1. Name and location of the property: The
property known as the William and Rachel Newell Neill House is located at 1412 West Rocky River
Road in the Newell Community of Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner of
the property: The present owner of the property is:
Ann W. Greer
6131 Woodbridge Road
Charlotte, N.C. 28227-3036
Telephone: (704) 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 that depicts the location of the property. The
Universal Tranverse Mercator coordinates of the property are 17 523671E
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the Property: The most recent
deed to the William and Rachel Newell Neill House is found in Deed Book 3588, page 453.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a
brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
7. A brief architectural sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief architectural sketch of the property prepared by Stewart Gray.
8. 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
The Commission judges that the property known
as the William and Rachel Newell Neill House does possess special significance in terms of
Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
1. The William and Rachel Newell Neill House is
architecturally significant as a striking local example of an
embellished farmhouse of the mid-1920s, especially noteworthy because of
its incorporation of Craftsman style Bungalow elements into the more traditional I
2. The William and Rachel Newell Neill House was constructed
and owned by John A. Newell, the principal founder of the Newell
community and a person of outstanding social and political importance in
3. The William and Rachel Newell Neill House, which includes
elements of the Newell Cotton Gin, is a significant component of
the built environment of the Newell community, the principal cotton
ginning and cotton pressing center of northeastern Mecklenburg County in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
The Commission contends that the attached architectural
description by Stewart Gray and Dr. Dan L. Morrill demonstrates that the property known as the
William and Rachel Newell Neill 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 that
becomes a designated "historic landmark." The current appraised tax value of
the improvements on the property is $103,760. The current appraised tax
value of the 2.77 acres of land is $37,720. The total appraised tax value of
the property is $141,480. The property is zoned R3. The Tax Parcel Number of
the property is 049-191-21.
10. Portion of property recommended for designation:
The Commission judges that the following portions of the property meet the
requirements of historic landmark designation: the interiors and exteriors
of all improvements and the entire tax parcel.
Date of Preparation of this Report: April 20, 2002
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill and Stewart Gray
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
2100 Randolph Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28207
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
William and Rachel Newell Neill House
John A. Newell
The history of the William and
Rachel Newell Neill House (c. 1925) is inextricably linked with the
evolution of the Newell community and with its principal founder, John A.
Newell (1854-1937). An aggregate of synergistic forces transformed the
economic standing of the land in and surrounding Newell in the second half
of the nineteenth century. The first and most momentous of these
developments was the construction of the North Carolina Railroad from
Goldsboro via Raleigh, Greensboro, and Salisbury to Charlotte, a distance of
The first train traveled the entire route on January 31, 1856.2
In 1871, the railroad was leased to the Richmond and Danville Railroad
Company, and the Southern Railroad acquired the right-of-way by lease in
1894.3 "We now
have a rail-road connection with Raleigh, Petersburg, Richmond, and with all
the cities of the North, on to the lines of Canada," the Western Democrat
proclaimed on February 5, 1856.4
Thereafter, the shipment of Mecklenburg cotton to distant markets became
more feasible. Consequently, cotton platforms, cotton presses, and cotton
gins began to appear along the railroads of this region. Although the major
cotton processing facilities of Mecklenburg County were in Charlotte, cotton
platforms in outlying sections were also established.
In September 1883, John
A. Newell and his brother, W. B. Newell, purchased a cotton press from
Liddell & Company of Charlotte.5
They located the press beside the tracks of the Richmond and Danville
Railroad, thereby laying the economic foundation for the Newell community.
