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Survey and Research Report

On Jackson Court (1928)

 

 

1.  Name and location of the property.  The property known as Jackson Court is located between Concord Road and Faculty Drive on the Davidson College campus in Davidson, N.C.

2.  Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the property.  The owner of the property is:

Davidson College Physical Plant

P. O. Box 7166

Davidson, N.C. 28035-7166

Telephone: (704) 894-2000

The current occupant of the property is:

Davidson College (Various departments of the college)

3.  Representative 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 for the property are: 

17 514094E 3928330N

17 514101E 3928345N

17 514121E 3928360N

17 514113E 3928314N

17 514143E 3928334N

17 514173E 3928326N

17 514165E 3928308N

17 514152E 3928293N

17 514142E 3928275N

5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: There is no individual deed to the property.  The tax-parcel number of the property is 00316201A.

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 how 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 historical, prehistorical, architectural, or cultural importance: The property known as Jackson Court possesses special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and/or association: The architectural description by Abbey L. Coker, which is included in this report, demonstrates that the essential form of Jackson Court meets this criterion.

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 that becomes a "historic landmark." The property is exempt from payment of taxes. The total current appraised value is $978, 600.00.   The property is zoned institutional.

Date of Preparation of this Report: December 30, 2005

Prepared by: Abbey L. Coker and revised and edited by Dr. Dan L. Morrill

 Summary Statement of Historical Significance

      Jackson Court possesses special historical significance because it is reflective of the history of expansion and growth of the college; because it served as meeting houses for social fraternities on campus; because it was designed by locally acclaimed architect M. E. Boyer, Jr.; and because it is associated with Frank Lee Jackson.

 Historical Background

      Jackson Court, a collection of Colonial Revival style buildings, was erected in 1928 and can best be understood within the context of the overall development of the built environment of Davidson, North Carolina. The evolution of the town is directly intertwined with the history of Davidson College, a Presbyterian institution of higher learning established in 1835 and opened in 1837. The college, named for Revolutionary War hero General William Davidson, was founded to educate the young men of wealthy families.[1]  Because the college was relatively isolated, there were few opportunities for social events; and, moreover, students were given little time for socializing.  Eventually, the growth and expansion of the college in combination with the desire for social opportunities led to the founding of fraternal organizations on the Davidson College campus.[2]

Both the town and the college have a history of development and expansion, which is best exemplified by the local built environment.  A fraternity court, later to be named Jackson Court, was constructed by the trustees of Davidson College.  The buildings were erected for nine social fraternities and two clubs in order to restore fraternity life on campus that had once existed before 1923.  At the time of its construction, the group of buildings was located on “a rolling raw wooded tract facing two streets, the stadium, and private property.”[3] The buildings presently sit directly off Concord Road just as they did in 1928.

Jackson Court

History of Expansion

Jackson Court is part of a “long history of construction and reconstruction at Davidson.”[4]  The great Chambers building, built between 1857 and 1860, housed a quarter of the college’s dormitory rooms.  After 1900, three dormitories were constructed in a period of ten years.  The student body had doubled from 1902 to 1912; and as a result, plans were drawn up in 1915 for a major campus expansion. The Alumni Gymnasium was built, and there were plans for many new buildings.  These plans, however, were not realized because a fire destroyed Old Chambers on November 2, 1921.[5]  With a quarter of the college’s dormitory rooms destroyed, including fraternity dormitories, the college built temporary housing for students.  Fraternities were tired of the close quarters and close supervision; consequently in 1923 they began moving off campus into boarding houses. The college had a history of lodging its students in boarding houses, a Davidson tradition since the early years of the college.[6]

 According to Beaty, “for a student to be in eating houses around town was nothing new, but many of them were now virtually based at their fraternity houses which they had bought or rented.”[7][7]  Before fraternities moved off campus, however, the college started the process of designing a fraternity court on Concord Road.  It took six years for the college to make decisions regarding the rules and regulations of the fraternity court. These meeting halls had no dining or dormitory facilities and were supervised and owned by Davidson College.  In February 1928, this plan was adopted, and Davidson’s “then innovative system of fraternity housing was underway.” Fraternities built their own houses in an area on campus between the gymnasium and Concord Road. [8][8]

