Salisbury – The Historic Salisbury Foundation welcomed the return of the History on Tap (HOT) series Thursday when more than 300 people toured the former Southern Bell building on West Council Street.
The series, in its eighth year, entails opening a home in a historic building or structure on the fourth or last Thursday of June, July and August. Attendees savor a cold beer from New Sarum while enjoying an inside view of some of the city’s historical sites.
The site for the first tour of the summer, The Salisbury, is currently undergoing renovation in 12 apartments of the former Southern Bell Telephone Company building. The three-story building was constructed at the end of the 1920s at 121 West Council Street and had not been touched since 1985, but Josh Barnhardt, who had been hearing stories of the building’s former glory from his grandmother, Edith Thompson, saw more than a little worth salvaging. Thompson worked as a switchboard at Southern Bell beginning in the 1940s, often filling her family with stories from her time in the beautiful Art Deco building.
With the renovations, all the basics, such as electrical, plumbing, and floors are new, but the architectural details that distinguish the building remain. Six one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments. The building’s historic exterior is being restored or maintained along with many of the interior’s details, making it an ideal stop on a summer tour.
“It was Whitney Wallace who was the instigator of History on Tap in the beginning,” noted Sherry Beck of the Salisbury Historical Foundation. “One of our goals as an organization is to become more diverse in our events, connecting with and bringing in families and the wider community. We take great pride in finding sites that show some of the local historical structures and learn about the history of our town.”
The renovation of The Salisbury, as it was originally called, has begun on the third floor and the first tenants were originally scheduled to move in on June 1, but as with almost all construction work going on at the moment materials are being delivered, along with some other issues, caused delays.
Jamie and Linda Thompson, who have lived in Roan County all their lives, will be among the first tenants, having signed a lease for the first apartment at the top of the stairs on the third floor. Their living room windows look out onto the front lawn of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which Jamie said was exactly what he wanted.
“He absolutely loves that view,” Linda said. The couple currently lives at High Rock Lake in Davidson County, but they missed living downtown, where they can walk to everything. They were the first to buy a unit in the Chris Building, and Linda said living there taught them all they did—and didn’t want—to get back downtown.
“We wanted a place to park the car, and an outdoor space of some sort,” she said. Salisbury will have a community gathering space on the roof, and dedicated car parking right next door to the building. “It hit all the things we wanted.” She said they expect in four to five years, they will sell the lake house and only live in Salisbury. She was chatting with friends during the open house about Art Deco decor to coordinate the decor in the public areas and work with the style of the building, though she said she’s trying to be patient as the new move-in is in September.1.
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 quickly. Free registration is available from the website at HistoricSalisbury.org.
“We’ve had quite a few people who have found that we get full quickly and have gone ahead and scored on all three,” she said. “We weren’t quite expecting how fast this could fill up, but we’re certainly glad so many people are getting out!”