In Winston-Salem, A 200-Year Journey From Farmland To Park Land

In Winston-Salem, A 200-Year Journey From Farmland To Park Land

9:08am Apr 11, 2019
Robin Paul (left) and other descendants of Peter Oliver listen as the history of Oliver's farmland is discussed in downtown Winston-Salem Wednesday. PAUL GARBER/WFDD

Winston-Salem officials have announced plans for a downtown park as part of the remaking of Business 40, and newly uncovered information could lead to a new vision for the land.  

The land is off Liberty Street where a pedestrian bridge is planned to span the new Business 40.

Researchers from Old Salem’s Hidden Town project have traced land adjacent to the proposed park to a four-acre tract of farmland once owned by Peter Oliver.

He came to the area in 1784 as a slave to help build a fledgling settlement. He was eventually baptised in the Moravian Church and went on to become a well-known potter. Oliver bought his freedom in 1802.

Robin Paul, one of Oliver’s descendants and the mother of basketball superstar Chris Paul, says her family was thrilled to hear about the connection to the land.

“Just to know that our ancestors had some land and Old Salem was able to find it, and now hopefully we can get this park and this strollway, we’re just really excited about this,” she says.

The city council will consider purchasing the land as part of a bond package for community projects next week.

There’s a building on the site which could be left in place or torn down for more green space.

Paul says she’d be happy whether the building stays or is removed.

The idea is to create a connection between the city’s downtown north of Business 40 and the Old Salem area just south of it. The pedestrian bridge is being built with the help of the Creative Corridors Coalition, a local organization that has raised money to provide enhancements along the renewed Business 40 corridor.

The landscaped strollway bridge was designed by Walter Hood, an African-American landscape architect who graduated from North Carolina A&T University.

Hood is also working on the design for the park.

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