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 Architectural Description

Dav Sch Facade.jpg

The 1948 Davidson School is an L-shaped, two-story, solid masonry building that faces west and sits close to the sidewalk.  The five acre site slopes to the rear, with a small parking lot to the north of the principal building, and a larger paved parking lot to the rear of the building.  A 1937 gymnasium sits toward the rear of the site.  The most prominent feature of the façade is the projecting portion of the auditorium wing.  Much of this elevation is a simple brick wall laid in common Flemish bond.  One large single large bay is centered in the elevation, and is composed of three smaller tall and narrow bays, each containing original double panel doors.  Each panel door is divided into three sections with solid lower panels and a single light at the top.  The doors are surrounded by moulded cast-stone trim and are topped with large cast-stone panels with a shield emblem in the center.  Each of the panels are topped with paired twelve-light metal sash windows.  In each of the narrow bays, continuous moulded stone architrace trim surround the doorways, panels, and windows.  The only other architectural element on this elevation is a three-part cast concrete flagpole bracket set high on the wall.  Replacement metal covers the top of the low, flat parapet wall.  Concrete steps bordered by massive curved concrete cheek walls lead to the three auditorium entrances.

Dav Sch Ent.jpg

 The primary entrance to the Davidson School is adjacent to the projecting auditorium wing, and is further recessed in a shallow porch.  Concrete steps with pipe handrails lead to the porch which is defined by a simple cast-stone lintel.  The doorway contains two panel doors, each with a single tall light.  The doors are topped with a five-light transom.  Moulded cast-stone architrave surrounds the doorway.

The cast-stone lintel above the entrance continues on across the façade as a horizontal band.  Four such bands run the width of the façade, and define sections of the façade where windows pierce the elevation.  The bands that run above the windows are wider than those that run at the sill level.  A defining feature of the  Modernist Style is the ribbon window.  Four sets of ribbon windows pierce the façade. 

Dav Sch Ribbon.jpg

Centered on the façade, on both stories, are ribbons of seven twenty-four-light windows ganged together.  The effect is a continuous bank of windows with little in terms of support members separating them.  Other configurations of windows pierce the façade including single twenty-four-light windows, paired windows, and small four-over-four double-hungs.  All of the windows are original metal sash windows, some of  which contain window air conditioning units. 

Dav Sch Ent II.jpg

A secondary entrance is located in the southernmost bay of the façade.  Set at grade level, the doorway contain replacement double-doors topped with an original five-light transom.  The doorway is bordered by narrow glass-brick sidelights that are set in the brickwork and feature small cast-stone sills.  The doorway is sheltered by a cast-concrete slab-awning, supported by adjustable metal rods anchored above the awning. 

Details of the south elevation

The cast-stone bands that run across the facade return for a short distance on the south side elevation.  The elevation features a replacement slab door sheltered by a concrete awning.  Large glazed openings with replacement glass illuminate a stairwell.  Four double-hung windows also pierce the elevation.

The rear elevation features six banks of ribbon windows.  Unlike the facade, there is no cast-stone trim on the rear elevation.  The basement level is fully exposed on the rear, and the basement cafeteria is illuminated by eight eight-over-eight metal double-hung windows.  A set of replacement slab doors sheltered by a concrete awning give access to the basement.  Tall gutter pipes drain scupper holes at the parapet.  A galvanized exhaust pipe is attached to wall and runs from the basement to the roof.  The rear elevation affords the best view of the schools simple square interior chimney.

A rear wing contains a portion of the auditorium as well classrooms on the first and second stories.  The classrooms are illuminated by ribbon windows that pierce the south elevation of the rear wing.  A recess between the rear wing and the principal rear elevation contains an entrance.  Double replacement doors are sheltered by a concrete slab awning.  

The rear elevation of the auditorium wing is mostly a large expanse of uninterrupted brick wall. An entrance at grade level is sheltered by a concrete awning.  The doorway contains replacement slab doors and is topped with an original five-light transom.  Three widely spaced windows illuminate the backstage area of the auditorium.  The center window is a large twelve-over-twelve metal double-hung.  The others are four-over-four units.  The parapet steps down one step to the south.

The most notable feature of the north elevation of the auditorium wing is the group of five tall triple-hung windows.  The nine-over-nine-over-nine sash are bordered on each side by three-light sidelights.  The choice of wooden windows for this elevation is curious, but may have been due to the availability of window units in this configuration.  Original wide panel doors are located in the sixth bay from the facade, under a shortened triple-hung.

Like the exterior, the interior of the Davidson School has a high degree of integrity and features architectural elements typical of the post-war Modernist Style.

The building's two stairwells once featured un-glazed wall openings, that have been filled with fixed glazing.  The fire-proof nature of the building is well demonstrated in the poured-in-place concrete stairways.  A partial-height concrete handrail-wall borders the concrete steps, and curves in a tight radius where the stairs switchback.  A curved metal-pipe handrail follows the curve of the wall.  

Hallways feature terrazzo floors and glazed tile running up the wall to a height of approximately four feet.  Doorways are bordered by simple wooden trim, and contain a mixture of slab and panel doors.  The most notable doors are slab doors with a round "porthole" window.  The current student lockers are not original.  

Classrooms are lit by original florescent light fixtures and by the large ribbon windows.  that light is shared with the hallways via traditional wooden six-light hopper window set high in the classroom walls.  The classrooms also feature built-in cabinets that enclose radiators and feature drawers and shelves. The floors in the classrooms are covered with linoleum floor tiles.

