Utzman-Chambers house is a hidden gem in Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2008

By Susan Shinn
Salisbury Post
With its historic homes, Salisbury is a city full of architectural gems.
Perhaps one of those hidden gems is the Utzman-Chambers House, a circa 1815 Federal-style dwelling at 116 S. Jackson St.
The house is open 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday with guided tours, although Kaye Brown Hirst, executive director of Rowan Museum, would like to see more visitors.
“I think people tend to forget it’s over there,” Hirst says.
The Utzman-Chambers House served as the home for the first Rowan Museum.
“Part of the house was interpreted in the Federal period,” Hirst says, “and many exhibit rooms were there also.”
In 1997, then-county manager Tim Russell contacted Hirst and offered the museum its current location at 202 N. Main St.
“At that point, we started packing up the general history items at Utzman-Chambers,” Hirst says.
Rowan Museum opened at its current location in 2001.
For many years, the annual antiques show sponsored by Rowan Museum raised money primarily for the Utzman-Chambers House. Today, the show supports Utzman-Chambers and the Old Stone House.
Two years ago, the house underwent $40,000 in renovations, with work done to the foundation, roof, porch and columns.
“People in the community still are not certain what’s there,” Hirst says.
The house includes a dining room and two bedrooms filled with Federal period furniture.
In the back room downstairs is an exhibit that relates to the former owners of the home.
The house is owned by the Maxwell Chambers Trust, which owns the two blocks surrounding the house, which includes the First Presbyterian Church property.
The house has a blanket chest and chest of drawers made by James Gheen, Rowan County’s premier furniture maker of the period.
“There are some wonderful pieces there,” Hirst says. “It’s consistently one of the finest Federal town homes in North Carolina.”
The Federal period was a beautiful period, Hirst notes, but not as ornate as the Victorian period.
That may be one reason why the Hall House attracts more visitors.
Another reason is the house’s ties to the Civil War.
“There are so many Civil War buffs, so they’re going to go to that house more,” says Tricia Denton Creel, Rowan Museum’s education coordinator.
“We work with Historic Salisbury Foundation to promote both houses,” Hirst says, and in fact there’s a group ticket to both sites.
Like the Old Stone House, the Utzman-Chambers house is closed from December to March. But Hirst notes that both homes are available for group tours year-round, seven days a week.
For more information about the Utzman-Chambers House, call Rowan Museum at 704-633-5946.