THE FREDERICK APARTMENTS
1. Name and location of the property: The property
known as the Frederick Apartments is located at 515 N. Church Street in
Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The present owners of the property are:
Frederick Place, LLC
137 Brevard Court
Charlotte, NC 28202
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative black and white photographs of the property. Color
slides are available at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
4. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map depicting the location of the property.
5. Current deed book reference to the property: The most recent
deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 9981 on
page 850. The tax parcel number of the property is #078-035-14.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets 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 property
known as the Frederick Apartments does possess special significance in
terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
1) The Frederick Apartments, built in 1927, was erected during a
significant local building boom. Newspaper articles written during the
period of construction boast that "the greatest volume of construction
operations ever carried on in this country during a single month was
established in August," and that "building operations in the Queen City
surpassed those in all other Carolina cities during August."
2) W. Fred Casey's decision to erect an apartment building was a direct
response to a changing demographic and the resultant need to house large
numbers of new residents. The Frederick is representative of a wave of
medium-sized apartment houses that were built in the late 1920s, when
apartment construction in Charlotte was at a record high level.
3) The building reflects the spatial organization and social concept of
apartment life in the 1920s. It was designed to include two categories of
apartments-- bachelor apartments and housekeeping units--to appeal to two
distinct types of renters. "Bachelor apartments," with one or two rooms,
were designed to house young men who, it was presumed, would not cook or
entertain. "Housekeeping units" were larger, with full kitchens and living
rooms, and were marketed primarily to females and couples.
4) Architecturally, the Frederick is a fine example of a medium-sized
apartment house from the 1920s. Though it was apparently created without
the benefit of an architect's services, the design reflects a good degree
of sophistication. Further, the use of colored, molded clay elements on
the facade is unmatched in the local architecture of the era.
5) The Frederick Apartments was home to W. J. Cash, a newspaperman who was
best known for his seminal volume, The Mind of the South. He lived
in the building while he was writing what has been called a "masterpiece,"
and which, sixty years later, is still considered to be an important
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
association: The Commission contends that the physical and
architectural description which is included in this report demonstrates
that the Frederick Apartments meets this criteria.
9. Ad 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 designated "historic landmark." The current total appraised value of the
improvements is $ 18,540. The current total appraised value of the lot is $
493,080. The current total value is $ 511,620. The property is zoned UMUD.
Date of preparation of this report: July 20, 2000
Prepared by: Mary Beth Gatza
428 N. Laurel Avenue, #7
Charlotte, NC 28204
(704) 331 9660
Statement of Significance
The history of the 1927 Frederick Apartments reveals that it is an
important product of the times and conditions in which it was built. W. Fred
Casey's decision to build an apartment house was a direct response to the
decade's rapid population increase and the resultant need to house large
numbers of new residents. It was built during a peak year for multi-family
dwelling construction in the midst of the particularly active 1920s building
boom. Architecturally, it is a fine example of a medium-sized apartment
house whose design reflects a good degree of sophistication, and whose
configuration reflects the social concepts of apartment living of the time.
Its use of polychrome terra cotta design elements is unmatched 1920s-era
architecture in Charlotte. Additionally, it was the home of acclaimed
author, W. J. Cash, during the time he wrote his masterpiece social history,
The Mind of the South.
Background and Context
The 1920s were boom years in Charlotte, and the combination of prosperous
economic times and a burgeoning population resulted in a notably high levels
of building activity. Prior to 1928, the city boundaries encompassed only an
area that reached from
North Charlotte to
Biddleville. The United States Census counted 46,388 people living in
Charlotte at the beginning of the decade, and 82,675 people in 1930--a total
increase of seventy-eight percent, or 36,287 people. A Charlotte News
article from April 1927 exposed data collected by Miller Press (publishers
of the annual city directory) that showed a population growth spike from
76,000 in 1926 to 82,000 in 1927, or 6,000 new residents. By 1930, Charlotte
had become the largest city in the two Carolinas.
The increase in population necessitated an increase in housing, and the
construction industry responded. Although there were inevitably some minor
downswings, the overall trend was toward record levels of new construction.
