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Established in 1753, Salisbury today enjoys a rich heritage of historical and cultural resources that have been passed down over many centuries, and it honors a long tradition of recognizing, preserving, and promoting its many outstanding historic places. From the colorful bungalows of West Square, where the voices of brawny railroad workers still echo, to the classical Carnegie Library of Livingstone, where the books have whispered to young people through the ages, our shared inheritance is one that both enchants and inspires us.

Rich Heritage

Salisbury is known for its rich heritage of Piedmont architecture dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when the city reached its zenith as a regional economic powerhouse. Domestic and commercial buildings ranging in style from Victorian, Italianate, Beaux-Arts, Craftsman, Tudor, and beyond contribute to a strikingly eclectic and distinctive character in the downtown and adjoining neighborhoods.

Progressive Preservation

The city has taken a progressive approach to preserving historic resources, establishing itself at the forefront of preservation in North Carolina with the designation of its first historic district in 1975. Soon after, the City Council adopted a local historic overlay and established the Salisbury Historic Preservation Commission to oversee design review. In 1980, Salisbury was among the first five communities in North Carolina to begin participating in the National Trust Main Street Program. Finally, in 1994, Salisbury was designated a Certified Local Government with the State of North Carolina Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and has continued to partner with SHPO for technical assistance over the subsequent decades.

Historic Districts

Today, the city’s historic inventory includes ten districts as well as seventeen individual buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Five of these districts, including the downtown, are also locally-designated with design review for alterations or major changes. This stewardship of the downtown and historic neighborhoods, in conjunction with federal and state tax incentives with substantial private investment, has resulted in an award-winning downtown and urban core that is vibrant and authentic.

Historic Landmarks

Landmark designations may apply to individual buildings, structures, sites, areas, or objects which are studied by the commission and judged to have historical, architectural, archaeological, or cultural value. Property owners who are interested in seeking landmarks status are encouraged to review the process outlined below.

Contact Us

Community Planning Services Director

Hannah Jacobson
(704) 638-5230


Emily Vanek
(704) 638-5311


Want to get involved? Join the Historic Preservation Commission!

Visit HPC Page

Online Application

Print Application

Do you live in a Historic District?

Check our historic districts map to see if you live in a Historic District in Salisbury. If you own property in one of Salisbury’s five Local Historic Districts, you may need a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from Development Services or the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) before making any minor alterations or major changes to the exterior of the structure or to the landscape. This is necessary to ensure that our historic districts retain their distinctive character and integrity of design.

Salisbury’s Historic Design Standards are available online, along with printable maps of each Local Historic District. If you are a historic property owner, it is advised that you become familiar with these guidelines. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) at the bottom of this page concerning historic home ownership.

Salisbury Historic Landmarks


In August 2017, the Salisbury City Council adopted a new program for recognizing and preserving significant historic landmarks. The Salisbury Historic Landmarks program encourages the preservation of buildings, structures, sites, areas, or objects that are of special significance in terms of their historical, prehistorical, architectural, or cultural importance; and that possess exceptional integrity of design, setting, workmanship, feeling, and association.

Property owners who are interested in seeking landmarks status are encouraged to review the materials available for download on this page. The process for designation is straightforward but rigorous. Each proposed landmark is evaluated according to its historic significance and integrity, and the burden is on the applicant to prove that both criteria are met. More details can be reviewed below.

Designation Process

Each historic landmark application is subject to an extensive review process to determine if the proposal meets all eligibility criteria. First, applicants must complete and submit a pre-application for review by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), which will determine if the proposal is likely to qualify as a historic landmark.

When a pre-application for landmark designation is approved, all applicants are required to set up a pre-submittal conference with Planning staff to review the full application requirements and review process. This meeting can be conducted at any time. A formal historic landmark designation application may then be prepared by the applicant.

It will be the responsibility of each applicant to prepare a Survey and Research (S/R) Report which documents the historic, cultural and architectural significance of the property. The S/R Report must comport to professional standards as outlined by "how to write an architectural description" and "local landmark report requirements". Planning staff will review the landmark designation application for completeness at the time of submittal.

Application Review

The application will be reviewed internally following submittal. The staff will then send a report of staff’s recommendation on the application to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for its 30-day review. Once SHPO makes a recommendation, staff will include this recommendation into the staff report.

The updated staff report and full application will be forward to the HPC for its review and recommendation. If both staff and the HPC recommend against the application, it will not be forward to City Council for review.

Once HPC provides a recommendation, the staff report for all applications that have received a positive recommendation by both staff and HPC will be forward to City Council for their review. A public hearing will be set and a final decision will then be rendered.

