Brief Architectural Description
Stewart Gray, with archival assistance by Ryan L. Sumner
November 1, 2001
The Southern Public Utilities Company Car Barn, later known as the
Duke Power Truck Garage Repair and Storage Building, is a large
sprawling building located at the corner of South Boulevard and East
Bland Street in Charlotte, N.C. The building is situated on an
essentially flat lot. It fronts on South Boulevard, bordering the
sidewalk, and sits only a few feet from East Bland Street. The Car
Barn’s setting is presently evolving from that of an industrial
neighborhood into urban offices, retail, and apartments.
In its present configuration the building consists of a very large
car barn or garage divided into a north and a south section. Each
section is approximately 300 feet long and 50 feet wide, and sits
parallel to the other, separated by a center wall. To the south of the
barn, office space, an expanded loading dock, and a machine shop were
built. Attached to the southwest corner of the building is a double-bay
When it was built in 1914, the north section of the barn, which
borders East Bland Street, may have constituted the entire building.
Looking at the brickwork one can estimate that the original building was
about two-thirds of the length of the present building. The original
sections of the north and center walls were each formed by twenty-four
large brick piers, approximately twenty feet tall, in-filled with brick
curtain walls laid in Common Bond. The piers protrude from the interior
and exterior faces of the curtain walls, giving the piers the appearance
of pilasters from the inside and the outside of the building. The close
spacing of the piers, which support the roof framing, may indicate that
wood was the original roof framing material. Every other bay features a
round-arched window or door openings. Most have been filled with brick.
A simple belt course accentuates what were originally the windowsills.
While relatively simple, and unadorned, these walls show the influence
of the Classical Revival Style, with the belt course and the arched
openings being elements of this style.
The many arched window openings in the center wall dividing the north
and south sections of the barn, and the belt course of brick and
windowsills that project into the south section of the barn are
indicators that the center wall may have been intended as an exterior
wall. Another indication that the north section of the barn may have
stood alone is that the construction of the north and center walls
differs from that of the present south wall. In the present south wall
the piers are flush with the curtain wall on the exterior side.
Perhaps another early modification to the building was the addition
of water closets to the north exterior wall of the barn. This small
brick addition features parapet sidewalls, topped with terra cotta
tiles, which hide a low-sloped shed roof. A blueprint from the 1950’s
indicates that the addition had been separated into "white" and "colored
toilets," with the "colored toilet" being three times larger.
If the north section of the barn did originally stand alone, then at
some point between 1914 and 1923 the building more than doubled in size.
Photographs of the barn from 1923 show a brick Classical Revival facade,
featuring a corbelled cornice, a parapet wall and eight round arch
openings through which the trolleys could enter or exit. In the center
of the facade, in a raised section of the brick parapet was a clock
face. However, a photograph from----- shows that the clock face had been
removed, and that the brickwork was altered slightly leaving the raised
center section of the parapet with only a brick bulls-eye detail. This
photograph also shows that the bare brick building had been painted at
By 1929 according to the Sanborn maps, the barn had been expanded
westward to its present size, and its roof framing at that time
consisted of steel trusses. The brick construction of the expanded walls
changed visibly in the interior, with the piers becoming flush with the
curtain walls. The fenestration and the details on the exterior remained
the same. The center wall in this expanded section, however, contains no
piers or arched openings.
The back or west side of the barn is eight bays wide, and features a
low-pitched gable. At some point, the shared center wall between the
north and south sections of the barn was raised so that it extended
above the roof, and was capped with terra cotta tile. While not visible
from the front, this wall extension is a prominent feature of the rear
facade. The roofing material is corrugated metal. The northern half of
this large rear gabled wall appears to be of a more recent construction
with unpainted brick laid in a Running Bond, while in the southern half
of this wall the bricks are painted and laid in Common Bond. The
fenestration includes six large door openings big enough for large
trucks. Four of the openings have metal overhead doors, and two of the
openings have been filled with concrete block. The north and
southernmost bays each contain a conventional commercial steel door. A
large louvered steel vent is located in the gable, left of center.
