They listened, and the subsequent renovation proceeded with the historic integrity of the beloved landmark in mind.
The Wiley House
In 2000, expansion of the Salem Post Office on Main Street threatened two historic homes. One was acquired and moved by a private owner. The Salem Historical Society intervened to relocate the other, the 1883 Wiley House, a charming cottage associated with the legendary physician and Civil War veteran Dr. Oscar Wiley. The house was successfully relocated to Chestnut Street and sold to a private owner, with restrictive covenants in place to preserve the architectural features. While the Salem Historical Society took a small loss on the project overall, we accomplished our mission of preserving our heritage.
Valley Railroad Arch
The Salem Historical Society and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources encouraged radio station WSLQ to nominate for the National Register an historic railroad arch just north of town on the station’s property. We endorsed the project, and also assisted with research and advice. Later we were instrumental in encouraging the City of Salem to carry out some needed repairs on the arch, helping to stabilize this intriguing remnant of our local past.