Our History As a Historic Hotel
A fascinating key to Winston-Salem's history is preserved in the Brookstown Inn, an elegant bed and breakfast-style hostelry which opened in 1985. For almost half a century, the old brick building was no more than a nondescript warehouse, and not until the late 1970s was it recognized as the community's first factory.
1835: The business leaders of the Moravian congregation of Salem took the first step in moving textile crafts from a cottage industry to mass production. With the approval of the church elders, Francis Levin Fries and other local businessmen organized the Salem Manufacturing Company to build a factory on the western edge of Salem. Thirty investors subscribed $50,000.
1836: Fries was dispatched to New England to study textile manufacturing processes. The stockholders held their first meeting on July 9, 1836. Machinery was ordered from Baltimore and Fries supervised the construction of the three-story mill.
1837: The Salem Cotton Mill began operations.
1846: Fries, having left to start his own woolen manufacturing company, joined forces with his brother, Henry, to establish another mill under F. & H. Fries Manufacturing Co. The Fries brothers' enterprise flourished, while the Salem Cotton Mill began to flounder.
1850: The Salem Cotton Mill was on the market for sale.
1854: Former Governor of North Carolina John M. Moorehead purchased the Mill.
1856: The yarn market turned soft and the Mill was refitted with flour milling machinery and became Wachovia Flour Mill.
1863: F. & H. Fries Manufacturing Company acquired the Mill. Francis Fries died, leaving his sons to continue his work. The original mill continued grist mill-type operations.
1880: A large addition (now the East Wing) is made to the original building, becoming the Arista Cotton Mill, which was the first factory in the South to be lit by electricity. Electric power was produced at the Fries Mill Power Station, a triangular building adjacent to the complex on the west side.
1880s through 1900: The entire Mill complex now operated as a dual flour (old portion) and cotton (new portion) manufacturing mill and was an important factor in the prosperity of the growing city of Salem, employing about 150 men and women. In the late 1800s, a four-story facade was added to the original three-story building, as well as additions on the west side.
circa 1900: The Wachovia Flour Mill (old building) suspended operations and was converted for use by the Arista Cotton Mill (new building) back into a cotton milling operation.
Mid 1920s: The Arista Cotton Mill suspended operations in the complex permanently.
circa 1930 through late 1970s: The mill complex was used as a warehouse by Lentz Transfer and Storage Company.
1976: The mill complex was slated for demolition to build a new warehouse by the Lentz Company. Local preservationists and historians identified the Mill as the city's oldest factory, saving it from the wrecking ball.
late 1970s through early 1980s: The entire mill complex became listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans began for conversion to a small bed & breakfast, various shops and a restaurant.
November 1984: The Brookstown Inn, with forty-one rooms, opened in the oldest part of the complex, Winston-Salem's oldest factory.
1990/1991: A large portion of the East Wing (1880 addition) was purchased and converted to Suites and incorporated into the Brookstown Inn. The Inn now operates with 71 total rooms.
Fries and his sons were Salem's first true industrialists. Their Mill complex stands as a permanent reminder of the industrial revolution as it was first experienced here. The building has been restored to a use, as a lodging facility, which makes these moments in history accessible and vivid to thousands of visitors every year.