Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Single Sisters House

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Institution Name: Salem College
Original/Historic Place Name: Single Sisters House
Location on Campus: Church St. on Salem Square
Date(s) of Construction:
1785original construction
Designer: unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Regionalist/Vernacular, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stuccoed stone
Walls: brick
Roof: tile
ca. 1785residence hall (for Single Sisters of Salem, faculty, and students)
ca. 2004-present (2006)student union (lounge and study area for commuting students)

The Single Sisters House is the most important of five buildings from the original 18th-century town of Salem which now serve as Salem College residence halls, classrooms, and administrative offices. All of the buildings erected in Salem since that time, as well as the brick walkways, hooded archways over doors, and even the benches, lightposts, and steps have been carefully designed to complement these earliest structures. Single Sisters House, built in 1785, is the oldest college building in North Carolina and the oldest college residence for women in America. An extension was added to the Single Sisters House in 1819. The house is where the school for girls, founded in 1772 by the Single Sisters in the Salem community, had its beginnings, and from which evolved today's Salem Academy and College, the oldest school in America dedicated to the education of women.

The Single Sisters House typifies much of what has come to be thought of as Salem architecture. One notable exterior architectural feature is the "kick," an upward tilt of the eaves of the building. This device directed water away from the sides of the building while allowing the weight of the roof to sit squarely on the walls. The kick was found on most buildings erected in Salem prior to 1800. Also common to this and other buildings of the time were curved window arches. The brick technique used on this building, developed in Flanders, is the dominant mode of masonry construction in Salem. Its characteristic use of stretchers alternating with headers requires small closure bricks at windows and doors.

The interior of Single Sisters also has important architectural considerations. Many of the doors, windows, metal locks, and hinges are original to the building. Some of the interior features and materials are irreplaceable from an historic perspective.


Gaines, Thomas A. The Campus as a Work of Art. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Hartley, Michael O., and Martha B. Boxley. Salem Survey 1997. Winston-Salem, NC: Old Salem, Inc., 1997.

Hartley, Michael O., and Martha B. Boxley. Survey Files for Salem National Register Landmark District Proposal. Winston-Salem, NC: Old Salem, Inc., 1997.

Old Salem Historic District [including Salem College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1966.

Rauschenberg, Bradford L., and David Bergstone. Old Salem Single Sisters House Recording Project. Photographs by Eric H. Rauschenberg. [Winston-Salem, NC: s.n.], 1994.

Rauschenberg, Bradford L. Salem College Study. Winston-Salem, NC: Wachovia Historical Society, 1983.

Sisters House [Salem College]. Historic American Buildings Survey report and photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1940.


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Last update: November 2006