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Originally constructed in 1927 to serve as the Hickory High School, this building was dramatically renovated in 1986 and became the home of the SALT Block. The acronym SALT stands for Sciences, Arts, and Literature Together, which reflects how the Foundation houses the Catawba Science Center, Hickory Choral Society, Hickory Museum of Art, United Arts Council and Western Piedmont Symphony. The Science Center features an aquarium, a planetarium, and a series of revolving exhibits; the Choral Society meets on Mondays to rehearse for performances; the Museum of Art features work from nineteenth through twenty-first century American artwork along with local folk art; the United Arts Council raises funds for affiliated organizations; and the Western Piedmont Symphony meets in the building to practice and perform in the building.


  • The front of the SALT Block Campus
  • Paul Whitener, whose work resulted in the establishment of the Hickory Museum of Art

The SALT Block building was originally constructed in 1927 and housed the Claremont Central High School, which was later renamed Hickory High School in the 1940s. The school was relocated to its current location at 1234 3rd St. NE in 1972. In 1986, the building was repurposed for the SALT Block Foundation. SALTBLOCK is an acronym that stands for Catawba Science Center, Hickory ChorAl Society, FinaciaL, Hickory Museum of ArT. Backing, United Arts CounciL of Catawba County, Western PiedmOnt Symphony, Covers Facility, and UpKeep. Additionally, SALT is a second acronym that stands for Science, Arts, and Literature Together, which reflects the aim of the SALT Block campus to offer programs, exhibits, and activities related to a plethora of disciplines to intrigue and inspire visitors and local youth. Additionally, though it is not contained in the acronym, the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library is located on the same block.

Catawba Science Center

Originally opened in 1975 as the Creative Museum for Youth in the historic John Cilley house, a 4,000 sq. ft. Victorian-era structure, it was renamed as the Catawba Science Center in 1978 and moved to the SALT Block building in 1986. Today, the museum features The Millholland Planetarium, salt and freshwater aquarium galleries, and a series of revolving exhibits.

Hickory Choral Society

The Choral Society was originally formed in 1978. Today, the group of approximately 100 singers meets in the SALT Block to rehearse for performances that are held throughout the year in the local area.

Hickory Museum of Art

The Museum of Art is the second oldest museum in North Carolina. It was founded in 1944 by Paul Whitener, who, after being convinced by his wife, Mildred "Mickey" Whitener Coe, took up painting as a hobby and wanted to make Hickory a cultural mecca. The museum was moved to the SALT Block in 1986, and it offers several revolving exhibits and permanent exhibits on nineteenth through twenty-first century American art along with local folk art. The Museum’s collection of over 1,500 works includes Hudson River Valley paintings, Art glass and pottery, works by North Carolina artists, and regional folk art. Additionally, every year, the museum hosts the Paul Whitener Memorial School Art Show, which showcases local students' artwork and encourages the students to be creative.

United Arts Council of Catawba County

Originally formed as the Hickory Arts Council in 1960 and renamed the Catawba County Council for the Arts in 1979, the United Arts Council of Catawba County would not receive its current name until 2006. Every year, the United Arts Council conducts a United Arts Fund campaign, which provides funds for affiliated organizations and grants for individual artists and other organizations. The aim of the council is to promote the sciences, arts, and history and to provide educational opportunities for local youth.

Western Piedmont Symphony

The Western Piedmont Symphony was originally formed in 1964, and every season, the symphony performs for all public school students in the Greater Hickory Area. They rehearse and perform in the SALT Block Center. Additionally, the Western Piedmont Symphony is a member of the League of American Orchestras.

About Us, Catawba Science Center. Accessed December 2nd 2019. https://catawbascience.org/about-us.

About Us, Western Piedmont Symphony. Accessed December 2nd 2019. https://wpsymphony.org/about/.

Borei, Karin. Hickory Museum of Art, NCpedia. Invalid date. Accessed December 2nd 2019. https://www.ncpedia.org/hickory-museum-art.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Wells, Sherrie, "Hickory Museum of Art, SALT Block Campus." 2013.

http://hickoryart.org/new-blog/2015/3/20/about-paul-whitener-s5j52