Landmark Documents

Historic Landmark Pre-ApplicationThis application initiates preliminary consideration of a property for historic landmark status. This does not mean that a property is being designated as a historic landmark at this time, nor does this application constitute a landmark nomination.Download
Local Landmark ReportsThis informative document is provided to help applicants adhere to professional standards when filling out the Survey and Research Report. North Carolina law provides for a straightforward but multistep procedure for designation of historic landmarks. Download
Sample Report 1 - RaleighThis report for a local landmark designation from Raleigh is provided as an example for applicants.Download
Sample Report 2 - WaynesvilleThis report for a local landmark designation from Waynesville is provided as an example for applicants.Download

What grants are available?

The City of Salisbury has several grants available to help make Salisbury a better place to live and work.

Grants are a type of financial aid that does not need to be repaid.

More About Grant Applications

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Local Historic Districts?

The City of Salisbury is proud to have five (5) Local Historic Districts and ten (10) National Register Historic Districts featuring a wide variety of 19th and 20th century architecture. Local Historic Districts are specially-zoned groups of contiguous properties that are historically, visually, and culturally similar. Salisbury’s Historic Design Guidelines help protect the historic character of the buildings, streetscapes, and landscapes from alterations, new construction, and demolitions that could jeopardize the integrity of the districts. The HPC Design Guidelines encourage thoughtful alterations and reinvestment by specifying what changes or additions are appropriate for the style and time period of the property and discouraging those modifications that are incompatible and thus inappropriate.

Is my property located in a Local Historic District?

The five Local Historic Districts are all located in and around downtown. They include Brooklyn South Square, Downtown, Ellis Street Graded School, North Main Street, and the West Square district. A map of the districts can be found here. To find out if your property is located in a Local Historic District, please contact Development Services at (704) 638-5324.

What is the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)?

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) consists of nine (9) members who are appointed by City Council. A majority of the members have demonstrated special interest, experience, or education in history, architecture, archaeology, of related fields. Several members live within the Local Historic Districts themselves. The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is responsible for protecting the integrity of the character of the local historic district. If you would like to become a member, contact the City Clerk’s Office at (704) 638-5224 or apply at

When are HPC meetings held?

The Historic Preservation Commission has regularly scheduled monthly meetings on the second Thursday of each month, beginning at 5:15 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 217 South Main Street.

What does the HPC do?

The Historic Preservation Commission has authority to approve or deny the exterior modification of properties located within Local Historic Districts by receiving and acting upon applications for Certificates of Appropriateness. They may also recommend to the City Council districts or landmarks for local designation or recommend revocation of such designation. Although these are their primary duties the Commission also performs other activities as required by the Salisbury Land Development Ordinance, the General Statutes of North Carolina, or as assigned by the Salisbury City Council.

What is a COA?

If a homeowner or business owner in a Local Historic District wishes to make any minor alteration or major change to the exterior of a structure or to a landscape, they first must receive a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from the HPC. Once granted, sometimes with conditions, a COA allows an applicant to move forward with the requested change. The receipt of a COA is required prior to beginning any type of exterior construction, alteration, or demolition. Alterations to the exterior of properties within the historic districts fall into three categories: routine maintenance/repair, Minor Work, and Major Work.

What are the requirements for each category of work?

Routine maintenance/repair does not require approval and may be completed without the issuance of a COA. An example of routine maintenance/repair would be repainting an already painted surface without modifying the color or replacing rotted wood with new wood in the same design in which it currently exists.

Minor work is approved at the staff level and still requires an application and approval, but is not reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. Examples of minor work would include some sign installation for businesses or construction of new fences.

Major work requires review and approval by the Historic Preservation Commission. An example of major work would be the construction of a new addition or alteration of window and door openings.

What is the process of obtaining a COA from the HPC?

1. Applicant obtains and submits a COA Application to HPC Staff Liaison at Development Services, including detailed information on the proposed work (site plan, pictures, color samples, etc.) by the 25th of the month. (Remember - Development Services staff are here to help! We are available for pre-application meetings upon request.)
2. Public notification is conducted in accordance with the North Carolina General Statutes.
3. Applicant appears at the scheduled HPC meeting to explain the proposal and the public is given an opportunity to comment on the request. HPC then deliberates.
4. If the HPC approves the COA, and all other applicable permits are acquired, the applicant may begin work.
5. If, however, the HPC does not approve the COA, the applicant may not begin work. The applicant can revise and resubmit the application based on HPC comments and the Design Guidelines.

Is financial assistance available to property owners in Local Historic Districts?

Yes! Salisbury’s Historic Preservation Incentive Grant Program provides a modest economic stimulus to owners of homes and businesses in Salisbury’s local historic districts to help stabilize, preserve, and maintain the historic character of the individual structure and historic district in accordance with Salisbury’s Local Historic Guidelines.

Grants are awarded on a competitive basis for exterior maintenance and stabilization projects of owner-occupied homes and businesses within any of the locally-designated residential historic districts identified with Local Historic Overlay (LHO) zoning, excluding the Downtown Local Historic District.

Additionally, properties within a Local Historic District that are also on the National Register of Historic Places are also eligible for rehabilitation tax credits from the State of North Carolina. Visit for more information.

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