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Work underway to turn historic McCanless House into wedding, events venue – Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — Relief.

That’s what Sandra Toscano feels now that work is underway on the historic Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House at 619 S. Main St.

Built around 1896 by prominent Salisbury entrepreneur Napoleon B. McCanless, the building has changed hands and uses several times over the years. At one point, it was a restaurant. For some time, it housed a local nonprofit. More recently, after plans for Livingstone College to use the building for its culinary program never materialized, the building was purchased by the Historic Salisbury Foundation in 2019.

Toscano, a Charlotte-based real estate developer, bought the home in July 2021. With partner C.P. Edgar, an author, Toscano plans to transform the castle-esque granite block structure into an events venue that’ll serve as “the perfect setting for fairy-tale weddings.”

“Couples can have a memorable experience by partaking in the history and charm that makes the allure of the Bonaparte Castle such a desired location,” Toscano said.

Since purchasing the property almost a year ago, Toscano and Edgar have been working through the permitting and approval process. While standard permits are required for any major renovation project, Toscano and Edgar needed approvals from the Historic Preservation Commission to make major changes to the property. The renovation must also be completed in accordance to covenants the Historic Salisbury Foundation maintains on the building.

With the necessary boxes checked, work commenced in early May.

“It’s been very stressful and frustrating to make progress, but we’re happy we’re now at the point where we can see progress,” Toscano said.

Chad Vriesema of Central Piedmont Builders is the general contractor on the project and Jon E. Palmer is the architect involved. Both are local. Palmer is happy to be involved in refurbishing one of Salisbury’s most prominent historical buildings.

“As other historic structures have been demolished and the lines of neighborhoods have eroded, the awesome presence of this home has become an ever-more crucial landmark in the community fabric,” Palmer said.

Toscano and Edgar are executing a phased approach to the renovation. The first task is turning the secondary building, which served as the original kitchen, into a tavern and lounge space that will augment services offered during special and private events. With grading and landscaping in the backyard already complete, Toscano said they will start hosting tent events outside as soon as the tavern is completed.

Signs of progress at the Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House. The building’s owners are executing a phased renovation, which starts with the secondary structure directly behind the home. The building will be a tavern and lounge that will support weddings and other events. Brian Dlugosz/Salisbury Post

While Toscano is happy to have taken the first major step forward, she understands the project is an undertaking that’ll take years to complete.

Hosting events will help generate revenue to fund the subsequent phases of the renovation. Next on the list after the tavern, Toscano said, is to refurbish the wrap-around veranda on the front of the house. The interior of the main structure will be renovated over the coming years. Toscano and Edgar are pursuing historic rehabilitation tax credits to help offset the significant cost of renovate the home.

Historic Salisbury Foundation Executive Director Kimberly Stieg commends Toscano and Edgar for their efforts so far.

“I think it’s a perfect example of a home that has been an important part of the history of this community and to see it after all of those years come back and be reused by the community is an important part of the work we do,” she said. “We’re very excited to see the progress they’re making.”

For more information and to follow along for updates on the renovation process, visit www.BonaparteCastle.com, www.Instagram.com/BonaparteCastle or email events@bonapartecastle.com.