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Survey and Research Report on the Currie House

559 North Main Street

Davidson, North Carolina

 

1.  Name and location of the property:
The property known as the Currie House is located at 559 North Main Street, Davidson, North Carolina.

2.  Name and address of the current owner of the property:
The current owners of the property are:
Jon Christopher Krider and Michele M. Kolbinsky-Krider

PO Box 1273

Davidson, North Carolina

28036

(704) 892-7879

3.  Representative photographs of the property:

This report contains representative photographs of the property.

4.  Maps depicting the location of the property:

A map depicting the location of the property can be found below.  The UTM of the property is 17 513966E 3929071N. 

map

5.  Current deed book reference to the property:

The most current reference to the property may be found in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 17198 at page 123.  The tax parcel identification number for the property is 003-263-10.

6.  A brief historical sketch of the property:

This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property.

7.  A brief architectural sketch of the property:

This report contains a brief architectural sketch of the property.
8.  Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5:
            a. Special significance in terms of its historical, prehistorical, architectural, or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the Currie House does have special historical significance within the context of Davidson, N.C.  The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

1.  The Currie family displayed a fervent commitment to public education for the children of the Davidson community.  Archibald Currie, a long-time professor at Davidson College, was one of the early proponents of graded education in Davidson.  His wife, Lucy Currie, and their daughter, Letitia Currie, both served as teachers in the Davidson public education system.  

            2.  The Currie House and its residents are representative of the symbiotic relationship between the College and the town that is a distinctive characteristic of Davidson.

3.  Lucy Martin Currie was a distinguished Davidsonian whose academic achievements, which are outstanding by today’s standards, are even more impressive in light of the societal restrictions placed upon women in the early twentieth century.  Lucy was not only one of the earliest female graduates of Davidson College, long before the school was co-educational, but she also traveled with the first group of Rhodes Scholars in 1904 to study in Oxford, England.    

 
            b. 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 Currie House 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 a designated "historic landmark." The current total appraised value of the Currie House is $280,100.  The current total appraised value of the house is $155,300.  The current total appraised value of the 0.8 acre lot is $124,800. 
Date of Preparation of this report: July 22, 2006
Prepared by: Jennifer K. Payne

Summary Statement of Significance
The Currie House was built in 1911 and is a highly intact, late Victorian style home that exhibits the influence of the popular Arts-and-Crafts movement.  As the home of Archibald Currie, who served Davidson College as a professor and the town of Davidson as an attorney, and Lucy Martin Currie, the daughter of a family with strong ties to Davidson College, who is remembered as having defined the “cultural tone” of the village, the dwelling is representative of the distinctive interrelationship between the town and the college.  In addition, the Currie family was fervently committed to public education in the town.  Archibald Currie was a proponent of the graded school movement in Davidson, and worked to bring standardized public education to the children of the town in his roles as one of the earliest principals of the Davidson Academy and one of the first trustees of the graded school.  Lucy Martin Currie also taught at the graded school, as did her daughter Letitia, who is remembered as a well-loved eighth-grade teacher at the Davidson Middle School.  Lucy Martin Currie further exemplified this commitment to education through her attainment of academic achievements that were generally not available to women of this era.  She was one of the first female graduates of Davidson College, long before the school was co-educational.  In addition, she traveled with the first group of American Rhodes scholars to study at Oxford University in 1904.

Historical Context Statement 
Davidson College, which was established in 1835 to educate young men according to the values of the school’s Presbyterian founders, has provided the impetus for the evolution and development of the Town of Davidson.  From 1835 to 1874, the town was a relatively isolated college community; and its growth was almost exclusively linked to the increasing number of students and faculty who attended or taught at Davidson College.  Not only was the built environment of Davidson in this period characterized by faculty and student housing, but also by dwellings and commercial structures built for the fledgling merchant class that provided goods and services to the college population.

Profound change came to Davidson in 1874, when the reactivation of the railroad linking Charlotte and Statesville removed Davidson from its relative isolation and introduced forces that made the town a commercial and industrial center for the rural environs of northern Mecklenburg County and southern Iredell County.  The late 1800s and early 1900s witnessed the rise of textile manufacturing in Davidson through the construction of such notable structures as the Linden Mill and the Delburg Mill.  The mills had a significant impact on the nature of the built environment of Davidson through the introduction of industrial buildings and mill housing.  The College continued to be important to the growth of the town in the late 1800s and throughout the early and mid twentieth century and also occasioned significant changes in the built environment primarily through the introduction of faculty housing constructed in a variety of styles. 


