February 26, 2021

Circa 1897 Second Empire Granite Castle for SALE in Salisbury, NC!

The bold granite exterior. The 15 spacious rooms spread over three floors. The steep mansard slate-tiled roof, punctuated by numerous dormers. The two-story tower topped by a granite balustrade. The handsome structure in back that was the original kitchen. Long a conversation piece for both its majesty and current state, we are talking about the Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House at 619 S. Main Street.  This extremely unique property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of four important houses left on South Main Street, a once proud residential street that long ago fell victim to commercialization. And now, this circa 1897 granite block home is FOR SALE with Realtor® Greg Rapp with Salisbury Real Estate. One of the finest homes on the market available for restoration!

This wonderful, historic 4,898 square-foot Gothic Revival granite home was home to General McCanless, who raised his family in the beauty of this home. Constructed of granite block, this property sits on one full acre along Main Street in the beautiful downtown area of Salisbury, NC. The property includes an historic cookhouse with its original working fireplace. The Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House is a unique rusticated granite-block 3-story house. Most distinctive features are its rounded tower, wraparound porch, and mansard roof with decorative slate shingles. 

The structure has been empty, and has been the victim of several attempted restorations; however, the exterior is remarkably intact. The interior integrity ranges from good to gutted, yet many features survive. 

The 1st floor front reception and parlor rooms retain their original form, including the parlor's curved walls and moldings. 

The main staircase leads to the 2nd story where there are four bedrooms and a sitting room. The front bedroom also retains its curved walls, baseboard, closet with shelving, and the mantel with its tile hearth.  The homes impressive 12-foot ceilings and much of the incredible millwork remain.  

The 3rd floor, while at first glance seems to have nothing intact, upon further examination shows to be retaining its original framing, layout, narrow wood flooring, and molded window surrounds.  There were two first-floor bathrooms, but they are now gutted.

Just to the rear of the home, the original cookhouse - or kitchen building  - retains two rooms and a central chimney and original fireplace. 

Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless was an energetic man who at his death on Jan. 27, 1920, was described in a Salisbury Evening Post obituary as “a great builder” and “doubtless identified with more enterprises than any other man of this county of any age.” Between at least 1891 and 1917, McCanless had a hand in the organization, funding and building of an extraordinary number of ventures. In addition to countless commercial endeavors, he is credited with the layout of Thomas Street and built several other houses. He macadamized some of Salisbury’s streets, and was involved with Salisbury’s streetcar system through the Salisbury Electric Light and Street Railway Co, Spencer Street Railway, and the Salisbury-Monroe Railroad. Much of the Salisbury of today is due in very large measure to Mr. McCanless’ activities and interests. Manufacturing, farming, mining, quarrying, banking and other activities owe much to his guiding hand and wisdom. 

“The Architecture of Rowan County,” by Davyd Foard Hood, describes the house as a Second Empire stone house, and it is perhaps the only domestic example of the style rendered in stone in North Carolina.

The Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House is set back from the street on a grassy, but treeless, one-acre lot.  A sidewalk separates the lot from the street right-of-way. North of the house, the lot is bordered by a tree-and shrub-planted green space lining Military Avenue. Beyond the rear of the house to the east, railroad tracks raised on an earth berm separate the National Cemetery from the properties along South Main Street. 

A two-story, stuccoed, Craftsman-style dwelling - originally the home of the McCanlesses' son, Walter - stands to the southwest across South Main Street. The home is now used commercially. To the north, west, and south of the McCanless House, South Main Street - once lined with grand one and two-story dwellings - is now populated by commercial buildings.

Ed Clement, a Historic Salsibury Foundation board member, is quoted in the Salisbury Post as saying that an engineer who examined 616 S. Main Street considers it to be structurally sound, and was impressed with the two-brick thickness of some of the walls, the wide floor joists and relatively good condition of much of the interior woodwork as well as the solid granite facing outside. The unique granite columns for the front porch are surprisingly intact, though the granite balusters are missing in a corner. However, the house needs complete rehab.

The Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House has vast potential as a commercial property ~ or can be converted to a domestic residence. It was a restaurant (Bonaparte's) in the 1980s, and was a fabric store, amongst other uses.  Most recently the property was owned by Livingstone College who planned to use the structure for their culinary school.  The structure is currently a blank slate that could be live/work space, a brewery, offices, restaurant ~ or a home ~ endless possibilities. Its size, capacity, zoning and location allow for many options.  The hope is that the house’s return to prominence can spark a revitalization on South Main Street in Salisbury.

An additional lot (Parcel 015-399A) is included in the sale [the extra lot is partially zoned as flood plain].

In June 2019, Historic Salisbury Foundation (HSF) purchased the Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House from Livingstone College.  The house was featured in the Foundation's October Tour 2020. In January of 2021, HSF entered into a three year partnership with The Ghost Guild, Inc. to explore reports of unexplained activity in and around the property. The Ghost Guild, Inc. is a registered nonprofit organization that will be investigating the Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House several times per year and present its findings as part of the Foundation's annual October Tour.

This property has local Landmark status with discounted property taxes. Property is also on the National Register of Historic Places and is eligible for both federal and state tax credits if used in a commercial application or state tax credits if used as a residence. Historic Salisbury Foundation Covenants and Deed Restrictions are listed in the document section of the listing.

The Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless house is listed below tax value, and is being sold AS-IS. To see the house in person, call Greg Rapp / Salisbury Real Estate at 704-213-6846 and make a showing appointment.  Don't let this fabulous structure's rugged appearance fool you ~ it is an astounding building with superior potential ~ a diamond in the rough! 

619 South Main Street
Salisbury, North Carolina 28144
CMLS #3710108 [commercial]
CMLS #3710299 [residential]

Greg Rapp 
Realtor® Broker
Salisbury Real Estate LLC 
704 213 6846