The auditorium features original metal and bent-plywood theater seats.  The same linoleum tile found in the classrooms was used on the auditorium floor.  The floor of the auditorium slopes down to the stage, and stairs with simple pipe handrails give access to both the hallway and the stage.  The high stage opening is surrounded by deep stepped plaster trim that meets at mitered corners.  The stage floor is original hardwood.  Widely spaced beams in the ceiling and piers in the walls are reflected in the plasterwork.  Hanging light fixtures featuring concentric metal circular bands may be original.  A narrow lobby in front of the auditorium features original slab doors and a terrazzo floor.  Stair lead to a balcony that has been closed-off from the auditorium space.

The schools basement cafeteria features an original wooden refrigeration unit.  The Modernist porthole doors found elsewhere contrast with the traditional panel doors found in the storage and workroom in the cafeteria/basement level.  The cafeteria floor has been replaced with a new tile floor.

 Davison School Gymnasium

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The Davison School Gymnasium is a two-story side-gabled building.  The building faces west and is set back about 200’ from the principal school building.   The gymnasium’s style draws from the Classical Revival movement which was widely applied to commercial and institutional buildings throughout Mecklenburg County during the first half of the twentieth century.  The building is frame construction with a brick veneer laid in a running bond.  The moderately pitched roof is covered with fiberglass shingles.  Typical of the Classical Revival Style, the gymnasium exhibits strict symmetry, and it features two hipped-roof wings projecting from the side elevations. 

The façade of the principal section is five  bays wide.  The building’s most notable exterior feature is the group of half-round arched window openings in the central three bays.   The arches feature stone imposts and keystones, and simple brick voussoirs.  The window openings contain original large double-hung windows with a twelve-light sash topped with a fourteen-light curved-top sash.   All of the windows rest on simple angled-brick sills.  The outer two bays contain smaller window openings that are topped with lintels composed of angled brick voussoirs.  The windows contain original six-over-nine windows.    Five roughly square windows pierce the façade on the second story.  These six-light hinged awning windows are centered above the larger windows of the first story, and are topped with brick lintels composed of angled brick voussoirs.   The wall is topped with a simple deep frieze with a moulded edge.  The frieze is topped with crown moulding.  Along the base of the façade are three brick wells with cast concrete caps that ventilate the building’s crawlspace.

Dav Gym Ent.jpg

The two main entrances to the school are located in the front elevations of the side wings.  Modern slab doors have replace the original double doors.  Half-round arch transoms sit above the doors, and are now filled with plywood panels.  The half-round arches mimic those found above the center windows.  The entrances are below grade.  The site slopes and the northern entrance is farther below grade.   Brick and concrete steps lead down to the entrances and are bordered by brick cheek walls topped with cast blocks.  Metal awnings have been added above both entrances.

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Top photograph shows the south side elevation.  Below, the north side elevation is relatively obscured  by the grade and trees.

The side wings obscure most of the side elevations of the principal section of the gymnasium, with the notable exception of the tall gable.  The gables are stuccoed and each features a tall half-round-arched louvered vent.  The frieze and cornice of the façade return on the side walls, and the rake features similar trim.  The brick veneer of the façade also wraps the corner, with the stucco being set back slightly.  The stuccoed gables made it unnecessary to install lintels to carry the heavy load of brick above the hipped roofs of the side wings.   The wings are six bays wide with six unusual three-over-six windows set high in the wall.  The brickwork on the sides is simpler that that found on the façade, with simple soldier courses accenting the lintels above the window openings.  Seven openings pierce the elevation at the basement level.  Six window openings have been filled with plywood panels, and the original door opening contains a replacement metal door.  A soldier course of brick at the level of the window sills notes the transition from the solid brick foundation to the brick veneer.  The wings are nearly identical with the exception of the brick flues.  The square flue adjacent to the rear of the building on the south side elevation is much  larger that the flue at the same location on the north elevation. 

 

Dav Gym rear.jpg

Like the façade, the rear elevation is five bays wide.   However, few of the architectural elements found on the front of the building were applied to the rear.  The  site slopes steeply down behind the gymnasium.  Three doorways with replacement slab double-doors set in replacement metal frames open out onto brick and concrete steps with metal pipe handrails.  The southernmost doorway is sheltered with a modern metal awning.  Below the soldier-course water table vent were cut into the wall to ventilate the crawl space.  A crawlspace door reveals the wooden-girder and wooden -floor joist framing system.  Five wide window openings are topped with angled brick lintels and contain metal-framed and metal-sash windows with wire glass.  The units each contain two awning sash.  The windows above the doors are shorter and contain forty-eight lights.  The two larger windows contain fifty-four lights.

Interior

Dav Gym Int I.jpg

The interior of the Davidson School Gymnasium is overwhelmingly wood, with tongue-and-groove boards covering the walls and wooden decking exposed on the ceiling.  The interior is principally one large room, with the side wing containing wooden bleachers that overlook the court.  Wooden posts set into the wall framing carry the load of six metal trusses that span the depth of the building.  The trusses support steel purlins that carry the roof deck.  Brick walls that enclose the entrance foyers support a steel I-beam,  that in turn supports a seating gallery that runs along the front wall.  The wooden seating as well as the maple court flooring appear to be original.  Bathrooms/locker-rooms are located in the basement.   Dav Gym Int II.jpg