1912 Sanborn Map depicting the Currie House at 759 North Main Street

The Currie House
The Currie House, a two-story dwelling that faces east on North Main Street, is a tangible reminder of some the forces that shaped the Town of Davidson in the early twentieth century.[i]  The long-time home of Archibald Currie and Lucy Martin Currie, the property stands as a relic of the history of the town and it retains a connection to the introduction of standardized graded education to the area.   



The Currie House (right) circa 1911, soon after it was constructed.
Photograph courtesy of the Davidson College Archives.



The southern and rear elevations of the Currie House, circa 1915
Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives

The Currie family arrived in Davidson during a period of expansion for the town and the Davidson College alike.  Archibald Currie was the son of Violet Currie, who was widowed in 1894 and moved to Davidson to educate her sons while operating a boarding house on North Main Street.[ii]  Archibald Currie graduated from Davidson College in 1897 and received further training at Columbia University, Cornell University, and the University of Virginia.[iii] He was appointed to the position of adjunct professor of Latin, Greek, and mathematics at Davidson College in 1901, and by 1920 he was endowed with the Woodrow Wilson Chair of Economics and Political Science at Davidson College.[iv]   



Archibald Currie
Photograph courtesy of the Davidson College Archives

Although he is remembered most fondly as “a born teacher and a thorough master of his subjects” at Davidson College, Archibald Currie also contributed his time and expertise to the town in the area of public education.[v]  In the period between the establishment of the college and the 1880s, the system of education in Davidson and the region as a whole was informal at best, a reflection of the rural character of North Carolina. [vi]  Children attended common schools at the discretion of their parents, and the education that took place in these common schools was generally limited by the lack of a standardized curriculum, inconsistent attendance, and the inadequate training of teachers.[vii]  This system of education was a reflection of the priorities of the society of a whole, in which schooling received in a public setting was but one facet of a child’s education.  In an agrarian system predicated upon custom and tradition, a child’s education was received not only in the schoolhouse, but also in the fields, at the hearth, and in the church.[viii]   

In Davidson, the traditional education that students received was supplemented at schools taught by local residents.  One of the earliest of these schools was that of Mrs. Julia Holt, who held a school for girls in Tammany Hall, a two-story building that once stood between Philanthropic Hall and Elm Row on the Davidson College campus.[ix]  Between 1875 and the mid-1880s, many Davidson children attended Lucy Jurney’s “School for Boys and Girls” in the building known as Lingle Manor on Glasgow Street, the same building that housed the Reverend Leonidas Glasgow’s school between 1887 and 1892.[x] In 1893, the Shelton family donated a lot on South Street, where the current Davidson IB Middle School is located, to be used for the purposes of education. The original school, known to Davidsonians as the “Davidson Academy,” was, as historian Mary Beaty notes, a combination of public and private school in which students were expected to pay tuition in the fall and spring, but the winter term was free of charge, and therefore, the most popular of the terms. [xi]  Archibald Currie demonstrated his commitment to public education early in his career. After his graduation from Davidson College in 1897, he served as the principal of the Davidson Academy from 1898 until 1902, where he met his future wife, Lucy Battle Martin, who worked as a teacher at the Academy.[xii] 

The rapidly-changing world of the late nineteenth-century challenged the traditional beliefs about public education.  The forces of industrialization drew farmers out from the fields and into newly formed commercial centers. Proponents of the graded school movement in North Carolina espoused the idea that the “new order” of the world dictated a change in the style of education towards a system that gave students the tools to succeed within an increasingly modernized society.[xiii]  Legislation establishing graded school districts was approved of in North Carolina at a quickening pace. The public seemed to agree with the graded school proponents who held that the modern world required the “professionalism and standardization” required of the new schools that were supported by special local taxes.[xiv]  Davidson’s graded school was established in 1911, and the statute that established the school provided for a board of trustees to oversee the operations of the school.  Archibald Currie again demonstrated his commitment to public education and served as a member of the board of trustees from the establishment of the graded school in 1911 until at least 1926.[xv]

The importance that Archibald Currie placed on education was echoed by other members of the Currie family.  Archibald’s brother, Thomas, also served as principal of the Davidson Academy.  His wife, Lucy, was a teacher at the Academy, and Letitia Currie, the daughter of Archibald and Lucy, is fondly remembered in town as a long-serving eighth grade teacher at Davidson Elementary School.  Letita returned to Davidson when her father became ill, after resigning her position as a professor at Peace College in Raleigh[xvi]


