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Editorial: Davis will leave a void

It’s difficult not to greet the news of Brian M. Davis’ pending departure as executive director of Historic Salisbury Foundation with equal parts sadness  and happiness — sadness for Salisbury’s loss and happiness for Davis as he embarks on a new preservation chapter in his life.

Davis has been in Salisbury a little more than three years, not a long time, but he left his mark as a strong preservation professional and a friend to the community. It was probably easy for Davis to land his new job with the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation because of the successes he could point to in both his 10 years with the Galveston Historical Foundation and his brief time here in Salisbury.

In Salisbury, Davis could have been highly satisfied with having been the HSF executive director during one of the foundation’s greatest wins: the purchase of the 1820 Fulton-Mock-Blackmer House and its resale to Beth and Glenn Dixon, whose complete restoration made the house Salisbury’s phoenix.

But Davis also initiated the foundation’s establishment of the Architectural Salvage Warehouse, which found a productive use for the old Salisbury Ice Plant on East Horah Street. It has become a great resource for restorationists, interior designers and average homeowners looking for everything from door knobs to windows.

Davis also initiated the Sacred Places Tour. The two tours held so far gave the public a chance to visit and appreciate the rich architecture and history of some of Rowan County’s oldest churches, which are  often overlooked treasures.

But Davis’ greatest contribution was getting HSF back into neighborhoods and taking chances, through the foundation’s revolving fund, on the kinds of properties no one really wants to take chances on, though it’s obvious the properties are worth saving and crucial to neighborhood stability.

With a team of volunteer craftsmen doing much of the crucial stabilization work, Davis saw the value of saving and redeveloping properties in the Chestnut Hill, North Main Street and Livingstone College neighborhoods. While revolving fund projects such as the Blackmer House receive most of the attention, it’s these lower-profile rescues that go a long way in preserving the heart and soul of Salisbury.

Davis and others on the HSF board thought out of the box in featuring Fulton Heights homes on a recent OctoberTour, and this year’s OctoberTour promises to be one of the more successful in recent years with homes such as the Blackmer House and Kern House featured.

Davis also walked the preservation walk by owning and living in a historic Victorian cottage in the Park Avenue neighborhood. He wrote a preservation column — and provided photographs — for the new Salisbury the Magazine, and he became involved in local theater through things such as the Scrooge trolley tour and plays at Lee Street Theatre.

Davis will be missed. It seems appropriate he will be working to establish a statewide revolving fund program for the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, since he has hands-on experience with the state’s oldest revolving fund (40 years) in Salisbury.

When HSF hired Davis back in 2012, he had emerged from 32 applicants over 13 states. Let’s hope the same search committee is used in finding his replacement.

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