North Main Street Historic District
The North Main Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
Stimulated by the development of Southern Railroad Company's nearby Spencer Shops, as well as by the early twentieth century growth and prosperity of the city of Salisbury, North Main Street developed into an attractive residential area during the period 1900-1935. During this period residential avenues developed along South Main Street and East and West Innes Streets, Salisbury's other major traffic arteries. Only North Main Street, however, retains much of its original appearance, providing an excellent picture of the process of residential development which altered the appearance of small towns and large cities across the state and nation during the first three decades of the twentieth century. The North Main Street Historic District's homes were occupied by an interesting mix of skilled railroad workers, middle level managers, and prosperous businessmen and civil leaders. Some of the area's more prominent residents were C.M. Henderlite (1010 North Main Street), railroad superintendent, builder of Southern Railway's Spencer Shops, and Salisbury Mayor; R.L. Mahaley (800 North Main Street), successful Salisbury businessman and city alderman; and John R. Crawford (826 North Main Street), Manager of the Salisbury Postal, Cable, and Telegraph Co. The North Main Street Historic District contains no one central architectural theme, but contains a number of representatives of late-Victorian, Colonial Revival and Bungalow domestic styles. Consequently, it provides an excellent picture of the interplay of the three major domestic styles which formed the face of residential areas across North Carolina during the early years of the twentieth century.
Stimulated by the development of nearby Spencer Shops, as well as by the early twentieth century growth and prosperity of the city of Salisbury, the present 600-1700 blocks of North Main Street developed into an attractive residential area during the period 1896-1930. During this thirty year period Salisbury expanded from a "walking city" of 6,000 inhabitants into a suburban community with a population of over 20,000. Of the attractive residential avenues which developed along Main and Innes Streets during the first part of this century, only North Main Street retains much of its original appearance. It, therefore, provides an excellent picture of the process of residential development which altered the appearance of small towns and large cities across the state and nation during the first three decades of the twentieth century.
In 1896 Salisbury had a population of less than 6,000 people and was primarily a "walking city" in which most citizens lived clustered around the downtown area within easy walking distance of churches, schools, stores, and places of work. However, in the last few years of the nineteenth century several forces combined to encourage the development of attractive residential suburbs such as North Main Street. One of the most important of these forces was the development of Southern Railway's repair and maintenance facility at Spencer. The facility, named Spencer Shops in honor of Samuel Spencer, President of Southern Railway, was established in 1896 and over the next thirty years experienced a number of expansions, eventually becoming the largest repair and maintenance facility in the railroad system. The development of this railroad facility brought large numbers of new workers into the Salisbury area, infused a large amount of money into the city's economy, and provided the city with a major stimulus for growth.
The development of residential neighborhoods which took place during the early twentieth century was also encouraged by Salisbury's development into a small manufacturing town. Because of its excellent rail facilities and a good supply of cheap labor from the surrounding rural area, Salisbury experienced a rapid expansion of its industrial base during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
As a result of these stimuli, Salisbury's population increased at a rapid rate during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Between 1880 and 1900 the city's population increased from 2,723 to 6,277. According to a Chamber of Commerce report, Salisbury's population doubled during the brief period 1897-1902. This influx of new residents required the construction of new homes and encouraged the development of residential suburbs.
New developments in transportation technology also played an important role in encouraging the growth of residential suburbs beyond the center of Salisbury. During the late 1880s and 1890s horse-drawn and electrically powered street railways were established in cities across the country. During the 1890's horse-drawn street railway systems were established in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro. Salisbury's first street railway line was completed from downtown Salisbury along North Main Street to Spencer in 1904. The success of this venture encouraged the construction of other street railway lines in other sections of the city such as Fulton Heights and S. Main Street. The development of street railway service opened up large amounts of suburban land to middle and working class citizens, who previously could not afford to live beyond easy walking distance to school, church, stores, and places of work. Of the variety of forces that encouraged the development of residential suburbs, none was more important to the development of the neighborhood that sprang up along North Main Street than was the establishment and expansion of Spencer Shops. The establishment of the facility probably brought about the initial extension of North Main Street. The 1896 Sanborn map shows that the street had not yet been extended. However, Rowan County deeds reveal that by June, 1897, when C.M. Henderlite purchased his lot near the intersection of North Main and Miller Streets, it had been extended. It is likely that the initial construction activity at Spencer Shops in the spring and fall of 1898 brought about the extension of North Main Street.
