The Historic Salisbury Foundation is celebrating its 40th Annual OctoberTour of homes on Oct. 10-11. Thirteen homes are on display, including the Patrons’ Porch, which will play host to the Patrons’ Party, honoring sponsors and homeowners on Oct. 8, and will offer refreshments, spirits and hors d’oeuvres during tour hours.

This year’s Patrons’ Porch, the Tankersley-Tatum House, is located at 217 S. Ellis St., Salisbury, N.C., and is owned by married couple Mike Grasso and Steve Warren. This is the second time the house has been used as the Patrons’ Porch and was also a part of the 2013 tour as one of the featured residences.

The Tankersley-Tatum House was built circa 1902. It is a Queen Anne styled structure built for the Tankersley family and later purchased by Walter and Edna Tatum. Walter Tatum was a traveling salesman turned vice president of Salisbury Bank and Trust Company. After that he was the president of the Caro Dry Goods Company.

The house was converted to a duplex sometime in the mid 20th century and converted back to its original single family structure in the mid 1980s.

Grasso and Warren bought the home about seven years ago. They met in California going on almost 20 years ago and still spend some of the year in San Diego, Calif. They had friends living in Salisbury and liked the area after repeated visits.

“We decided we were going to look for a home on the East Coast and decided to settle in the Salisbury area,” Grasso says. “We started out looking at some homes there in Salisbury…and we happened to see this one while driving by with a real estate agent and we asked to see it. She made the arrangements, and we went in and took a look at it and immediately fell in love with it.”

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Tankersley-Tatum House Interior. Photo Credit: Ben Martin & Dave Willingham

The home features a big Southern style porch, intricate mantels, including a 12-piece Victorian heart pine mantel in the living room, the original double doors and six fireplaces that were originally made to burn coal, but have since been remodeled to burn wood.

The house also now showcases the couple’s extensive and varied collection of antiques and other memorabilia, much of it coming from the 1915 Pan Pacific Exhibition, which was held in San Diego.

Grasso and Warren are excited to be a part of the historic homes tour again this year.

“We enjoy the architecture. We enjoy the camaraderie of all the homeowners in the neighborhood and in the West Square Historic District and in the other historic districts in Salisbury too,” Grasso says. “We’ve been drawn to that. We’ve always enjoyed older homes.

“Our home here in San Diego is 102 years old, and we’ve enjoyed that as well. We like the older homes, we like the neighborhood, we like the people around, and the activities around that the neighborhood [has], and how proactive the historical society is in preserving the older homes in Salisbury.”

T.J. Anderson House. Photo Credit: Brian Davis
T.J. Anderson House. Photo Credit: Brian Davis

One of the other homes on the tour is the T.J. Anderson House, located at 500 W. Council St., built circa 1911. It is also in the Queen Anne style and features high ceilings, as well as original mantels, moldings, wainscoting, doors and hardware.

It was part of a larger property purchased by Nancy C. Wyatt in 1875 and then divided and sold in 1912 with a five-room cottage to Eugene McAlister for a sum of $1,500. Thomas J. Anderson, a ticket agent for Southern Railway, and Nola Anderson bought the house in 1948 after years of renting.

The home was restored to its original character in the 1990s as part of the Historic Salisbury Foundation’s Revolving Fund.

“We’re in the Ellis Street Graded School Historic District,” says Tom Wolpert , who is the current owner of the T.J. Anderson House along with Joe Lancione. He continues, “In that district, what started it was this home. So, when they finally made the proclamation that this was a historic district, the one that started it was this home [the T.J. Anderson House].”

The district, which encompasses 76 contributing buildings and one contributing structure — Shober Bridge, built around 1940 — was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Wolpert and Lancione bought the home together in 2001.

“For a number of years, I lived in Massachusetts. I taught up there at the college [professor emeritus in early childhood education at Bridgewater State University],” Wolpert says. “For a number of years I wanted to move South. The winters are long up there, as you know. So, I looked around and North Carolina seemed to be a state that had four seasons.”

From there he set out looking for homes in the state and discovered the T.J. Anderson House in a magazine listing historical homes for sale. He purchased it three days after going to see it in person and after selling his home in Massachusetts, which was itself historic, having been built in 1703.

T.J. Anderson House Interior. Photo Credit: Brian Davis
T.J. Anderson House Interior. Photo Credit: Brian Davis

This home also features a collection, an art collection in this instance. Wolpert has traveled around the world for years, teaching graduate courses, and says, “Every place I’d go, I’d try to buy a painting.”

The collection is eclectic, not only in terms of origin, but also in style. When asked what type of art he gravitates toward he answers simply, “What I like.”

“It’s a big collection here,” he says, “so not only will you get to see the old house, but I hope that people will [also] see the art that’s in it.”

Wolpert understands the importance of opening the doors of his and Lancione’s home to the public.

“That’s our heritage,” he points out. “I like something that has a story.”

He also realizes that the adage “They don’t build them like they used to” holds a lot of truth.

“When I bought the house in Massachusetts, I thought, ‘1703 and it’s still standing!’” he says. “Good Lord, I know people who just built homes that 20 years later are collapsing. And, this one [the T.J. Anderson Home], it’s a solid home…and it has historic value.”

It is a shared history that will be on display for those who wish to reconnect with the past through some of this historic area’s most notable residences. : :

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet...