Michael O. Bourne
401, North Division Street, Salisbury, Wicomico County
The Gillis-Grier House, built in 1887 by James Cannon, is a 2 1/2-story Queen Anne frame house with an asymmetrical plan, and gable-front elevations on three sides. A three-story octagonal tower stands at the southwest corner. Attached to the back of the main block is a shorter 2 1/2-story service wing. The house is clad in a combination of German siding and patterned fishscale shingles and decorative woodwork. The steeply pitched hip and gable roofs are covered with patterned slate. The west (main) elevation is a complex facade of asymmetrical design. A 2 1/2-story gable-front wall is juxtaposed against the three-story tower that is capped by a concave curved conical roof also sheathed in slate. The first floor is sheltered by a turned-post porch with turned balusters, that wraps around the north, west, and south sides. The porch shelters a double entrance and flanking 1/1 sash windows. Marking the entrance bay of the porch is a cross gable distinguished by a variety of applied decoration and a peak finial. The window to the north is part of a three-sided bay window. The first floor of the tower, which is square in shape, has 1/1 sash windows with colored glass in the upper sash. The second and third stories of the tower are octagonal. The second floor holds 1/1 sash windows and the third floor windows alternate with decorative panels. The second floor of the main house is defined on its west side by a variety of window openings. The northwest corner is defined by a turned post and short section of turned baluster railing and a window piercing a cut or chamfered corner of the house. Centered under the gable-front is a tripartite composition of 18/1 sash windows. Piercing the wall between the tripartite window group and the southwest tower is a single 1/1 sash window. The gable end is covered with a layer of fishscale shingles and is pierced by a tripartite series of 9-pane attic windows. The edge of the roof has an extended eave, open soffits, and a decorative bargeboard. Fixed atop the peak of the gable is a turned wooden finial. The west slope of the roof, covered with patterned slate, is marked by an off-center gable-roofed dormer that lights the main attic, while a small triangular shaped dormer illuminates the upper attic. Rising through the roof in three locations are tall brick chimney stacks featuring inset paneled sides and corbeled caps. The north chimney incorporates the sculpture of a woman's head. The south side of the house is an asymmetrical elevation with a two-story bay window counterbalanced with the southwest corner tower. Stretching across the first floor is the wraparound porch, featuring a cross gable in the center bay. The porch extends eastward to the edge of a gable-roofed conservatory covered by a low-pitched gable roof and enclosed with tall windows. The two-story bay window, divided by the line of the porch roof, is pierced by colored glass windows on the first floor. Centered above the bay window is a cross gable that rests atop the roof and is covered with fishscale shingles and pierced by paired 8/12 sash windows. Located on the upper roof slope is another triangular dormer that illuminates the upper attic. Northeast of the house is a frame, 1 1/2-story stable, now used as a garage. Nearby is a slate hitching post with initials "J.C." carved into the top.
Singularly outstanding among the Queen Anne dwellings that define Salisbury's Newtown neighborhood is the elaborately detailed Gillis-Grier House, named after the two inter-related families that held title to the property between 1896 and 1975. While this hyphenated name recognizes the property's long-term owners, the impressively designed and crafted house was assembled for Salisbury merchant James Cannon in 1887. Dominated by a three-story tower with a conical roof of patterned slate, the sprawling hip-roofed dwelling includes multiple pavilions, bay windows, and a variety of gabled dormers that provide a variety of form that is enriched with varying styles of exterior siding and applied decorations. The lively exterior is matched by equally rich interiors of late-19th century design. Parquet floors on the first floor are combined with cabinet style mantels with tiled fireboxes. Spotted throughout the house are colored glass windows that provide another rich source of interior decoration to the many-roomed interior.