OctoberTour home perfect for young family

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 8, 2012

Leah and Shawn Campion have always loved old homes, but when they moved to Salisbury about 10 years ago, they couldn’t find the right one. They had a baby girl and knew they couldn’t take on a “project” home, so they ended up in a home at Plantation Ridge, which they loved.
But as the years went on, the lure of living in downtown Salisbury grew. Shawn works in downtown Salisbury at Integro Technology, and Leah liked the idea of her girls walking to the library from their home.
Last year, during the “buy history” tour, she said to her husband, “Let’s just see what’s out there.” They noticed some activity at a house at 223 W. Bank St.- a house she’d taken notice of before and wondered about. The owner, Steadman Morris, who inherited the house in the 1970s from his grandmother, said he was getting ready to put it on the market the next day. Morris grew up in Salisbury but never lived in the home he inherited. He did convert the back area to an apartment and over the years attended to maintenance of the house.
The Campions took a tour and were amazed, Leah said, at how great the house was inside. They went home and had a serious discussion. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it,” they decided.
And so they bought the house last October, gaining about 1,000 more square feet of home, a whole lot of history and charm- and, of course, the maintenance challenges that accompany an older home.
The Colonial Revival residence, designed by one of North Carolina’s first licensed architects, Louise Asbury, was built in 1909 for Emma and Claude Morris. The property features a granite paver driveway, a terra cotta tile roof, large yard and spacious front porch.
Emma Speight Morris was a founder of the Rowan Public library, started the first adult education program in Rowan County and held classes at the Salisbury Cotton Mill where her husband was vice president. She was the first female Board of Education member in Rowan County and was named “Woman of the Year” in 1951. She entertained Eleanor Roosevelt on her visit to Salisbury in the summer of 1942.
Leah says they’ve learned about some of the home’s history with the help of Betty Dan Spencer, who told them that the house had withstood a fire in the 1930s, which may have only damaged the attic and the roof.
The Campions bought the house about a year ago but chose not to move in right away. Although the inside of the house was in good shape, they renovated the kitchen, combining two rooms into one, and had some interior painting done before moving in early this year.
One big project that they weren’t sure about was taking off the home’s aluminum siding, which had been put on in the early 1970s.
Concerned about damage from leaks, they weren’t sure what they’d find when they removed it. They made a case before the Historic District Commission, asking for permission to replace what was underneath the siding not with wood but with cement fiberboard if necessary. Replacement wood these days, Leah explains, is not of the same quality as what you used to be able to get, so they felt fibertoard would provide a longer-term solution. The commission agreed, and so the house actually set a precedent in the historic district.
The Campions’ new old home suits them.
“She’s a good old girl,” Leah says.
Although the home’s exterior is in the Federalist style, the interior is more eclectic, Leah says, with some Victorian elements, including one very ornate marbleized slate mantel. Some of the hardwood floors are oak and some, including the floor in the kitchen, are pine. All the home’s original stained glass windows are, amazingly intact and in good shape.
When the Campions bought the house they also purchased some of its contents, including the piano in the parlor – which Leah and Kerry play (daughter Abigail plays the guitar). They also inherited a huge gilt mirror that reaches from ceiling to floor, the first thing you see when you walk in the house. The mirror actually came from the McKenzie-Grimes house originally (home to Steadman Morris’s other grandparents) and is believed to have come from New York.
One of the home’s interesting features is its octagonal dining room – which is used frequently by the family.
The beautiful new kitchen features light green subway tile. Leah and Shawn knew they wanted to use subway tile but didn’t want the stark look of white.
For Leah, it’s not just a show kitchen – she loves to bake. In fact, every Christmas she gives her father, both grandfathers and her father-in-law six months’ worth of cookies, to be mailed over the course of the year.
A painting featuring a cooling rack of cookies and the words “yum yum” done several years ago by her daughter celebrates this family’s devotion to baked goods. Another plaque designates the room as the “Campion Cookie Kitchen.”
One thing that might surprise people is the copious amount of closet space the house has – “an unbelievable amount” for an old house, Leah says.
One nifty feature of the home that isn’t immediately apparently is a newly installed underground rainwater collection system that holds 3,000 gallons of water.
“It’s been a good experience, taking an older house and re-doing it,” Leah says. “We’ve been very happy with the process. It’s been relatively painless.
“The outside, in some ways, has been the most challenging aspect.”
The family loves living in the historic district. Neighbors have been very welcoming, and leah loves that kerry and Abigail can walk to the library or Frostbites.
The Campions had to think a bit before agreeing to be on the tour and were worried about being ready in time, Leah says. She wants people to realize that they’re a family with two kids, two dogs and a cat, and the house is above all a place to live and make music and create paintings and bake cookies, not a showplace.
Fortunately for tour-goers, this home can be both.