Early maps, current tax maps, and local deeds reveal that much of the land through which North Main Street was extended belonged to John Steele Henderson and other Henderson family members. Henderson, a prominent local attorney, former U.S. Congressman, and large landowner, was an active real estate promoter in turn-of-the-century Salisbury. He was instrumental in inducing Southern Railway Company to locate its new repair shops just north of downtown Salisbury. He also initiated the development of nearby East Spencer, originally called Southern City. Henderson was an officer of the Central Land Co., which as early as 1890 purchased and subdivided 226 acres of land southeast of North Main Street. The minutes of Salisbury's Board of Aldermen also show that Henderson was one of the organizers of the Salisbury Street Railway Co., which in 1899 sought permission to construct a railway track along North Main Street. Local deeds and early plat maps show that Henderson took an active role in the development of North Main Street. Two surviving maps reveal that he surveyed and sold areas now comprising the 700-800 blocks and the 1400-1700 blocks of North Main Street. Local deeds also show that Henderson sold other sections of land to prosperous N. Main Street residents such as J.R. Crawford, who in turn subdivided their parcels and sold individual lots. Consequently, the early development of the area proceeded in a rather haphazard manner under the direction of a number of smaller investors, as well as one large principal.
The development of the North Main Street area during the period 1897-1930 can be divided into distinct periods, each affected by a variety of different forces. The initial period of development took place during the decade 1897-1910 and was encouraged by several factors. Southern Railway expanded its repair facility at Spencer in 1905 and established its massive transfer sheds for directing its freight traffic in 1907. These expansions brought in new workers who wished to settle near their place of employment. Many of these workers settled in the town of Spencer, which grew up around the shops, and its population increased dramatically from 625 in 1900 to 1800 in 1905. City directories however, show that many of these workers chose to reside along North Main Street. The city of Salisbury was also experiencing an increase in population and a corresponding increase in house building activity during the development of the North Main Street area between 1900 and 1910. According to Sanborn Insurance maps, the population of the city and its surrounding residential areas rose from 8,000 in 1902 to 15,000 in 1907. These figures probably include Salisbury, adjacent residential areas and Spencer. The Salisbury Chamber of Commerce claimed in a 1902 publication that during the period 1900-1902 new houses were built at an average rate of one a week. The city's financial report, published in 1907, stated that between December, 1905 and February, 1907, 145 new houses were constructed at a cost of $236,845.
During this initial decade of growth the North Main Street area developed into a residential avenue characterized by an interesting mix of upper middle class, middle class, and working class residents. The area's first homes were probably constructed about 1900. The 1901 Salisbury-Spencer City Directory lists nine residents along North Main Street. These first homes were occupied by working class residents, as well as by more affluent citizens such as E.C. Hines (820 N. Main Street), a local druggist, and C.L. Emerson (1008 N. Main Street), Salisbury's first oil supplier. C.E. Miller's 1902 map of Salisbury shows that between 1901 and 1902 several homes were constructed in the 600-1000 blocks of North Main Street. Most of these dwellings were the large and elaborate homes of upper middle class Salisbury businessmen such as A.G. Peeler (618 N. Main Street), owner of the Salisbury Bakery; John R. Crawford (826 N. Main Street), Manager of the Postal, Cable, and Telegraph Co. and a local real estate speculator; and C.M. Henderlite (1010 N. Main Street), Southern Railway superintendent, builder of Spencer Shops, and future Salisbury mayor. In 1902 the North Main Street area appeared to be developing as an upper middle class avenue much as East Innes Street and the city's other arteries. The lack of surviving city directories from the period 1901-1910 make it difficult to assess the neighborhood's development. However, the 1910 Salisbury-Spencer City Directory makes it clear that during the period 1902-1910 North Main Street experienced an influx of middle and working class residents. This influx coincided with the initiation of street railway service on North Main Street in 1904, which opened the area to a wider range of middle and working class residents. Expansion of Southern Railway's facilities in Spencer in 1904 and 1907 also have contributed to this influx by bringing new middle and working class employees into the area.