 Meeting houses and fraternity life

            Because the college was very isolated, there were few opportunities for social events.  Davidson College had a tradition of literary societies as the center of social life for students, but by the end of the 1850s, however, two other very different societies ascended: the Sons of Temperance and social fraternities.  The Sons of Temperance pledged against drinking liquor which pleased the trustees who “were fighting to forbid the sale of intoxicating liquors within three miles of the college.”[9][9] Not all students, however, pledged to rule out alcohol consumption. By the 1850s, students had a desire for “a sort of organization livelier than the temperance meetings and less academic than the literary societies.”[10][10] Representatives from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity visited the college in December of 1857, and a small group of students were receptive to the idea of establishing a fraternity on campus.  Three members were initiated on January 8, 1958, and the fraternity history at Davidson had commenced.  Within that year, Beta Theta Pi grew to thirteen members.  Soon thereafter representatives from the Chi Phi fraternity at Chapel Hill visited Davidson and founded the Gamma Chapter on March 25, 1859.[11][11]

By 1866, students were forbidden to participate in fraternal organizations or “any secret club or association, other than the literary societies already established.”[12][12] This ended fraternity life for a brief period.[13][13]  Fraternities were once again on the rise by 1890, during which five fraternities had established: Beta Theta Pi, The Kappa Alpha Order, Kappa Sigma, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Sigma Phi Epsilon.[14][14]  Fraternities began to rival literary societies and rose to the center of the college’s social life. According to Mary Beaty, “students had found better things to do on Saturday nights than go to society meetings and hark back to the days of when their ‘fathers and uncles rose from dignified plush seats and spun off long mellifluous sentences in eulogy of Civil War heroes.”[15][15] The faculty then added five more fraternities to suit the growth of the college.  By the 1920s, the fraternities had outgrown the campus dormitories and had spilled into houses around town.[16][16] Members of the fraternities moved into houses they bought or into boarding houses where they rented rooms. The absence of fraternity life on campus resulted in the building of the fraternity court in 1928.[17][17] The buildings of Jackson Court served as meeting houses for Davidson College fraternities and clubs. According to a 1938 campus map, the fraternities that occupied Jackson Court were: Kappa Sigma, Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Phi Epsilon, The Kappa Alpha Order, Pi Kappa Phi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Phi Gamma Delta, and Beta Theta Pi.[18][18]

  

 Jackson Court, Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives

 

          In 1958, the Phi Kappa Phi house burned, not to be rebuilt.  It was torn down, and the area was landscaped, leaving behind ten buildings. Once again, Davidson College was embarking on expansion and improvement. According to The Davidsonian, the buildings of Jackson Court were to be rented as office spaces and as housing for students because fraternities would be moving out after the completion of the new fraternity court named Patterson Court.[19][19]

 

Colonial Revival style

        Jackson Court is reflective of early 20th century architecture that exists throughout the town.  The Colonial Revival style became a popular American house style in the years between 1880 and 1955. Reflecting American patriotism, Colonial Revival trends interpreted previous colonial styles.  Between World War I and II, Colonial Revival was the most popular historic revival house style in the United States.[20][20]

 

