and Research Report on Falls Store, Davidson N.C.
1. Name and
location of the property: The property known as Falls Store is
located at 300 Mock Road, Davidson, NC 28036.
Name, address, and telephone number of the current owner of the property:
JAMES EDWARD RAEFORD SR.
DAISY LEE RAEFORD
PO Box 571
Davidson, NC 28036
Representative photographs of the property. This report
contains representative photographs of the property
4. A map depicting
the location of the property.
Current Deed Book Reference To The Property. The most
recent deed information for this property is found in
Mecklenburg County Deed Reference Book # 15254, pg. 63.
The tax parcel number for the property is 00323406.
A Brief Historical Essay On The Property. This report
contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by William
A Brief Physical Description Of The Property. This report
contains a brief physical description of the property prepared by
Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria
for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5.
Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or
cultural importance. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Landmarks Commission judges that Falls Store possesses special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission
bases its judgment on the following considerations:
a. The Falls Store is one of the few surviving commercial structures
associated with an African American community in northern Mecklenburg
County that dates from the period of Jim Crow segregation.
The Falls Store is an important artifact for understanding the
development of Davidson, NC. Davidson contains a well preserved
historically African American neighborhood centered around Mock Circle
in the west side of the town. The Falls store is one of the few
commercial buildings that has survived in the neighborhood.
Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
association: The Commission judges that the physical
description included in this report demonstrates that the property known
as Falls Store meets this criterion.
Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for 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 appraised
value of Falls Store is . The property is zoned R 1.
This report finds that the exterior of Falls Store should be included in
any landmark designation of the property.
of preparation of this report:
March 1, 2010
The town of Davidson,
N.C. in Mecklenburg County is arguably the only small town in the county
that does not owe its existence primarily to the agrarian enterprise of
farming or to the expansion of rail transportation. Instead, the
unique origins of this town are directly related to the pursuit of
higher education. In 1837, Davidson College, founded by the
Presbyterian Church, opened in northern Mecklenburg County. This
institution would form the nexus for the area and exert a major
influence over its built environment. The first businesses in what
would become the town of Davidson were originally built on land that was
leased by the school.
The college would initially serve two functions; an educational
institution as well as the local governmental authority.
After the Civil War and Reconstruction, the village incorporated in 1879
and chose “Davidson College” as its municipal moniker. However, in
1891, the town shortened this name to Davidson.”
By the twentieth century, the school still played a central role in the
town’s development “not just as the largest business but also providing
the first water and electricity systems to the town.”
African American history in
Davidson is almost as old as the town itself. While there is some
evidence of African Americans in the area prior to the Civil War, it is
at the turn of the century where more documentation on the establishment
of the African American community in Davidson exists. While some
African Americans were able to establish businesses in the area, the
majority of the population (by the early twentieth century) worked
either at Davidson College or at the Carolina Asbestos Company (formerly
the Davidson Cotton Mill). And while many in the community
remember the past as amicable between black and white, history shows
that was not necessarily the case.
As Grey Timberlake in her
study Trapped by Tradition: Davidson’s African American
Community from 1930 to 1970 comments, “Segregation in Davidson was
typical of Southern Towns.”
The railroad tracks divided Davidson into two separate and unequal
areas. On the east side of town stood Davidson College, Main
Street, and the majority of the white population who dwelled in large,
one and two story substantial homes and boarding houses. However
behind Main Street, across the railroad tracks, the west side of town
was a different story entirely. Here was the poor side of
Davidson, and disparities between the two, especially in the areas of
housing and education were more than obvious if anyone living in east
Davidson cared to look. Originally the area was a mix of black and
white because these people worked in the nearby mills. However,
Jim Crow segregation and the trend towards more industrial development
in the area caused a transition to a more predominantly African-American
demographic. Most of the homes in this area were viewed as
overcrowded and lacking in indoor plumbing. Many of these
residents rented their homes from more well-to-do whites in Davidson but
by the 1950’s, “the ‘stacks,’ ‘shoeboxes,’ or ‘shotgun houses,’ were so
run down that occupants rarely even tried to improve them.”
