Belk-Harry donated 'Bell Block' to foundation in 1981

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Historic Salisbury Foundation, which owns three residential properties, became the owner of a downtown commercial building Friday. And it doesn’t even have a mortgage on it.
The Belk-Harry Company donated its “Bell Block” building to the Historic Salisbury Foundation, and at a country club luncheon Friday, Foundation officials expressed their deep appreciation to Belk officials, including Mrs. James G. Pfaff of Salisbury and Mrs. Charles Crouch of Charlotte, daughters of the founders, A.W. Harry and S.W. Harry. The Belk-Harry Company, formed in 1902, is one of Salisbury’s oldest businesses.
John M. Belk of Charlotte, president of Belk stores and the local store, presented the deed to the historic building to Edward Clement, president of the Foundation, with the admonition of “Take good care of it.”
Clement responded by noting that the Bell building, at the corner of South Main and East Fisher, was located on a route that dates to the days of Indian travel. He described the building as a “pivotal” structure in the unusual downtown architecture that led to the selection of Salisbury’s downtown as one of the nation’s 30 Main Street projects.
The building will continue to be used by Belk-Harry but the gift, he said, will be a big boost toward the revitalization of the downtown area. He said the Foundation will eventually restore the building to its original appearance.
“You have given us yesterday,” he told the Belk officials, “but you have also given us tomorrow.”
As a modified Richardson Romanesque design by C.C. Hook of Charlotte, it was built in 1898 by Dave Gaskill as an investment for an aunt, Mrs. Bell of Morehead City. Gaskill, a tobacco processor, lived on the second floor of the building, and was responsible for the construction of a number of Victorian houses in the historic district.
The building has 9,300 square feet of space in its three floors and basement. Of brick and granite construction, it is a handsome building with full story windows on the second and third floors, a widely-admired small balcony with ornamental ironwork on the corner and cast-iron pilasters on the facade. Access to the upper stories is by an elaborate double staircase.
The Belk-Harry Company bought the building from C.H. and Phoebe Summers in 1934. It used it for its men and boys store for a while and in recent years it has been a fabric, budget and gift shop.
Over the years it was used for a variety of other purposes. It was once the site of a bowling alley, a pool room, and a Pender grocery store. Fred Young, a Salisburian with a long memory, said the upstairs was also used as offices for Salisbury’s first telephone company, by the Salisbury Commercial College and for a boarding house and apartments.