Carter set to work laying out the lots and streets of the new town, devising a plan that had a total of 256 lots. (Not surprisingly, 67 of the lots were on property Carter had been granted.) At the center of his plan, he drew a square made up of four equal quadrants or wards, each four blocks by four blocks. Thus, the heart of the new town had 64 lots on a grid system of streets laid out in a classic rectilinear pattern.
Interestingly, Carter’s notion of the proper layout of Salisbury was not particularly original. Rather, it was patterned, like most other American colonial towns of the day, after the 1682 plan for Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s plan had three principle features: (1) a gridiron street system, (2) a system of open spaces, and (3) uniform spacing and setbacks for the buildings. Historians have noted that perhaps because it was a principal port of entry, Philadelphia was widely copied by later American towns, as the settlement of the country moved farther to the west.
Thus, most colonial towns, including Salisbury, took on a basic grid-iron or trellis street pattern. In Salisbury's case, this resulted in a series of streets running in a southwest to northeast direction, parallel to Town Creek, and another series of streets running southeast to northwest, perpendicular to the alignment of the creek. This layout created city blocks that were 400 feet long and 400 feet deep. Eventually this same basic street pattern would be extended out uninterrupted for five to ten blocks in all directions from the main intersection at the center of the square.
Within the grid-iron framework, a very compact town evolved. As Carter had envisioned, the major civic, cultural, and trading buildings of the day were built within a very short distance of the main intersection. A mixture of businesses and homes filled in the voids and spilled out a few short blocks away from the town center. Homes were large and lots small to keep walking distances to a minimum. Servants quarters and smaller houses for the underclass were also kept close, given the need to walk virtually everywhere. This pattern of development would largely define Salisbury's growth for the city’s first 150 years.