Survey and Research
On The Solomon and Shirley Levine House
1. Name and location
of the property: The property known as the Solomon and Shirley Levine House is
located at 2300 Cloister Drive in Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, address, and
telephone number of the current owner of the property:
Andrew V. Beary and wife, Carol G. Ambrose
2300 Cloister Drive
Charlotte, N.C. 28211
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 517493E 3890521N.
Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent deed to
the property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book #22872, page 742.
brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief
historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
brief architectural and physical description of the property: This report contains a
brief architectural and physical description of the property prepared by Stewart Gray.
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 Solomon and Shirley Levine House possesses special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases
its judgment on the following considerations:
1) The Solomon and Shirley
Levine House is a striking example of Modernist style domestic architecture
in the Cloisters, a neighborhood that exhibits sophisticated principles of
landscape architecture and subdivision design.
2) The architectural firm of
record for the Solomon and Shirley Levine House was Louis H. Asbury & Son, a
father and son combination that had a significant impact upon the built
environment of Charlotte and its environs doing the first three quarters of
the twentieth century.
3) The designer of the Solomon and
Shirley Levine House was Jack Orr Boyte, who during his association with
Louis H. Asbury & Son, from 1952 until 1959, designed Modernist style homes
for the firm but who subsequently specialized in restoration architecture.
b. Integrity of design,
setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The
Commission contends that the architectural and physical description prepared by Stewart
Gray demonstrates that Solomon and Shirley Levine House meets 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 appraised value of the building is $237,200.
The current appraised value of the 0.478 acres of land is $150,000.
The total appraised value of the property is $387,400. The property is zoned
Single Family. The
Tax Parcel Number of the property is 183-092-19.
10. Amount of Property
Proposed for historic landmark designation. The exterior of the
building, the interior of the building, and the entire tax
Date of Preparation of this Report: December
A Brief History Of
The Solomon and Shirley Levine House
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
The Solomon and Shirley Levine
The Solomon and Shirley Levine House
was completed in 1957 as the home of Solomon Levine (1921 -
), an attorney, and his wife, Shirley. Solomon Levine, a native of New
York City and graduate of the University of Illinois and Duke University Law
School, moved to Charlotte in 1948. Shirley Levine was the driving
force in convincing her husband to move to the Cloisters neighborhood from
elsewhere in Charlotte. She was also primarily responsible for
selecting the Modernist style for the house that the Levines erected on
The Cloisters of Charlotte Inc., a
real estate development firm, was established on September 15, 1952.
acquired a parcel of land to the immediate west of Providence Road on the
southeastern edge of Charlotte on December 31, 1952, and announced shortly
thereafter plans to
fashion a sophisticated suburban residential neighborhood on the tract.2
The Charlotte Observer reported on January 29, 1953, that grading of
the land was already underway.3 The developers
of the Cloisters were responding to systemic changes in the residential
market. There was an unprecedented need for housing of all types in
the years immediately following World War II, as hundreds of thousands of
veterans returned to civilian life. In Charlotte the number of
building permits increased from 194 in 1945 to 3046 in 1950.4 The number of car registrations in the United States
increased from 26 million in 1945 to 72 million in 1965, thereby greatly
reducing the need for public transportation, especially for the affluent and
the middle class.5 Increasingly, those homeowners who could
chose to reside on the outskirts of cities.
The Cloisters is one of Charlotte's
best preserved examples of upscale suburban landscape planning executed in the
mid-twentieth century, the other being Carmel Park.6 From
the outset the Cloisters was configured to be a secluded glen visited
only by automobiles. The Cloisters of Charlotte, Inc. took its inspiration
from the philosophy of designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, John
Nolen, Earle Sumner Draper, and the Olmsted Brothers, who taught that
suburban street patterns should respect the contours of the land. "The use of
curving streets produced subdivisions in which homes could be sited to
attain maximum privacy or prominence, and have pleasant vistas of natural or
naturalistic woods, sweeping lawns, or water features," write Sherry
Joines Wyatt and
Sarah Woodard in their post World War II survey report for the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.7 The entranceway to
the neighborhood from Providence Road meanders down a hillside to a small,
pond which forms the centerpiece of the development. Situated around the
pond but facing Cloister Drive and adjoining curvilinear streets are single
family homes on large, well-manicured lots. There are no sidewalks.
This home on Cloister Drive
illustrates the nature of home sites.
The developers of the Cloisters were
seeking to create what historian Robert Stern calls an "idealized
alternative to conventional city living." The perception was
widespread, writes Stern, "that the spread of the industrialized city was a
threat to health and traditional morality."8 On
July 31, 1953, comprehensive deed restrictions were instituted to protect
the sylvan appearance of the neighborhood. They regulated house size,
height, and setback, stipulated that no more than one house could be erected
per lot, and prohibited multi-family dwellings.9 By such devices the
developers hoped to foster "the ultimate goal of the subdivision, which was
to live in a peaceful country setting, with as few urban references as
possible," assert Wyatt and Woodard.10
The domiciles in the Cloisters fall
most readily into two main categories. The majority are traditional in
principally Colonial Revival style ranch houses. There is a smattering of
contemporary style houses, the Solomon and Shirley Levine House being among
them. The house is a striking example of mid-twentieth century Modernism and
illustrates how architects who were principally known for revivalist
buildings were able to accommodate themselves to changing, more diverse tastes
in the housing market.
architectural firm of record that designed the Solomon and Shirley Levine
House was Louis H. Asbury & Son.11 Louis Asbury (1877-1975) received his professional training in architecture
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after graduating from Trinity
College (now Duke University) in 1900. Before establishing his
Charlotte practice in 1908, Asbury was associated with the nationally known
firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, in either its New York City or Boston
office. Asbury, who was joined by his son, Louis H. Asbury, Jr.