The farmers of northeastern Mecklenburg now had a more convenient point from
which to ship their cotton. A post office was established at Newell; and not
surprisingly, John A. Newell, locally known as "Squire Newell," was the first
postmaster. The Newell Presbyterian Church came into being, as well as a
private school. Merchants established stores in the community.6
The locating of cotton processing facilities at Newell was fortuitous,
because cotton production rose sharply in the late 1800s due primarily to
the widespread use of Peruvian guano as fertilizer. Cotton output in
Mecklenburg County increased from 6112 bales in 1860 to 27, 466 bales in
writes historian Sherry Joines, "the image, economy, and lifestyle of
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County changed dramatically."8
This photograph of a Cotton Gin in
Oklahoma demonstrates that two-story frame structures were used in such
enterprises. The main block of the Neill House might well have
resembled this building when it was originally built. Cotton was
unloaded and taken into the two-story building for ginning, a process
that separated seed from lint. The cotton lint was then sucked
through a tube to the building on the left. This was the cotton
press that packed the cotton into bales for shipping. The seed was
sold to cottonseed oil mills.
According to the Charlotte Observer,
John A. Newell was "one of the County's most prominent citizens."9
A native of Mecklenburg County, "Squire
Newell" was an entrepreneur whose interests "centered mainly on agriculture."10
He had an affable personality and a generous nature. Illustrative of
his standing in the community was the fact that Newell served for eighteen
years on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. He also amassed
substantial amounts of property in and around Newell and joined with his
wife, Dora Taylor Newell (1860-1951), in establishing a prosperous household
in the family's home at the intersection of what is now West Rocky River
Road and Old Concord Road.11 Among the facilities that Newell erected was a cotton gin
behind and across Rocky River Road from his house.12
Dora, Glendora, or Mrs. John A. Newell on left.
Mrs. W. B. Newell on the right.
According to Joines, the growth
in cotton production and its concomitant wealth, especially after the Panic
of 1893, allowed some Mecklenburg
farmers to abandon log construction and simple rectangular I-houses and build Folk
Victorian abodes in an "L" or "T" plan and even incorporate some Craftsman elements into their
farmhouses, such as one finds in the two shed or hip-roofed Bungalow style dormers atop the William and
Rachel Newell Neill House. "I-houses were decorated with sawnwork, vergeboards, spindlework,
and a wealth of other ornamentation indicating the farmer's wealth and
status," says Joines.13
In their book, Architects and Builders in North Carolina. A History
of the Practice of Building, historians Catherine Bishir, Charlotte
Brown, Carl Lounsbury, and Ernest Wood III, comment on the same phenomenon.
"Even the countryside," they assert, "experienced some refurbishing as
prosperity increased after the agricultural depressions of the 1880s and
1890s."14 Some of the more striking local examples of "dressed up" farmhouses are the Ewart House and the John Milton Alexander House in northern Mecklenburg
County and the Sidney and Ethel
Grier House in southern Mecklenburg County. The most imposing extant example in Newell is the W. B. Newell House
The William and
Rachel Newell Neill House also exhibits ornamentation, albeit clumsily,
beyond that which one would typically encounter in a Mecklenburg
County farmhouse of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Located across West Rocky River Road and west of the site where the John A.
Newell House once stood, the main block of the house was originally part of
the Newell cotton gin.16
John A Newell transformed the building in c. 1925 into a home for his
daughter, Rachel Newell Neill (1890-1968) and her husband, William E. Neill
(1890-1963), a native of Rogersville, Tennessee.17
William, nicknamed "Shorty," had come to Charlotte as a
trainee at Camp Greene, a World War I U.S. Army Camp and had met Rachel, his
future wife, at a church in Uptown Charlotte. The newlyweds
established their residence in Charlotte, but John Newell wanted his
daughter and son-in-law to reside closer to him. An owner of
considerable amounts of real estate, Newell dispatched laborers to the site
of the former cotton gin and converted the structure into the Craftsman
style home one sees today. His family believes that Newell used materials,
including windows, that had been parts of other houses in the area.18
The William and Rachel Neill Newell House has an
"L" Plan with a hipped roof, large shed dormers, and a wraparound front
The Neills superintended a growing family in their home
on West Rocky River Road. Four daughters were born to William and
Rachel Neill within five years -- the first in 1921. William, a
friendly, outgoing man, never labored in agriculture but spent most of his
married life working for the Royal Crown Bottling Company. Rachel, a
stern but compassionate mother, was responsible for running the house.
