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The Annex: ‘Immense building,’ steeped in Wallace family history, might have apartments in its future

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The sheer space, arched windows, sweeping views and Salisbury business history — all could be important components behind future downtown apartments that most likely will be called The Annex.

Historic Salisbury Foundation’s continuing summer series, History on Tap, brought close to 125 people to the Wallace Annex on Thursday night for an inside peek at the expansive second and third floors of the 1906 building, located in the 100 block of East Fisher Street.

While there is no timeline for when it will happen — “I’d love to start tomorrow,” Lane Wallace said — the Wallace family has plans drawn for 14 apartments on the two floors above the street-level businesses.

The History on Tap participants took stairs from the rear parking lot and toured both floors, which are mostly wide open.

Whitney Wallace Williams, Lane Wallace and Lane’s husband, Jonathan Coarsey, served as guides, describing some of the history of The Annex.

In addition, several family artifacts, photographs and newspaper stories were on display. Custom traveling trunks, old store ledgers and newspaper ads for V. Wallace & Sons were included.

Lane Wallace said the loft apartments envisioned probably would rent from $1,000 to $1,800 a month and be from 700 to 1,500 square feet.

One set of plans calls for an interior elevator, while a second design would add an elevator outside to allow for more apartment space inside.

Lane Wallace also said a rooftop patio is possible.

Architect Pete Bogle provided the Wallaces with a set of working drawings, which were displayed Thursday evening.

First-floor tenants of the building include Mambo Grill and High Life smoke shop. Victor Wallace said Thursday a salt cave tenant is coming soon.

When the structure was built in 1906, the Salisbury Evening Post described it as “an immense building” and “the most spacious of its kind between Baltimore and Atlanta.”

It served as an annex to the storefront V. Wallace & Sons operated at 127 S. Main St., where Palermo’s restaurant is today.

A newspaper account said the annex was needed because the wholesale and dry goods business had “grown to such proportions that it has been decided to more than double the present stock.”

The building features pressed brick with granite trimmings, and the structure takes in more than 40,000 square feet. An iron bridge once connected the annex to the store on South Main Street, allowing for movement of stock.

Victor Wallace, the first member of his family to live in America, started a dry goods and notions store on South Main Street in 1865. When he was 17, he moved to the United States from Neunkirschen, Germany.

According to Williams — a great-great-granddaughter of Victor — the Salisbury business included a root and herb house. The Wallace family bought medicinal ingredients from all over Western North Carolina, selling them to pharmaceutical industries.

Victor eventually abandoned the herb business and general dry goods store and with his two sons, Leo Wallace Sr. and Jacob Victor Wallace, opened a “gentleman’s clothing and furnishing establishment that would be a credit to a metropolitan city.”

The South Main Street store specialized in the manufacture and wholesale of men’s, “little men,” and boys clothing, including suits, handkerchiefs, men’s hose, knee pants, romper suits, underwear, wash suits, neck wear, fine-collar shirts, men’s shoes, straw hats and Panama hats.

Williams said the company employed several traveling salesmen and also had stores in High Point and Charlotte.

At Victor Wallace’s death, Leo Sr. and Jacob took over the business, but they decided to sell it to their employees in the mid 1920s. They retained ownership of the buildings, including The Annex.

The former V. Wallace & Sons did not survive the Depression that soon hit the country. But Leo Sr. and Jacob took the proceeds from the earlier sale and invested in real estate in Salisbury and Rowan County.

This led to Wallace Realty, a business the family still owns today.

As for The Annex, the Wallaces rented it out to various industries in the 1940s and 1950s, including a drapery manufacturer and a bathing-suit maker.

“Lee Wallace (Whitney and Lane’s dad) recalls visiting the third floor in the 1950s and observing numerous rows of female seamstresses sewing bathing suits,” Coarsey said on a walk through the third floor.

“Lee recalls stacks of bathing suits in this room and never leaving from a visit to the third floor without a new suit in hand.”

Because there were a great number of seamstresses on the third floor, several toilets and stalls were installed. Remnants of the associated plumbing are still visible.

“As you can see,” Coarsey said, “the third floor has a slight advantage in architectural beauty over the second floor due to its beautiful, arched, floor-to-ceiling windows.”

Both the second and third floors retain their original wooden floors and ceilings. The walls are plaster.

“The ladder beside the middle elevator shaft does lead to the rooftop, where the views of the city are incredible,” Coarsey said.

Salisburians might recognize The Annex from the back as much as the front. The rear wall includes a painted sign for V. Wallace & Sons across the width of the building, along with a Coca-Cola advertisement.

The east end of the building has a Cheerwine sign.

Victor Wallace, the family patriarch, was good friends with Clifford Peeler, a founder of Carolina Beverage, makers of Cheerwine. Victor Wallace became an original investor in Carolina Beverage.

Historic Salisbury Foundation will have its third and last History on Tap of the summer on Aug. 22 when it offers a tour of the Salisbury Station catacombs.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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