Hambley-Wallace House draws record OctoberTour crowd
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY - Even before today's figures are added, OctoberTour already has broken an attendance record, thanks to the splendor of a restored 1903 mansion that many people said they have waited their life to see.
The line Saturday for the Hambley-Wallace House - star of this year's tour of historic homes - wrapped around the 500 block of South Fulton Street.
As of Saturday afternoon, ticket sales had surpassed the previous record of 2,600, and organizers said they expect more than 3,000 people to attend OctoberTour by the time events close at 5:30 p.m. today.
"This will be one of the best tours ever," said Brian Davis, executive director for Historic Salisbury Foundation.
Proceeds go to the foundation's operating budget.
The tour resumes at noon, featuring 12 historic homes and sites, as well as food and live entertainment in the 300 block of West Bank Street. Tickets are on sale at each site and the Henderson Law Office near Rowan Public Library.
The Hambley-Wallace House has drawn the record crowds, Davis said.
"It showcases all of the hard work and dedication this family has put back into that home, restoring it and offering it to the public," he said.
The Wallace family spent two years painstakingly restoring the home known as "Salisbury's Biltmore" and have opened nearly all of the 21-room mansion to OctoberTour visitors.
As Historic Salisbury Foundation celebrates its 40th anniversary, the inclusion of the Hambley-Wallace House is especially meaningful because Virginia Wallace was an original trustee, Davis said.
"People have been saying how proud she would have been to open her house, all three floors," he said.
The Wallace home has been on the tour before, but not since 1975 have the second and third floors been open to the public.
Virginia and Leo Wallace Jr. lived in the home for more than six decades. Mona Lisa and Lee Wallace now own the home and led the restoration effort with Spencer and Janie Lane, Mona Lisa Wallace's brother and sister-in-law, as well as daughters Lane Wallace and Whitney Wallace. Historian Betty Dan Spencer played a crucial role.
The results are spectacular, visitors said.
Although she'd never been to OctoberTour before, Kathy Shue of China Grove said she had to bring her daughter when she saw the Wallace house on the line-up.
Maddie Shue loved the house as a little girl and always looked for it from the backseat as the Shues drove through Salisbury.
After touring the mansion, mother and daughter remarked on the chandeliers, nursery, stained glass and multiple fireplaces.
The 45-minute wait was worth it, they said.
"It is a very unique and impressive piece of architecture," said Sam McDonald of Charlotte.
He noted details like the mahogany dining room, massive granite construction and slate roof.
"They did a nice job bringing it back to life," McDonald said. "It's good to have people buy a home like this who can afford to fix it up the way it should be."
While many tour-goers were Rowan County residents champing at the bit to see the mansion they drive by regularly, hundreds came from out of town. Davis said the community will see a substantial economic impact from money spent at hotels, gas stations and restaurants.
Vendors on West Bank Street confirmed brisk sales and bustling crowds ready to spend cash on food, drinks and cupcakes.
"It's going like gangbusters," said Melissa Heilig, co-owner of Two Red Hens, which sold out of 450 cupcakes by Saturday afternoon and went home to bake more.
Laura Bowler stood on the corner, waiting for her fifth delivery of the day from L.A. Murph's to restock the tent on West Bank Street.
L.A. Murph's fifth OctoberTour, this one was "the busiest by far," Bowler said.
Rhonda and Anthony Carter of Carter's Kitchen in Taylorsville made their first appearance at the tour, where they couldn't keep up with orders for fish filet sandwiches and wings dipped in homemade sauce.
"People are really enjoying the food," Rhonda Carter said.
Ariella Sanchez had both of her restaurants - Ibiza Deli and Mambo Grill - represented not only on West Bank Street, where they sold roasted pork and empanadas, but also at the Wallace house, where people in line could buy coffee and muffins.
"This is our first year and it's great," Sanchez said. "It's really fun to take Mambo and Ibiza to the street."
Mona Lisa Wallace said she was humbled by the large turnout and overwhelming response to the home she now owns with her husband.
Like so many people who stopped to thank her on Saturday, Wallace said she also grew up admiring the imposing structure from afar."I grew up in Spencer, and when I came by as a child with my family, I was always interested in it," she said.
The preservation of not only the Wallace house but dozens of historic homes and properties has "made Salisbury so special," Wallace said.
OctoberTour is the culmination of the restoration project, said Whitney Wallace, chairwoman of OctoberTour.
"When we first started, we knew we wanted to invite the public inside," said Wallace, who used her grandmother's meticulous notes to compose scripts used by docents this weekend. "We don't want to keep it just with us. We love letting people enjoy it."
No one lives in the home, and family members haven't decided exactly what to do with the 10,000-square-foot property, the Wallaces said.
For now, they are busy hosting a two-day party with more than 3,000 guests.
Other homes on OctoberTour
1909 Emma and Claude Morris House, 223 W. Bank St.
1880 Blackmer-Woodson House, 317 N. Fulton St.
1901 Bingham-Zvonar House, 311 S. Fulton St.
1924 Rebecca and James Davis House, 318 N. Fulton St.
1912 Leo Wallace Sr. House, 301 W. Fisher St.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.