Emma Elizabeth Neill Harper (1921 - ) and
Rachel Newell Neill Dunlap (1923 - ) remember their
childhoods and their parents with great fondness. The images and
sounds of a rural community next to a railroad line come readily to their
minds. Emma and Rachel would go swimming in nearby Toby Creek or play
baseball with the boys in the neighborhood. They would visit the
Newell Community House for instruction and social gatherings. The girls
would walk barefooted to their grandfather's house every Sunday and watch
the steam locomotives rumble by. Sometimes they would even go to the Newell
Depot across the double tracks and ride the train for 25 cents to Charlotte.
John Newell, whom Emma and Rachel called "Big Pappa," would let the girls
wander in the barnyard where he raised mules for sale to local farmers.
The large number of mules, horses, and donkeys prompted local residents to call West Rocky River
Road "Jackass Avenue."19
This photograph was made between
1900 and 1905. John A. Newell is on the left, and his son, "Chub"
Newell, is on the right. Standing behind them is a black laborer
nicknamed "Uncle Sam."
Emma and Rachel can summon up
images of their mother picking vegetables in the garden behind the house,
standing for long periods of time starching clothes at the ironing board, or
sometimes using a hickory stick when the girls misbehaved. "She wouldn't let
us look at the funny papers," recalls Emma. William and Rachel Neill
were loyal members of Newell Presbyterian Church, where she was a Sunday
School teacher and where both are buried." I am proud of my heritage," says
Rachel Newell Neill Dunlap.20
Original Newell Presbyterian Church
Her husband having predeceased her
and her four daughters having married and moved elsewhere, Rachel Neill
Newell sold the home place in 1964.21
Since then the house has had several owners and has even been used as a
fraternity house for students at the nearby University of North Carolina at
It now stands vacant, and its future is uncertain. With seemingly incessant
traffic motoring along West Rocky River Road and Old Concord Road, with
suburban sprawl virtually inundating the neighborhood, with gasoline
stations and convenience stores cropping up seemingly on every corner, it is
increasingly difficult to remember the rural lifestyles that were once
predominant in Newell. Only the unmistakable sounds of the locomotives
traveling along the railroad and the existence of the dwindling number
of structures like the William and Rachel Neill Newell House can transport
one back to yesterday.
Most of the older homes
in Newell are one or two-story frame dwellings. Most are essentially
vernacular farm houses in terms of architectural design. The house at
8001 Old Concord Road, for example, is a typical I-House like those found
with great frequency throughout rural Mecklenburg County.
8001 Old Concord Road
8509 Old Concord Road
8501 Old Concord Road
7729 Old Concord Road
The dwelling at 7729 Old Concord Road is also
commonplace. It is a so-called "Triple A" I-House, a nomenclature
derived from its having a large gable extending above the roof in the middle of the front
facade. The simple, one-story dwelling at 8509 Old Concord Road also has many
counterparts in rural Mecklenburg County.
There are several older houses
in Newell, however, that are not typical of rural Mecklenburg County.
They reflect the desires of the owners to live in "dressed up" domiciles.
The house at 8501 Old Concord Road has hints of Victorian filigree
remaining in its gables. The W. B. Newell House, the most imposing
brick home in Newell, is embellished with gable decorations.
Particularly interesting in terms of the William and Rachel Newell Neill
6539 Old Concord Road
is the dwelling at 6539 Old Concord Road, on the southern
edge of Newell. Most likely constructed between 1915 and 1925, this
house demonstrates that the Bungalow style was becoming popular in the
The William and Rachel Newell Neill House is
located in the Newell community of eastern Mecklenburg County. The
two-story, cross-hipped I-House sits facing north on level ground, and is
setback about thirty-five feet from the West Rocky River Road. It occupies a
narrow but deep 2.8-acre lot, which is bordered to the east by the open
grounds of the Newell Presbyterian Church and its graveyard. To the west, a
strip of vacant and overgrown farmland borders the property. Late 20th
century homes dot the roadside as the narrow two-lane road winds to the
west. Very important features of the landscape are the tracks of the
Southern Railroad, located about 250 yards due east of the house. The Newell
Masonic Lodge, a low modern brick building, sits unobtrusively across the
road from the Neill House on a lot that slopes down from the road. In it
present situation, the house stands alone, with neighboring buildings at a
According to family history the Neill House was converted
from a cotton gin building in c. 1925. We do not now have images or plans of the cotton gin
building, but other examples from around 1900 show a tall and wide, but
shallow frame buildings, similar to the principal, or front section of the
Neill House. Changes in the flooring may indicate that the easternmost half
of the front section of the house incorporates what was the gin building.
