GRIER-REA HOUSE AND FARMSTEAD
This report was written on Feburary 6, 1989
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the Grier-Rea House and Farmstead is located on both sides of Rea Road in the Providence section of Mecklenburg County.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the property: The owners of the property are:
(North Side of Rea Rd.)
Leon T. Rea
4330 Rea Road
Charlotte, N.C. 28226
(South Side of Rea Rd.)
Jane Rea Clute
Mary Rea Kiser
Thomas Hazel Rea
1442 Greenwood Lane
Rock Hill, S.C. 29730
Telephone: Not listed
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report contains a map which depicts the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent deed to the portion of the property located on the northern side of Rea Road is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 5627, Page 117. The Tax Parcel Number of this portion of the property is: 211-241-05. The most recent deed to the portion of the property located on the southern side of Rea Road is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 5562, Page 243. The Tax Parcel Number of this portion of the property is: 211-294-06.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. William H. Huffman.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by Dr. William H. Huffman.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as the Grier-Rea House and Farmstead does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations: 1) the Grier-Rea House, erected according to local tradition in 1804, is unquestionably one of the older plantation houses surviving in this portion of Mecklenburg County, which is experiencing rapid suburbanization; 2) the house, the older agricultural outbuildings, and the land itself, are rare survivors from the rural built environment and landscape which once dominated this portion of Mecklenburg County; 3) the current owners are members of the family which has owned the Farmstead since the mid-1800's; and 4) the much of the Farmstead is likely to yield important historic archeological information.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural description by William H. Huffman which is included in this report demonstrates that the Grier-Rea House and Farmstead meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes "historic property." There are 43.513 acres in Tax Parcel Number 211-241-05. The current appraised value of the land is $26,500. The current appraised value of the improvements is $14,670. The total appraised value is $41,170. The land is zoned R15. There are 27.29 acres in Tax Parcel Number 211-294-06. The current appraised value of the land is $6,780. The current appeased value of the improvements is $3,960. The total appraised value is $10,740. The land is zoned Farm.
Date of Preparation of this Report: Feburary 6, 1989
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St.
Charlotte, N.C. 28203
Dr. William H. Huffman
The Grier-Rea house is an important, and increasingly rare part of the county's rural heritage.
According to Rea family lore, the house was originally built about 1804 by Reverend Isaac Grier (1776-1843), who located it approximately halfway between the Providence and Sardis Presbyterian Churches, where he preached.1 Born in Georgia the son of Robert Grier of Pennsylvania and Mary Livingston of Ireland, he attended Dickinson College, from which he graduated in 1800. After two years of theological study, he was ordained by the Second Presbytery in 1802, and was called to preach at the Sardis and Providence Churches in Mecklenburg County, and the Tirzah Church in Union County. In 1808, he also temporarily took over the care of Little Steele Creek (which was separate from the Steele Creek Church, and later reunited with it), and in that same year was married to Isabella Reynolds. In 1815, he was demitted from Providence Church. Reverend Grier died in 1843.2
In the mid-1800s, John Laney Rea, Sr. (1827-1915) acquired the property.3 He was born in Union County and probably came to Mecklenburg County with his father, Green Lee Rea (1798-1890), who eventually owned many acres of land in Providence Township.4 J. L. Rea, Sr. was a Confederate Army veteran, who served as a private in a cavalry regiment.5 By 1899, Rea's plantation contained 175 acres.6
Prior to the Civil War, Rea owned at least one, and perhaps more, slaves. Family oral history has it that he paid $2000 for a slave named Jim Stitt just prior to the war, and had to emancipate him in 1865.7 Among the family papers of the present owner and descendent, T. Leon Rea, is the original emancipation document, which reads as follows:
PROVOST MARSHALL'S OFFICE
1st Div.23d A.C.
Charlotte,N.C.,June 12th, 1865
I, J L. Rea do solemnly swear or affirm, in the presence of Almighty God. that I will henceforth faithfully support and defend the Constitution of the United State and the Union of the States thereunder, and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.
(signed) J. L. Rea
Sworn and subscribed before me, this 12th day of June, 1865, at Charlotte, N.C.
Captain & Provost Marshall
Age: 38 years Height 5 feet 8 inches Complexion: Dark Hair Black Eyes Occupation Farmer Residence Mecklenburg County, State of N. C.
