Survey and Research Report
On The Fennell House
301 East Kingston Avenue
1. Name and location of the property: The Fennell House 301 East Kingston Avenue Charlotte NC
2. Name and address of the present owner of the property: Jeff Douglas 1122 Montford Drive Charlotte, NC 28209
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report contains representative photos 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: The current deed reference is 15598-370. The Tax Parcel Identification Number is 12307601. UTM coordinate: UTM 17 513153E 3896536N
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. 160A-400.5:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as the Fennell House does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical and architectural description that is included in this report, demonstrates that the Fennell 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 appraised value of the building is $176,700. The current appraised value of the lot is $275,000. The current total value is $451,700.
Date of preparation of this report: November 2004
Prepared by: Paula M. Stathakis, Ph. D. and Allen L. Brooks, AIA
The Fennell House was built as part of the initial phase of the development of Dilworth, Charlotte’s first streetcar suburb. Dilworth was promoted as a “suburban paradise” and was planned by Edward Dilworth Latta and the construction firm he owned with several other prominent Charlotte businessmen, the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, familiarly known as the 4C’s. Dilworth was carved from what had been described as 442 flat and treeless acres and would ultimately become a fashionable enclave for the city’s growing middle class. Latta enticed potential homeowners with beautifully landscaped boulevards, a streetcar system connecting the suburb to town, and recreational facilities, such as Latta Park. In 1891, The Charlotte Democrat praised the neighborhood as “the city of Avenues” and noted that the 4C’s would offer the first round of lots for sale on May 20, 21, and 22.
In spite of the onslaught of favorable advertising in the Charlotte papers, Dilworth got off to a rocky start, and the 4C’s consequently spiraled into financial difficulties. Determined to make Dilworth a financial success, Latta continued to invest in more elaborate amenities for the neighborhood to attract suburban homeowners. Latta built a pavilion, a lake with boathouses, a bowling alley, and a baseball grandstand to attract people from the city. Dilworth received a boost in 1892 when D.A. Tompkins announced pans to build the Atherton Cotton Mills on Dilworth’s southern boundary. Other manufacturing plants soon followed suit. By 1895, six major manufacturing concerns were located in Dilworth, and the 4C’s survived by building houses for industrial workers near and around these new factories.
Between 1894 and 1900, the 4C’s provided Dilworth with all the modern amenities: a trolley line, electricity, gas, water and sewer services. Perhaps most importantly, Latta continued to offer long- term mortgage financing, a program that facilitated home ownership for the middle class. By encouraging financing, Latta declared that Dilworth was not merely intended for the wealthy, stating: "So while we have property for everybody, for those in affluence, able to construct edifices after their heart's desire, our special work and calling is to aid those whose moderate income suggests a pause when the subject of a real home is talked of."
The architecture of the new neighborhood was touted as the most up-to-date as could be found anywhere. The Charlotte Daily Observer announced in 1893: “Mr. E.D. Latta arranged to introduce new styles of architecture at Dilworth and Mr. Hook will prepare plans for five new residences. They will include the 'Queen Anne,' 'Colonial,' and 'Modern American' styles of architecture. All of the buildings will be built in the best manner with slate roofs, fine interior finish, and ornamental stairways.”
The Mr. Hook referred to in the above article was Charles Christian Hook, a Wheeling, West Virginia native who moved to Charlotte in 1891 to teach mechanical drawing. His architectural career began when he was hired by the 4C’s to design houses in Dilworth during the initial phase of construction. Hook later partnered with Frank Sawyer [1902-1907] in the firm of Hook and Sawyer, and later with Willard Rogers [1912-1916] in the firm of Hook and Rogers, and later with his son W.W. Hook. During his forty-five year career, C.C. Hook designed several buildings that would ultimately become architectural landmarks in Charlotte: the Charlotte Women’s Club, the J.B. Duke House, and the William Henry Belk mansion are but a few examples of his work. Like many of Charlotte’s prominent citizens of the day, most notably D.A. Tompkins and E.D. Latta, Hook was not a Charlotte native but was nevertheless able to play a significant role in the city’s development at a time when the local economy was vigorous and expanding. Hook’s stamp is still visible in many areas of the city.
Of the design styles described by the Charlotte Daily Observer, Hook’s “Modern American” has proved the most difficult to define. According to architectural historian Ruth Little, it refers to “a more formal version of colonial design” influenced by the Georgian Revival style and featuring pediments, dormer windows, modillions and dentil cornices, and Doric porches.
The Fennell House was built during the period that C.C. Hook was the dominant architect in Dilworth and is, according to Little, an example of what Hook called the “Modern American” style, showing “the hesitant incorporation of Georgian elements into a basic Queen Anne block.” Little describes the house as
…two and one half story frame house [with] symmetrical massing…a two story splayed east side bay, a deep one story splayed west side bay, and three classical pediments, one over the east bay, a pedimented dormer window, and a pedimented porch roof. The porch is supported by Doric columns. The picture window with leaded glass transom is used here, one of the earliest instances of its appearance in Dilworth. This window type, a large pane of glass which is fixed and does not open, developed along with the Queen Anne style in New England in the 1880s, and is a popular feature in Dilworth homes from the beginning.
The Fennell Family’s Acquisition of 301 East Kingston Avenue:
The first residents of the house at 301 East Kingston Avenue were Benjamin F. and Helen A. Fennell. B.F. Fennell was a foreman, and later master mechanic at the General Fire Extinguisher Company. The Fennells appear to have been an ordinary and quiet middle class family, the type that Latta hoped to attract to the neighborhood with his long-term mortgage financing programs. The Fennell family owned the property until 1965.
The earliest deed reference to the property is on April 30, 1903 and is between Helen A. Fennell and the 4C’s. Through this instrument, Helen Fennell acquired lot 20 and half of lot 19 in square 25 for $4727.42. Two years later, Mrs. Helen A. Fennell acquired the remainder of lot 19 from the 4C’s for $472.10. What is notable about these acquisitions is the purchase price of the initial parcel. Citing data from the Charlotte Daily Observer Little shows that by 1904, the average lot in Dilworth cost $900-$1200.00. Average lot size was 50’x100’, as were the original parcels purchased by Helen Fennell. The same newspaper article references the price of houses in Dilworth in 1904: “Dilworth has had a majority of the finer homes, running from $3000 to $5000 as a rule, in cost of construction…” Taking the above facts into consideration, it is likely that the house at 301 East Kingston was already built when Helen Fennell bought the lots, and may have been a tract house designed by Hook for Dilworth, but not a house designed specially for the Fennell family.
Although direct references linking Hook to the Fennell house have not been found, it seems that the idiosyncratic hand of the architect is apparent in its style and design. Ruth Little asserts that the Fennell House, built during the early phase of Dilworth development, is an example of what Hook identified as his “Modern American” style. Other Dilworth homes that have been designated as local Historic Landmarks have been done so on the basis or partly on the basis that their design was attributable to C.C. Hook. These homes include the Jones-Garibaldi House, the Helms-Bell House, and the Lucian Walker House. The architect of the Crutchfield-Bomar-Brem House, also built in 1903, was previously unknown but is now confirmed to be C.C. Hook, as referenced in The Charlotte Daily Observer, May 16, 1903 stating: “Mr. Charles D. McKnight let the contract for his residence on Kingston Avenue and Mr. W.G. Crutchfield to let the contract for his new residence on East Boulevard yesterday. Both will be large and handsome. The plans were prepared by Hook and Sawyer.”
 The Charlotte Democrat, May 15, 1891.
 Dan Morrill, Dilworth’s Early History, 1890-1911, www.cmhpf.org/educationneighhistdilworth1.htm
 Ibid. For more information about the history of Dilworth, consult the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks website.
 Charlotte Daily Observer, June 4, 1893.
 Dr. William H. Huffman, Survey and Research Report, The Jones-Garibaldi House.
 Ruth Little-Stokes, Dilworth Historic District: Charlotte, N.C. Architectural Analysis, The Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, and the Dilworth Community Development Association, August 18, 1978, p. 14.
 Charlotte City Directory, 1905-1906, 1907.
 Mecklenburg County Court House, Register of Deeds, Deed Book 178 Page 128. A map of the neighborhood is in Map Book 230 Page 60.
 Deed 289-645, October 24, 1905.
 Ruth Little-Stokes, Dilworth Historic District, p. 2.
 Charlotte Daily Observer, May 16, 1903, p. 6 [Briefs