The Neill House, with the exception of two late 20th
century additions, is supported on noticeably worn and weathered brick
piers. The exterior walls of the house are now complexly covered by
blue-gray asbestos tiles, and if the house had been embellished with any
details such as a water table, a belt course, or a freeze board, they are
now covered. The principal section of the Neil House is three bays wide, and
one room deep, a very typical configuration for an I-House. The floor plan
of this section consist of two rooms separated by a large center hall on
both floors. On the first floor the front door, a modern replacement door,
is roughly centered between six-over-six double-hung windows, with single
six-over-six double-hung windows also piercing the east and west elevations.
Disturbing the general symmetry of this fenestration is the difference in
the sizes of the windows. The first floor windows to the east of the front
door, are very tall, nearly floor to ceiling in height, while the
six-over-six windows to the west of the front door are much shorter, with
the windowsills at a standard height of about two feet.
One of the most prominent features of the house is a
one-story hipped porch that wraps around the east side. The porch is
supported by seven unfluted Doric columns across the front of the house,
with two additional columns supporting the eastern wraparound section. The
columns have simply moulded capitols and bases, and would have been readily
available to Mecklenburg County builders throughout the early 20th
century, being common elements of the popular Colonial Revival and
Neoclassical Styles. The columns support a boxed beam subtly decorated with
moulded boards and quarter-round trim. Half-column pilasters support the
beams where they attach to the house. Centered over the front door is a
small porch-roof gable, a curious element on an otherwise all hipped roofed
house. A late 20th century carport-overhang is attached to the
porch’s eastern side.
n the principal section of the Neill House, windows on
the second floor line up with the first floor fenestration. On the second
floor the window opening sizes are uniform, with the openings starting at
the porch roof and ending just below the eaves. The original second floor
windows have been replaced with modern one-over-one windows.
The Neill House’s moderately overhanging eaves are
boxed-in. Centered above the center bay sits a wide and prominent hipped
dormer. The front of the dormer is flush with the house’s front wall,
separated by the continuous boxed overhanging eave. The dormer’s short
ridgeline intersects the main ridgeline, and its two twelve-light sash
illuminate the attic.
Another notable feature of the house is the tall, narrow,
and now tilting exterior chimney attached to the rear, or south elevation of
the principal section. In contrast to the brick piers, the chimney bricks
themselves are sharp and square with little sign of wear or weathering. The
chimney served fireplaces on both floors of the house. The chimney is
symmetrical and features stepped shoulders and a corbelled flare toward the
top. Other decorative brickwork is apparent at the top of this chimney,
however in addition to the chimney’s tilt some of the bricks have fallen and
it is difficult to judge the original design. To the west of the Chimney a
first story window has been removed. The opening is now filled with framing
and glass panels. Above this opening is a small decorative casement window
with a diamond shaped light centered in a small sash. Both of these windows
provided light for the house’s only staircase. To the west of the windows on
this south elevation are doorways that connect the central hall of the
principal section of the house to the rear wing. The first floor door has
strikingly narrow horizontal panels beneath a large light that has been
broken out. On the second floor a large traditional four-panel door is used.
A second chimney, an interior chimney, rises out of the
roof just to the east of the ridgeline of the Neill House’s rear wing. This
chimney served four fireplaces, two in the upper and lower eastern rooms of
the principal section, and one also on each floor of the rear addition.
