Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


May Dell

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Institution Name: Salem College
Original/Historic Place Name: Lower Pleasure Grounds
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1858original construction deSchweinitz, Robert Cogswell, Arthur R.
Designer: Robert deSchweinitz, Arthur R. Cogswell
Type of Place: Landscape site
Style: (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
1920soutdoor space (site of May Day festivals)
historicoutdoor space (for recreation and celebrations, theatrical performances, commencement, convocation, Founder's Day celebration)
presentoutdoor space (for commencement, convocation, outdoor recreation space)

In 1858, Principal Robert deSchweinitz transformed the Lower Pleasure Grounds from a heavily-wooded ravine barrier between the Academy and the College into a beautifully landscaped garden, creating rose gardens and pavilions. By the turn of the century winding walks, steep stairways, stone walls, garden buildings, and summer houses complemented the natural landscape, along with a brick springhouse that has been in use since the late 18th century. The entrance to the Lower Pleasure Grounds is marked by a stone gate built in 1896, and steep stairs built in 1934. The grounds provided an outdoor atmosphere for recreation, theatrical performances, and celebrations.

In the 1920s the Lower Pleasure Grounds earned the name May Dell, as it became the site for May Day celebrations. In 1966, to commemorate Salem's 200th anniversary, a brick and concrete amphitheater was built to host these and other celebrations still held in May Dell today, such as commencement, convocation, and outdoor recreation. The amphitheater's construction rests on Greek principles but is unique in its circular style and in being built without disturbing the natural landscape.

The May Dell is still used in its traditional capacity by Salem Academy and College. It has played an important role in campus history, serving the school as a place for social and educational celebrations and gatherings since 1858.


Albright, Frank, and Frank Horton. "History of Properties in Old Salem." Manuscript. Siewers Archive Room, Dale H. Gramley Library, Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC, 1970.

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

Salem College Alumnae Record 6, no. 1 [n.d.].

Taylor, Gwynne Stephens. From Frontier to Factory: An Architectural History of Forsyth County. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1981.

Taylor, Susan. Salem Campus Tour. [Salem, NC: Salem College], 1990.


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