The Evolution of Downtown Winston-Salem

By: Amy Hill

Photos: Doug Rice Photography

Whether you’re craving ice cream from the Lill Dipper on a Saturday afternoon, or heading to Sunday brunch at Young Cardinal Cafe and Co. on 4th Street, Downtown Winston-Salem has its own unique allure and is more bustling now than ever. New luxury apartment complexes have been popping up in the Downtown area as more and more residents gravitate towards an urban lifestyle. Craft cocktail lounges, dining options featuring eccentric cuisine, and one-of-a-kind boutiques draw visitors daily (and nightly). With free on-street parking after 5 p.m. and on weekends, locals are ditching crowded shopping centers and chain restaurants in exchange for character and charm.

Doug Rice, photographer and 33-year resident of Winston-Salem, has brilliantly captured photographs revealing the evolution of Downtown Winston-Salem. All pictures can be found on the digital copy or in print. 

As a Winston-Salem local since 1987, Doug states, “The redevelopment of the blocks around and including the Old Bailey Power Plant have been the biggest change. As a photographer, I enjoyed shooting the area before it was renovated, but the rebirth has given Winston-Salem a beneficial new hub for activity.” Today, locals and tourists flock to Bailey Park on Saturday evenings for a bite of pizza at Cugino Forno, or for a cold beer (or two) at Incendiary Brewing. With ample outdoor seating and plenty of character, these are great options to safely gather with friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alma Mexicana, a newer restaurant nearby featuring contemporary Mexican cuisine, is an excellent spot for margaritas and ceviche on the patio.

As for Doug’s personal favorite area of Downtown, he prefers the Arts District. According to Doug, “It retains a friendlier feel with a hometown atmosphere.” Popular activities in the Arts District may include dinner and drinks on the striking patio of Sixth and Vine, or exploring Art for Art’s Sake’s (AFAS) Artivity on the Green, an art park located at 630 N. Liberty Street.

As downtown living becomes more popular, it is inevitable that Downtown Winston-Salem will continue to grow and evolve. When asked how he would like to see the area change in the future, Doug replied, “I hope efforts will continue to preserve the old buildings and their history.” For those sharing the same hopes as Doug, beautiful loft apartments at the Winston Factory Lofts, located at 675 North Main Street, are prime examples of industrial buildings built in 1920 being converted into modern-day apartments without losing their historic charm. Nearby, the Nissen Building apartments on 4th Street provide lovely accommodations in the well-preserved, 18-story skyscraper built in 1927. The building’s stunning golden elevators are selling points on their own.

For those desiring a more historical feel, one may enjoy an early morning cappuccino from Camino Bakery in Brookstown (my personal favorite), followed by a visit to Old Salem. Employees located in the downtown area can frequently be spotted exercising on their lunch break throughout the area, as it is walkable and provides a quieter and more nature-filled environment to help employees recharge before returning to work for the rest of the day. For those who want to live downtown for an affordable monthly rent, the Hilltop House Downtown Apartments on Cherry Street South are an ideal option located within a 15-minute walking distance to the heart of downtown. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to sneak a peek of the friendly cat who resides at the Historic Brookstown Inn – just don’t feed him! If you’re even luckier, you may catch a glimpse of Doug in action, too!


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