Because it carried four flues, it is more massive than the house’s other
chimney, however it too has been damaged. Loose and irregularly dislodged
bricks form the top of the chimney, and its low height, which is perhaps
level with the ridgelines, indicate that the chimney may have at one time
been considerably taller. What remains of the chimney has been coated with
The rear wing of the house is a full two-stories with the
ridgeline of the wing’s hipped roof intersecting the ridgeline of the
principal section. The wing is set back only slightly from the west
elevation of the principal section, and lines up roughly with the two
western rooms of that front section. Like the rest of the house, the wing
rests on brick piers. Originally the wing was only one room wide and two
bays deep, with a two-story engaged porch on the east side occupying much of
the area under the hipped roof. The lower section of the engaged porch is
still unenclosed, and the same Doric columns found on the front porch
support the upper porch, which is now enclosed. The southernmost ends of the
porches may have been enclosed, providing places for toilets or closets. A
recent porch addition has been built out from the east elevation, and is
supported on small Doric columns that where perhaps originally installed
elsewhere on the house.
The fenestration on the west side of the wing is muddled;
with a narrow late 20th century shed roofed kitchen addition
attached to the first floor. Above the addition the fenestration of the
second floor on the west side is minimal and regular, with two two-over-two
double-hung windows. These windows have rather wide muntins common in some
early 20th century windows.
The south elevation of the rear wing is two bays wide,
although it is difficult to determine if some reconfiguration of the porches
may have altered this façade. Fenestration is limited to single double-hung
windows with what appear to be replacement sash, on each floor. Another
small decorative casement with a diamond light, located to the east of the
second floor double-hung may have provided illumination to a bathroom or
The east side of the hipped roof of the rear wing
features another hipped dormer. This dormer is smaller than the front
dormer, and contains a row of small four-light sash.
The interior of the house features an abundance of trim,
which is fairly consistent throughout both the principal section of the
house and the rear wing. Baseboards are tall with a deep moulded cap. The
casing around the interior doors rises from decoratively milled starter
blocks. There is extensive use of beaded board for wainscoting, which is
capped by a triple-beaded chair rail. In the hall, the stairway turns at a
landing. Newel posts have been removed from the landing, and from the foot
of the stairs. At the top of the stairs the original post remains. It is a
tall square post decorated with simple moulded trim and cap. A very high
degree of craftsmanship is exhibited in the connection of this post to the
notably asymmetrically shaped handrails. Simple square balusters connect to
the handrails. Most of the mantles in the house have been removed. One that
does remain features decorative classical columns. Such mantles were
typically associated with the Queen Anne Style, which was influenced by and
borrowed from the Neoclassical Revival.
The many interior doors are predominantly traditional
four-panel doors, which were extremely popular around 1900. The sizes of the
doors, and details of their trim varies from room to room. The original
plaster walls are in good shape, however ceilings in some of the rooms have
been covered with some type of acoustical tile.
1. Dr. Lawrence S. Barden, Dr. James W. Clay, Dr. Owen J.
Furuseth, Dr. Dan L. Morrill and Dr. Nelson S. Nunnally, “Socio-Economic
Overview Of The Uwharrie National Forest And Environs.” (An Environmental
Impact Statement prepared for the United States Forest Service, n.d.), p.
21. Hereinafter cited as Study.
2.Western Democrat (February 5, 1856). The first
railroad to come to Charlotte was the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad,
which reached Charlotte from Columbia, S.C. in October 1852.
3.Study, p. 21.
4.Western Democrat (February 5, 1856).
5. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 40, p. 63.
6.Charlotte Observer (March 3, 1937, April 23,
17. For obituary articles on William E. Neill and Rachel
Newell Neill, see Charlotte Observer (January
31, 1963; March 4, 1968).
18. Interview of Rachel Neill
Dunlap and Emma Elizabeth Neill Harper by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (April 24,
2002). Hereinafter cited as Interview Two. The cotton gin
equipment had been on the second floor of the house. Rachel and Emma
remember oil seeping through the floor of the room at the eastern end of the
second floor of the house.