Lucy Martin Currie and her daughters, Letitia (seated) and Lucy

That Archibald and Lucy Martin Currie became such integral parts of the Town of Davidson is perhaps little surprise.  The town developed as a consequence of the establishment of the College, and as such, many of the faculty members and their families who have settled in Davidson have made permanent contributions to the growth of the town, creating a sense of interconnectedness between the town and the college.  Although Archibald Currie was a full-time professor at the College, he also served the town as an attorney and in his work for public education.  A further example of this close relationship exists in Lucy Battle Martin Currie, who is remembered as “the first lady of the town,” a woman who “contributed more towards giving the village the cultural tone which long distinguished it” than any other resident.[xvii]  Lucy Currie was the daughter of Davidson College president Colonel William J. Martin and the sister of Davidson College president Dr. William J. Martin.  She was born in the President’s House on North Main Street, and became a life-long resident of the town.  After Lucy was widowed in 1942, she threw herself into a number of endeavors that aimed to share her love for learning with the community.  In addition to establishing and participating in several prominent social groups, such as the Thelemite Book Club, Lucy also lectured to students at the middle school about the history of the town in which they lived.[xviii]  Mrs. Currie was the embodiment of the symbiotic relationship between the town and the College.

Lucy Martin Currie strove for excellence in her life and achieved it in fields that were not generally open to women at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Lucy was “a feminist before there was feminism,” remembers her grand-daughter, Tish Kimbrough, and she was one of the first females to graduate from the Davidson College.  Although Davidson College did not officially begin to admit females until the 1970s, the faculty briefly agreed to allow young women from the town to take classes during the 1860s.  Two women from Davidson completed the four-year course in classical studies, but the experiment in co-education was abandoned by the end of the decade.[xix]  The College again began to allow females to take classes in the 1890s, and while they were not listed as students in the Davidson Catalogue, it is known that at least six females took advantage of this educational opportunity.[xx]  There was certainly a desire by some parts of the Davidson population to have the benefits of higher education extended to the local women.  By 1891, the opinion was publicly expressed that if Davidson College allowed for co-education then perhaps “instead of losing so many of our own Davidson girls [to regional colleges for females] we would be in a fair position to import some others.[xxi] Lucy Martin began classes at Davidson College in 1894 and completed the four-year course in 1899.[xxii] While as many as seven young ladies took classes at Davidson in the 1890s, it is unclear how many, other than Lucy Martin, actually completed the four-year course of study until 1901, when a certificate was issued to another female graduate.[xxiii]  An even greater honor was bestowed upon her when, in 1904, Lucy Martin traveled to Oxford, England, to study with the first group of American Rhodes scholars.  Although the group officially consisted of only men, Lucy Martin shared in many of the same social and educational experiences as her male cohorts.[xxiv]

The Currie House is an important reminder of the history of both the Town of Davidson and the accomplishments of the Currie family.  The Currie family has helped to shape generations of future Davidsonians through their association with public education in the town.  Furthermore, the accomplishments of Lucy Martin Currie illuminate her as not only a prominent and influential Davidsonian, but as a singularly accomplished woman in the early twentieth century. 

Architectural Description


The Currie House, front elevation, 2006

Exterior Description
The Currie House, built in 1911, exhibits an interesting interplay of a late Victorian, asymmetrical plan with a restrained Victorian and Arts-and-Crafts influence in its detailing.  One of the distinctive characteristics of the home is its location in relation to North Main Street.  While the other dwellings in this section of Davidson were built close to the road, the Currie House sits almost one hundred and twenty-four feet back from North Main Street.  The lot on which the dwelling rests is only about seventy feet wide on the boundary with the street but it is almost three hundred and seventy feet long.  The rear perimeter of the property is defined by the railroad that extends in a north-south direction on the western edge of the property, and at almost eight hundred and thirty feet above sea level, the Currie House was built atop one of the highest points in Davidson.   The lot slopes gently away from the home towards the front and rear of the lot.  A sharp embankment is present at the rear of the property, at the bottom of which are the railroad tracks.   

View towards North Main Street from the front porch of the Currie House

View from the rear of the lot towards the rear of the Currie House

View from the top of the embankment on the rear boundary of the Currie lot to the train tracks below

Although the Currie House has had renovations to the interior and the exterior in recent years, much of the home retains its original elements and the renovations have been consistent with the architectural character of the home.  The Sanborn Map of Davidson for 1912 shows the Currie House as a two-story tall dwelling with a central cubic massing, with ells extending to the north and west and projecting bays on the east and south elevations.  The Sanborn Maps also indicate that the home has a wraparound front porch, and that the rear of the dwelling held a one-story tall porch.  All of these features of the exterior of the home remain, with the exception of the rear porch, which has been enclosed, and the addition of a small, shed-roofed mudroom on the rear façade. 

