Survey and Research Report
The Cole Manufacturing Company Plant
Charlotte, North Carolina
1. Name and location of the
property known as the Cole Manufacturing Plant is located at 1318 Central
Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name, address and telephone
number of the current owner of the property:
North Carolina 28205
3. Representative photographs
of the property:
This report contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location
of the property: The
report contains a map depicting the location of the property. The UTM
Coordinate is 17 516788E 3897112N.
5. Current tax parcel number:
6. A brief historical sketch of
the property: This
report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by John
7. A brief architectural
description of the property:
This report contains a brief architectural description prepared by Stewart
8. Documentation of why and in
what ways the property meets the criteria for designation set forth in
North Carolina General Statute 160A-400.5.
a. Special significance in
terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance.
The Commission judges that the
property known as the Cole Manufacturing Plant possesses special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its
judgment on the following considerations:
1. The 1909 Cole Manufacturing Plant is a significant and
well-preserved example of Charlotte’s early 20th century
The Cole Manufacturing Plant was designed by noted local architect
Charles Christian Hook and reflects his affinity for the classical style.
The Cole Manufacturing Plant, built in the Romanesque Revival Style
and featuring advanced concrete structural components, demonstrates both
the power of traditional design and progressive building technology.
Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description included in this report demonstrates that the property known
as the Cole Manufacturing Plant meets this criterion.
Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal:
The Commission is aware that "historic landmark" designation allows the
owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the ad valorem taxes on
all or any portion of the Property. The current appraised value of the
historic buildings is $435,530. The current appraised value of the 1.34
acres of land is $117,260.
Date of Preparation of this
Report: November 25,
Statement of Significance
Summary: The 1909 Cole Manufacturing Company is
historically significant as a tangible reminder of the beginning of the
diversification of Charlotte’s early 20th century industrial
development. The company did not supply a product used directly by the
region’s cotton mills; instead it was among the businesses drawn to
Charlotte to take advantage of the cities superior railway access and the
available investment capital generated by the thriving mill economy. The
plant was designed by noted local and regional architect Charles Christian
Hook, whose affinity with the classical style is reflected in the plant’s
buildings. Despite its traditional design, the buildings utilized modern
concrete structural technology. A substantial amount of the original plant
survives, and as a group the buildings are an important example of
Charlotte’s early 20th century industrial complexes
Sketch by John A. Morrice, December 2001
The Cole Manufacturing Company was incorporated on October 12, 1900,
as a producer of agricultural equipment, principally a cotton planter and a
Cole’s cotton planter was truly innovative, and its uniqueness made it
eligible to receive patent protection from the United States Patent Office.2
The pioneering nature of its cotton planter notwithstanding, the Cole Manufacturing Company most likely
would not have existed in Charlotte but for the economic growth stimulated
by the New South textile mill development in the Piedmont, which encouraged
the creation of a substantial number of other supply, finance and textile-related businesses.3
Many of ". . . the new businesses spurred by the textile industry were
cotton related industries."4
D. A. Tompkins
Mecklenburg County was flourishing in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, ". . . driven by the
New South theories of D. A. Tompkins and others . . ." to
'Bring the Mills
to the Cotton.'"5 Mecklenburg County was the third highest
cotton producing county in the State of North Carolina in 1850 and became
the largest cotton producer in the state in 1910 at 27,466 bales ginned.6
D. A. Tompkins sparked Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s transition from being merely
a cotton trading center to being the center of textile manufacturing in the
Southeast.7 In the 32 years following the organization by
Tompkins of his own factory design, contracting and machine business in
1884 (the D. A. Tompkins Company), Tompkins built over 100 cotton mills, fertilizer works, electric light
plants and ginneries and converted the region’s cotton oil from a waste
product to a major industry by constructing about 200 processing plants.8
By 1906, one quarter of the textile mills in the United States were located
in North Carolina, primarily in the central or west central sections where
mills were the "thickest."9
The original offering of Cole stock was purchased by some of the then
leading Charlotte industrialists: textile mill owners and businessmen W. B.