While overt acts of racism
in the town were few, there was a strong sense of paternalism which
underscored the separation and segregation of the races. Even the
school publication, the Davidsonian, reinforced this unequal
arrangement in the way it described the mannerisms and speech of its
black population. One example is seen in an article in the
September 19, 1934 edition of the paper describing a young porter named
Hurdle, who worked at the school carrying student luggage to the
“Hey mistuh, lemme ca’y
yo’ trunk up to the dormitories.” “Although the object of their pleas is
very much doubtful of the ability of such a small coon to “tote” such a
large trunk, he invariable (sic) either gives in to amusement, or
hardboiled, tells Hurdle to clear out. For little Hurdle, known to every
old Davidson man, is sure to be among the foremost of the crowd. His
lower lip sticks out in advance to warn you that he too totes trunks
with abandon and skill.”
While statements like the
one above would be considered racist today, in the 1930’s such
statements were the norm rather than the exception to the rule as
further research shows this was hardly the only instance in the
Davidsonian where racist language was employed when describing the
town’s African-American population. According to Timberlake, local
African American residents were torn on how to counteract such
injustice. If they protested, they could anger the college, which
was one of their primary employers, and suffer repercussions. And
many an anonymous interviewee in Timberlake’s study attested to the fact
that “one could not complain outwardly, because ‘you can’t bite the hand
that feeds you.’”
Timberlake also contends that “the most significant aspect of
segregation was the sub-standard education at the schools that
Davidson’s black children had to accept for years.”
The Davidson Colored School emphasized vocational training over academic
instruction with the assumption that many, if not all, of the children
attending would wind up working in a factory or as janitorial or cooking
staff for the college. This unequal arrangement would foster
incorrect and ignorant assumptions about the educational abilities of
African Americans in Davidson that would transcend generations. A
prime example of this is seen in the United States Supreme Court
decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, which mandated integration.
Many whites in the town opposed the move generally arguing, “. . . that
the presence of black teachers and students would retard progress in the
Jim Crow’s reach in Davidson
extended to Main Street as well. All of the businesses were white
owned and for white customers and “wherever the paths of blacks and
whites crossed, blacks were expected to remain separate.”
Until the 1950’s, Cole’s Café on Main Street would not allow blacks into
the restaurant. “With the undermining of Jim Crow laws by the
mid-1950’s, the owners designated one side for blacks. However,”
as Timberlake highlights, “blacks and whites had to enter through
separate doors. While whites could sit comfortably enjoying their
sandwiches, blacks had to stand.”
The movie theater in Davidson also initially excluded African-Americans
but began to allow them in during the mid-1950’s. “Even then,
black movie goers had to sit on the floor,”
As a result of this, the local African-Americans of Davidson began to
remove themselves from mainstream Davidson life. Timberlake argues
the reason for this was, “many (black) parents would not allow their
children to enter the town’s restaurants or move theater and humiliate
themselves by giving in to segregation.”
They chose, instead, to invest their social capital into their own
African Americans in
Davidson concentrated themselves in three particular areas. The
first area was known as “Brady Alley’ or more simply as, “the Alley.”
In the twentieth century, the neighborhood was, “home to factory workers
and domestics as well as to community leaders, such as Ralph Johnson, a
minister and owner of several rental properties in the neighborhood, and
Ada Jenkins, a principal of the Davidson Colored School (Now known as
the Ada Jenkins Community Center), which is situated in the southwestern
edge of the neighborhood.”
Located beside Brady Alley, and constructed partially in response to a
Brady Alley fire which threatened white owned Main Street, was the
neighborhood of Mock Hill, centered on Mock Circle and Mock Road.
Also, another small African American community called Shearer Town,
named after Davidson College President John B. Shearer, exists just
north of the town limits.
Right next to the Davidson Colored School, in the Mock Hill neighborhood
of Davidson stands Falls Store. This simple cinder block structure
was constructed by Mr. Webb Shinn during World War II and replaced an
older wood structure.
The building was constructed for Ms. Edna Falls (2/22/1892 – 10/24/1979),
who purchased the property in 1917 from T.E. Lothery.
Ms. Falls was known as an “outspoken” and well remembered figure in the
local African-American community.
She, like many others in the neighborhood, worked at Davidson College
where she cooked and prepared meals for the members of the Kappa Alpha
and Kappa Sigma Fraternities.
This, however, was not her only means of income, for she also ran a
boarding house in Brady Alley which catered to some of the teachers of
the Davidson Colored School.
In addition to this, she also found time to operate the small store in
When she first opened the store, Ms. Falls sold simple conveniences.
Mrs. Daisy Raeford (09/22/1941) recalls that, “snacks, cookies, cakes,
potato chips, etc.” were the main selections at Ms. Falls store.
