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Get the first look at the future Peter Oliver Pavilion Gallery

The public space will honor the life and legacy of a man who freed himself from enslavement.

Aerial view of trees with a giant oval with greenspace in the middle. A sign that reads "Peter Oliver" is at the entrance to the outdoor ellipse.

Visitors will be able to cross the Strollway Pedestrian Bridge from downtown to see the Peter Oliver Pavilion Gallery once it’s complete.

Rendering by Hood Design Studio via Creative Corridors Coalition

The first public space in Winston-Salem to tell the story of a man’s journey from enslavement to freedom is one step closer to reality. On Monday, June 17, City Council unanimously approved designating land at the Strollway Pedestrian Bridge for the Peter Oliver Pavilion Gallery. Here’s the first look at the project and why it’s significant.

Who was Peter Oliver?

Oliver was born into enslavement in Virginia on May 10, 1766, eventually coming to live in the Single Brothers’ House in the Moravian town of Salem, where his skills as a tradesperson, potter, brickmaker and firefighter were stolen.

On June 13, 1800 he signed his name to buy his freedom in Lancaster, PA. Pennsylvania law prohibited anyone from bringing an enslaved person into the state. It is believed that Oliver earned the money Peter Lehnert used to purchase him in NC, and that Lehnert did so with the intention of taking Oliver to PA to allow him to claim his freedom.

Oliver returned to Salem as a freedman, where he married and had six children. He rented four acres of land to farm until his death on Sept. 28, 1810. He was buried in God’s Acre.

Site of significance

The Pavilion Gallery bearing Oliver’s name will be built on the land he lived on and farmed more than 200 years ago. The area is adjacent to MUSE Winston-Salem, east of Liberty Street and south of Salem Parkway.

Brown covered walkway outdoors with pottery encased in glass. Digitized people are walking on the walkway and some are admiring the pottery pieces.

Artifacts and writings on display will help visitors get a better understanding of Oliver’s life.

Rendering by Hood Design Studio via Creative Corridors Coalition

The NC Department of Transportation acquired the land as part of the Business 40 Improvement Project (now Salem Parkway). The land will be deeded back to the city this year.

The design

Creative Corridors Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to beautifying Salem Parkway, worked closely with Oliver’s descendants, historians, and other stakeholders to get the project off the ground. The organization is accepting donations to support its construction. It also has plans to launch a capital campaign to raise funds.

People on bicycles and standing on a smooth surface facing an outdoor wall that says "Peter Oliver" and has graphics underneath. A transparent black and white photograph is on the right side of the wall's opening.

The Old Salem Hidden Town Project and the Moravian Archives are also involved in this project.

Rendering by Hood Design Studio via Creative Corridors Coalition

Renowned landscape architect Walter Hood was tapped to design the Pavilion Gallery. It will be an outdoor ellipse where visitors can learn about Oliver’s life and journey to freedom through text and artifacts. It will also be a community gathering space.

Creative Corridors Coalition hopes to break ground sometime in 2025. It’s not clear yet when it could open to the public.

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