Survey and Research
The Virginia Paper
416 West Third Street,
1. Name and location of the property:
Virginia Paper Company Building, 416 West Third
Street, Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name and address
of the present owner of the property: Mecklenburg County
3. Representative photographs of the
property: This report contains
representative photographs of the property.
4. Maps depicting
the location of the property:
This report contains a map depicting the location of the property.
5. Current deed book and tax parcel
information for the property: 07311205
6. A brief historical sketch of the
property: This report contains a
brief historical sketch of the property.
7. A brief architectural description
of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property.
8. Documentation of why and in what
ways the property meets criteria for designation set forth in N. C. G. S.
a. Special significance in terms of its
history, architecture, and/or cultural importance:
The Commission judges that the property known as the Virginia Paper Company
Building does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The
Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:
Virginia Paper Company Building
is significant as one of the last large industrial building to be
constructed close to the center of the city of Charlotte, relying on freight
Designed by New York architect
Walter Dabney Blair, the
Virginia Paper Company Building
is significant as an extremely
well preserved and largely unaltered example industrial architecture from
Virginia Paper Company Building
is an important reminder of the
evolution of parts of Third Ward, from a mixed-race residential neighborhood
at the beginning of the 20th century, to a largely industrial and
commercial neighborhood by the middle of the century.
Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
association: The Commission
contends that the physical and architectural description which is included
in this report demonstrates that the Virginia Paper Company meets this
10. 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
a designated "historic landmark." The current total appraised value of the
building is $981,100.
11. Portion of property recommended
for designation: The exterior
and interior of the building and a sufficient amount of the property associated with the tax parcel
to ensure integrity of the building are recommended for historic designation.
Date of preparation of this report:
The 1937 Virginia Paper Company Building
was among the last of the large industrial buildings the built in the center city.1
The historic industrial buildings located in Charlotte's Uptown are largely
the remnants of a period of unprecedented industrial growth that
occurred throughout the city beginning in the late nineteenth century and
continuing until World War Two. In 1900, Charlotte was home to only
fifty-seven industrial plants. By 1910, that number was up to 108. As of
1930, there were 157 industrial facilities in the city.
These building are generally limited to this time period because the nature
of the city shifted dramatically after the war. Following a trend that
began early in the twentieth century, heavy industry and warehouses moved
away from the center city. The emergence of trucking encouraged this move
away from the once critical rail lines that bisect each of the city's four
wards. Many existing uptown factories and warehouses continued to operate
late into the twentieth century. However, during the second half of the 20th
century new construction in the Uptown concentrated on the building of
office and government buildings.
The Virginia Paper Company Building
functioned as a distribution center for wholesale paper. Adjacent to a spur
of a P&N Railroad freight line, material could arrive by rail, and be
distributed by rail or by trucks. With a growing industrial economy that
relied heavily on the movement of products in and out of the city,
warehousing became an industry unto itself in the early twentieth century.
Charlotte warehouses in the center city demonstrate various forms of
construction. The Phillip Carey Building which was built around 1907 used
the heavy-wooden-framed “slow-burn” design promoted by industrialist D.A.
Tompkins. Advances in building technology are seen in the very large,
four-story 1928 Great A&P Tea Company warehouse, featuring a poured concrete
frame with brick infill. Similar construction techniques were employed in
the Virginia Paper Company Building, which features large mushroom columns,
so named for their wide, disc-like capitals. The slabs, girders and columns
of these buildings were designed to work together to allow for wide open
storage spaces without numerous posts. When combined with metal frame
windows and metal stairs, the construction method also made for a virtually
fire-proof building. The popularity of this technology is indicated in the
1951 Sanborn maps which shows that fourteen buildings in Charlotte
(including warehouses, schools, automobile showrooms, and even apartment
buildings) were built in this manner. Like the Virginia Paper Company
all of the surviving historical warehouses in the Uptown were built oriented
towards the railroad lines. By the time that warehouses relying solely on
truck transportation were being built, industry and warehouse had begun to
move away from the center city.
The Virginia Paper Company appears to have
opened its Carolina Division in Charlotte in 1934. It is first listed in
the Charlotte directories at 601 South Cedar Street, a building that
functioned as the B.F Avery & Sons Plow Company until 1929.2
The present Virginia Paper Company building was constructed by the
Southeastern Construction Company.3 The
city block containing the building is
bordered West 4th and West 3rd Streets and by the P&N
Spur to the east, and Graham Street to the west. This area was
a residential neighborhood at the beginning of the 20th century
to a largely industrial and commercial block by the middle of the century.4
During the 1920s and the early 1930s, this section of West Third Street
contained the homes of African American residents. On the same block, the
houses that faced West 4th Street were occupied by white
residents. The nature of the block began to change in 1924 with the
construction of the sprawling Hoppe Motors building on the corner of Graham
and West 4th. By 1953, the Virginia Paper Company building, the
I.E. DuPont Office and Laboratory building, as well as a steel-framed
knitwear warehouse had displace all but three of the houses on the block.
Today, the Virginia Paper Company building is the only surviving structure
on the block.
Undated Post-WWII Promotional Brochure from the
Southeastern Construction Co.
because of his connection with Virginia, New York architect and University
of Virginia graduate Walter Dabney Blair was chosen to design the building.