Holt, J. S. Spencer, B. D. Heath, John M. Scott, Henry McAden, J. H.
Weddington and the Belk brothers.10 But it was the Cole brothers
who were responsible for the creation of this enterprise. E. A.,
E. M., E. W. and E. O. Cole, were born in Chatham County, North Carolina,
reared on a farm in Moore County near Carthage, and began making seed
planters for their neighbors, beginning as a small business, and eventually
obtaining the U.S. patent.11 The brothers each received 30
shares of common stock for his in-kind contribution of the patent and
other personal property to the Company.12 The balance of the
capitalization, as demonstrated above, came in cash for preferred shares issued to others who had
made their fortunes by direct or indirect affiliation with the success of
the textile mills.13
Placing the Cole Manufacturing Company in Charlotte was no accident.
The large number of textile mills in Mecklenburg County and its environs generated the
capital needed for industrial and commercial diversification. Many of these
ancillary industries benefited from one of the same factors that had spurred
mill development in Charlotte -- the "multiple rail connections" which "kept
transportation prices low and helped Charlotte’s economy expand."14
Road improvements and existing rail connections provided the means for
Charlotte to become one of the leading New South cities.15
Southern Railway was created in 1894, and it controlled four of the six
tracks passing through Charlotte (it routed the Washington to New Orleans
mainline through the city); the Seaboard Air Line bought the other railroad
tracks in Charlotte in 1900.16 Moreover, new tracks for
the Norfolk and Western and the local Piedmont and Northern Railroad (a
projected 150-mile local line with the motto "A Mill to the Mile")
provided additional impetus to the
industrial and distribution economy in Charlotte and its environs.17 The rail
lines promoted vigorous economic growth in the southern Piedmont region of North
Carolina. For example the Cannon family purchased cheap farm land along the Southern
Railway to establish Kannapolis and Cannon Mills. In Gaston County,
completion of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and the existing Southern
Railway "set the stage for a remarkable
expansion of the textile industry, resulting in the construction of 23 mills
between 1887 and 1904 and the growth of Gastonia as a commercial and
manufacturing center."18 The Cole Manufacturing Company, located on the
Seaboard Air Line, used its rail access to distribute planters throughout
this region and even beyond. Farm implements were sold wholesale to hardware supply stores and
shipped by rail.19 By 1926, the Cole Manufacturing Company was said to have been the
largest factory in the world devoted exclusively to the manufacture of seed
planters and guano sowers.20
The first Cole Manufacturing factory was located near the intersection
of Lawyers Road (now Central Avenue) and the Seaboard Air Line Railway,
across Central Avenue from its present site. Per
Walsh’s 1902 directory of the City of Charlotte, Eugene M. Cole (listed as
Secretary of Cole Manufacturing), Eusebuis A. Cole (listed as President and
Treasurer) and E. W. Cole (listed as Bookkeeper) all maintained residences
near the first plant on Central Avenue. The first factory abutted a Seaboard Air Line Railway siding adjacent to Barnhardt Manufacturing Company and the Charlotte Casket Company. Although
it was listed as having 40 employees in the 1905 Sanborn Maps, the plant had no
watchman since the "owner sleeps in building."21 Per company
correspondence, demand for planters grew quickly during the first few years
of the Company’s existence; and around 1902 or 1903, the Cole brothers
developed a guano ("fertilizer") distributor.22 The
introduction of the fertilizer, Peruvian guano, had led to a tripling of the
number of bales of cotton ginned in Mecklenburg County between 1860 and
1880.23 Production had increased from 6,112 bales in 1860 to
19,129 bales in 1880. Increased production presumably fueled both the growth
of the mills and the demand for agricultural implements which would make
cotton production more efficient, including a guano distributor.
