By Elisabeth Strillacci
SALISBURY – The Historic Salisbury Foundation welcomed back the History on Tap (HOT) series on Thursday as more than 300 people toured the former Southern Bell building on West Council Street.
The series, in its eighth year, involves an open house in a historic building or structure on the fourth or last Thursday in June, July and August. Participants taste cold beers from New Sarum while getting an insider’s view of some of the city’s historic sites.
This summer’s first tour site, The Salisbury, is currently in the midst of renovations to 12 apartments from the former Southern Bell telephone company building. Built in the late 1920s, it was the three-story building at 121 W. Council St. not been touched since 1985, but Josh Barnhardt, who had heard the stories of the building’s former glory from his grandmother, Edith Thompson, saw more than a little worth saving. Thompson was a conversion operator at Southern Bell from the 1940s, and she often pampered her family with stories from her time in the beautiful Art Deco building.
With the renovations, all the essentials, such as electricity, plumbing and flooring, are new, but the architectural details that separate the building remain. Six apartments are one-bedroom units and six have two bedrooms. The historic exterior of the building along with several interior details are being restored or maintained, making it an ideal stop on the summer trip.
“Whitney Wallace was the initiator of History on Tap in the beginning,” noted Sherry Beck of the Historic Salisbury Foundation. “One of our goals as an organization is to become more diverse in our events, reach out and bring families and the wider community in. And we take great pride in finding places that showcase some of our local historical structures and learning about our by history. “
The renovation of The Salisbury, as it was originally called, began on the third floor, and the first tenants were originally to move on June 1, but as with almost all construction underway right now, supply of materials, along with a few other issues, has caused delays.
Jimmy and Linda Thompson, who have lived in Rowan County all their lives, will be two of the first tenants, after signing a lease on the first apartment at the top of the stairs on the third floor. Their living room windows look out the front of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, as Jimmy said, was just what he wanted.
“He absolutely loves this view,” Linda said. The couple currently live on High Rock Lake in Davidson County, but have missed living downtown where they can walk to everything. They were the first to buy a unit in the Kress building, and Linda said living there taught them everything they did – and did not want – to do about moving back to the center.
“We wanted a place to park and an outdoor area of some sort,” she said. Salisbury will have a community center on the roof terrace and a designated parking lot right next to the building. “It hit all the things we wanted.” She said they expect that in four to five years they will sell the lake house and live exclusively in Salisbury. She chatted with friends during an open house about decorating in art deco style to coordinate the decor in common areas and work with the style of the building, though she said she is trying to be patient as the new move-in date is September 1st.
Kimberly Steig of Historic Salisbury said the next open house is scheduled for July 28 at The Old Textile Products Building at 121 N. Main St. and it’s almost full already, so anyone interested should sign up soon. Free registration is available from the website at HistoricSalisbury.org.
“We have a lot of people who have found that we fill up fast and they have gone ahead and registered for all three,” she said. “We had not quite anticipated how quickly this would fill up, but we are certainly glad that so many people are coming out!”