Dabney studied architecture at the
University of Pennsylvania, and spent three years at the Ecole des
Beaux-Arts in Paris. In addition to the Virginia Paper Company
designed several buildings for the University of Virginia.5
The services of a
Beaux-Arts trained architect for
such an austere, utilitarian building may be somewhat surprising. However
the architecture of Charlotte’s industrial buildings was evolving in such a
way that the stark plainness of the Virginia Paper Company building may have
been seen at the time as a significant architectural statement. Most of
Charlotte's late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century industrial buildings
utilized classically inspired architectural elements. Early examples such
as the Ada Cotton Mill have clear Italianate references. But building
technology developed rapidly after 1900, and that began to be reflected in
the appearance of the buildings as the century progressed.
The 1909-11 Cole
Manufacturing complex demonstrates the tenacity of the classical
architectural styles, but these Romanesque Revival brick buildings
incorporated an advanced structural design, utilizing a poured concrete
frame, floor and roof system. By the mid-1920s, building in Charlotte were
using a concrete support structure similar to that used in Cole
Manufacturing, however, instead of hiding the poured posts, and floors with
decorative brickwork, buildings such as the 1926 Carolina Transfer and
Storage boldly exhibited the concrete framework of the building in the
Carolina Transfer and Storage
Built utilizing neither classical architectural elements,
or exposing its structure in it exterior walls, the Virginia Paper Company
Building appears to have been another step in this process. All three
of these buildings feature similar poured concrete construction. But
all appear very different. The Virginia Paper Company Building neither
exhibits or attempts to disguise its structural design, instead it can be seen as precursor to the Modern designs that came to define
post-WWII industrial architecture.
The Virginia Paper Company Building is a two-story warehouse
located along Third Street, just a few blocks from the Square.
Completed in 1937, the building was among the last of large
industrial structures built near the center of the city. While
a good collection of industrial buildings still exist in Third
Ward to the west of the Southern Railroad, Virginia Paper and
the neighboring I.E. DuPont Building are the only substantial
surviving examples of industrial buildings in the section of
Third Ward bounded by the Southern Railroad and Mint Street.
Until much of it was destroyed during Urban Renewal, this
section of the city was home to factories and warehouses
dependent on railroad transportation, with workers' houses
scattered among the industrial buildings.
Fire insurance company maps indicate that in the 1950's a brick
textile warehouse occupied a site to the east of the Virginia
Paper Building, with the buildings separated by a narrow alley.
Directly across West Third Street sat a large brick grocery
warehouse. Both of these warehouse buildings have been
The Virginia Paper Building employed fire-proof construction.
The solid brick exterior walls surround reinforced concrete slab
floors and roof, which are supported by poured concrete mushroom
columns. These noncombustible materials combined with metal
frame doors and windows, resulted in a virtually fire-proof
building shell. These elements of a fire-proof design became
popular in the 1920's and were the culmination of over one
hundred years of technical advances.
The Virginia Paper Building is not "square," instead the south
elevation was constructed at an angle that conforms to the
border of the building lot. And the building's facade does not
face Third Street. Instead, the eight-bay wide east elevation,
which at one time overlooked eight rail spurs of the P&N and
Southern railroads, is the principal and was historically the
most prominent elevation. A raised center parapet features tall
letters, many of which are missing, that once spelled out the
The brick are laid in Flemish Bond. The walls are unadorned
except for a simple corbelled water table, and cast stones that
cap the parapets walls. The concrete ground floor is raised to
the level of a railcar to accommodate materials being loaded and
unloaded from an adjacent rail spur through two large door
overhead doors, each topped by large 16-light transoms. The
facade is also pierced by twelve large window openings, each
filled by triple 16-ligh metal-framed windows, flooding the
warehouse floors with light.
The facade is symmetrical except for a single narrow recessed
bay at the north end of the facade, containing a narrow 12-light
window and a doorway that gives access to a stairwell.
The five-bay wide south elevation is relatively symmetrical.
The three large first-story window openings are filled with
72-light metal-frame windows. Between the windows, two large
door openings topped with 16-light transoms, have been infilled
with brick. The five second-story windows are the same triple
16-light windows found on the facade. A single doorway with a
brick stoop and steps has been cut into wall between the
westernmost window and original industrial door.
The west elevation, which was originally largely obscured by a
neighboring warehouse, is the most altered section of the
generally intact and unaltered building. The second story is
pieced by some of the same triple windows found on the east and
south elevations, but the location of offices on the first floor
illuminated by tall 24-light windows, a stairwell in one of the
bays, and an access door to a small basement, required a jumbled
fenestration. The practical but asymmetrical fenestration of
the west elevation is typical for the least public side of a
building. It is very likely that the most prominent openings in
the west elevation, two large overhead doors, and the narrow
concrete loading dock were added only after the neighboring
warehouse was torn down sometime after 19531.
With the removal of the neighboring warehouse, the Virginia
Paper Building could be transformed from a warehouse dependent
on rail freight, to one able to load and unload truck freight.
The orientation of the building switched from the symmetrical
east elevation, overlooking the rail lines, to the jumbled west
elevation, adjacent to a large parking lot. The north
elevation is blank and is partially obscured by the high grade
of the adjacent lot.
The interior of the building features ordered rows of concrete
mushroom columns supporting massive reinforced concrete floors.
The first floor contains a small series of offices in the
southwest corner of the building. The building has a partial
basement, that may have held a mechanical ro
Building dated by the Mecklenburg County tax records and the Sanborn
Map Co. Charlotte, NC Maps 1953 ed.
Dates were derived from Charlotte City Directories from 1929, 1934,
Beaumert Whitton Papers in the Sepcial Collection, Atkins Library,
See Sanborn map 322, Sanborn Map Co. Charlotte, NC Maps 1953 ed.