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Reviewed by:
  • Winston-Salem’s Architectural Heritage by Heather Fearnbach
  • Lisa C. Tolbert
Winston-Salem’s Architectural Heritage. By Heather Fearnbach. ( Winston-Salem, N.C.: Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission, 2015. Pp. [xviii], 790. $60.00, ISBN 978-0-692-35474-2.)

Weighing nearly ten pounds, this architectural survey is no portable field guide. It is a beautifully produced, comprehensive survey of the architectural heritage of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from its mid-eighteenth-century backcountry origins through the industrialized world of the twentieth century, that is worth every penny of its sixty-dollar price tag. The book is the culmination of extensive research, including fieldwork and oral histories and in deed and plat books, city directories, city records, newspapers, and other archival resources, to document Winston-Salem’s architectural history.

In keeping with good architectural survey methods, Heather Fearnbach organizes the book geographically rather than chronologically. This choice locates Old Salem, which is typically the historic face of Winston-Salem for Piedmont tourists, in the second half of the book, opening up a more diverse and comprehensive view of Winston-Salem’s architectural past. The tour [End Page 739] begins downtown and works its way outward across the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown core. Each section begins with a historical overview and includes detailed information about individual historic resources within each neighborhood. Well-designed maps show the locations of specific properties, and archival and field photographs illustrate every page. Although residences represent the bulk of the properties surveyed, the book also includes important information about a wide range of government buildings, schools, churches, and commercial and industrial structures that document the significance of Winston-Salem in the urban New South, particularly the city’s history with the tobacco, textile, and furniture industries. Beyond the coverage of specific buildings, the book also details a range of landmarks such as bridges, park pavilions, fairgrounds, and gas stations. A closing section on architects and builders provides biographical information about firms established in the 1950s or earlier and includes information about general contractors. Eighty-eight pages of detailed endnotes offer a research trail for those who wish to delve into the sources.

Those looking for the social history of Winston-Salem will not find much information about the role that segregation ordinances played in shaping the city at the turn of the twentieth century; or about the labor history of striking tobacco workers in the 1940s that played out across the factory landscapes detailed in the survey; or about the contentious, race-based politics of urban renewal that profoundly reshaped the cityscape in the second half of the twentieth century. However, this book is nevertheless a very inclusive history of the city’s architectural past that ranges from working-class factory neighborhoods to picturesque middle-class suburbs to the high-style residences of wealthy industrialists. It presents a city that was built by white and black residents, by workers and industrialists, and by men and women of diverse backgrounds, faiths, and aspirations.

This book will certainly be of interest to the residents of Winston-Salem, whom the Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission hopes to reach with this beautiful publication. But Fearnbach’s impressive work broadens the appeal of this survey to audiences beyond the local area as a well-researched reference guide for understanding how the architectural record of Winston-Salem documents the histories of diverse people who built the urban New South.

Lisa C. Tolbert
University of North Carolina at Greensboro


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pp. 739-740
Launched on MUSE
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