The two-story tall home faces east on North Main Street and it has a high hipped roof that is covered in asphalt shingle with a two-story, gable-roofed projecting bay on the front façade and a two-story, hipped-roof ell on the north façade, respectively.   The brick foundation has been reinforced in places with concrete, and most of the home is covered in the original wooden clapboard siding.  The central brick chimney has a corbelled cap and was recently rebuilt, but another brick chimney on the rear of the home appears to be original.

The front façade of the house is three bays wide.  A two-story tall, gable-roofed projecting bay protrudes from the left side of the front façade, and wooden shingle cladding is present under the gable.  The front elevation has a stepped appearance, taken as a whole with the projecting bay and the visible portion of the northern ell that is connected to the front façade by the wraparound porch.  This one-story front porch has a hipped roof that is covered in asphalt shingle.  The porch floor is composed of four-inch wooden planks that are of recent origin, although the boards which cover the porch ceiling do appear to be original. The siding on the porch is dissimilar to the siding on the remainder of the house.  While the original siding is wooden clapboard, the porch is clad in wooden German siding.  The heavy square posts which support the roof of the front porch are devoid of ornamentation and appear to be original, as do the square spindles that line the banister.  On the center bay of the front façade is the original two-paneled entry, which holds two lights.  A secondary entrance which consists of a paneled door with two lights is present on the north-facing cross-gable.  The windows on the front façade are the original eight-over-one double-hung sash windows, and the asymmetrical arrangement of the lights in the windows as well as the distinctive lights on the entry suggest the influence of the Arts-and-Crafts movement.  The windows are paired on both stories of the front-facing cross gable, but they are single on the center bay and on the right bay.  The porch’s brick foundation was also recently rebuilt.

Front door of the Currie House

Detail of German siding on the porch

Detail of original, eight-over-one sash windows

The north elevation of the Currie House is four bays wide, and is dominated by the two-story, hipped-roof ell which projects out from the rear of the cubic massing.  There are paired, eight-over-one sash windows that are original to the home on both the first and second story of this wing.  The left bay is composed of the northern section of the wraparound porch and the front section of the house.  Two fixed windows with muntins that are arranged in a lattice pattern are found on the first and second stories of this bay. The one-story tall ell which extends from the rear façade is also visible from the north elevation.  This ell holds two individual replacement sash windows that mirror the eight-over-one light arrangement of the original windows. 

Rear elevation of the Currie House

From the rear of the Currie House, which is three-bays-wide, it is possible to view the two-story tall ell which once held a sleeping porch on the second story.  The ell has a hipped roof, and the original windows on the second story have been replaced with modern casement windows which retain the historic character of their predecessors. The former sleeping porch is clad in board-and-batten siding of recent origin. The one-story extension of this ell also has a hipped roof and a tripartite window that is not original to the home, but maintains the asymmetrical appearance of the original windows of the house.  There is also a one-story tall wing with a hipped roof which was originally a porch, but has been enclosed, and a shed-roofed mud room has been added.  The paneled exterior door and the fixed window with muntins arranged in a lattice work pattern are both original to the house, although they were moved from their original location.  The left bay of this elevation holds an exterior brick chimney with shaped shoulders.    

South elevation of the Currie House

Detail of the southern projecting bay

The four-bay-wide south elevation contains one of the most distinctive features of the dwelling.  An eight foot wide bay projects out of the first story of the central massing.  This bay has a hipped roof covered in standing seam metal, and was designed specifically to hold a large mahogany sideboard that the Currie family inherited from Lucy Currie’s family, the Martins.  The sideboard around which this bay was constructed is now housed in the Davidson College library.  The projecting bay is about eight feet wide, and contains a center fixed window that is flanked by two casement windows, all of which have a lattice arrangement of muntins.  There are two additional casement windows on the east and west sides of this projecting bay. 

The windows on the south elevation are the original eight-over-one sash windows with the exception of the replacement windows on the south side of the former sleeping porch and a four-light casement window on the first story.  The sash windows over the projecting bay are paired, while the remainder of the windows are single.  

Interior Description

First floor plan of the Currie House. Note that the new bath was ultimately constructed within the hallway, thus freeing the hallway from the front door to the kitchen. 