M. E. Boyer, Jr. (1893-1970)

        Jackson Court was designed by locally acclaimed architect M. E. Boyer, Jr. (1893-1970) who was one of the most prominent architects in Charlotte during the first half of the twentieth century.  Thus, these buildings possess local historic importance because they are a representative example of the type of residential buildings constructed in Charlotte in the 1920's.[21][21]  A “prominent architect in Charlotte for more than fifty years,” Boyer was known primarily as an outstanding architect of fine residences.[22][22]  His intent was to “have each of the eleven buildings individually different and of equal limited cost and equally desirable.”[23][23]  His “work included, survey consultation, subdivision of land, negotiation of assignment, building design, electricity system, sewer systems, water systems, landscape work, and supervision of all.”[24][24]  Boyer was the first Charlotte architect to become a member of the American Institute of Architects.  He was best known for houses designed in the Eastover and Myers Park neighborhoods of Charlotte.  Martin Evans Boyer, Jr. was born in Virginia and moved to Charlotte in 1908.[25][25]  After attending Charlotte High School,[26][26] he graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1917 and then served as an architect for the U.S. Navy.  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 later owned his own firm in Charlotte for more than fifty years until 1966.  Boyer was highly awarded and well renowned.  Many of his works appeared in nationally renowned magazines.[27][27]

 

Innovation

While representative of the style of architecture that was popular in Mecklenburg County in the 1920s, the fraternity court was innovative and modern. According to newspaper reports, the court was a prototype of fraternity housing for American colleges.[28][28] The Charlotte News reported that the “fraternity lodges or clubhouses [are] to be arranged in a semi-circle about a beautifully landscaped court.  Gravel walks and driveways will connect each of the eleven houses, which are to be constructed at an approximate cost of $5,000 each.”[29][29]  The houses were built to be uniform in size, but the fraternities chose exterior designs based on their preferences.  Designs included: “lounging room with fireplaces and bookshelves; a chapter room; a kitchenette with built-in cupboards; a dressing room with lavatory attached; linen closets; and a porch attached.” The fraternity court was built to “bring fraternity and non-fraternity men at Davidson into association with one another in such a way as to perpetuate age-old traditions of democracy and friendliness which have ever been characteristic of the college.”[30][30]

 

Jackson Court circa 1950, Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives

 

 

Frank Lee Jackson

In 1960, Jackson Court was named for Frank Lee Jackson, College Treasurer from 1913-1952. “Jackson’s name marked the renovation of the fraternity court in 1960” after fraternities moved to Patterson Court.  F. L. Jackson, known to many as “Cash,” served as College Treasurer and Business Manager of the college for thirty eight years.  He graduated from Davidson in 1906.  He retired in 1951 and served as mayor of the town of Davidson from 1951-1969.[31][31]   According to M. E. Boyer, Mr. F. L. Jackson “represented the owner in 1929 when the work [on the fraternity court] was completed.”[32][32]

 

 

 

Mr. Frank Lee Jackson, Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives

 

 

Conclusion

Jackson Court has served an important role in the life of Davidson College for the past seventy-seven years.  Now offices, the buildings of Jackson Court retain much of their historic qualities.  Two buildings, Jackson Court numbers four and eleven underwent renovations in 1987, but externally, the buildings have changed very little.  Innovative for its time, Jackson Court is a reminder of the expansion and improvements that Davidson College has undergone in the past.  Moreover, the court serves as a cultural artifact of Mecklenburg County and is also a notable example of the work of architect M. E. Boyer, Jr. 

 

Physical Description

Site Description

Jackson Court is located on the Davidson College campus between Concord Road and Faculty Drive.  The ten numbered buildings that comprise Jackson Court are arranged in a semicircle and are landscaped with varieties of trees and hedges.  A walkways from each structure leads to an asphalt circular driveway.   Numbers one, two and three face west towards Faculty Drive; number four faces east; numbers ten and eleven face west; numbers six, seven, eight and nine face south towards Concord Road.

 

Architectural Description

            The buildings of Jackson Court are one-story, simply and classically detailed structures typical of the Colonial Revival style.  Covered with a brick façade, each building is designed and grouped so as to symmetrically emulate other buildings located in the court.  Six of the structures have rectangular shapes, while the other four structures have asymmetrical shapes.  