(1912-1991), shortly after his son's graduation from North Carolina State
1939, had an extensive local and regional practice until his retirement in
Louis H. Asbury
Louis H. Asbury and his son were both
trained in the revivalist tradition and accordingly fashioned buildings
which harkened to the past. Louis H. Asbury, for example, designed
such notable local structures as the Classical Revival style Mecklenburg
County Courthouse and the Gothic Revival style Myers Park Methodist Church.13
Louis H. Asbury, Jr.'s preference for traditional architecture is illustrated by
his design for the church he attended -- the
Colonial Revival style St. Paul United Methodist Church on Dorchester Drive
in the Sedgefield neighborhood.14
St. Paul United Methodist Church
designed by Louis Asbury, Jr.
The years following World War Two
witnessed a growing market for Modernist buildings, including residences.
North Carolina had such notable advocates of contemporary design as A.
Lawrence Kocher at the experimental Black Mountain College near Asheville
and Henry Kamphoefner at the School of Design at North Carolina State
College.15 Louis H. Asbury and Louis H. Asbury,
Jr. understood that they needed to bring someone into their firm who had
formal training in Modernist design. Accordingly, in 1952 Louis H.
Asbury & Son hired Jack Orr Boyte (1920-2005), who had earned a B. S. Degree
in architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology the previous year.16
Jack Orr Boyte
A native of Charlotte and graduate of
Charlotte Central High School, Boyte served as an apprentice under
Louis Asbury and Louis Asbury, Jr., from 1952 until 1959. He was the
architect for the Solomon and Shirley Levine House.17 The
College of Architecture at Georgia Tech was deeply committed to Modernism
and the design philosophy of the Bauhaus. Especially influential in
this regard was Harvard-trained architect Paul M. Heffernan, who joined the
Georgia Tech faculty in 1938.18 One can
reasonably assume that Boyte imbibed the design philosophy that Heffernan
emphasized. According to Solomon Levine, Boyte's initial design for the
Solomon and Shirley Levine House proposed
constructing the house around an existing tree The Levines vetoed the
Nieman House designed by Jack Orr
Boyte did design other Modernist
houses in Charlotte. A striking example is the Nieman House at 1930
Cassamia Place.20 Boyte established his own
architectural firm in 1959 and thereafter became primarily committed to
historic preservation, restoration architecture, and traditional design.
This writer worked closely with Boyte for more than twenty years and
only briefly heard him mention his past ventures into contemporary design.
During a tour of the Nieman House in the mid-1990s Boyte was asked why he
had fashioned such a contemporary style house. He answered: "I
had to make a living."21 The reasons for
Boyte's abandonment of Modernism is a matter of conjecture. This
writer can only report that Boyte spoke to him most passionately about the
need to respect and preserve older buildings. Indeed, Boyte
advanced the same argument in articles he regularly contributed to local
Click Here For Architectural And Physical
1. Interview of Solomon Levine by Bill Jeffers (October 27, 2007).
Hereinafter cited as "Interview."
2. Mecklenburg County
Record of Corporation Book 33,
p. 539. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1588, p. 385. The initial
buyers of stock were F. A. McCleneghan, F. T. Miller, Jr., and Laura E.
3. Charlotte Observer
(January 29, 1953)
Joines Wyatt and Sarah Woodard, "Final Report For The Post World War Two
5. G. Scott Thomas, The United
States of Suburbia. How The Suburbs Took Control Of America And What
They Plan To Do With It (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998),
A. M. Stern, Pride Of Place, Building The American Dream (Boston:
Houghton-Mifflin, 1986), pl 129.
The map of the subdivision is depicted
in Map Book 6, pp. 817-819. It was drawn by Civil Engineer A.
Blankenship and completed in November 1952.
11. The current owners of the
Solomon and Shirley Levine House have a copy of the original architectural
plans for the house. The name "Louis H. Asbury & Son" appears on the
12. Dan Morrill and Stewart Gray,
"Historic Retail Buildings In Center City Charlotte (http://www.cmhpf.org/uptownsurveyhistoryretail.htm);
Interview of Louis H. Asbury III by Dan L. Morrill (November 30, 2007).
Hereinafter cited as "Interview II." Charlotte Observer
(March 30, 1991)
13. For an overview of the work of Louis
H. Asbury in Mecklenburg County, consult the various Survey and Research
Reports on the website of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
14. Interview II. Louis H.
Asbury, III remembers his grandfather as a somewhat stern, diminutive
taskmaster who irritated his son by always referring to him as "Junior."
Asbury remembers his father with great affection, calling Louis H. Asbury,
Jr. a gentle, kind, and supportive father. This writer met Louis H.
Asbury, Jr. briefly and remembers him as a soft-spoken, gentleman.
16. Charlotte Observer
(August 4, 2005). Interview II. Much of the information on Boyte's
background is based upon information he provided in a vitae he gave to the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
21. Boyte made this statement to Mary
Lynn Caldwell Morrill.