The Gallery Building is the site of an early Salisbury tavern

Gallery Building parking lot side

At a time when the Gallery Building is in the news because it’s being generously donated to Salisbury University, many people are no doubt remembering the building as the old Woolworth’s store location.

But that piece of Downtown Salisbury has an even older history and an intriguing one, for documents show that this location was once the site of a tavern. No kidding.

But don’t get too excited. It was not here long and it seems that the terms “tavern” and “hotel” were used interchangeably for this structure. Still, this news impressively adds to the history of the Gallery Building property.

Delving into the early history of mysterious taverns and other hostelry, I have found that early Salisbury had several taverns, at least three on Main Street alone at different times, and the Staton Tavern or however named was one of them.

The date of the tavern’s construction is not known, and so far the only evidence of this tavern is in deeds. But as early as 1853, the property was described as the “lot at present occupied by George W. Staton as a Tavern.”

The tavern designation though used a few times seems to have been short-lived. Evidence indicates that the structure in the mid-1850s may have been known as the Union House or Union Hotel operated by Staton and later by Capt. Joseph C. Bush. And by the time of the 1860 fire, the property was referred to as a hotel, as listed among the losses in the Sentinel newspaper.

Staton died around the time of the 1860 fire, and in 1863 the “Staton Hotel” property was purchased by Maj. T. Ruark. In 1873 the property was acquired by the Henry S. Brewington family.

Not much is known about the property between the 1860 and 1886 fires. But a two-story structure was identified at the location operating in part as a hardware store right before the 1886 fire.

About four years after the 1886 fire, a three-story brick structure known as the Henry Brewington Building was constructed, beginning the site’s 20th century history. It was home for a grocery, sewing machine shop, bottling establishment, clothing store, the Salisbury Elks Lodge and more.

Around that time, Henry S. Brewington erected another prominent downtown building, the Brewington building on Main Street at the southwest corner with Market Street, known as the Old Synagogue building.

After Henry and his wife Edwina passed in the 1920s, the building eventually was acquired by Woolworth’s.

The building began its next big change in the 1990s, becoming the Gallery Building. I can remember being inside the building when the first floor was gutted for construction, opened for a New Year’s Eve special event.  I remember watching roller skate dancers twirl about where there was once the lunch counter and displays of merchandise.

Woolworths was no more, but the building was transformed into what we see today.

A younger generation may likely remember the building only as the Gallery Building. But every building and lot of Downtown has a story.  Knowing that there had been a tavern long ago at the site of the old Woolworth’s gives us all a greater appreciation for Downtown’s history.

The story the Gallery Building tells us is the history of change, fires, businesses, residences, hotels, and among the earliest of all, a tavern.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at


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