by RENEE SKUDRA
Over the past six years, I’ve visited 60 or so towns in North Carolina as well as the six largest cities in the state. If truth be told, I love them all but admit to a particular love for the small places whose inhabitants particularly seem hospitable and eager to share the small beauties and interesting facts that are part of the places where they reside. Recently, I had the new pleasure of becoming acquainted with Lewisville, only a 10-minute drive from Winston-Salem. Established in 1859 (although not officially incorporated until 1991), Lewisville has a small-town feel and a rural character. Home to approximately 14,000 people, its sense of community and pride are readily apparent. I was fortunate to have a long talk with Mayor Mike Horn who waxed grandiloquent about conserving that community feeling, its historic buildings and the legacy of Lewisville while also firmly attesting to following a policy of “no growth at any cost.” He proudly pointed out many of the city’s highlights including antiquated houses, country land where you could see horses and cattle grazing, the Shallowford Square popular for its numerous community activities attracting a good number of folks and the new Mary Alice Warren Community Center with its panoply of art shows and other events. He also informed me that Lewisville boasted the largest Christmas parade in Forsyth County as well as its top-performing schools.
With his advice fresh in mind, my son and I spent the day exploring the city. We began our journey at the Coffee Mill, one of almost 100 historic buildings. The shop is located in the old Roller Mill building which was erected in 1910 by the J.P. Sprinkle family. A primary granary and feed store were on site, perfect for what was originally a farming community. Jeff Blair, the owner of the Coffee Mill personally gave us a tour of his lovely business which has a real “down home” feel replete with many vintage photos on its walls, original wood floors and ceilings, nooks inside where you can read a book or play chess and a lovely porch outside to enjoy what is reputedly the best coffee in Forsyth County.
We continued our tour by visiting most of the 16 historical markers in the city and some of its oldest homes. The Historic George Elias Nissen home, located at 213 Arrow Leaf Drive was built around 1876 and is distinguished by the combination of Greek Revival and Italianate styles and eight fireplaces in the original structure. Nissen was the son of John Phillip Nissen, the founder of the Nissen Wagon Works in 1832. After serving in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, he returned home, married, established a successful gristmill and operated the Laugenour-Nissen sawmill with his brother-in-law, Lewis Laugenour. We also had a chance to visit the Lewis Laugenour House, built in 1860. He was an early community benefactor for whom the town is named, and according to the historical marker, his house is one of the best examples of the Greek Revival Style in Forsyth County.
I had a chance to speak at length with a very personable resident, Merrikay Brown, from the Lewisville Historical Society who provided a veritable wealth of information about her community. She pointed out that Lewisville had been strategically important because the Great Wagon Road that ran between Pennsylvania and Georgia passed directly through it. The Shallow Ford of the Yadkin River was close by, providing trade routes for the Nissen Wagons which transported cotton, wool, tobacco, corn and other essentials to numerous destinations beyond the Tar Heel State. She mentioned several prominent citizens who called Lewisville their home including Joseph Williams who was a famous Indian fighter and, in the 1750s, had a plantation near the river. She also referred to the Battle of the Shallow Ford which was fought on October 14, 1780 wherein one Whig and 14 Tories were killed in the short firefight. The Patriots won with minimal losses on each side. There was also a Civil War skirmish – part of Stoneman’s Raid – at the Shallow Ford on the Yadkin River near Lewisville. Initially Lewisville was a stopover to Winston-Salem but went on to develop its own robust community, which its citizens are more than happy to discuss.
There are several lovely parks which visitors should be sure to see, notably the Jack Warren Park and Joanie Moser Park, both of which have walking trails, picnic tables and playgrounds. The Oak Shopping Center is noteworthy for a great antique store and Antonio’s Italian restaurant. Check out Alex’s Café, Liberty Restaurant, Old Nick’s Distillery and Lewisville’s main street, Shallowford Road. An excursion to Lewisville offers lovely topography, appealing food haunts, places to sightsee, serenity and an exceptionally welcoming citizenry. Lewisville is, in a word, enchanting.