Survey and Research
On The Charles H. and Bess
Smith House (1923-24)
Note: The Charles H. and Bess Smith House was demolished in April/2012
1. Name and location
of the property: The property known as the Charles H. and Bess
Smith House is located at 220 West Tenth St. in Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, address, and
telephone number of the current owner of the property:
Malachi J. Greene & Vera M. Harrison
1000 Greenleaf Avenue
Charlotte, N.C. 28202
Telephone: Not listed
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 depicting the
location of the property. The UTM coordinates of the property
are 17 514745E 3898714N.
Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent deed to
the property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book #21075, page 302.
The tax parcel number of the property is 078-046-02.
brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief
historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a
brief architectural description of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the 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 Charles H. and Bess Smith House possesses special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases
its judgment on the following considerations:
1) The Charles H and Bess Smith
House is one to two Spanish Colonial Revival style houses in Charlotte
definitively attributable to Martin E. Boyer, Jr., an architect of local and
regional importance in the early and mid-twentieth century.
2) The Charles H. and Bess House is
the only extant early twentieth century Spanish Colonial Revival style house
in Charlotte's center city and participates in the introduction of a
suburban design motif into Charlotte's urban housing stock.
b. Integrity of design,
setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The
Commission contends that the architectural description prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill demonstrates that that substantial
portions of the Charles H and
Bess Smith House meet this criterion.
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 "historic
landmark." The 2003 appraised value pf the property, including the
9750 square feet of land, is $226,100. The property is zoned UR2. The
Tax Parcel Number of the property is 07804602.
10. Amount of Property
Proposed for historic landmark designation. The exterior of the
house, the interior and the exterior of the garage, and the entire tax
Date of Preparation of this Report: March 15,
A Brief History Of The
Charles H. and Bess Smith House
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Statement Of Special
Martin E. Boyer,
The original of the
photograph is in the Special Collections Department of the Atkins
Library at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
significance of the Charles H and Bess Smith House rests primarily upon its
architectural importance and upon its role in documenting the evolution of
the residential built environment of Center City Charlotte. Martin E.
Boyer, Jr. (1893-1970), who prepared plans for this Spanish Colonial Revival
style house in 1923, was a nephew of well-known architect James
McMichael.1 The initial owners were
Charles H. Smith and his wife Bess, who moved into their new home in 1924
from elsewhere in Center City Charlotte. Charles Smith was
president and manager of Blake Drugstore at nearby Trade and Tryon Sts,
locally known as the Square.2 Boyer was
born in Glen Wilton, Virginia and reared in Charlotte.3
Like his uncle, for whom he worked during his early professional career,
Boyer was steeped in the vocabulary of derivative design that increasingly
dominated American architectural theory in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Boyer attended Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh,
where he was trained in the Beaux Arts tradition. During World War I he
served as a naval architect and in World War II was a lieutenant colonel
with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Boyer practiced architecture
in Charlotte for more than 50 years and mostly designed homes for wealthy
patrons.4 Illustrative of Boyer's commitment
to traditional Revivalism are two imposing extant homes he designed in Charlotte's
exclusive Eastover neighborhood.
drawing of the extant Tudor Revival Style Hamilton C. Jones House.
Special Collections Department UNCC Atkins Library
drawing of an extant Colonial Revival Style house on Cherokee Rd. in
Special Collections Department UNCC Atkins Library
Historian Carter Wiseman calls the 1910s and the
1920s the "most diversely creative of American architectural eras."5
During these years the majority of Americans sought stability in their
lives, a propensity that became even more pronounced after the horrific
turbulences produced by World War I. Not surprisingly, most clients
wanted designers to take their inspiration from idealized visions of the
past, whether it be in Gothic Revival style churches like the National
Cathedral in Washington, D.C. or Pennsylvania Station in New York City or in
such notable Charlotte examples of derivative design as the Gothic Revival
style Myers Park Methodist Church and the Classical Revival former
Mecklenburg County Courthouse, both fashioned by architect Louis H. Asbury.6
Martin E. Boyer, Jr. also thrived in this environment.7
Among the lesser recognized derivative designs
that gained public favor in the years following World War I is the Spanish
Colonial Revival style. Spanish culture predominated in the early
decades of the European colonization of Florida and what is now the
Southwestern United States. The Spanish, not the English, French, or
Dutch, were the first Europeans to establish permanent communities in the
New World. Explorer Ponce De Leon landed on the Florida Peninsula in
1513. St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United
States, was founded in 1565. Spanish explorers also reached
California, initially landing in 1542. That the built environment of
the United States is partly a reflection of this enduring Spanish legacy is
heavily-wooded Atlantic seaboard, most of the terrain of California and the
Southwest was dry and virtually treeless. These arid conditions gave
rise to a distinctive regional building type in the Southwest, especially
before transcontinental railroads were available to transport wood and other
Eastern construction materials beyond the Mississippi. Drawing their
inspiration from missions in Mexico and from Native American
construction techniques, Franciscan priests used blocks of sun-dried earth
or adobe for the walls of their missions. Most were surmounted by
substantial red-tiled roofs to protect the earthen walls of the
buildings from the devastating impact of water, which did fall during
infrequent rainstorms. By the 1780s a series of
Franciscan missions of this type had been built in California and the
American Southwest. Perhaps the best known of these Spanish colonial
churches is the mission of San Antonio de Valero (c.1755), better known as
the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas.9
The Alamo ( the Spanish word
for Cottonwood) was purchased by the State of Texas as a historic
site in 1883.
