2012 OctoberTour biggest yet

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 19, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY – More people walked through a single featured home last weekend than attended any other OctoberTour in the 37-year history of the event.
Roughly 2,880 people waited in line for up to an hour for the chance to tour all three floors of the restored Hambley-Wallace House at 508 S. Fulton St.
That’s about 280 more than attended the previous record-holding OctoberTour, the 2006 event featuring the rehabilitated McCubbins-McCanless House at 424 Park Ave. made famous by a national TV program on the History Channel.
Overall, an estimated 3,500 people purchased tickets to the 2012 OctoberTour, which also attracted 82 financial sponsors, more than double the 40 groups and individuals who sponsored last year’s event.
“We are still counting ticket sales, but it looks like the tour was substantially stronger than even what we had hoped for,” said Brian Davis, executive director for Historic Salisbury Foundation.
Davis has not yet released financial figures, citing remaining invoices and some off-site ticket sale money still to be collected. But he said he’s confident the event will generate the money needed to help fund the foundation’s operating budget.
About 3,300 people bought tour tickets, with another 200 people purchasing a patron’s badge that came with tickets to the home tour and related events.
While the Hambley-Wallace House was obviously the main attraction, Davis said, all tour sites benefited from the boost in interest and excitement related not only to the mansion but also the 40th anniversary of Historic Salisbury Foundation.
The second most popular house on the tour – the Leo Wallace Sr. House at 301 W. Fisher St. – hosted 2,353 visitors, more than attend most OctoberTour weekends.
The Dr. Josephus Hall House, which is on the tour every year, broke its own one-day record with more than 900 visitors on Saturday. In two days, the Hall House saw 1,267 visitors, compared to 583 last year.
“Those were out-of-towners,” Davis said. “That was new traffic.”
Grimes Mill, another annual tour site, hosted 607 visitors, compared to 292 last year.
“There is big momentum for Historic Salisbury Foundation right now,” Davis said. “When I’ve talked to groups in the past few weeks, one word summed it up – excitement.”
Barb Sorel’s efforts in the past year to highlight the foundation’s 40 years of saving properties helped people realize “how much of a defining part of Salisbury’s character is historic preservation,” Davis said.
The American Planning Association this month named downtown Salisbury as one of the top 10 best neighborhoods in the country and attributed much of the area’s success to the foundation.
The successful OctoberTour weekend and 40th anniversary celebration came after a tumultuous time for Historic Salisbury Foundation, including several leadership changes.
In his first year as executive director, Davis said he was thrilled to help the foundation celebrate 40 years of accomplishments and said the momentum has attracted new fans.
“We’ve brought some new support to the table for the foundation and really introduced them to what we are about,” he said. “We are increasing our education outreach.”
That will continue with the planned restoration this year of machinery inside Grimes Mills, Davis said.
The foundation plans to open the mill for Saturday tours in the spring and fall, as well as for school groups on weekdays.
Students and tourists will learn about Salisbury’s industrial history and see how the mill operated to produce flour, corn meal and feed pellets for livestock, Davis said.
As for the Hambley-Wallace House, Davis said people are already asking if the mansion will be on next year’s OctoberTour.
But they will have to wait. It will be some time before the 10,000-square-foot property again hosts 2,880 guests in two days, he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.