Established in 1772 by early Moravian settlers, Salem is the oldest educational institution for girls and women in the United States. The earliest building on campus is the Single Sisters House, which stands as one of the most significant buildings in the history of women’s education in the United States. Built in 1785 and enlarged in 1819, Single Sisters House is the oldest building on a college campus in North Carolina. It is the longest standing building in the United States continuously associated with the education of girls and women.
The story of the Single Sisters House dates back to a time in American history when education for women was a radical idea. Its remarkable story began in 1766 when sixteen brave young women journeyed from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to their new home in the wilds of North Carolina. These Single Sisters, unmarried women of the Moravian community, later established a house of their own–the Single Sisters House–in the village of Salem, North Carolina. They moved into their new home on April 5, 1786, twenty years after that 500-mile trek from Pennsylvania. The 16,000 square foot structure sheltered dedicated teachers and female students who were eager to learn mathematics, science, and geography, along with the arts of music, drawing, and needlework. The Single Sisters, the unmarried women of the Moravian community, operated the school for many years as one of their successful entrepreneurial enterprises. The building is a lasting reminder of the value of equal education and opportunity for women.
In 2005, with assistance from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Services’ Save America’s Treasures Fund, Salem’s goal of restoring this building to active use became a reality. Salem hired a Philadelphia firm, Marianna Thomas Architects, with experience in historic preservation, since the careful restoration of this noteworthy structure was important to the campus as well as the wider community. The College pursued a multi-use approach to the preservation of Single Sisters House, including the Museum, which is now open to the public. The story of the Single Sisters, women whose strong faith, leadership, and community service helped to build an educational institution that thrives more than 230 years later, needed to be told.
The restored Single Sisters House was formally reopened in April 2007 and is once again a vital part of the Salem campus.
The Single Sisters Museum is located within the historic Single Sisters House on the campus of Salem Academy and College and gives visitors a fascinating overview of a building that has been in use since 1786.
The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m.-noon on Saturdays. The Museum is closed on Sundays.
Contact the Single Sisters Museum at (336) 721-2600.