The Company outgrew its first plant. On September 6, 1906, it purchased
approximately 14 acres of property across Central Avenue from its first
plant; the western boundary of the property was the Seaboard Air Line
Railroad. The land was bought from the Oakhurst Land Company (which
developed the Elizabeth neighborhood) the president of which was textile magnate
B. D. Heath, one of the original Cole investors.24 About 1909,
Charlotte architect Charles Christian Hook (1870 – 1938) was retained to
design the new plant.25
C. C. Hook
was one of Charlotte’s
most influential architects. In 1909, when retained by Cole, he practiced
independently, having previously formed the firm of Hook and Sawyer which
operated from 1902 to 1907. Hook would establish the firm of Hook and
Rogers, with Willard G. Rogers, in 1912.26 C. C. Hook was
born in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 18, 1870, received his degree
from Washington University in 1890 and came to Charlotte as the teacher of
manual training and mechanical drawing in the Old South School on the corner
of East Morehead and South Boulevard.27
In 1893, he began practicing architecture.28 Plans were
drawn in Hook’s offices for many of the then most important buildings in
North Carolina. These buildings include the 1925 Charlotte City Hall on East
Trade Street, the Richmond County Courthouse, and dormitories at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. His work
would include many notable residences in Charlotte, including the Van
Landingham Estate, the James B.
Duke Mansion and the Belk House on Hawthorne Lane; residences also included
the Lineberger House in Belmont, North Carolina and the Hambley House in
Salisbury, North Carolina. He introduced the Colonial Revival style to
"His designs encompass shingled,
gambrel-roofed cottages, as well as big columned mansions, Gothic and
Romanesque Revival churches, Jacobean and Richardsonian Romanesque
commercial and civic buildings, and red brick neoclassical collegiate
structures. His practice radiated from Charlotte into the thriving
industrial towns of the Piedmont, where he found patronage among the new
magnates of textiles, mining, and railroading."30
The firm of Hook and Sawyer published a small book advertising
and illustrating the breadth of its work.31
In addition to designing many of the Colonial Revival residences in
Dilworth, C. C. Hook also fashioned the Trouser Company which was built on
South Boulevard by
Edward Dilworth Latta in 1893.32 The
Colonial Revival style became fashionable and was the choice of many of
Charlotte’s successful businessmen, including B. D. Heath for his mansion (Heathcote)
at the corner of Central Avenue and Louise Avenue; Heath, once again, was an
original investor in The Cole Manufacturing Company and was the primary
owner of the Oakhurst Land Company which sold the land to the Cole
Manufacturing Company for construction of the new facility.
Construction began in 1909 – 1910 and was almost complete in 1911. The
1911 Sanborn Map, with respect to the old facility, states that the plant would
shortly be abandoned entirely, "although parts are used at present."33
The new facility, though not quite finished in 1911, included a state of
the art automatic sprinkler system manufactured and installed by the
Grinnell Company.34 The new facility contained six buildings,
two of which were separated from the main grouping by a Seaboard Air Line spur
track (which has now been removed). The Company became extremely successful;
by 1960 it had sold more than 2,000,000 seed planters, fertilizer
distributors and grain drills.35
By 1945, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce reported more than 200
non-textile industrial plants in the County producing products valued at
$50,000,000 per year.36 Use of the capital generated from
textiles created the other industries that laid the foundation for a post
World War II economic prosperity not based on textiles.37
Charlotte surpassed Wilmington, in 1910, as the largest city in the State;
the significance of its development was not only in the 13 mills built
between 1889 and 1908, but also in the creation of a "true urban
infrastructure" that included engineering firms, department stores,
financial institutions, the home office of the Southern Power Company (later
Duke Power Company) and a thriving machinery manufacturing industry economy,
offering mills a local alternative to the dependence upon northern
suppliers.38 Interestingly, by 1931, when the Cole
Manufacturing Company charter was drafted anew (since the original charter
provided for a corporate life of 30 years), E. A. and E. M. Cole were the
only two family shareholders, apparently purchasing the shares of their
siblings. By 1930, E. A. and E. M. Cole owned 1,199 shares between them, and
W. H. Belk, Charlotte’s department store magnate, owned individually, or
through affiliated entities, 477.5 shares.
