Visitors eager to peek inside Salisbury homes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Maggie Blackwell
For the Salisbury Post
The first thing you notice about OctoberTour co-chairs Barb Sorel and Mary Padavick is their comfort with each other. As one speaks, the other listens intently. Sometimes they complete each other’s sentences. They think of the same humorous event, at the same time.
It’s a good thing. They have spent the better part of the past five months together, crafting The Big Event. They’ve taken a good hard look at OctoberTour, retained its best components, and added improvements, to make this ó the 33rd ó the best Tour ever.
OctoberTour is an annual opportunity to sneak a peek inside some of Salisbury’s most beautiful historic homes. The tour starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, and continues Sunday afternoon. Proceeds from the event benefit Historic Salisbury Foundation. Last year OctoberTour attracted visitors from 30 states, particularly Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
“OctoberTour is a monumental undertaking,” says Jack Thomson, executive director for Historic Salisbury Foundation, the event’s sponsor. “It’s the keystone event for one of the largest historic preservation groups in the Southeast. We are fortunate to have a team like Barb and Mary to head it up.”
Sorel has the experience to take on such a big project. Prior to chairing the annual Oyster Roast for Waterworks Visual Arts Center ó twice ó she chaired the Winter’s Eve Ball for that organization.
She is young, civic-minded and dynamic. Sometimes she talks a mile a minute. Her face shows her enthusiasm as she details their plans and experiences with the project.
Padavick also is young, civic-minded and dynamic. She is thoughtful and deliberate, but funny and fresh as she recounts knocking on doors to ask people to put their homes on the tour.
You feel a synergy when you talk with them. And it shows in their planning.
“Barb and I balance each other very well. I’m organized, but she is sooo organized. I can handle details, but …”
“But Mary is so good at pulling people in.” Barb completes Mary’s sentence. “She’s not afraid to knock on someone’s door and say, ‘Hey, we could use your help this year.’ Mary is fearless when it comes to that, and I’m a little more…'”
“We’ve talked every day since May,” says Padavick. “After the tour, it will feel really weird not to call each other all the time. We talk every day. I have never worked on something of this magnitude, at this level, to raise this amount of money. It’s been a real learning experience to learn how important this is to the community. This neighborhood is vital to its success.”
Sorel is ultra-organized. When she takes on a project, she takes it on. She might receive a note or two when she starts, but by the time it’s finished, there are binders with tabbed dividers separating the budget sheets from the volunteer lists. The binders are invaluable to those who chair the events in subsequent years.
“The key to this team is their confidence,” says Thomson. “They know the community well enough that they have selected capable volunteers. They trust them to do a good job and stay involved enough to be of assistance while not getting in the way. OctoberTour is such a big event; if you don’t have the confidence to delegate, it can swallow you up. We rely on every one of our more than 200 volunteers. Without them, we could not pull it off.”
The dynamic duo have used volunteers to their advantage, using seasoned helpers where available and integrating in young, new volunteers where needed. The fresh talent can learn from the more tenured helpers and perhaps help in future years.
“We are excited to have Kimberly Hobbs on the tour this year, who’s never been on the tour before. The house didn’t even have a name; we had to get with Jack to research it and come up with the name for it: the Tiernan-Dorsett House. She has done a ton of renovation and decorating, and folks are just going to love this house.
“Same with the Urban Lofts; that has created such a buzz, that somebody has come into town and created this whole concept that no one in Salisbury has seen. They may be popular in other towns, but this is the first in Salisbury. Those Urban Lofts, they are such a treat.”
“Oh, they are incredible!” Sorel interjects. “We had to go there the other day, to cover some details, the studios down below and the apartment up above.”
“The flower committee and house manager, they came back and said, ‘Oh, my word!’ This has created such a buzz,” adds Padavick.
“And of course Mary James’ house, the McCubbins Rouser home. People have driven by and seen all the work going on ó it’s created a real interest in the house.”
All in all, there are eight homes on the tour this year. There are two at the Urban lofts, the Tiernan-Dorsett house, the James home, and four more.
Graystone, home of John and Tracy McMillin, is located on Faith Road. Built in the Civil War era, it was originally a wooden bungalow. In the 1930s, the owners had it faced with 12-inch granite blocks. This massive home sits on three acres, a tiny bit of country surrounded by a modern subdivision. The interior has been creatively and lovingly decorated with antiques from elite dealers and from the Habitat store. You won’t want to miss this house.
The E. A. Goodman House, home of Chip and Luanne Short, is a Colonial Revival home built in 1936 by the president of Goodman Lumber.
The J. W. Zimmerman House has undergone extensive renovation since it was purchased by Chris and Lisa Ragsdale in 1999. An upstairs bedroom has been repurposed into a walk-in closet and bath. The house is filled with antiques from Chris’ family.
The Josephus Hall House is on the tour every year. Owned by Historic Salisbury Foundation, it was built in 1820 and offers tours by guides in period dress. The house has much of its original furniture and the wallpaper has been recreated by craftsmen to match the paper installed almost 200 years ago.
Trolleys, artists
New to this year’s tour are the Salisbury trolleys. They will help those who don’t feel like walking the complete tour, and will complement the antique cars on display on Bank Street.
Also new to the tour is the novelty of having an artist painting in each home. Bank Street will have many additional food vendors this year, and there is a full slate of musicians and DJs scheduled to perform in the yard at Hull House. Last year the public enjoyed having bales of hay for seating; this year there will be lots more bales to afford plenty of seating.
The Civil War re-enactments will once again happen in the yard of Dr. Myron Goodman. “Pause on the Porch” ó a place to have a drink of water and rest your feet ó will also be held at the Goodmans’ home.
The weekend offers many complementary events, too.
NIght Out, lantern tour
Friday night is the OctoberTour Night Out, with downtown shops open late with in-store promotions, musical entertainment in the streets and children’s activities. The event is free of charge; food venues are available for cost.
Saturday night there will be a lantern tour at the Old Lutheran Cemetery, located at North Lee and Cemetery Street. This tour is led by the 63rd Regiment of N.C. Confederate Troops, reactivated. Cost is $5.
Blues and JazzThe tenth annual Salisbury Blues & Jazz Festival revs up Saturday afternoon at Fisher and Church streets. Featured artists this year include the Joe Robinson Jazz Band, and Big Bill Morganfield, son of legendary Muddy Waters. The event is free.
On Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., Historic Salisbury Station offers an open house in recognition of its 100th anniversary.
For ticket information, visit or call 704-636-0103.