An interesting pattern of development along North Main Street resulted from this first decade of growth. The 1910 city directory reveals that although fifty-three homes were located in the 600-1700 blocks, most of the larger homes were located in the first four blocks of the street, while most of the working class residents resided closer to Spencer where many of them probably worked.
The lack of surviving city directories for the period 1910-1920 also makes the analysis of the next decade of development difficult. The 1919-1920 directory shows that between 1910 and 1920 the number of homes in the North Main Street area doubled to more than one hundred. The dwellings built during this period include a number of middle class homes built in the central part of the North Main Street Historic District, as well as working class cottages located closer to Spencer, and upper middle class homes located closer to downtown. Some of the more affluent new home owners included R.L. Mahaley (800 N. Main Street), prominent businessman and Salisbury alderman, and C.K. Howan (803 N. Main Street), and L.T. Holshouser (905 N. Main Street), successful Salisbury jewelers. A comparison of the 1910 and 1920 city directories, the 1907, 1913, and 1922 Sanborn maps, as well as information from older neighborhood residents, indicates that much of the building that occurred along North Main Street in the second decade of the twentieth century may have taken place during the brief period 1911-1916. Development during this period was stimulated by Salisbury's continued economic growth. The 1913 annual report of the Salisbury Industrial Club states that twelve new businesses with a combined capital stock of $213,500 and combined annual payrolls of over $80,000 located in the city in 1911. Because of this prosperity civic boosters began promoting the city with the slogan, "Salisbury's The Place To Be." The development of North Main Street between 1911 and 1916 was again probably stimulated by expansions at Spencer Shops in 1913, which raised the population of Spencer to 2,150.
Due to the non-existence of building permits, city directories and other sources of information, it is impossible to confirm that the North Main Street area experienced a stagnant period of growth between 1917 and 1920. However, two important factors that characterized this period would have contributed to a period of dormancy. The involvement of the United States in World War I had a negative effect on home building activity in other areas of North Carolina. A 1918 editorial in the Greensboro Daily News pointed out that the construction of new homes in that city had suffered because of the war. This editorial pointed out that labor and material, which otherwise would have been used for home building, was allocated to the war effort. In addition the last half of the second decade of the twentieth century was characterized by a nationwide depression of the housing industry. In a 1920 article published in the Architectural Record, the Secretary of the National Housing Association claimed that the construction of new homes in all parts of the country had dropped dramatically over the previous five years. His article blamed a nationwide housing shortage of one to three million homes on rising material prices which made new homes "...beyond the purchasing power of those for whose occupancy they were intended." The article further stated that only 20,000 new homes were constructed in the entire country during 1918 and only 70,000 in 1919.
This brief period of stagnation was followed by a period of extensive development in the North Main Street area which occurred between 1920 and 1930. It was during this decade that the entire area along both sides of North Main Street was developed and streets to the east of North Main such as Miller, Lee, Scales, Steele, and Eleventh Streets were first developed. Much of this building activity came about through the development of "Steele Park," "a beautiful residential section," financed by local real estate developer F.N. McCubbins and David White, a real estate investor from Greensboro. This new residential area was developed on land comprising the old John Steele Plantation, which had descended through the Steele-Henderson family until its sale to developers in 1923. City directories show that the houses in "Steele Park" and most of the other dwellings constructed in the 1920s in the North Main Street area were small bungalows, many of which may have been constructed from plans published in Sears and Roebuck house catalogues. These catalogues gave house builders a number of different building plans from which they could choose, and also enabled them to order pre-cut and pre-fitted construction materials that enabled them to construct a new home much more cheaply than before. The popularity of these catalogues had a tremendous effect on the North Main Street area, especially between 1920 and 1930. Although only a few individual houses are known to be catalogue homes, the repetition of basic forms and specific door and window treatments indicates that a large number of the area's bungalows were constructed from these plans. The low cost and ease with which these houses could be constructed encouraged the middle and working class family to become home owners and encouraged more affluent citizens to construct houses for rental or speculative purposes.