The Company continuously occupied the manufacturing facility from
1911/1912 until 1982. By 1976 one-fifth of the Company’s gross revenues were
generated from exports.39 The urbanization of
Charlotte-Mecklenburg all but eliminated cotton farming, and the last
Charlotte textile mill closed in 1975.40 "Cole Manufacturing,
once profitable, became a Charlotte casualty of the recession that has
fairly depressed the nation’s farm equipment industry" in 1982.41
Company assets (not including the property) were sold to the Rowe Corp. for
about $1,300,000.42 Rowe is still manufacturing planters and
other agricultural implements under the Cole trade name; as part of the
sale, the Cole Manufacturing Company changed its name to Plaza Industries,
Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds, Book of Corporations, Book 1, Page
191. John Morrice as a student in a graduate historic preservation
course at UNCC in 2001. This historical essay was part of his
responsibility for that class.
2. E. M. and
E. A. Cole patented the "Coles Combination Planter" on July 17, 1900
(Letters Patent Number 653660) which expedited and simplified the planting
process for cotton seed.
3. Sarah A.
Woodard, Sherry Joines Wyatt and David E. Gall, "Industry,
Transportation and Education, the New South Development of Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County," September 2001, Page 11.
Wyatt and Gall, Page 2.
7. Dr. Dan L.
and Research Report on the Hoskins Mill," 1988.
Wyatt and Gall, Page 6, citing Thomas W. Hanchett, "Charlotte
Textile Heritage: An Introduction." Hanchett's report provides
a general overview of Charlotte-Mecklenburg textile mill development. See
also Thomas W. Hanchett, "The Growth of Charlotte: A History."
Charlotte Observer, June 27, 1944, Section 2, Page 1. See also The
Charlotte Observer, February 10, 1943, Section 2, Page 1. These are the
obituaries of E. M. Cole and E. A. Cole, respectively. Both men were civic
leaders and active in their churches (locally and regionally).
14. Thomas W.
Hanchett, Sorting Out the New South City: Race, Class and Urban
Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975 (Chapel Hill: The University of
North Carolina Press, 1998), Page 90.
Wyatt and Gall, Page 3.
Pages 4 and 5.
18. Brent D.
Glass, The Textile Industry in North Carolina: A History (Raleigh:
Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural
Resources, 1992), Page 43.
by this author of John Cole Hatcher, grandson of E. A. Cole, on November 26,
20. Edgar T.
Thompson, Agricultural Mecklenburg and Industrial Charlotte Social and
Economic (Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte, North Carolina,
1926), Page 162.
Maps of Charlotte, North Carolina (Sanborn Map Company, New York 1905).
from Jean Cole Hatcher, President of The Cole Manufacturing Company, dated
March 6, 1959, to Charles R. Brockmann, archivist, Public Library of
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Wyatt and Gall, Page 2.
William H. Huffman and Thomas W. Hanchett, Unpublished note, "Cole
Manufacturing Complex, Central Avenue," on file with the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, completed June, 1985.
See also Thomas W. Hanchett, "Plaza
Midwood Neighborhood Guide." Mr. Hanchett cites an interview
with Dr. Dan L. Morrill in footnote 23 to the Guide (Dr. Dan L. Morrill,
Interview with Thomas W. Hanchett at Charlotte, North Carolina, November,
1981). Surviving members of the Cole family also confirm C. C. Hook's
design of the plant (see endnote 19).
Charlotte News, September 17, 1938, Section 1, Page 1.
W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (Chapel Hill: The University
of North Carolina Press, 1990), Page 423.
Thomas W. Hanchett, "Charlotte
Architecture: Design Through Time," (Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmarks Commission).
Hanchett, Sorting Out The New South City, Page 159.
Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Loumbury and Ernest H. Wood
III, Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the
Practice of Building (The University of North Carolina Press, 1990) Page
North Carolina Architecture, Page 423.
31. C. C.
Hook and F. M. Sawyer, Some Designs by Hook and Sawyer (Charlotte:
Queen City Printing and Paper Co., 1902).
Sorting Out The New South City, footnote 67 to Charpter 2, citing
The Charlotte Observer, December 9, 1893, Page 16.
Maps of Charlotte, North Carolina (Sanborn Map Company, New York, 1911).
Blythe and Charles Raven Brockmann, Hornets Nest: The Story of Charlotte
and Mecklenburg County (Charlotte: McNally of Charlotte, 1961), Page
Wyatt and Gall, Page 11.
Charlotte Observer, September 26, 1976, Page 5C.
Wyatt and Gall, Page 10.
Charlotte Observer, November 22, 1982, Section D., Page 1.
Architectural Description by Stewart
1909-1911, the Cole Manufacturing Plant is most significant architecturally as an
example of the industrial complexes found in Charlotte and its environs in the early years of
the 20th century. The plant’s three surviving early 20th
century buildings are themselves significant as well preserved examples of
Charlotte’s early 20th century commercial buildings. Built in
the Romanesque Revival Style, these brick edifices incorporated an advanced
structural design, utilizing a poured concrete frame, floor and roof
system. As was typical for large commercial complexes in Mecklenburg
County, the plant sits adjacent to a railway on an essentially flat lot,
surrounded by raised landscaping. The plant is in good condition, and
retains a high degree of integrity in regards to its original design and
substantial portion the Cole Manufacturing Plant has survived. Of the six
original buildings designed by C. C. Hook, three remain. They are: the
Assembly Building, the Machine Shop, and the Heating Plant. The long,
two-story Assembly Building is oriented roughly north/south, and sits
parallel to the Seaboard Airline Railway, about 50’ from the track. The
one-story Heating Plant is the smallest of the three original buildings and
is attached by a late 20th century addition, to the southern end
of the Assembly Building. Perpendicular to the other buildings but
separated from them by an alley once occupied by a rail spar, the two-story
Machine Shop is oriented roughly east-to-west and forms a “T” with the
Assembly Building. The buildings are surrounded by a continuous black
asphalt parking lot, which obscures evidence of significant landscape
features such as the former rail spar and gives the plant a somewhat sterile,
property there is no visible evidence of the three other original Cole
Manufacturing Plant buildings designed by C. C. Hook. In 1985, Thomas W. Hanchett
visited the site and described what remained at that time:
The square, hip-roofed foundry
building that once stood south of the Machine Shop/Assembly Building has
been demolished, though its concrete floor may still be seem. East of it the
one-story Grinding Building survives in a somewhat altered form. It was
originally nine bays long and only one bay deep under its hip roof. The long
side featured three arched doorways alternated with a total of six smaller
arched window openings. Heavy corbeling forms three belt courses; one above
the window line, one at the bases of the arches, and one at the bottoms of
the windows. Today the building has lost its northern-most bay. Two of the
entrances have been widened, harming the original brickwork, and all other
openings have been bricked in. Inside the building is divided into one small
room and one big room by a brick bearing wall, as shown on early maps. The
roof is not concrete but rather a wooden truss. Inside the small room a
single cast-iron pulley wheel hangs from the ceiling beams.
The fifth of the surviving
original buildings has been even more altered. The Woodworking Shop stood to
the north of the Machine Shop/Assembly Building. It was a one-story
structure with arched windows and corbeled red brick, and a concrete
skeleton just like the main buildings. Today the structure is part of a
larger metal and brick building. The concrete frame and roof remain, but all
the walls except the east one have been removed. 1
The Assembly Building
The two-story red-brick Assembly Building is the largest of the surviving
buildings. It is five bays wide and nineteen bays deep. The north
elevation of the building, which faces Central Avenue, is symmetrical. Each
of the five bays contain a two-story semi-circular arched opening. The
central bay is slightly wider than the others and contains a modern metal
entrance door with an aluminum-framed plate glass surround. Above the door,
a concrete panel fills the opening at the level of the second-story floor
system. A concrete windowsill is integrated into the top of the panel. A
rectangular aluminum frame window sits on the concrete sill. The remaining
half-round section of the opening is glazed with a single semi-circular
plate of glass. In each of the four remaining bays, a large single-light
aluminum framed window rests on a sill formed by a corbelled belt course.
