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Empire Hotel Salisbury N.C.

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An early view with the twin domes on the roof. 

History of the Empire Hotel

The Empire Hotel began as the Boyden House.  Nathaniel Boyden in started building in 1855 and according to an ad in the Carolina Watchman, the hotel opened in 1859.  The building is an example of Beaux-Arts commercial architecture, a French term meaning “fine arts,” and the style is known for being highly ornamented.  Traveling salesmen showed their wares in the “Sample Room,” an 80 x 30 room.  When not in use, the room was also used as a skating room.  The hotel was a gathering place during the Civil War, and according to local lore, the hotel was occupied by federal officers following the Civil War.  On April 1, 1870 General Robert E. Lee and his daughter took a carriage from the Salisbury Railway Depot to the Boyden House to have breakfast. 

The hotel was remodeled in the early 1900’s by Frank P. Milburn, who designed the Salisbury Depot.  After extensive renovations in 1907, the name was changed to Central Hotel and then later, the Empire Hotel.  There was at one time a domed ballroom on the top floor. There also was a tunnel from the hotel to the Meroney Theatre across the street, put there so the actors could go back and forth without going outside through crowds and inclement weather.  It closed in 1963 after 104 years in business.  In 2000, Downtown Salisbury looked into the cost of renovating the hotel.  The findings were that is would cost $9 million, and the owners could expect to recoup $1.3 million per year.  To date, nothing has been done.


Carolina Watchman, April 25, 1855 and May 17, 1859

Searching For The Confederacy In Rowan County

Wineka, Mark “Inside the Empire” Salisbury Post March 4, 2001

Hood, Davyd Foard The Architecture of Rowan County North Carolina: A Catalogue and History of Surviving 18th, 19th, and 20th Structures  Salisbury: Historic Salisbury Foundation, 2000

Architecture at  

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