The Belo Home dominates the corner of Main and Bank Streets in impressive splendor, built by one of the wealthiest residents of Salem. In the midst of quaint and lovely 18th century German brick and mortar structures, the Belo Home is not without its admirers and has a legitimate claim to historical significance in Moravian, regional, and architectural history.
The home is noted as an important example of Greek Revival architecture in the south. Talbot Hamlin, an expert on American Greek Revival architecture, comments that the Main Street faÃ§ade is “original in conception as it is skillful in execution,” and that the house is “one of the loveliest as it is one of the most original in the South.” The influence of the Belo Home design is evident in Salem College’s Main Hall (1854) and in the Edward Leinbach House (1855).
The property upon which the structure sits first came into the Belo family when it was purchased in 1808 by Johann Friedrich Belo. Johann Friedrich’s son, Edward, was born in 1811. Like his father, the younger Belo was trained in cabinet making. He studied at the Boys School in Salem, then apprenticed in Pennsylvania as a young man. Back in Salem, Belo married Caroline Amanda Fries in 1837. At about that same time, he simplified the spelling of the family name to Belo. Earlier spellings included Boehlow, Boelo, and Below. As a young man, he proved to be entrepreneurial and civic-minded. Belo purchased and ran a linseed oil mill north of Salem. After a few years he tore down the mill and replaced it with an iron foundry.
Belo made plans to open a dry goods store, and in 1849 he bought his widowed mother’s house as well as his brother’s house on the adjoining lot. He submitted plans and received permission to build a home that would front an imposing 150 feet on Main Street. The 110-foot long center frame structure is flanked on either end by three story brick sections, each 20 feet wide by 50 feet deep. The middle section is recessed six feet behind the brick sections and was originally two stories. The cost of the initial structure was approximately $3000. Belo’s mercantile business was on the first floor. The second floor was where he, his wife, and their seven children resided, with an entrance from the Bank Street side. A columned portico and third story was added to the central frame section in 1859, and the third story provided living quarters for the store clerks who were employed by Belo.
Belo designed and carved from wood the patterns used for the Corinthian column capitals and the decorative iron grillwork so prominently displayed on the porches. The best-loved and most notable feature of the house may be the life-sized cast iron figures of two dogs and a lion, positioned at their posts along the south wall at the sidewalk. The store was very successful, and he ran it until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he retired to his farm north of town. Belo had long advocated for the establishment of a railroad. After the War, he formed the North Western North Carolina Railroad Company with other investors. The track was completed in 1873, providing the first railroad between Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
Belo’s flower gardens were also a showcase in Salem, where he nurtured “alluring roses which grew in such boundless profusion and filled the air with their fragrant breaths.” He built elaborate greenhouses and conservatories to maintain his “petaled treasures.”
Three of Edward’s sons served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. One was Colonel Alfred Horatio Belo, who relocated to Texas after the War, and built a reproduction of the Salem Belo house in Dallas, Texas. The Texas Belo Mansion is still in use today as a conference center, owned the Dallas Bar Association. A.H. Below bequeathed the original North Carolina homeplace in memory of his parents, to be used for housing for the elderly. Renovations to the building were completed in 1961, providing 29 apartments for widows who had resided in the Single Brothers House. Their move to the Belo Home enabled the Brothers House to undergo historic renovations and become the primary exhibit building for Old Salem, Inc. Today the Belo Home is owned and maintained by Salem Congregation, an organization of twelve Moravian churches in the Winston-Salem area.
Edward Belo was widely regarded as a talented and generous man. He died in 1883.
Blair, Wm. A. “The Belo House” in Old Salem, North Carolina, edited by Mary Barrow Owen, 140-143. Garden Club of North Carolina, 1946.
Hamlin, Talbot. Greek Revival Architecture in America: Being an Account of Important Trends in American Architecture and American Life prior to the War Between the States. London: Oxford University Press, 1947. 196.
James, Hunter, and Frances Griffin, edit. Old Salem Official Guidebook. Second Revised Edition. Winston-Salem: Old Salem, Inc., 1994. 54-56.
Niven, Penelope and Cornelia Wright. Old Salem: The Official Guidebook. Winston-Salem: Old Salem, Inc. , 2000. 98-99. The Old Salem Newsletter, “The House That Edward Belo Built,” September 1960, Vol. IV, No. 1. Old Salem, Inc. 2-3, 6.
Tise, Larry Edward. “Business and Architecture,” in Winston-Salem in History, Volume 7. Winston-Salem: Historic Winston, 1976. 17-18, 53.
Wellman, Manly Wade and Larry Edward Tise. “Industry and Commerce 1766-1896,” in Winston-Salem in History, Volume 7. Winston-Salem: Historic Winston, 1976. 3, 20.