Typically, Jim Stitt stayed on the Rea farm as a tenant farmer, and is buried at Providence Presbyterian Church in the area reserved for other former slaves and Indians.8
Rea and his wife Sarah E. (1829-1873) had eight children, three boys and five girls.9 To accommodate his growing family, he added two sections of the two-story addition on the rear of the house. When he died at the age of 83 in 1915, he was described in the newspaper as being "for many years...one of the county's most popular and influential citizens."10 In 1905, Rea gave the farm to his son, John L. Rea, Jr. (1870-1961),11 who, when he married Margaret Youngblood (1872-1964) in the 1890s, added a kitchen on the back of the house.12 The present owners, T. Leon Rea and his wife, Catherine, inherited the home place and surrounding lands from his father, J. L. Rea, Jr.13
1 Interviewer with T. Leon and Catherine Rea, Charlotte, NC 12 January 1989. The Providence Church history, cited in note 9, does not mention Rev. Grier, probably due to incomplete church records. Attempts to establish Rev. Grier's ownership from the deed records also were not successful.
2 The Centennial History of the Associate Reformed Church 1803-1903(Charleston: 1905), p. 42.
3 See note one. The author was unable to establish the original record of his ownership from the deed records.
4 Mecklenburg County Certificate of Death. Book 3, p. 1164.
5 North Carolina Troops. 1861-1865: A Roster Vol. II (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1968).p. 33.
6 Mecklenburg County Map Book 332, p. 97.
7 Interview with T. Leon Rea, note 1.
9 Charlotte Observer. January 29. 1915. p, 6: Louise Barber Matthews. History of the Providence Presbyterian Church (Charlotte: Brooks Lithe, 1967).p. 304.
11 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 195. p. 507.
12 Interview With T. Leon Rea, note 1.
13 Mecklenburg County Will Book 20, p. 488; Deed Book 2840, p. 477.
Dr. William H. Huffman
The Grier-Rea House is located on Rea Road, between Providence and the Pineville-Matthews Roads, approximately eight and one-half miles south of Independence Square. The former plantation house sits on a prominent rise among gently rolling hills, and faces southeast toward sloping fields that lead to the Rea (formerly Plum Tree) Branch of McAlpine Creek, from which the plantation got its water.
The Rea Road is so named because it led to the Rea plantation. It presently sits on a twenty-three acre site. Former farmlands in the vicinity are being rapidly developed into residential subdivisions.
The house is a two-story, Federal-style farmhouse with a side-gabled roof, end chimneys, and a rear-projecting, two-story ell with an end chimney and a one-story kitchen addition. There is also a shed roof addition on the west side of the rear of the original house, and porches have been added to the west and east sides of the ell. The original portion of the house is three bays wide by two deep, and the two-story ell is four bays long and one wide, while the one-story kitchen is two bays long and one wide.
Brick for the chimneys was made in a kiln set up at the creek branch.1 The chimney brick bond is not visible, because they have been plastered over. The house foundation is stone, and is filled in with stone laid in uncoursed rubble pattern. In some places brick piers have been used for the additions. The cornerstones of the front porch were carved by an Indian, who also carved a stone in an adjacent pasture that was used to make lye soap.2 The floor joists in the original portion of the house are half-round. split logs. Weatherboarding covers the entire house.
The house has been added onto in stages. The two-story ell appears to have been added in the second half of the nineteenth century, as was the shed roof addition. The one-story kitchen in the rear was probably added about the turn of the century.3
A distinctive feature of the architecture is the one-story front porch that extends across the facade. Its unique latticework columns, railings, and arched overhang give it a singularly charming quality.
The windows in the original part of the house were four-over-four double-hung sash, and several are still intact. Many have been replaced with other sash sizes. In the ell, it appears that the windows that were originally used were six-over-six double-hung sash, some of which are still intact, but others have been replaced with various sash sizes, and the second floor ell windows on the west side have been weatherboarded over. The window surrounds are simple mouldings.
There are two front entries: one has double doors, solid two-over-three panel, overlighted by a sidelight transom, that lead to a central hallway. Just to the right of them as you face the house is a single two-over-four panel solid door that leads to a front room. Both are encased in simple, unadorned molding door surrounds.
Almost all of the interior is intact as originally built. In some rooms, modern flooring has been put over the original, but in others on the first floor and all of the second, the original flooring of heart-of-pine is still exposed. In one of the downstairs closets, the original peg construction can be seen. In general, the house is in a very good state of preservation.
In the original portion of the house, there are two rooms downstairs, a central hall with stairs that leads to the second floor, and two rooms upstairs. In the first and second floors of the ell, there are two rooms. The shed roof addition contains a bathroom, and the one-story room on the end of the ell was a kitchen. Original mantels are still intact on both floors of the original end chimneys, and on the first floor of the ell. The original decorated stair railing is also intact, as are the interior doors. There are double doors at the rear of the original hall that have a sunlight transom, all of which matches the front doors, and no doubt were once rear doors, but are now in the interior.
Among the eleven outbuildings, three are of importance, and all date from the nineteenth-century: a tenant house, a barn and a commissary building (which is across the road to the south, and no longer part of the house property). The owner is unsure of their exact age.
1 Interview with T. Leon Rea, Charlotte, NC 12 January 1989.