Simple recessed brick architraves surround all five of the openings. The
recessed nature of the openings gives the brickwork between the openings the
appearance of a classical column. This effect is reinforced by two tiers of
corbelling that form capitals between the openings on the second-story
level. The semi-circular arches spring from these capitals and are
accentuated by corbelled archivolts and prominent cast-concrete keystones.
Above the keystones a corbelled cornice projects from the wall. The cornice
is interrupted over the center opening by a raised panel of corbelled
brick. The top of the brick wall is wrapped with metal. Presently the
extremely low-pitched roof forms a low gable. Notches in the corbelling and
broken fasteners associated with downspouts around the center bay may
indicate that a parapet once existed over the entrance. The south elevation
appears to have been identical to the north. A brick addition, which now
connects the Assembly Building to the Heating Plant, obscures about a third
of the elevation. Only two windows, the two easternmost in the second-story
level, pierce the south elevation, with the other openings either obscured
by the addition or filled with brick.
The Assembly Building’s nineteen-bay deep east elevation is also symmetrical
and incorporates the same architectural details described for the north
elevation. The east elevation features three prominent entrance bays, each
of these separated from each other and from the ends of the building by
groups of four windowed bays. All of the bays feature the semi-circular
arches, the low belt course, the keystones, and the distinctive corbelling
found on the north elevation. However, above each of the entrance bays on
the east elevation, the corbelled panel is incorporated into a small brick
parapet. Originating at the parapets, rainwater downspouts flank the
entrance bays. There are no corbelled cornices on the east elevation.
Metal stairs and an elevated walkway have been added to the east elevation
giving access to several doors that have been incorporated into former
window openings on the second floor. The addition of these doors has
necessitated the destruction of sections of the concrete panels that
separated the openings. Three doors have also been incorporated into former
window openings on the ground floor, which has necessitated the destruction
of sections of the lower belt course. The Assembly Building’s west
elevation appears to have been identical to the east elevation. The
building has been converted to shops and offices, and the east elevation now
contains the service entrances for the different businesses. Many of the
window openings have been bricked in, and again doors have also been
incorporated into former window openings on the ground floor, which has
necessitated the destruction of sections of the lower belt course. A
garage-type overhead door was inserted into one bay, requiring the removal
of a substantial amount of brick.
A frame box with a gable roof is perched on the buildings roof and may
shelter an opening from a former skylight.
The Assembly Building utilizes a poured concrete frame consisting of square
posts supporting concrete beams. Rough graining from the wood boards used
to form the framing is visible in the concrete. The beams support the
concrete floor of the second story. Posts on the second floor support the
building’s concrete roof.2
The Machine Shop
The symmetrical two-story Machine Shop is eleven bays wide and five bays
deep. It appears to share all of the original architectural details found
on the Assembly Building. It is also features the same exterior materials:
red bricks with concrete accents. The two buildings also share the same
poured concrete post-and-beam structural system, floors, and roof.
building’s eleven bay wide north elevation features just one central
entrance bay, which is topped by a parapet. Metal stairs covered by an
awning now give access to the second-story where a door has been
incorporated into the window opening above the entrance, which necessitated
the destruction of part of the concrete panel that separated the original
openings. The building’s south elevation appears to have been identical to
the north elevation. Again stairs protected by awnings give access to the
second floor through a former window opening. Nearly half of the window
openings in the south elevation have been filled with brick.
