Once a Moravian settlement founded in 1753, Historic Bethabara Park in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a 183-acre wildlife preserve including four restored historic buildings and four reconstructed historic buildings.
“Meaning ‘House of Passage,’ Bethabara was only meant to be a temporary settlement, but the French & Indian War and other factors delayed the construction of the central town of Salem,” said Diana Overbey, assistant historic parks supervisor at the City of Winston-Salem Recreation & Parks Department.
Archaeologist Stanley South used original maps and records left by the Moravians to excavate the site in the 1960s, ultimately unearthing the root cellars of structures.
While tours are not specific to middle and high school students, Overbey said there are many ways to tailor tours to fit these age groups’ curriculums.
“We strive to create as much of a hands-on experience as we can with our school tours,” Overbey said. “This can include writing on slates in a classroom, playing with colonial games, helping our guides process flax into linen fiber and watching our blacksmith at work.”
Start a visit at the attraction’s Visitor Center — featuring facts and histories of the Moravians. Next, get a guided tour of the 1788 Gemeinhaus, meaning “meeting house.” This structure is the only German colonial church with attached minister’s living quarters remaining in the U.S.
Watch a number of hands-on demonstrations of the many trades found in this 18th-century settlement, like pottery and woodworking.
“They can also go down to the reconstructed 1754 Village and see what life was like during the very first years of the settlement,” Overbey said. “They can walk around the Palisade area and see the many foundations that were excavated by Stanley South.”
Looking to add in a little natural science with history? The park features two walking trails — one leading to the Moravian cemetery called God’s Acre, the other going around the 18th-century mill site.
“They’ll see lots of wildlife along the way, so there’s an opportunity for them to get a history lesson and a science lesson while they are here,” Overbey said.
Historic Bethabara is also home to two gardens, the Medicinal Garden and the Community Garden. Other features include two separate picnic areas that can be reserved for groups and a gift shop. Self-guided tours are also available, made easy through the park’s interpretation signs, maps and mobile app.
“Historic Bethabara Park is a unique site,” Overbey said. “We are able to tell the story of what life was like when the Moravians first arrived in North Carolina, about their failures and eventual successes, and how large the town grew due to those successes.”
Reservations are required for groups exceeding 10. For more information, call 336-924-8191 or go to historicbethabara.org. •