Also in existence by 1929 were the paint and the machines shops. The
paint shop is a two-story brick building, featuring an asymmetrical
stepped parapet. The building faces north and features two large
overhead doors and one conventional commercial steel door. The west
exterior wall features six segmental arched window openings now bricked
in, at a second-floor height. Seven brick buttresses extend halfway up
the wall. The Machine shop is hemmed in by a later addition.
The front of the barn, which faces east onto South Boulevard has been
altered greatly over the years and has been expanded toward South
Boulevard. The form is gable-front, and is eight bays wide. The bays are
symmetrical, and are separated by cast "stone" concrete pilasters. The
wall material is concrete block covered by a brick facade with Running
Bond. The fenestration is limited to two rolling overhead doors in the
second and third bays from the north, and a single modern steel door
located in the base of the pilaster between the fourth and fifth bays.
The gable is covered with blue metal panels that form a low parapet.
Adjoining the front facade of the barn, but set back slightly is a
six bay two-story brick addition built in 1969. The front of the
addition contains offices, and in the rear, a loading dock. This
addition abuts the machine shop, and also connects to a small
three-story single-bay office building that dates to 1960.
Charlotte City Directory, 1911—1915.; Mecklenburg County Deed
Book 312, p302.
The first listing for the Car Barn occurs in the 1915
Charlotte City Directory, indicating that it was built the previous
year. Additionally, the directory only lists the electrical and gas
plants are in previous editions. This coincides with the purchase of
this land parcel by the Southern Public Utilities Company on April 2,
1914, as indicated in Charlotte Mecklenburg Deed Book 312, p302.
Dunn, Robert F. Electrifying the Piedmont Carolinas, The North
Carolina Historical Review, January 2000, p56.
Letter from H. W. Anderson, President of Archival Consultant, Inc.
Winston-Salem, N.C. to Marilyn Usher, Charlotte, N.C. January 10, 1987.
of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co., Charlotte, 1929,
Public Utilities Contract, offered August 16, 1919. Reprinted in
Shaw, City in Conflict, Appendix A-1.
Public Utilities Magazine, March 10, 1915. Adicks, C. J.,
Greenville Car Barn, p29.
Southern Public Utilities Magazine, December 10, 1915. p25;
Southern Public Utilities Magazine, March 10, 1915. p29.
Public Utilities Magazine, March 10, 1915. p29.
Bradbury, Tom, Dilworth: The First 100 Years, p78.
Bradbury, Tom, Dilworth: The First 100 Years, p75—76.
most comprehensive examination of the 1919 Streetcar Strike can be found
in Carol Shaw’s A City in Conflict: The 1919 Streetcar Strike,
available in the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Main Branch of
the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Diesels were put into service in early 1950.
Kelly, Kevin, Charlotte, Motor Coach Age: The Journal of the
Motor Bus Society, p4.
Ibid; Duke Power Magazine, May-June 1936, p34.
16. Docket no.
1128. Courtroom of Utilities Commission. Raleigh, North Carolina.
November 15, 1937, p1.
Power Magazine, November 1937, p1-2.
18. Nance, J. S. Docket no. 1128. Courtroom of Utilities Commission.
Raleigh, North Carolina. November 15, 1937, p. 9. ; Boyd, Basil M.
Docket no. 1128. Courtroom of Utilities Commission. Raleigh, North
Carolina. November 15, 1937, p. 5.
car has been found, restored and is again providing service to
Charlotte. It is based in the Charlotte Trolley Museum.
Observer, March 14, 1938.
Duke Power Magazine, November 1937, p1-2.
construction surrounding this adaptation was extensively photographed
and the images are available in the files of Duke Energy Corporate
Archives, Charlotte NC.
Charlotte City Directory, 1921—1946.
Duke Power Magazine, April 1955, p2.
Ibid; Charlotte City Directory, 1954—1958; Earl Guledge,
Charlotte Transit Historic Recollections, available from the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
Duke Power Magazine, March—April 1954, p17.
Duke Power Magazine, April 1955, p2.
Charlotte City Directory, 1958.
Charlotte City Directory, 1956—1996.
City Directory, 1988.
Maps of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co., Charlotte,
1953 Revised to 1969, p39; Charlotte Mecklenburg Building Permits: #CID
75069 11/6/63; #3218 5/2/69; #5572 5/28/74.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Building Permit No. 517.