Second floor plan of the Currie House

Much of the interior of the Currie House retains the original wood trim and detailing.  The main entry gives access to a long hallway whose floors are of two-and-a-half inch wide wooden boards.  These boards cover much of the first story, with the exception of the kitchen and the bathroom, which have both undergone renovations and hold new wooden flooring.  Two distinctive features of the hallway are the alcove which once held a wood stove and the wide stairway, which retains its original molded handrail, wooden turned spindles, and square newels.   

First floor staircase

Living room, first floor

 

In addition to the original wood flooring, the three generously proportioned, square rooms on the first floor all have the original, wide baseboards topped with molded caps, and each room contains the original fireplaces.  The fireplace in the living room is in excellent condition, and it features the original wooden posts that support the heavy wooden mantle.  The dining room contains a built-in china cabinet which has the same lattice-work windows as the casement windows in the projecting bay across the room from it.  The sitting room, like the dining room, contains the original fireplace, which has been converted from a coal burning appliance to a gas-burning appliance.  The molding surrounding the door of the media room has also been slightly altered.  The interior doors to all of the rooms on the first floor are original to the home and each entry displays the original engraved hardware.

Dining room, including china cabinet

Sitting room

          
The second story of the Currie House holds three square bedrooms, similarly proportioned to the rooms on the first floor.  Like the rooms on the first floor, these bedrooms all largely contain the original wood trim and fireplaces.  The bedroom in the northwest corner of the home has had minor alterations to accommodate the addition of a laundry room, and the bedroom in the southwest corner of the home has had a closet added.  In addition, the floor boards in the bedrooms on the south face of the home are three inches wide, slightly wider than the original floors throughout the remainder of the home. 

The renovations to the Currie House have been limited to the kitchen, the bathrooms, and the transformation of the sleeping porch to a new master bath.  However, in each of these rooms, the finished product roughly mirrors the original proportions of the room in question, and the owners were conscientious about including replacement windows that reflect the historic character of the home, and, when possible, employing original doors and windows.    

Outbuildings
The Currie House has two outbuildings, both of which are significantly removed from the rear of the home.  The oldest of these two outbuildings is a metal shed that is largely deteriorated.  There is also a two-part, cedar plank-clad shed.  The walls of this structure splay outwards slightly before meeting with the gabled roofs, underneath which the rafter tails are visible.  The roofs are covered in asphalt shingle.  The cedar shed is approximately fourteen feet deep by eleven feet wide, and is accessed by an eight foot long plank walkway.  The entry is contained on the larger of the two gabled masses. 

She

 

[i] Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Register of Deeds, Book 263-126.

[ii] Mary D. Beaty, Davidson, A History of the Town from 1835 Until 1937 (Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1979), 91. 

[iii] Cornelia Rebekah Shaw, Davidson College (New York: Fleming H. Revell Press, 1923), 175. 

[iv] Ibid.

[v] “Excerpt from the Davidson College Faculty Minutes of February 26, 1943,” Currie-Johnston Family Papers, Davidson College Archives, Davidson College.

[vi] James M. Leloudis, Schooling the New South: Self, Pedagogy, and Society in North Carolina, 1880-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 6

[vii] Ibid., 12.

[viii] Ibid., 13. 

[ix] Beaty, 25, 40.

[x] Ibid., 63.

[xi] Ibid., 64-65.

[xii] Ibid., 179; Jennifer Payne, interview with Tish Kimbrough, grand-daughter of Archibald and Lucy Currie, 20 July, 2006.

[xiii] Leloudis, 20.

[xiv] Ibid., 23.

[xv] Beaty, 127. 

[xvi] Currie and Johnston Papers; Beaty, 179: Payne interview with Tish Kimbrough.

[xvii] Lucy Martin Currie obituary, Currie-Johnston papers.

[xviii] Payne interview with Tish Kimbrough. 

[xix] Quips and Cranks, 1900, 76, available in the Davidsoniana Room in the Little Library on the campus of Davidson College.

[xx] Mary D. Beaty, A History of Davidson College (Davidson: Briarpatch Press, 1988), 198.

[xxi] Davidsonian Monthly, “Locals,” October, 1891, 27-28.  The Davidsonian Monthly is available in the Davidsoniana Room of the Little Library of Davidson College. 

[xxii]Davidsonian Monthly, “Local Department,” October, 1894, 39;  Jennifer Payne, “Survey and Research Report on the Martin-Worth-Henderson House,” December, 2005, retrieved from http://www.cmhpf.org/surveys&rmartinworthhen.htm.  

[xxiii] Beaty, A History of Davidson College, 198.

[xxiv] Letter to Lucy Martin from an unidentified fellow scholar, Currie and Johnston Papers.