Articles from The Charlotte News, written in 1927, substantiate the
local building boom. In August, the paper reported on a slump but noted that
"Charlotte was the only city in the state whose total building permits
showed a substantial increase in July over those issued in June." The dip
was short-lived, however, as less than two months later the same newspaper
analyzed national data and exclaimed that "the greatest volume of
construction operations ever carried on in this country during a single
month was established in August." The article further stated that "building
activities in August reached a total well above the previous record, set in
July, 1926." There is no doubt that this trend reached Charlotte. On October
2, The Charlotte News boasted that "building operations in the Queen
City surpassed those in all other Carolina cities during August." In 1927,
the total value of building permits issued in Charlotte was $5,499,364.
While these figures encompass building activity of all types, a significant
portion was residential. A report from the F. W. Dodge Corporation, as
reported in The Charlotte News, breaks down statewide figures for
August 1927. They calculated that thirty-eight percent (38%) of all
construction was for residential buildings.
By the 1920s, the term "residential buildings" did not refer only to
single-family dwellings. Beginning in the 1870s, Americans began to embrace
apartment living in large, densely-populated cities, such as New York,
Boston and Chicago. It is generally accepted that the building type matured
in New York during the late-nineteenth century. In places where land was not
quite as scarce or expensive, however, apartments were slower to gain
acceptance. In Charlotte, for instance, the first apartment houses appeared
just after the turn of the twentieth century. It would be another
twenty-five years, however, before the form would explode in popularity
here. In the early years of the twentieth century, a distinction was made
between a "bachelor apartment" and a "housekeeping unit." A bachelor
apartment was generally smaller, perhaps just one room and bath, with very
small or no kitchen facilities or public rooms (the presumption was that a
single man would not cook or entertain). A housekeeping unit, on the other
hand, had a full kitchen, living and dining rooms, and was better suited to
family life. The Frederick Apartments was designed with both types of units.
The number of multi-family residences in Charlotte increased significantly
during the 1920s. A 1927 newspaper article explains: "conspicuously
interesting as a mile post in Charlotte's steady march toward a greater city
is the noticeable tendency to construct apartment houses modeled after the
fashion of those in metropolitan cities." Analysis of the "Apartment Houses"
section of the city directories is revealing. It shows that there were
thirty-five named apartment buildings listed in 1920, and fifty-nine were
mentioned in 1925. In 1927, there were eighty-seven entries under the
heading. That figure rose to 102 the next year, and jumped again to 122 in
1929. This shows a that the number of apartment buildings almost quadrupled
during the decade. Thirty five of the new buildings (forty percent of the
total) were erected between 1927 and 1929, the peak years for apartment
construction during the period. About half of the total number of apartment
buildings were located in the core downtown area, although they were found
in all sectors, including
In Charlotte, virtually all apartment buildings of the period stand two
or more stories tall. The "quadriplex" form was popular--it contained four
units (generally four rooms apiece) arranged on two floors, sharing a common
entry. Larger buildings, though, were gaining hold on the market. The
largest extant apartment building from the period is the
Addison Apartments at 831 E. Morehead St. (it is both listed on the
National Register of Historic Places and designated a Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmark). At nine stories high, the Addison was originally
constructed with 64 apartments. At three stories and thirty-six units, the
Frederick Apartments could be described as a medium-sized building. Other
nearby apartment buildings of this size include the thirty-nine unit
Poplar Apartments at 301 W. 10th St. (a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Landmark), and the Jefferson at 409 N. Church St. with thirty-six units.
William Frederick Casey (1874-1957) commissioned the construction of the
Frederick Apartments in 1927. Casey, who was originally from Tennessee,
moved to Charlotte in 1914, the same year he married Mae E. Cook
(1884-1950). He ran a business and was a member of several organizations,
including the Masons, the United Commercial Travelers, and the Brotherhood
of Railroad Conductors. He was a charter member of the First Methodist
Church. He also bought and sold real estate.
By trade, Casey was a manufacturer's agent of building materials and
contractor's equipment. An advertisement in a trade publication describes
his company as "distributors and representatives" of a variety of items,
including ornamental bronze and iron, elevator enclosures, dumb waiters, and
incinerators. He also handled ornamental terra cotta roofing tile and clay
products--both of which are used on the facade of the Frederick Apartments.