The Spanish Colonial Revival style, which harkened back to the missions of
the 18th century Spanish Southwest, arose in the second decade of the
twentieth century and competed for public favor with the Colonial Revival,
Tudor Revival, Gothic Revival and other design genres that employed European
vernacular elements to evoke a romanticized sense of the past. Two
factors contributed to the emergence of Spanish Revivalism. Aspiring
architects were prohibited during World War I from touring war-torn
countries like Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. Many young
designers traveled to Spain instead and looked with favor upon the geometric
massing and simplistic forms of the buildings they visited on the Iberian
Peninsula. These edifices exhibited the handcraftsmanship and
restrained aesthetic associated with the then-popular Arts and Crafts
movement.10 Even more important
in giving rise to the Spanish Colonial Revival style was the
Panama-California Exposition, which opened in San Diego, California in 1915
to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. The City of San Diego
hired prominent East Coast architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924)
to design the exposition's buildings.11
Architectural historian Arrol Gellner writes: "Goodhue's romantically
sited complex of Spanish Baroque buildings were literally a world away from
the native styles the public had grown used to."12
Hundreds of thousands flocked to the Panama-California Exposition, and many
were reportedly dazzled by Goodhue's creation.
Bertram Goodhue had been best
known for his devotion of Gothic Revivalism.
Bertram Goodhue's Spanish
Colonial Revival style creation in San Diego.
the late 1910's and throughout the 1920s a wide range of buildings appeared
in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, especially in California and the
Southwest. These included retail stores, office buildings, gasoline
stations, courthouses, and movie theaters. But residences constituted
the most widespread use of the style, both in single family and in
multi-family domiciles. Spanish Colonial Revivalism debut in Florida
in 1919 with the completion of architect Addison Mizner's Everglades Club in
Palm Beach. Mizner would go on to design palatial estates for East
Coast millionaires who wintered in Florida. During the 1920s,
Spanish Colonial Revivalism began to spread from Florida into other
Southeastern states, including North Carolina.13
The Carolinas Exhibition Building (1923)
experienced the introduction of Spanish Colonial Revivalism, Moorish
Revivalism, and other Mediterranean-inspired designs into its built environment in
the 1920s. These included such locally imposing structures as the
Carolina Theater, the Ratcliffe Flower Shop, the Made In The Carolinas
Exposition Building, and noted architect William Bottomley's Reynolds-Gourmajenko
House.14 Martin Boyer, Jr., who
demonstrated throughout his career an ability to respond effectively to the
wishes of his clients, also fashioned houses in the Spanish Colonial Revival
style. Two Charlotte abodes of this design are definitively
attributable to him, the suburban house at 2322 Westfield Avenue and
the Charles H. and Bess Smith House at 220 West Tenth St. in the Fourth Ward
neighborhood of Center City Charlotte. Interestingly, the Special
Collections Department of the UNCC Atkins Library contains a drawing
of a Cottage style design that Boyer prepared for the Smiths.
Presumably, this was the initial plan suggested by Boyer, which, if built,
would have been more in
keeping with the style of the other houses in the neighborhood than was the
Smith House design.15 One can assume that
the Smiths opted for the Spanish Colonial Revival style house instead and
that Boyer simply complied with their wishes.
|House at 2322
Westfield Ave. also designed by Boyer
||Initial Proposal For The
House At 220 West 10th St.
