I can not tell you how many times I have been in stores or restaurants and I hear tourists asking for directions to the Wake Forest University. When they find that although they may BE in Wake Forest the University is approximately 2 hours away……Talk about frustrated! Sometimes they even get mad like it was a whole conspiracy by the town to mislead them…….Well, here is a little history lesson regarding Wake Forest and well, Wake Forest…..
Way, way back in February of 1834 (told you it was way back) the very first class enrolled in what was then called the Wake Forest College. When the Civil War started all the students but 5 were obligated to the Confederate Army. That huge loss of student body forced the school to close in 1862. The school reopened in 1866 and thrived over the next 40 years. The campus expanded dramatically, the student enrollment increased, endowment flowed and shortly afterwards the law and medical schools were created.
Sadly, during World War I the enrollment dipped again but the impact had no where near the effect of the Civil War. Shortly after the war conflict enrollment increased once again.
In 1934 the school celebrated it centennial! Again, war disrupted campus life (World War II) and enrollment dropped. To counter balace the sudden loss of student body the school altered it’s admission policy and starting enrolling women for the very first time. Life around campus was changed forever!
Shortly after the war the school was approached with an offer from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to partially fund the school only if it moved to Winston-Salem, NC. After consideration the offer was accepted to move Wake Forest College. The current campus was then sold to the Convention to establish the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary which still exists today and thrives in Wake Forest.
Planning and construction then began on the new 23 acre campus in Winston-Salem, NC for the new home of the Wake Forest College. The groundbreaking ceremony took place in 1951.
Spring of 1956 was a very sad time for the residents on Wake Forest, NC as they watched the moving vans leaving and the migration to Wake Forest’s College new home in Winston-Salem, NC had finally come. A wonderful society was formed (Wake Forest Garden Club) and they spearheaded the efforts to save the Calvin Jones house which was the original birthplace of the Wake Forest College. It still stands today having been preserved through various efforts and is a reminder of our rich, educational past. While the college may no longer reside here in Wake Forest the legacy remains! The original home which housed the college has been preserved and is open for visitors as the Wake Forest Museum. The Wake Forest Museum is dedicated to preserving the Wake Forest College history prior to its move and just a few of the items available for viewing are an impressive collection of photos, books, college publications, furniture, documents, professors’ writings, and medical, law and sports memorabilia. The Museum is open Tues.-Fri. from 10am-Noon and 1:30pm-4:30pm. On Sundays it is open from 3pm-5pm. Admission is FREE!
As a resident of Wake Forest I can honestly say that the town has retained much of it’s historic past! This is one of a handful of towns that have retained their heritage and promoted preservation. While we do have modern stores and restaurants in the Wake Forest area the heart of downtown Wake Forest has survived the encroachment through the tremendous efforts of the The Birthplace Society’s Board, Historic Preservation Commission, and The Planning Board.
I hope that you take the time to explore Wake Forest and all that it has to offer!