June 10, 2012

The Bernhardt House, c. 1882, Historic Property for Commercial or Residential Use ~needs someone with an eye for a diamond!

UPDATE (8/21/2014): The asking price on the Bernhardt House is now $149,900 ~ for over 4500+ square feet of living or commercial space!

The Bernhardt House is a unique property that acts as a cornerstone to the entrance of Historic Downtown Salisbury. This significant landmark sits on its original 1882 site and is a wonderful example of a 2-story, late Victorian, reflecting the two successive phases of the Italianate style.  The Historic Salisbury Foundation's 2010 refurbishment of the structure included new roof coating, new exterior paint, floor repair, new plumbing, and fresh interior paint. The Historic Salisbury Foundation has rescued, repaired, and returned the historic Bernhardt House to the market, looking for a compassionate buyer.

The Bernhardt House, c. 1882, although built as a family dwelling, has most recently been used as a commercial building with 8 large office spaces. The property is close to the commercial and entertainment area of Fisher Street, Salisbury's emerging Arts District, the Rowan County Courthouse, and downtown Salisbury and has ample parking in the back. The Bernhardt House is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places and qualifies for NC Preservation Tax Credits.  The Bernhardt House has a Preservation Agreement with the Historic Salisbury Foundation.
The 1882 Bernhardt House, at 305 East Innes St in Salisbury, North Carolina, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is arguably one of the more important symbols of preservation in the city. It stands at the eastern gateway to the downtown — the first noteworthy structure leading into what people consider Historic Downtown Salisbury and the last pre-20th century house left between the railroad corridor and I-85. The property is close to the commercial and entertainment area of Salisbury’s Fisher Street (aka ‘Brick Street’) with plenty of parking in the back.

The Bernhardt House features wood floors, high ceilings, period wallpaper, new paint inside and out, wide moldings, fireplaces seemingly in every room, a magnificent staircase, four half-baths, 10 rooms, space for up to four office suites, Victorian architectural features, ample green space for gardens, and rear parking for at least 14 vehicles. 

The 10-office house is rich in history, sitting near the front section of the historic Confederate Prison site and once housing one of Salisbury’s more noted families, the Bernhardt family.

Paul and Mary Jane Leake Bernhardt built the house in 1882 and remodeled to its present appearance in 1902. The Bernhardt family lived in the house until 1947, most notably George Bernhardt, a man who epitomized Southern gentility. People say the house is a monument to the man’s civility. People at one time nicknamed the house “Old Cinder Sides” because of cinders thrown against it from passing steam locomotives.

The Rufty family bought The Bernhardt House in 1948, when they added extra kitchens and dining room additions, converting the home to apartments. Rufty heirs conveyed the property to The Historic Salisbury Foundation in 1990, when it invested considerable funds stabilizing the house, then selling it to builder Eddie Beaver. Beaver did a full-scale, elegant restoration in 1999, purchasing a machine that would reproduce much of the house’s woodwork on site. The machine’s chisels were milled so that carpenters could match the surviving woodwork and return the house to its original appearance as much as possible. All the fireplaces were rebuilt, or restored.  Most of the interior doors are original to the house, except for a fire-rated door in the corridor.

During the 1999 restoration, the interior designer had carte blanche approval to design and supply furnishings for all the interior, and worked to have the structure look as it did 100 years ago. 

In several rooms, you will find anaglypta ceilings – vinyl wallpaper glazed and painted to return a rich, aged feel to the house - and lincrusta, the painting, and glazing of wallpaper to create borders resembling cornice work along the ceilings. Reproduction gas lighting, period furniture, bold wallpaper, plush area rugs, flowers, fittings, photographs, and mirrors recreated a feeling throughout for the late 19th century period of the house. 

An expansive upstairs hall, which seems like a good-sized room itself, leads into practical offices, where again attention was paid to Victorian themes and treatments on the walls and ceilings. 

In the downstairs hall, a spandrel (a spindle-work screen hanging from the ceiling) calls attention to the house’s dominant feature, a stairway that ties the house together structurally. Both the spandrel and stairs are painted and gilded. A stained glass window in back came from a local antiques store, assembled on-site to fit its spot.

The latest Historic Salisbury Foundation rescue of The Bernhardt House came in 2010, when the foundation repurchased it as foreclosure property from two banks.  It had been empty for a few years, but the Historic Salisbury Foundation knew The Bernhardt House was worth the reinvestment. Volunteers cleaned the house and grounds, clearing way for a repair budget to bring the house back to life. The paint budget alone was $20,000. Flooring experts replaced wooden floors; wallpaper experts restored plaster and made repairs; plumbing experts replaced all the fixtures and plumbing connected to the four bathrooms; crews replaced (13) windowpanes. Crews made carpentry repairs outside, remedied slight termite damage, and re-caulked everything to seal, as well as scraping and double-coat painting the original tin roof. The Bernhardt House even has new waterlines.  The property features a large parking lot, high wooden fencing, handsome light poles, and Victorian-styled gardens to the side and front.

Don’t discount the possibility The Bernhardt House could be a single-family dwelling again, but it is an extremely large  home where rooms open upon rooms.  The structure is not beyond a family, but it may be better suited as a business location and sits in a DMX zoning district (Downtown Mixed Use). The large house, over  4500 square feet with a plenty of paved parking and four exterior entrances, would be well suited for offices.

The rear of the structure is fashioned to provide three separate entrances into different parts of the house. The front entrance is decorative and welcoming, yet little foot traffic would be coming in from East Innes Street.

When Norfolk Southern Railway built a new, and higher, bridge over the railroad tracks in the mid-1990s, it created a different elevation, putting the house below street level and cutting off its vehicle access from East Innes Street, therefore the Bernhardt House has no parking or access off East Innes Street. The rumbling from passing trains actually is quieter than one might think. The train passes below the East Innes Street Bridge on tracks that sit in a ravine below the house that helps in damping the sound.  Some find the proximity to the trains of Salisbury and the near-by Salisbury Depot charming.

The Bernhardt House, at $188,000, is one of the many jewels in the crown of Salisbury North Carolina historic properties, and really is a jewel unto itself.  All it needs now is someone with an eye for a diamond, a diamond out of the rough.  Contact Greg Rapp at 704.213.6846 to see this jewel for yourself and find a new, special, unique, and historic site for your home or business.


Wineka, M. , (February 11, 2012). Bernhardt House back on the block for a mere $180,000. Salisbury Post.  http://www.salisburypost.com/News/021112-wineka-bernhardt-house-w-jon-pix-qcd

Wineka, M., (June 12, 1999). Bernhardt House: Saving a home with a lot of history. Salisbury Post. http://www.salisburypost.com/newscopy/061299bernhardt.htm

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