This increase in house building activity in the North Main Street area was again stimulated by Salisbury's continuing prosperous economy as well as by expansion of Southern Railway's facilities in Spencer. By 1929 the fifty manufacturing firms in and around Salisbury were producing over one hundred different types of products valued at over $16 million, and the city's population increased 40% between 1910 and 1929. Southern Railway expanded its repair facilities at Spencer again in 1924, making it the largest such facility in Southern's system and the community's population increased from 2,105 in 1915 to 7,000 by 1923. The tremendous amount of building activity that was taking place all over Salisbury during the 1920s is pointed out in the June, 1926 issue of The Wachovia, a regional business report published by Wachovia Bank and Trust Co. The report, which stated that Salisbury's citizens received, "...renewed inspiration from the great march of progress that has been underway in their city...," detailed the significant increase in the total amount of building permits issued in the city during the mid 1920s. These permits totaled $756,000 in 1923, $990,095 in 1924, and increased to $1,451,771 in 1923.
The area comprising the North Main Street Historic District was almost entirely developed following the intense period of development during the decade 1920-30. A small number of dwellings were constructed during the depression of the 1930s and during the late 1940s following the end of World War II.
Beginning in the 1960s however, as new, more fashionable residential areas became popular with Salisbury's middle and upper middle class residents, the North Main Street area entered a period of decline. Many of the larger dwellings, originally built as single family homes were divided for apartments or rental use. Other dwellings suffered from lack of maintenance or abusive alterations and some significant dwellings were lost to demolition or deterioration. During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s a few commercial intrusions were constructed in the area.
Today, however, the neighborhood has stabilized and is actually experiencing revitalization. The socioeconomic mix is an interesting combination factory workers, businessmen, and professionals, as well as younger, more recent residents, and older residents, many who built their homes during the 1920s or are related to early neighborhood residents.
The architectural fabric, created during the process of suburbanization which took place in Salisbury between 1900 and 1930, is still largely intact providing North Main Street with a rich and varied character worthy of preservation.
1896 Salisbury Sanborn Insurance Map.
Davyd Foard Hood, The Architecture of Rowan County: A Catalogue and History of Surviving Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Early Twentieth Century Structures (Raleigh: Glover Printing Co., 1983), p.294.
Salisbury, 1902 (Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, 1902). Located in North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hereinafter cited as, Salisbury, 1902.
For a more detailed discussion of the development and influence of street railway systems in Raleigh and Greensboro, see Ray Manieri, "Streetcar Speculators: The Role of Street Railway Promoters in the Development of Suburban Neighborhoods in Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina, 1886-1923'' (unpublished masters thesis, N. C. State University at Raleigh) located at the Greensboro Public Library.
Streetcars Folder, James S. Brawley File, Clark Memorial History Room, Salisbury Public Library.
1896 Salisbury Insurance Map.
Mary S. Henderson to C.M. Henderlite, June 5, 1897, Rowan County Deeds, Office of Register of Deeds, Rowan County Courthouse, Salisbury, Book 83, 478, hereinafter cited as Rowan County Deeds.
Marti Dreyer, "Architectural and Historical Essays Draft for Spencer, N. C.'' (unpublished draft report prepared for N.C. Division of Archives and History) hereinafter cited as Dreyer, "Architectural and Historical Draft.''
Gray's New Map of Salisbury, 1882; Miller's Map of Salisbury, 1902; and Rowan County Deeds, Book 83, 248, 478; Book 73, 476.
Dreyer, "Architectural and Historical Draft."
James D. Brawley, Rowan County: A Brief History (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1977), 162.
Central Land Co. Map, 1890. Located Clark Memorial History Room, Salisbury Public Library.
Minutes of the Salisbury Board of Alderman, January 4, 1899.
Map of John S. Henderson Property, April 8, 1930 and Map of John S. Henderson Property, no date, Rowan County Register of Deeds.
John S. Henderson to J.R. Crawford, Jan. 5, 1904 Book 97, 598, Rowan County Deeds.
Dreyer, "Architectural and Historical Draft.''
1902, 1907 Salisbury Sanborn Insurance Maps.
Salisbury, 1902, 1.
City of Salisbury, Financial Statement, 1907 (Charlotte: Elam and Dooley Printers, 1907), 78.
1901 Salisbury-Spencer City Directory (Chicago: Interstate Directory Co., 1901).
Miller's Map of Salisbury, 1902.
1910 Salisbury-Spencer City Directory (Asheville: Piedmont Directory Co., 1910).
1919-1920 Salisbury-Spencer City Directory (Asheville: Commercial Service Co., 1920). None of these missions city directories have been located in Salisbury or in the North Carolina collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is possible that none were published.
