Old Salem Coffee Pot – Winston-Salem, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura
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Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Old Salem Coffee Pot

This roadside attraction has been serving out its fair share of hearty folklore and chaos since 1858. 

Built in 1858 by Moravian tinsmith brothers Julius and Samuel Mickey to promote their shop, this massive tin coffee pot (previously called the Mickey Coffee Pot) was an overnight sensation for locals and visitors alike. At just over 7 feet tall, the giant kettle can hold up to 740 gallons, or about 11,840 cups of brew. 

Through the years, legends have swirled around the monument, keeping it in the public eye and turning it into a nostalgic landmark.

Visitors are told that the Moravians that founded the village of Salem drink coffee from the pot on Easter Sunday, but it’s unlikely that coffee has ever been brewed in the large kettle. But the most common, unprovable, and therefore persistent tale is that the coffee pot provided a place of concealment for a Yankee solider in a time of peril during the Civil War. (Some stories claim it was a Confederate soldier.)

In reality, the pot has been a common subject of government debate, as it has been seen as a distraction to drivers passing by. Since horse and buggy times, traffic accidents have been a frequent commotion around the massive vessel. The post has been removed several times, considered a nuisance or “a blatant violation of the town ordinance regulating advertising signs,” but vigilant historical societies and local sentiment always prevailed in putting it back up.

However, the pot has been unable to escape being the target of Halloween pranks by local youth. For decades it was an unofficial tradition to knock the pot from its wooden pole perch. The pranks came to a boil in 1930 when 18 youngsters using black powder, a dynamite fuse, and scrap paper fashioned a massive homemade fire cracker together and tossed it inside the tin kettle, blowing apart the seams.

The criminals were quickly caught, as the scrap paper was stationery that had the address of one of the boys’ grandmothers at the top. Police recovered it and went to the culprit’s parents. Each of the offenders paid to repair the giant pot and it has seen little trouble since.

Today, the pot stands tall atop a cement column, unlikely to be disturbed, but likely to be admired by locals and coffee-lovers for generations to come.

Know Before You Go

Located in Old Salem Moravian Village in Old Salem. I-40 exit 5D onto S. Liberty St. One block to Brookstown Ave. The coffee pot is on the left, on a grassy island, at the corner of Brookstown and Main St.