W. Fred Casey and Company provided materials for a variety of
construction projects around the region. In Winston-Salem, his iron products
were found in the North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Bowman-Grey School of
Medicine (Wake Forest College), and in several buildings at the
Winston-Salem Teacher's College. Incinerators he sold were installed in
buildings in Durham and Greensboro, and at Fort Bragg. Glazed tile he
brokered was used in the American Tobacco Building in Durham. In Charlotte,
the General Dyestuff Building on Wilkinson Boulevard utilized terra cotta he
procured, and Presbyterian Hospital's laundry chutes were provided by
Casey's company. Considering his profession, Casey was undoubtedly aware of
market conditions and opportunities in the construction field. He probably
looked at the trend toward apartment housing and saw the potential for
profit. He was personally familiar with apartment living, as he had lived in
the Churchill Apartments on N. Church St., where his wife served as building
manager in 1918. In 1926, he purchased a lot at 515 N. Church St., and
contracted with J. A. Jones Construction Company to build the Frederick
The J. A. Jones Construction Company, which has since grown into a large
conglomerate, was founded in 1894 by James Addison Jones (1869-1950). The
company reached prominence in 1909 when they constructed North Carolina's
first steel-frame skyscraper, the Independence Building in Charlotte
(demolished in 1981). They built many significant buildings locally,
including Ivey's Department Store (1914), the
Masonic Temple (1914, now demolished), the
Hotel Charlotte (1924, now demolished),
City Hall (1925), the Addison Apartments (1926), and
Nebel Mill (1928). During the 1930s, the company expanded its region and
its vision. They were awarded various contracts by the Public Works
Administration (PWA). They built an air base in the Panama Canal Zone, and
were later awarded other military construction contracts. During World War
II, the company built a large steam power plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
They were subsequently contracted to build two "super-secret" uranium
plants, which were instrumental in producing materials for the atomic bombs
that were used by the United States during the war.
The J. A. Jones Construction Company applied for a building permit on
April 18, 1927, two weeks after the project was announced in the local
paper. A brief article that appeared on April 2 boasted that the Frederick
Apartments would have "all the modern conveniences that can be put into an
apartment house." It specifically mentioned "an electrical dish washer,
electric cooling and ventilation system, refrigerator and many other
devices." The building permit estimates the total cost at $125,000, but does
not list the name of an architect. Instead, the word "owner" was written in
and then crossed out--suggesting that Casey may have furnished the plans
It took the J. A. Jones Company about five months to complete the
Frederick Apartments. The first advertisements for rental units appeared on
September 18, 1927. It may be that the entire building wasn't quite ready
for occupancy yet, as only the larger units were mentioned. They were
described as "four-room family housekeeping apartments," with "all modern
conveniences." Two weeks later, another ad touted "exclusive modern
apartments, fireproof, consisting of: Bachelor apartments, single rooms and
baths, double rooms and one bath, also housekeeping apartments." The city
directory for 1928, the first year the Frederick was listed, showed that
thirty out of the thirty-six units were already rented.
The owners themselves were among the original occupants of the Frederick
Apartments. W. Fred and Mae Casey lived in unit #101 during the time they
owned the building, from 1927 through 1929. Other original tenants held jobs
in a variety of professional occupations. There were two dentists and one
physician, several salesmen, and two insurance agents. Perhaps the most
intriguing position was that of T. H. Tracy, who was an agent in charge for
the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigations. Almost
all of the original tenants were employed within walking distance of the
building . One-third of the residents worked in one of Charlotte's new
skyscrapers--five people worked in the nearby Professional Building (Tryon
and 7th Sts., now demolished), and seven commuted the seven blocks to the
Johnston Building (212 S. Tryon St.).
There were several long-term residents over the years. Allen W. Sutton
was a sales manager at Pyramid Chevrolet Company while he lived in the
building from 1928 through the mid 1940s. David H. Yarbrough was employed by
the Pure Oil Company during the 1940s, working his way up from marketer, to
clerk, to department manager, and finally reaching the status of special
representative in 1950. Hyman Usilowitz, who lived in the building from 1945
through early 1960s, was an assistant manager for the Reliable Loan Company.
Unit #106 was rented by a photographer, L. Davis Phillips, and his wife,
from 1930 through 1938. Another married couple was Appleton F. and Addie C.
Bolles, who lived in the building from 1938 through the early 1950s.
