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Marsh-Ward House on North Fulton Street in limbo

By David Purtell

david.purtell@salisburypost.com

The fate of an historic home near downtown is in the balance as one organization tries to preserve the building.

The Marsh-Ward House, also known as the Bijoux clothing store, at 125 North Fulton Street sits on property owned by St. John’s Lutheran Church — which is one block over on West Innes Street.

The church is developing plans for how to use the property, and the plans do not include the house being there.

The house was built in the 1870s and remodeled in the Colonial Revival style in the 1920s. St. John’s bought the property in 2006. A demolition permit for the house has been issued, but church officials say they only want to raze it as a last resort.

Since last year, the church has been offering to gift the house to anyone willing to pay to move it. The church asked the Historic Salisbury Foundation if it could move the home to one of its lots. The foundation hasn’t accepted the offer but has proposed other compromises.

The foundation wants the house to stay where it is.

Brian Davis, Historic Salisbury’s executive director, said the foundation is trying to stop the erosion of the historic aspects of North Fulton Street. The foundation does not have any historic covenants on the house, which is not in a historic district, but it has been identified as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, he said.

Fulton Street already has a lack of continuity between the north and south sections, Davis said. South Fulton Street remains mostly residential while North Fulton Street has lost much of its residential feel.

The property the house sits on is zoned as downtown mixed use, meaning residential or certain commercial uses can go there.

He said the foundation could pay to move the house as a last resort, but doing so would interrupt other projects they are working on.

Historic Salisbury has offered proposals to St. John’s that involve the church buying property the foundation owns on North Jackson Street across from the church, and then moving the house on that lot to another lot. The church would then use the Jackson Street lot and leave the Marsh-Ward House intact.

St. John’s Pastor Rhodes Woolly said the proposals don’t make financial sense — why buy more property and pay to move a house when the church already has what it needs.

Tuesday, the foundation proposed to buy the portion of the property the Marsh-Ward House sits on along with a 10-foot buffer in the rear of the home and let the church use the rest of the property.

Rhodes said a church committee will review the proposal.

Davis said Historic Salisbury wants the church’s congregation to have say in what happens to the house.

Woolly said there has been no final decision on the what the property will be used for and that there is no time frame for when the plans will be finished. A decision on the house will be made once plans for the property are finalized, Woolly said.

He said all options for how to use the property, including as a parking lot, are on the table.

The house has become a financial burden on the church, Woolly said.

“In the absence of a willing partner, demolition is being considered as a viable option because the structure has become a financial drain on the congregation,” Woolly said in a written statement. “A team of congregation members and community members is exploring creative options for an overall plan for the property — a plan that meets the needs of the congregation and takes seriously the needs of our downtown community.”

Woolly said the church has a long track record of keeping the downtown area’s best interest in mind. A 29,000-square-foot addition to the church is currently under construction. It also has a child development center across Jackson Street.

He said whatever is done with the Marsh-Ward lot will be sensitive to the surrounding development.

Woolly commended the work Historic Salisbury does and said he hopes the foundation will move the house. Asked if the church would be willing to pay to move the house, Woolly said it is the foundation’s mission to save the house, and it should appeal to its membership to do so.

Historic Salisbury has started an online petition to save the house. The petition can be accessed by going to www.historicsalisbury.org.

Anyone interested in relocating the Marsh-Ward House can contact the church office at 704-636-3431.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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