The Machine Shop’s five bay deep west elevation is somewhat wider than the
five bay wide north elevation of the Assembly Building. This allows for
wider sections of corbelled brickwork, which separate the windows. This
also allows for a wider central bay with a corresponding larger half-round
arch. The Machine Shop’s extremely low-pitched roof forms a low gable on
the building’s east and west elevations. The west elevation may have been
the building’s only asymmetrical elevation. Corbelling and shortened
concrete panels may indicate that a large door existed in the two southernmost
bays of the west elevation. The west elevation does feature a corbelled
cornice like that found on the Assembly Building. Electrical boxes and
panels are mounted on this elevation, and several of the openings are
infilled with brick.
The spacing of the openings and the brick details found on the Machine
Shop’s west elevation are reflected on the east elevation. On this
elevation, however, the corbelled cornice and the asymmetrical door opening
are missing. Again, openings have been infilled with brick.
The Heating Plant
The smallest of the surviving original buildings is the brick construction,
one-story, hipped-roof, Heating Plant. Decorative corbelled arches accented
with concrete keystones adorn this small building and tie it architecturally
to its larger neighbors. Now a real estate office, the building has lost
its smokestack and some of its corbelled detailing. A shower room added in
the 1950’s connects the Heating Plant to the Assembly Building. A frame
room appears to have been added to the shower room on the east elevation.
A one-story, flat-roofed, masonry building, which may have been part of the
Cole Manufacturing Company, sits directly to the east of the Machine Shop.
Mecklenburg County tax records indicate this building was constructed in
Significance of The Architectural
Features of the Cole Manufacturing Plant in Term of the City of Charlotte
and Mecklenburg County
The Cole Manufacturing Plant is significant as a substantial and relatively
unaltered collection of industrial buildings designed by a single
architect. These building were built together for the single purpose of
producing farm equipment. While the buildings may be individually
significant, viewed together, they convey much more about the ways of
industry in Charlotte in the early years of the 20th century.
Other significant historical industrial complexes in Charlotte such as the
Charlotte Cotton Mills, Ford Motor Company Plant, Parks-Cramer Mill, and
Armature Winding Company generally reflect changes over time with
expansions, and buildings of various ages and designs.
The Cole Manufacturing Plant is also significant in that its buildings
possess many of the architectural elements of the Romanesque Revival Style
employed extensively in late 19th century industrial building,
while at the same time featuring elements of a modern structural design. It
is not surprising that C. C. Hook, who was known to favor classical
restraint over Victorian exuberance, choose elements of classical
architecture for the Cole Manufacturing Plant.4 In Charlotte, a good
example of the Romanesque Revival Style can be seen in the 1908 Philip Carey
Building, and elements of the style can be seen in half-round arches of the
Southern Public Utilities Streetcar Barn and in the 1901 Alpha Cotton Mill.
All three of these buildings relied on traditional brick construction, with
bonded brick walls bearing the loads of the roof and upper stories. While
outwardly resembling these other buildings, the Machine Shop and the
Assembly Building instead relied on a poured concrete frame to bear most of
the load. The traditional corbelled brickwork simply filled in and covered
the concrete frame.
By the 1920’s it appears that more modern styles were being utilized for
Charlotte’s industrial concrete-framed buildings. Instead of disguising the
modern structural elements of the buildings, architects embraced these
elements and incorporated them into the design of the buildings. In
Charlotte, the architects of the 1928 Great A&P Tea Company Warehouse and
the 1926 Carolina Transfer and Storage Building incorporated the buildings’
exposed concrete frames as element of the exterior design. The Cole
Manufacturing Plant reflects the staying power of traditional design. It
also may demonstrates the inevitability of the adoption of improved building
William H. Huffman and Thomas W. Hanchett, "Cole Manufacturing
Complex, Central Avenue," on file with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmarks Commission, June, 1985.
4. Lisa Bush Hankin, “Charles Christian Hook,” on file with the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.