Appleton worked for the Southerland-Helms Company (a local optician), being
at various times a stock clerk, stock manager and salesman. After his death,
Addie remained in the building and took a job as a magazine agent for
Periodical Publishers. Another working widow at the Frederick Apartments was
Mace H. Kister--she was an office secretary for various firms during the
Several long-term residents were employed in the retail sector during the
1940s and 1950s. Samuel Pittle was a salesman at the National Hat Shop. Mrs.
Olive F. Dowling was a saleswoman at Montaldo's, a purveyor of better
woman's clothing. Mrs. Nannie Marie Wallace worked at a local department
store, Ivey's. Ivey's also employed other residents of the Frederick
Apartments--both J. Elmer Jordan and Allen S. Plexico worked there, both
serving as buyer and department manager at various times. During the late
1930s, the Frederick Apartments was home to the acclaimed author, Wilbur J.
Cash (1900-1941), who is best known for his seminal social history The
Mind of the South. Cash was born Joseph Wilbur Cash in Gaffney, South
Carolina (he later changed his name to Wilbur Joseph Cash), and moved across
the state line to Boiling Springs, North Carolina at the age of twelve. He
developed an interest in journalism while a student at Wake Forest College
in the early 1920s. After graduating in 1922, Cash held a variety of
teaching posts and writing jobs. He was influenced by the writer H. L.
Mencken, and contributed articles to Mencken's magazine, American Mercury.
Cash worked at both of Charlotte's rival newspapers--The Charlotte
Observer in the summer of 1923, and The Charlotte News in 1926,
and again after 1935. In 1937, he was lured back to town by The Charlotte
News, where he accepted the position of associate editor. He lived for a
short time at the Selwyn Hotel (no longer standing), before moving to the
Frederick Apartments in 1938. Cash occupied apartment 210a in 1939 and
apartment 308 in 1940, and it was at the Frederick where he completed his
manuscript in July 1940. He also courted and married his wife while he lived
there. Cash wed Mrs. Mary Ross Northrup on Christmas day, 1940, and they
began their married life in his apartment at the Frederick, which they found
too small for two people. In early 1941, Mary's mother took a job in Chapel
Hill, and the newlyweds moved into her unit at the Blandwood Apartments on
S. Tryon St. The apartment at the Blandwood was larger, and Mary delighted
in housekeeping there.
The Mind of the South was published in February 1941. Virtually
all of the reviews were positive, and it was immediately recognized as being
an important work. Glowing accounts appeared in newspapers and magazines
around the state and region. The national press even reviewed the book--Time
magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and The New
Republic all had good things to say about Cash's volume. Later
evaluations would view the book with a wider perspective. In 1979, it was
described as "the product of exhaustive reading, perceptive observation, and
creative insight," and as "a brilliant masterpiece that transcended the
limitations of his own and the historian's craft." In 1970 it was called
"perhaps the most intellectually influential book ever to come from North
The publication of the book, and its good reviews, gave Cash a certain
degree of prominence. It led to a Guggenheim fellowship, which he eagerly
accepted. He and Mary traveled to Mexico City, where he was to spend the
next year writing a novel. Cash had difficulty adjusting to Mexico City, and
suffered a variety of mental and physical ills. He apparently committed
suicide on July 1, 1941, in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Regrettably,
he never lived to witness the impact his work was to have on future
generations of scholars.
Many of these working professionals stayed in residence through changes
in the legal ownership of the building. Fred Casey had taken out two
separate deeds of trust on the property during the construction period in
1927. Casey entered into a third deed of trust in November of that year with
the J. A. Jones Construction Company and Edwin L. Jones (son of company
founder J. A. Jones). A deed of trust is a document which accompanies a loan
and guarantees transfer of ownership of the collateral property in the event
of default. Casey was apparently unable to repay the loans, which totaled
$130,000. Jones Construction Company foreclosed and took title to the
property in September 1929. It was quickly transferred to Edwin L. and
Annabel L. Jones, who retained ownership until 1972. At that time, it was
conveyed to their daughter's company, Jones-Brown Realty, who held the title
until 1979. Thus, the Frederick Apartments was owned by family members of
the original contractor for fifty years. It is currently being renovated and
converted to condominiums.
