Biddle Memorial Hall
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as Biddle
Memorial Hall is located on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University at 100
Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte, N.C. 28216.
2. Name, addresses, and telephone numbers of the present owners and
occupants of the property: The present owner and occupant of the
Johnson C. Smith University, Inc.
100 Beatties Ford Rd.
Charlotte, NC. 28216
3. Representative photographs of the property: Representative
photographs of the structure are included in this report.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains two maps. A tax line map depicts the location of the campus of
Johnson C. Smith University. The second map depicts the location of Biddle
Memorial Hall on the campus.
5. Current Deed Book Reference of the property: The land which
comprises the campus of Johnson C. Smith University is listed in the
following deeds in the Mecklenburg County Registry:
a. Deed Book 9. Page 323; Filed November 1. 1873, W. R. Myers and S. C.
Myers to trustees S. S. Cushland, Luke Dorland, A. S. Billingsley, S.
Mattoon, and William Richardson.
b. Deed Book 15, page 423; Filed November 11, 1876, S. C. Alexander and
N. R. Alexander to trustees S. S. Murland, Luke Dorland, S. Mattoon, A. S.
Billingsley, and Millard Richardson.
c. Deed Book 33, Page 239; Filed July 26, 1882, L. W. Perdue and A. S.
Perdue to trustees.
d. Deed Book 55, page 598; Filed November 12, 1887, Mary R. Severs and
H.C. Severs to trustees.
e. Deed Book 69, page 629; Filed November 1, 1894, W. R. Myers, Jr., to
f. Deed Book 124, Page 254; Filed March 30, 1898, Mary L. Mattoon et al
.to trustee W. E. Thomas, Emma M. Thomas.
g. Deed Book 208, page 201; Filed February 13, 1906, D. J. Sanders and F.
P. Sanders to trustees.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
The history of Biddle Memorial Hall is intimately bound up with the
history of Johnson C. Smith University. Johnson C. Smith University was
founded by two white ministers (Rev. S. C. Alexander and Rev. W. L. Miller)
under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church. It was known as The Henry J.
Biddle Memorial Institute in honor of Major Henry J. Biddle, a Union soldier
who was killed in action during the Civil War. During its formative years
Mrs. Mary D. Biddle, the wife of Major Biddle, gave considerable financial
support to the institution.
The school was originally housed in a small church located near the
present location of Fourth and Davidson Streets. A few years after its
feeble beginning, the old Confederate Navy Building located on East Trade
St., below where the Civic Center now stands, was purchased. This building
was to be moved to another location on Seventh Street, somewhere between
College and Caldwell Streets. Colonel William R. Myers discouraged the
ministers about moving to that site and offered them property where the
school now stands. The gift of eight acres by this outstanding Charlotte
citizen was the nucleus of the present site.
In 1883 the name of the institution was changed to Biddle University. In
1921 because of the many generous gifts which she had made to the
institution in honor of her husband, Mrs. Jane M. Smith was notified by the
Board of Trustees that the name of the institution had been changed to
Johnson C. Smith University.
The first president of the institution was Rev. Stephen Mattoon. For
nearly two and a half decades the presidents and most of the faculty members
were white. In 1891 the institution had its first black president, Rev.
Daniel J. Sanders. Since that time all of its presidents and the majority of
the faculty have been black.
Biddle Memorial Hall was constructed in 1884. It was the first
substantial building erected on the current campus (see appended photograph
#1), and is the oldest surviving structure on the campus. Dominated by a
massive but elegant clock tower, the structure contains 40,045 square feet
of floor space. Its ornamentation and overall massing are typical of
institutional architecture during the Victorian era. Originally it consisted
of an auditorium with a balcony, the President's offices the Registrar's
offices, the Business Office, the first library, classrooms, and restrooms.
It currently serves as the general administration building of the
University. Currently the building also contains portraits and pictures of
the founders, presidents, benefactors, and of other individuals directly
connected with the growth and development of the University.
7. Documentation of why and In what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N. C. G. S. 160A-399.4:
a. Historical and cultural significance: The Survey Committee of
the Commission has examined this structure and has judged it to be of
architectural significance. The Survey Committee reports that the
buildings, materials are of
Flemish bond brick with sandstone cornices, pediment, and lintels.
There are brick bearing walls, with possible post and beam construction.
Additional details of the structure are:
Diagonal soldier coursing in line with window lintels.
2. Motif varies the window lintel treatment: sandstone lst and 4th
floor, brick jack arch 2nd floor, brick spring arch on the 3rd floor.
Basket weave infill brick panels as surface reliefs.
4. Corbeled brick cornice.
5. Slate spires and roof.
6. Ornate detailing on chimney.
7. Octagonal apse.
8. Watch tower center pavilions.
9. The windows have been replaced with aluminum sash.
The fact that the strucutre has been judged to be of architectural
significance coupled with the fact that it is the oldest surviving
structure on the campus of the only black institution of higher education
in Mecklenburg County, suggests that Biddle Memorial Hall meets this
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The building is
in generally good repair. As stated above, it is currently the general
administration building for the University. The building is therefore
highly suited for preservation.
c. Educational value: The educational value of the building is
substantial. First, it is the only example of this genre of institutional
architecture in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. It also serves as a
symbol of the rich heritage of Johnson C. Smith University, and of the
local black community.
d. Cost of acquisition restoration, maintenance, or repair: The
Commission has no intention of acquiring this property. The cost of
acquisition would be high. The structure is in need of some repair,
especially to the exterior and the roof detail. However, the cost would
not be unreasonable in relation to the overall worth of the building. The
maintenance costs are currently carried by Johnson C. Smith University.
e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property:
The interior graciousness of this structure would permit many alternative
or adaptive uses. However, it is assumed that the University will continue
to determine the use of the structure.
f. Appraised value: Attached to this report is a real estate
appraisal card which reveals that the land and property itself is
appraised at $1,019,680.00 Again, the Commission has no intention of
acquiring this property. And the University is not required to pay taxes
on this property.
g. The administrative and financial responsibility of any person or
organization willing to underwrite all or a portion of such costs: It
is assumed that Johnson C. Smith University shall continue to operate the
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for inclusion in the National Register: The
Commission believes that the investigation carried out by the Survey
Committee suggests that Biddle Memorial Hall might qualify for the National
Register on the grounds of Criterion C -- (properties) "that embody the
distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or
that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values".
Biddle Memorial Hall would not meet the other criteria for inclusion on the
9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property is of historical
importance to Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County: Biddle Memorial Hall
is highly significant in the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. It
stands as a magnificent monument to what was accomplished by a
newly-liberated people in an atmosphere that has been described as
"hostile." This structure was built under trying circumstances and by people
who had very meager financial resources. It is the oldest surviving building
of the first and only private institution of higher learning open to blacks
in the immediate and surrounding counties. Over the years speakers of
national renown, including a President of the United States, have spoken in
this structure. Concerts, recitals, art exhibits, these are only some of the
refined events which have graced the halls of Biddle Memorial Hall.
For more information...
Overview of black history materials on this site...
Survey & Research Report: Carnegie Library at Johnson C. Smith University
Survey & Research Report: Stone Entry Gates at Johnson C. Smith University
Survey & Research Report: Carter Hall at Johnson C. Smith University