Barb Sorel: Historic preservation gives much to celebrate

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 10, 2012

By Barb Sorel
Special to the Salisbury Post
April 12, 1972 … a very important date in Salisbury’s history. On this day, a group of concerned and passionate citizens held their charter meeting to form an organization that would forever change the way of thinking about historic preservation in Salisbury.
This year, Historic Salisbury Foundation celebrates its 40th anniversary. Beginning next week, the Salisbury Post will be featuring 40 weeks of interesting tidbits about Historic Salisbury Foundation (HSF) and its various challenges, victories and defeats.
While researching materials for the 40th celebration, I found my favorite article, written by Mark Wineka. Mark used a comparison of Bedford Falls and George Bailey (from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”) to Salisbury and wondered what it would be like without HSF. It really made me think. HSF has saved and protected more than 100 historic properties — churches, commercial buildings and private residences. They’ve even moved a few houses.
I know that there are people who don’t always support the concept of historic preservation, and it may be that they just don’t understand what it is and how it affects their daily lives.
Historic preservation is the practice of protecting and preserving sites, structures or districts, which reflect elements of local or national cultural, social, economic, political, archaeological or architectural history. Preservation has many diverse purposes and rewards, including the strengthening of local economies, stabilization of property values, the fostering of civic beauty and community pride and the appreciation of local and national history.
The benefits of historic preservation come in many forms. The prime benefit of historical restoration is always education. It also includes both public and private benefits. Historic preservation safeguards a community’s heritage, making it available to future generations for civic enjoyment and educational activities. Historic preservation has been successfully employed to improve business opportunities in many locales, and some states even offer substantial tax credits for restoration work on a designated historic property or a property located within a designated historic district.
Many people live in the same community their entire lives and never grow to appreciate what it has to offer. Someone from outside that community has the ability to see things on a different plane. When my husband and I relocated from New York, we wanted to find a town with an old house that needed some work. On a business trip to Salisbury, my husband called me to say that he had found such a place. That weekend we came with a Realtor and looked at houses. We fell in love with Salisbury for so many reasons, but the greatest draw was the feeling that this community really cared about preserving its history.
Through the years I began volunteering with HSF and really learned about all the wonderful things they have done to make Salisbury a nationally admired preservation city. HSF isn’t just about fixing up deteriorating houses and buildings but about preserving pieces of history that have made Salisbury and Rowan County what they are today.
One couple that really gets this is Lee and Mona Lisa Wallace. They have graciously offered to host the 40th anniversary celebration at their historic Hambley-Wallace house on South Fulton Street, which is undergoing a total restoration. This is an incredible family treasure and a great example of historic preservation. In addition to that, the Wallaces have offered to spearhead a new initiative for the foundation, which we hope to launch at the celebration on Oct. 6, and their daughter, Whitney, will be chairing the Foundation’s OctoberTour this year. The Hambley-Wallace house will also be featured in this year’s OctoberTour lineup.
This is a big year for HSF, and I hope that you’ll enjoy the next 40 weeks of history.
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Barb Sorel is a member of the Historic Salisbury Foundation Board of Trustees and is Chair of the 40th Anniversary Celebration committee. She lives in Salisbury with her husband, Cliff.
Editor’s note: Look for items about the foundation’s 40 years of preservation in the Post on Tuesdays.