Some buildings have hipped roofs with a gable while others have cross gabled roofs. Select buildings have center gabled roofs.  Each roof has a moderate pitch with a slight eave overhang that is boxed with cornice molding. The asphalt shingles that adorn each roof are arranged in a coursed shingle pattern.  All structures have a brick chimney, some exterior, some interior. 

The paneled doors have multi-pane glazing. The front doors have a decorative wooden crown supported by scroll shaped wooden brackets.  Building numbers two and ten have doors with side lights.  The structures have double hung sash windows with wooden sills, and the windows are topped with brick corbelling and detailed with black wooden shutters ornamented with decorative scroll iron pieces. The structures have trimmed molding and classical columns made of wood and painted white. These columns support an overhanging roof that covers the porch of each structure.  The buildings have crawl spaces and brick foundations.

Each building contributes to the overall symmetry of Jackson Court. Building numbers one and three mirror each other; numbers six and nine mirror each other; numbers seven and eight mirror each other; numbers four and eleven mirror each other; presumably, numbers two five and ten mirrored each other. (Jackson Court number five was destroyed in a fire in 1958.) Numbers four and eleven were renovated in 1987, and numbers three and four are now adjoined by a long corridor.

Some details distinctive to particular buildings are transom lights, side lights, palladium windows, large back patios, and arched French doors whereas a few windows and doors have been bricked over. 

 


 

[1][1] Mary Beaty, Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835 until 1937 (Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1979), pp. 3-4. 

[2][2] Mary Beaty, The History of Davidson College. Briarpatch Press, Davidson, NC, 1988, pp 79-80.

[3][3] M. E. Boyer, “Education and Experience Record” 4/11/42, (Davidson College Archives, April 11, 1942).

[5][5] Ibid

[6][6] Mary Beaty, Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835 until 1937 (Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1979), pp. 11. 

[7][7] Mary Beaty, The History of Davidson College (Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1988), pp. 226-227.

[8][8]Ibid.,p.267.

[9][9] Mary Beaty, The History of Davidson College (Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1988), pp. 79.

[10][10] Ibid., pp. 79.

[11][11] Ibid., pp. 79-80.

[12][12] Ibid., pp. 80.

[13][13] Ibid., pp. 80.

[14][14] Ibid., pp. 197.

[15][15] Ibid., pp. 265.

[16][16] Ibid., pp. 265-267.

[17][17] Walter Lingle, Memories of Davidson College (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1947),  pp. 61. 

[18][18] 1938 Campus Map (Davidson College Archives)

[19][19] The Davidsonian (Davidson College Archives, October 10, 1958). 

[20][20] Virginia McAlester and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses (New York: Knopf, 1984), pp. 326. 

[21][21] (10/31/32 letter from M. E. Boyer, Jr. to Dr. Lingle, President of Davidson College; Davidson College Archives) 

[22][22]Obitutuary of Mr. M. E. Boyer, Jr. The Charlotte Observer, 2/18/60, Special Collections, Atkins Library, UNCC; Bio Papers, 31.6

[23][23] “Education and Experience Record” 4/11/42, M. E. Boyer, Davidson College Archives

 

[24][24] Ibid.

 

[25][25] “Notes From the Past,” Special Collections, Atkins Library, UNCC; Bio Papers, 31.6

 

[26][26] Obitutuary of Mr. M. E. Boyer, Jr. The Charlotte Observer, 2/18/60, Special Collections, Atkins Library, UNCC; Bio Papers, 31.6

[27][27] “Notes From the Past,” Special Collections, Atkins Library, UNCC; Bio Papers, 31.6

 

[28][28] Rev. William Patterson, The Charlotte Observer (Special Collections, Atkins Library, UNCC Box 31.6, June 6, 1957) 

[29][29] The Charlotte Observer (Davidson College Archives, February 18, 1928.)

[30][30] Ibid.

[31][31] The Davidsonian, (Davidson College Archives, February 2, 2004.)

[32][32] M. E. Boyer, “Education and Experience Record” (Davidson College Archives, April 11, 1942).