Special Collections Department UNCC Atkins Library
other Spanish Colonial Revival style houses in Charlotte but only a handful.
All but the Smith House are located in what would have been
Charlotte's outlying neighborhoods in the 1920s. Four are in Myers Park; two
are in Dilworth; one is in Wesley Heights; one is on Camp Greene Street in
southwest Charlotte; three are in Elizabeth, and
the C. H. Smith House stands in the Fourth Ward neighborhood. The
construction of an essentially suburban house
|2215-17 E. 5th
||2019 Beverley Drive
|2100 Camp Greene
||1408 Dilworth Road
|1820 Dilworth Road
||207 Grandin Road
and garage design into the built
environment of Center City Charlotte in 1923 bears testimony to the fact that
middle class white residents of Charlotte in the 1920s were still selecting
parts of uptown, especially the fringes of Fourth Ward, as a place
they where wanted to live. This circumstance would end as the
twentieth century progressed.16
Architecturally, the houses in Center City Charlotte reflected, although
belatedly, the dominant styles of the day. The designs of the finer
older houses erected in the late 1800s in Fourth Ward and in other white
neighborhoods in the Center City were therefore overwhelmingly Victorian. They included
such notable extant structures as the Queen Anne style Liddell-McNinch
House, the Italianate style Newcombe-Berryhill
House, and the Queen Anne style Elias Overcarsh
House. The homes and apartment buildings of Center City
Charlotte became more varied, however, as Charlotte continued to experience
sustained population growth in the early 1900s. Examples of the
Craftsman style appeared in Irwin Park, Woodlawn, and McNinchville, all
turn-of-the-century suburbs off West Trade St. just west of the Center City.
A residential duplex suggestive of Spanish Colonial Revivalism was
constructed on Woodlawn Avenue.17
Woodlawn Ave. Duplex
Street, extending westward from Tryon Street to Graham Street, has a
distinctive suburban feel, a characteristic it possessed even before the
beginnings of the revitalization of Fourth Ward in the 1970s. The
multi-story Poplar Apartments and a median create an ambiance not unlike
that found on the major thoroughfares of Charlotte's Myers Park
neighborhood. It is reasonable to assume that public officials and
developers were attempting to attract middle class and upper class white
residents to this portion of Center City Charlotte. If so, the effort
ultimately failed, as increasing numbers of whites began to abandon the
Center City and move to the suburbs, especially after World War Two.
By the 1970s, even Fourth Ward had become bedraggled. But the Charles H. and
Bess Smith House survives as a remnant of Charlotte's revivalist domestic
architecture of the early 1900s. Most recently the building has been
used for offices, but it is currently vacant and becoming dilapidated.
|Poplar Apartments &
The Tenth Street Median
||Smith House & Its
Of The Charles H. and Bess Smith House
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
The Charles H. and Bess Smith House is
situated in the Fourth Ward neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Fourth Ward constitutes the northwestern quadrant of the original grid of
Charlotte, which became the County seat of Mecklenburg County in 1768.
The Smith House occupies a 9750 square-foot rectangular lot that is totally
devoid of trees. The lot, which slopes slightly to the north and
fronts on the north side of West Tenth Street, contains two structures --
the house and garage, both original. The Smith House fronts on Tenth
street and occupies the center of the lot approximately 50 feet from Tenth
Street, and the garage is near the northeast corner of the rear yard. A
concrete driveway and sidewalk (not original) extend from Tenth Street and terminate
near the right front of the house. The proposed designation includes the
9750 square foot lot, the exterior of the house, and the interior and
exterior of the garage.
Click here for site plan.
Of South Elevation. Special Collections UNCC Atkins Library
The exterior of the Charles H. and Bess Smith House is an excellent
example of Spanish Colonial Revival domestic architecture. The
house, which retains a high degree of integrity on the exterior,
is a 1 storey tall T-shaped plan with the front entrance at the 3-bay base of
the T and a covered brick patio, probably original, to the right of the front entrance.
The patio is covered by a sloping, ribbed wooden
roof on a metal frame supported by attenuated metal posts with decorative scrolls at the
termini. The house is a solid masonry structure, having
oversized brick sheathed with stucco to simulate adobe. A single centered
interior chimney decorated with a circumferential brick course near the cap protrudes through the
flat roof which is bordered by a parapet wall with metal coping, except
for the front facade in brick coping which curves upward in the center perhaps to suggest an espadana.
