The Ayers weren’t the only family who had a home on the Salem Museum’s 2008 Holiday Homes tour, but they did enjoy being a part of it. Volunteers from the Salem Historical Society directed guests through the homes while sharing historical facts and showing off still present original features. The hostess, Margretha VanDike, has even started an extensive genealogy of the home’s first owner, Charles Bruffey Strickler.
“To be honest, we weren’t here, but getting ready for it was the challenge,” said homeowner Mitzi Ayers and her husband, Steve. “Ellisa was excited, she thought it was really neat. Tyler was fine with it, but Brandon was a little reserved,” said Mitzi. “Kayla likes the history and the charm of the home,” but she was away at the University of Virginia. Their home was one of the five residences on the 2008 Salem Museum Holiday Homes Tour.
While remodeling the home, the family has kept many of the original features intact. The original slate roof, all of the original oak floors and woodwork (except for the kitchen and servants’ steps made of pine), and the Jeffersonian Porch.
“I think it represents his, at that time, the wealth and the status that he had in the woodwork and the details,” said Steve. “But there was a certain conservative side to him, too … like the banisters in other homes [of the time] are very ornate … quality is what he was concerned with. It’s a well made house.”
Strickler was the descendant of German immigrants in Pennsylvania. He was born in 1879 in Salem and built the home at 646 East Main in 1919. A prominent citizen of early century Salem, Strickler served as one of the town’s first 12 firemen in 1906, was a meat merchant with a place of business at 203 East Main, sparked the move to create the first Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce, helped to establish a cemetery where Sherwood Memorial Park is now, and he even served on city council. He lived until 1952.
The family has repurposed and even replaced some necessary things, like an outdated kitchen, but the original structure and layout as well as even the original wooden parlor doors, are still the same.
“It gives you the opportunity to think about the nostalgia of the family life of Salem,” said Mitzi Ayers. Their house “was the first thing they [travelers] saw once they crested the hill on the road into Salem.”
To learn more about Salem History, visit The Salem Museum’s website.