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Editorial: Celebrating preservation

OctoberTour brings out the best in Salisbury, from polished homes to inquisitive tourists and eager volunteers. And to think, it might not have happened if Ed Clement and other devoted preservationists hadn’t started Historic Salisbury Foundation back in 1972.
The foundation’s impact goes far beyond a fall home tour, though. It arose at a time when Salisbury was at a crossroads, with dozens of old homes divided into apartments, and people moving by the droves to new houses beyond the city. Downtown had seen better days, too. Salisbury was a city in decline.
The creation of Historic Salisbury Foundation and a few bold projects opened residents’ eyes to a different way of thinking. The huge, old homes along Fulton Street ó seemingly doomed to decline or demolition ó could be grand homes again, with the proper restoration. The interest in saving old structures grew, and after a few years Salisbury had a new identity for itself. “Historic Salisbury” was not longer just part of the foundation’s name; it became Salisbury’s persona.
Salisbury has had other claims to fame. Years ago, draperies from Norman’s of Salisbury received frequent mention on TV game shows. Stanback headache powders were on store shelves everywhere. And Cheerwine and Food Lion were spreading their fame. Fortunately, Cheerwine and Food Lion still thrive. But not Norman’s or Stanback ó both now gone. Through mergers, downsizing and just plain closing down, companies come and go. Even the big ones.
Buildings remain, if they’re lucky, standing as silent witnesses to history ó many of them with fine craftmanship and rich details seldom found in new structures. That’s not to knock new homes; restoration is not for everyone. But many Salisbury families have found great value in giving old houses new life. The same goes for businesses. And the history and value of old buildings is not limited to grand structures. Modest cottages and old commercial buildings have benefitted from restoration in neighborhoods all over the city. And preservation has shaped downtown Salisbury’s persona, attracting private investment that would not have come otherwise.
So, to those who started Historic Salisbury Foundation and have supported it, including the people whose homes are on tour this weekend, we say “thanks.” You are part of a success story. And to visitors who stroll Salisbury’s streets today admiring the fine homes on tour, we say “take notes.” The interest in preservation has spread, but many old buildings remain neglected, not appreciated as the historic treasures they are. Spread the word. Preservation can give an old building new life. It can even help an old town find a new identity.

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