The fenestration is regular and consists of side double casement windows with
metal muntins and metal surrounds, except for two elongated windows in
the rear, which are rendered in wood. The windows have brackets
for shutters, but the shutters have been removed. Smooth, dark red,
surrounds the windows and a replacement front door, painted red.
Masonry flowerboxes supported by brick brackets are beneath the front windows
and contribute to the
picturesque qualities of the house. Above the front entrance is an
entablature consisting of a string of soldier course brick, brick
dentils, and a molded masonry cornice. Metal handrails with
terminating scrolls flank the two brick steps leading to the front
entrance. Light fixtures (not original) are above the front door
and on the wall behind the patio. The eastern elevation of the
house has a protrusion which has subsequently been covered with siding.
The original plan for the house shows windows at this spot.
The plan also shows urns atop either end of the front elevation, but
they are no longer present. The front elevation of the building
has attached metal lettering spelling "Greene Bldg.," which denotes the
surname of the current owners.
Martin Boyer, Jr. at
work at his desk.
Collections Department UNCC Atkins Library
The rear elevation of the Charles H. and Bess Smith
House is five bays wide and has two large and two small rectangular windows
and a rear door (not original). The large windows have metal
bar coverings, probably added to provide security. A shed roof rests
upon a partial wall on the northern side of an original concrete rear stoop.
looking toward northwest.
||Typical interior room
The principal investigator did not gain entry into
the house. However, by looking through the windows, some of which
are open or have broken glass, one could see that except for the
arrangement of rooms the interior of the Charles H. and Bess Smith House
has lost its historic integrity. The interior rooms have drop
ceilings and paneled siding. In summary, no interior features of distinction were
The garage for the Charles H. and Bess Smith House is
a 1 story rectangular solid brick structure with exterior wall sheathing
and coping atop a parapet wall identical to that on the main house.
Access is provided by two large windowless doors with vertical
tongue-and-groove boarding, painted red. A window with metal
muntins and brick surrounds is situated near the rear of each side
Original plans for the house are located in
Special Collections at the Atkins Library at the University of North
Carolina at Charlotte (see plans 1820-1, 1820-2, and 1820-3). James McMichael, an architect
of regional significance, designed such notable early twentieth century
Charlotte buildings as St. John's Baptist Church, Myers Park Presbyterian
Church, East Avenue Tabernacle A.M.E. Zion Church, First A.M.E. Zion Church,
First Baptist Church, and the North Carolina Medical College Building.
Charles H. Smith had moved into the house by 1925. He was manager and
president of the John S. Blake Drug Co., a retail outlet at the intersection
of Trade and Tryon Sts. He moved from 309 W. Trade St.
2. Charlotte City Directory (1923-24), p.
730; Charlotte City Directory (1925), p. 878.
3. For an overview of American
architecture in the twentieth century see Carter Wiseman, Twentieth Century American Architecture. The
Buildings And Their Makers (New York & London: W. W. Norton,
4. For biographical information about
Wilton is west of Lexington, Va.
5. Wiseman, p. 108.
6. Ibid. For information
about the career of Louis H. Asbury, see
7. The Special Collections Department of
the Atkins Library at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has a
substantial collection of Martin E. Boyer, Jr. papers. It contains
correspondence, biographical information, and plans and drawings.
Hereinafter cited as Boyer Papers. Boyer was producing houses
in a variety of derivative styles in the 1920s, including the Picturesque.
House at 522 Hermitage Court
8. Arrol Gellner & Douglas Keister, Red
Tile Style. America's Spanish Revival Architecture (China: Penguin
2002), pp. 1-5.
p. 82; Gellner & Keister, p. 5.
10. Gellner & Keister, p. 22.
11. Marcus Whiffen, American
Architecture Since 1780. A Guide to the Styles (Cambridge and London:
The M.I.T. Press, 1974), p. 225.
12. Gellner & Keister, p.
14. For reports on these structures see
the various reports posted on
15. Boyer Papers.
The Spanish Colonial Revival Style buildings illustrated here were
photographed by Dr. Dan L. Morrill on a tour of Charlotte. Additional
structures might be extant.
For an overview of the evolution of the residential built environment of
Center City Charlotte see