New future eyed for Salisbury's old White & Leonard building

The old White & Leonard building is the latest historic structure in Downtown Salisbury slated for renovation.
The old White & Leonard building is the latest historic structure in Downtown Salisbury slated for renovation.
Salisbury Independent Photo

A Downtown Salisbury building that once housed the White & Leonard Office Supplies business will find a new life as a restaurant and a speakeasy-style bar.

Bret Davis, a developer and owner of multiple Downtown properties, recently purchased the building on the corner of West Main and St. Peter’s streets that currently houses a church, barbershop and law office. Davis said he will work to help relocate the tenants before he begins work on the restaurant in about a year from now.

Eight apartments on the second and third floors will remain as is, he said.

For Davis, the best part of the structure is the large basement that meets all of his criteria for a speakeasy, including a high ceiling, an elevator and three exit doors. It also has had recent repairs to the brick foundation and is free of moisture.

“This basement checks all the boxes,” he said. “I cannot describe how perfect it would be for a basement bar.”

Styled as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, Davis said he wants it to be “a very high-end cocktail bar.”

The building dates back to 1887, and was built a year after the Salisbury Fire leveled another structure on the site. The brick building once housed a jewelry store and a pharmacy, according to At The Crossroads: The Architectural History of Wicomico County, Maryland by Paul Baker Touart. In 1911, the building was sold to E. Riall White.

It is one of several buildings owned by Davis on the section of West Main Street that was once known as the Downtown Plaza.

Davis also just purchased 229 W. Main St., which is empty except for an office on the second floor. It sits next to the City Center, another of his buildings, that has recently been renovated and now has tenants in all but one space on the second floor.

A block away at One Plaza East, Davis has completed an expansion of Mogan’s Oyster House to serve as overflow dining for the restaurant as well as a private banquet space.

Since he purchased One Plaza East – the former Wicomico Hotel – Davis created a Division Street entrance to its lobby to replace an all-but-hidden main door on the other side of the building off of an alleyway.

Nearby on East Market Street, Davis has plans to build a luxury apartment building and a beer garden along Salisbury’s waterfront on two former city properties.

The 49-unit apartment complex will be built on what is now a parking lot on the opposite side of the Wicomico River from the Riverwalk Amphitheater. It will include a sky deck on the roof, a small gym, game area, media room and first floor secure parking.

The beer garden with its own parking area will be next door.