The Frederick Apartments, is a three-story, thirty-six unit brick
apartment house built in 1927. At 515 N. Church St., it is located in the
downtown area of Charlotte, five blocks north and one block west of the
square. The streets in this section are laid out in a regular grid pattern
and the lots are long, narrow, and rectangular. The Frederick Apartment
building, and its companion paved parking lot, together have 108 feet of
street frontage. The building is set close to the sidewalk, separated only
by a set of concrete steps leading up to a wide platform. The spaces on
either side of the steps are landscaped with small plantings, and an old
magnolia tree at the front left (south) corner of the building stands as
tall as the structure itself. The streetscape is urban in nature and
contains buildings in a mixture of types, styles and vintages. Its immediate
neighbors are the c. 1890
Liddell-McNinch House (a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark) on the
south, and its paved parking lot on the north. A modern brick fire station
stands across the parking lot. A new, large multi-family dwelling is located
immediately across N. Church St. from the Frederick Apartments.
The Frederick is a solid masonry structure. The body of the building is
constructed of red brick, laid up in
common bond. The facade, however, is fancier and sports buff colored
brick set in stretcher bond with decorative patterning in places. The facade
is symmetrical, and features a center entry and a slightly projecting center
bay. A set of concrete steps trimmed in brick lead up to a flat tiled
platform which spans the front of the building, in lieu of a porch. The
building's roof is flat and not visible from the street, however, a narrow,
hipped roof is applied to the facade, which is supported by paired,
decorative brackets, and covered with flat green tiles. Together with the
arched center entry, the tiled roof hints at an Italian Renaissance Revival
The green tiles on the roof coordinate with the polychrome facade detail.
Colored terra cotta pieces comprise key design elements that are found
around the door and windows, on decorative panels, and on the building's
nameplate. The nameplate is centered above the front door and is made of
beige tiles with raised green letters spelling out "FREDERICK." The entry
has double French doors and is topped by a half-round fanlight and a
high-relief scroll keystone. The entire entry is ringed with terra cotta
tiles in green with raised edging and circular designs in beige with dark
red dots in the center of each circle.
Similar tile trim, though without the red dots, surrounds the windows.
The trim springs from narrow cast stone sills, and is joined at the top
corners by tiles with a raised floral design that consists of sculptured
green leaves and dark red accents. The design on the corner pieces is
three-dimensional and finely-detailed. Windows on the second and third
stories (which correspond with the building's interior hallway) are paired,
casements. The second floor window has a simple, wrought-iron balconet.
A decorative panel between the second and third stories is comprised of a
single floral tile on a light beige background that is surrounded by a
soldier course of bricks, mitered at the corners, and a narrow beige edging.
In the side bays, the narrow, multi-light casement windows are set in groups
of ten--five taller windows side-by-side topped with five half-sized
windows. Each window grouping is surrounded by the same decorative trim as
the center-bay windows. Above the window groupings, between the different
stories, are panels marked by chevron-pattern brick work punctuated by a
single flower tile set on the diagonal).
The buff-colored brick used on the facade wraps around the corners and
extends back one bay on each side elevation. The rest of the building is red
brick laid up in six-course common bond. The expansive side elevations are
pierced by paired, one-over-one windows at regular intervals. There is a
secondary entrance on the north facade, approximately halfway back. The rear
facade is five bays wide with single glazed doors in the center bay of each
story that open onto a wrought-iron fire escape. There is a full basement.
On the interior, the building has a center hallway running the full
length of the building, which is finished with crown molding and a chair
rail. About halfway back, it opens into a stair hall on the right (north).
Apartments consist of three basic floor plans. The smallest, the "bachelor"
plan, has a single room with a dressing closet, bathroom and kitchenette
opening off of one side. The largest, the "housekeeping" unit, has four
rooms, plus bath and entry hall. Its floorplan is arranged so that one
enters into a narrow hallway which leads toward the back of the apartment on
one side, or into the living room on the other side. The living room is in
the front of the apartment, and the front units have benefit of the
expansive, multi-paned casement windows on the facade. Behind that is the
dining room and kitchen. The kitchen opens onto the hallway, which leads to
the bedroom and bathroom in the back. Hardwood floors and original bathroom
tile and fixtures are found throughout the building.
The Frederick Apartments is a fine building with a well-executed design.
The polychrome facade with its three-dimensional clay tile detailing is
unmatched in 1920s-era architecture in Charlotte. The form and layout of the
building reflect the spatial organization typical to the building type,
which exploded onto the Charlotte marketplace during the late 1920s. The
integrity of the exterior and of the public spaces is excellent. The
interior of the apartments are currently undergoing renovation.