Love of old homes shows on OctoberTour
By Shelley Smith and Noelle Edwardsssmith@salisburypost.com
Sally Murphy remembers riding her horse from Cleveland to the home of her aunt and uncle at 185 Cress Road.
The home, which has been in Murphy’s family since the beginning of the 1800s, is now her own and is filled with original pieces such as heart pine flooring, two-level window sills and even the original deed to the land the house is on, which dates back to 1774.
“The land was originally 800 acres and was paid for in pound shillings,” said Murphy. “One of the bricks in the original chimney had ‘1775’ engraved on it, so the house was built shortly after that.”
Murphy decided to share her house this year as part of OctoberTour, Historic Salisbury’s annual event that gives people a peak inside restored private houses.
As with many of the houses on OctoberTour, just about everything in Murphy’s house is original or as authentic as possible or a replication. Murphy even made sure interior paint colors were close to the ones used years ago.
However, Murphy had work done to the house in 2002, adding a kitchen and dining room. The original kitchen was a log cabin, detached from the home.
The piano in the living room, a Chas M. Stieff Square Grand, dates to the 1850s and has been in the home ever since. Also in the living room is a painting of President James K. Polk, the 11th U.S. president and a part of Murphy’s extensive family tree.
“I’ve always loved old houses,” said Murphy, who moved to Rowan County from Fredericksburg, Md., in 1998. “This is the first house I’ve restored.”
Nine other structures were open to people who love old houses during the weekend event.
Sarah Kellogg, president of the Historic Salisbury Foundation, said the tour is a necessary part of the foundation’s survival in the money it raises and the attention it draws to Salisbury’s history.
It draws attention from people all over the place, she said. She and several docents at the houses said visitors have come from surrounding counties and even from other states, such as Virginia, Georgia and Illinois.
Anne Lyles, a Historic Salisbury Foundation trustee, said she was happy with the turnout to the tour, happy with the number of people visiting the Hamill-Thompson-Kessler House the foundation restored, and most happy that rain stayed away.
“I think we’re going to make it,” she said.
The house, at 321 E. Bank St., is for sale, so OctoberTour did double duty holding an open house for potential buyers.
Teen Aron, a docent at the Rock House at 225 S. Fulton St., also said the forecasted rain that never came helped attendance and made the event more pleasant.
This was her first year as a docent, though she has gone on the tour in years past.
She said, “It’s a nice way to spend the day, that’s for sure.”
Kellogg said the event this year is “as lovely a tour as we’ve ever had.”
She said attendance was strong and homeowners worked hard to get their homes ready. In turn, she said, visitors have cooperated with what homeowners asked, such as not touching things noted as off limits.
David Garling, a patron for the event, also greeted visitors to the Rock House. He told them the house was built in 1913 and used as a speakeasy during prohibition.
He has been involved in OctoberTour in years past. “It’s a good thing to do for Salisbury,” he said. “It is wonderful how everybody pulls together.”
Liz Steele, coordinator for all house managers, was stationed at Murphy’s house. She said the tour ó with people opening their private homes for crowds to traipse through hour after hour ó works because people are respectful of each other. Homeowners are willing to share their space, and visitors are respectful as they come through.
She said she sees very few children come through, and people generally don’t go where they’re not supposed to go.
Murphy, who did much of the work in restoring her home herself and was on hand all Saturday to tell visitors about the property, said the crowds were terrific. She had had about 90 visitors by lunchtime, and a lot of people kept coming through in the afternoon.
She said one visitor told her that morning she almost didn’t travel the 10 miles or so out of downtown to see the house.
But, Murphy added, she was certainly glad she did.
Click here to view a photo slideshow from this year’s OctoberTour.