 This was because the majority of her
clientele were neighborhood children. To that end, Ms. Falls
operating hours varied, but generally, she opened the store early in the
morning and then closed it down after school began. She then
re-opened the store around 2 P.M. so as to be ready for the children
when they were let out of school. This method ensured that she
would get that target demographic on the way to school as well as on the
way home. Also, since adults in the neighborhood came home later
than the children, she would close the store for the day around 7 or
7:30 P.M. after everyone was home and usually in for the evening.
While many in Mock Hill and Brady Alley remember the selection at Ms.
Falls’ store, others remember the home baked treats she served up there
too. Mr. Joe Mclean (02/18/1930) remembers that the sweet treats
were so good he, “used to go by there and buy cinnamon buns.”
Ron Raeford (02/05/1962) recalled with nostalgia how he, “used to ask
for a honey bun from Ms. Falls during recess from school.”
So many kids liked the wares offered at the store that Ms. Falls was
compelled to institute a “one-at-a-time” policy to keep the children
from overwhelming her whilst searching for something sweet!
Neighborhood children, however, were not her only clients. As
mentioned earlier she kept her store open to catch potential customers
as they came home from work too. In order to meet the demands of
her adult clientele, Ms. Falls, “started selling groceries like chicken,
bread, milk, etc.”
These new additions would ensure that her store would appeal to
different age groups thereby reaching a wider market for her wares.
Another aspect of Ms. Falls’ store that made it popular with the local
residents was its location. Situated on Mock Circle near the
Davidson Colored School, the building was situated in the middle of
Brady Alley and Mock Hill. Most residents had to pass it whether
on their way to work or school. This central location would make
the store a focal point for both neighborhoods; a kind of local
landmark, which the residents could use to orient themselves within the
rest of the neighborhood.
Sometime in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, Ms. Falls rented the building
out to a tenant named Nora Bell Torrence. Ms. Torrence, as Daisy
Raeford recalls, “pretty much sold the same things (as Ms. Falls), but
she started selling fish and chicken dinners.”
After Ms. Torrence, the
building was sold to Talmadge and Cecelia Conner
. Talmadge Conner actually grew up in the
house (still extant) beside the store.
The Conner’s let their oldest son Michael run the store and he ran it as
a convenience store and continued to sell basically the same things that
Ms. Falls and Ms. Torrence had sold. However, the Conner’s relied
less on home baked goods and opted for prepackaged pastries, pies,
cinnamon buns, etc. As Cecelia Conner remembers, “we mostly bought what
In addition to the traditional fare, Michael also installed an ice cream
cabinet, a “showcase” which was used to market various candies and
sweets, and introduced Coca Cola as new products.
For a time, the building also housed a flower shop when the Conner’s
daughter Castella took over operation of the store.
In 2004, the building was
sold to James
 and Daisy Raeford
who returned the building to its original use. The Raeford’s also
added a small grill which enabled them to offer breakfast and lunch
sandwiches in addition to the snacks and treats traditionally sold
Currently, there are plans to open a barbeque take-out restaurant in the
As Grey Timberlake concludes, “while North Carolina African-Americans
experienced less persecution than those in the Deep South, segregation
and racism prevailed.”
While this persecution Timberlake mentions could turn hostile, for the
most part, it was delivered upon the Davidson African-American community
in the form of paternalism. As a result, many local
African-Americans removed themselves from mainstream Davidson society
and focused inward on their own community. The Falls Store stands
as a symbol of this sense of African-American community in Davidson
during the twentieth century. It also stands as a testament to the
neighborhood it serves. From its central location between Mock
Hill and Brady Alley this small building occupies a prominent position
in the social history of this community. As Cecelia Conner
remembered, the building served as a major convenience for the
neighborhood’s residents because it was the only place where one could
get simple staples or even the occasional meal because, “all the other
stores were uptown.”
Daisy Raeford was quick to point out, since the building stood in the
middle of two major African-American Davidson neighborhoods, between
home, work and school, it was always “a good place to meet.”
The building not only stood at the intersection of these communities, it
also exerted a powerful and positive influence on their residents.
As Ken Norton put it, “It’s a landmark place.”
To be sure, the building is well known and loved throughout the
neighborhood: The testimonies of local residents cited throughout
this essay only confirm that fact. And because of this, Ms. Falls
little store has endeared itself to multiple generations of Davidson
residents some of which have never known a time when the building wasn’t
there. As the world around Davidson and Brady Alley continues to
evolve and change, it is in places like Falls Store where one can get a
continual snapshot of this community, and by proxy, a small town
African-American community, both yesterday and today.