In January 1920, Charles McCanless bought the lot at 128 W. Thomas St. from his parents, Napoleon and Georgia McCanless.
Only 27 years old, Charlie and his wife, Marion, then built a stately two-story brick house. They clearly aimed to impress: the front of the house is highlighted by elaborate, decorative brickwork. The unusual Arts-and-Crafts-style entry features large rafter tails under an eyebrow-arched roofline. The entrance is a beveled-glass, curved, French door between eight-paned beveled glass windows. The interior showcases a grand staircase resembling the one in the home of Charlie’s brother-in-law, J.D. Norwood (that house is commonly known today as the Hambley-Wallace House). Employed by Newton Mills, in which Norwood was a major shareholder, Charlie appears to have lost his job when the mill went bankrupt in 1923. His mortgage was foreclosed and the house was bought by Florence Busby.
Before marrying lawyer John Busby and moving to Salisbury, Florence Busby was a professional actress who had appeared on Broadway. When Catawba College moved to Salisbury in 1925, Florence became the first director of their drama program, a position she held until 1948. John Busby died of pneumonia in 1933, but Florence and her three sons continued to live there until 1941 when she sold the house to Emmette Thompson, the owner of Thompson’s Garage. Mr. Thompson was one of the earliest auto dealers in Salisbury selling and repairing a variety of cars including such vanished brands as Studebaker, National, and Overland. He lived in the house until his death in 1967.
In 1982, the house was purchased by a man who owned it for 35 years and presided over its near destruction by failing to repair storm damage, allowing the damage to grow dramatically worse. In 2017, HSF purchased the home to place protective covenants on it and ensure it would be restored to its former glory. The current owner, John Martin, worked with local contractors to bring to life the home you see today.