"Salisbury's The Place," Sky Land Magazine, December, 1913, 337.
Dreyer, "Historical and Architectural Draft."
"As To Building Now," Greensboro Daily News, February 18, 1918, 4.
"The Housing Situation and the Way Out," The Architectural Record, XCVII, No. 6 (Dec. 1920), 532.
Steele Park Folder, James S. Brawley File, Clark Memorial History Room, Salisbury Public Library.
Researcher's interview with Mr. W.F. Banket, February 25, 1984; Mrs. Billie Smith, March 3, 1984; and Mr. White Goodson, March 3, 1984 (Notes on interviews in possession of researcher).
1928-29 Salisbury-Spencer City Directory (Asheville: Commercial Service Co., 1929), 9.
"Salisbury Is The Place To Be," Charlotte Observer, April 8, 1923, Section 3, 1.
The Wachovia, XIX, No. 6 (June, 1926). Wachovia Bank and Trust Co., p. 9.
Banket, W.F. Interviewed February 25, 1984.
Brawley, James S. Brawley File Material. Clark Memorial History Room, Salisbury Public Library.
Brawley, James S. Rowan County: A Brief History. Raleigh, N.C.: N.C. Division of Archives and History, 1977.
Brawley, James S. The Rowan Story, 1733-1953, Salisbury: Rowan Printing Co., 1953.
Central Land Co. Map, 1890. Clark Memorial History Room, Salisbury Public Library.
Charlotte Observer, April 8, 1923.
City of Salisbury, Financial Report, 1905-1909. Charlotte: Observer Printing CD., 1905. Located North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
City of Salisbury, Financial Report, 1907. Charlotte: Elam and Doley Printers, 1907. Located North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Carolina Watchman, Subject Index. Clark Memorial History Room, Salisbury Public Library.
Dreyer, Marti. "Architectural and Historical Essays Draft for Spencer, N.C. Unpublished research report for Survey and Planning Branch, N.C. Division of Archives and History.
Goodson, Mr. W.R. Interviewed March 3, 1984.
Greensboro Daily News, February 18, 1918.
Hood, Davyd Foard. The Architecture of Rowan County: A Catalogue and History of Surviving Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Early Twentieth Century Structures. Raleigh, N.C.: Glover Printing Co., 1983.
Lefler, Hugh T. and Albert R. Newsome. North Carolina: The History of a Southern State. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, third edition, 1973.
Miller's 1902 Map of Salisbury. Rowan County Register of Deeds.
Minutes of Salisbury's Board of Alderman, 1895-1910. Located Municipal Building, Salisbury, N. C.
Rowan County Deeds. Register of Deeds, Salisbury, N. C.
Salisbury Industrial Club Annual Report, 1913. Located North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Salisbury, 1902. Salisbury Chamber of Commerce. Located North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Salisbury's The Place." Skyland Magazine. December 1913, 335-346.
Salisbury-Spencer City Directory, 1901. Chicago: Interstate Directory Co., 1901.
Salisbury-Spencer City Directory, 1910. Asheville: Piedmont Directory Co., 1910.
Salisbury-Spencer City Directory, 1919-1920. Asheville: Commercial Service Co., 1920.
Salisbury-Spencer City Directory, 1922-1923. Asheville: Commercial Service Co., 1923.
Salisbury-Spencer City Directory, 1928-1929. Asheville: Commercial Service Co., 1929.
Sanborn Insurance Maps of Salisbury, 1897, 1902, 1907, 1913, 1922, 1935. Located Clark Memorial History Room, Salisbury Public Library.
Sears and Roebuck Home Catalogue, 1927. Sears and Roebuck Co., 1927. In possession of Mrs. Billie Smith, 113 E. Miller Street, Salisbury, N.C.
Smith, Mrs. Billie. Interviewed March 3, 1984.
The Wachovia, XIX, No. 6 (June, 1926), Salisbury: Wachovia Bank and Trust Co.
Veiller, Lawrence. "The Housing Situation and the Way Out." The Architectural Record, XCVII, No.6 (December, 1920), 532-541.
† Ray Manieri, Urban Research Associates, North Main Street Historic District, Salisbury, Rowan County, NC, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.