THE MERCHANTS AND FARMERS NATIONAL BANK BUILDING
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photo gallery of the Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building.
This report was written on February 1, 1983
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building is located at 123 East Trade
Street, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner of the
The present owner and occupant of the property is:
Mr. Robert T. Glenn
123 E. Trade Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Telephone: (704)375-5549 (business)
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 which depicts the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
deed to this property is listed in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 4447 at page
552. The Tax Parcel Numbers of the property are: 080-012-12 and 080-012-13.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Mrs. Janette Thomas
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Thomas W.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building does possess
special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission
bases its judgment on the following considerations: 1) the Merchants and
Farmers National Bank Building, erected in 1871-72, is the oldest
commercial building in the central business district of Charlotte; 2) the
Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building possesses iron trim which was
manufactured by the Mecklenburg Iron Works, an enterprise of regional
importance; 3) the front facade of the Merchants and Farmers National Bank
Building is one of the finer local examples of the Italianate style; 4)
the Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building served as headquarters
for that financial institution from 1872-1921; 5) the third floor of the
Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building was an Odd Fellows Hall for
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission contends that the attached
architectural description by Mr. Thomas W. Hanchett demonstrates that the
Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building 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 which becomes
"historic property." The current appraised value of the .084 acres of land
is $87,600. The current appraised value of the building is $11,050. The
total current appraised value is $98,650. The property is zoned B3.
Date of Preparation of this Report: February 1, 1983
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
218 N. Tryon Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
Janette Thomas Greenwood
The Civil War brought about the end of an era in North Carolina banking
history. Every bank in the state failed when the federal government imposed
a 10% tax on bank notes soon after the war ended in 1865.1
However, Charlotte soon had a national bank, The First National Bank of
Charlotte, which opened in August 1865. Four years later a state bank, The
Bank of Mecklenburg, opened for business.2 The Merchants and
Farmers National Bank was Charlotte's second national bank, and the city's
third bank since the Civil War. It was organized in January 1871 and
officially chartered by the Federal government of February 1, 1871.3
The original officers of the bank were Clement Dowd, president, J. Harvey
Wilson, vice president, and Archibald McLean, cashier. Dodd, a member of a
prominent Moore County family, left his hometown of Carthage after the Civil
War to join his old army Zebulon B. Vance, North Carolina's war governor, in
a law practice in Charlotte.4 Dowd quickly rose to prominence in
the community; in the last quarter of the century he was considered to be
one of Charlotte's most influential men, J. Harvey Wilson was a lawyer in a
practice with his son. The board of directors was made up of Wilson, Allen
Macauley, James H. Carson, William J. Yates, Thomas H. Brem, S.P. Smith and
R.M. Miller. Most were local businessmen; Macauley was a cotton buyer and
Brem was a partner in a dry goods business. In addition, Brem served on the
first board of directors of the First National Bank of Charlotte. Miller was
a wholesale dealer in flour and provisions. Yates was editor of a local
newspaper and Smith was a lawyer.5
The Charlotte Democrat welcomed the city's new bank, and asserted,
"The large and growing business of Charlotte affords ample room for suing
all the Banking capital that can be secured by the city."6 The
establishment of a second national bank in Charlotte less than six years
after the Civil War ended reflects the city's rapid growth in the
Reconstruction era. Instead of quashing economic and industrial enterprise,
the postwar years brought rampant growth. Charlotte escaped the war
relatively unscathed. Thousands of people took refuge in Charlotte to escape
Sherman's army and many of them stayed on. By 1871, Charlotte's population
was 5-6000 people, nearly quadruple its Civil War size of 1500 people.
Charlotte's position on a number of rail lines enhanced its growth and it
soon became a "cotton center."7
"Up to, and even to the close of the late war, the commercial interests
of Charlotte were of much smaller significance than they are now. Ten
years of trade, which has poured into her lap since the last gun was fired
on the 24th of April, 1865, has added materially to the wealth, influence,
prosperity, and prospects of the City of Charlotte."8
Merchants and Farmers Bank, hoping to take advantage of Charlotte's
remarkable growth, first operated in the Springs Building on the corner of
N. Tryon and E. Trade Streets, the business axis of Charlotte.9
An indication of the bank's immediate success is a notice published six
months after it opened announcing "a dividend of 4 percent declared by Board
of Directors, payable on and after 10th July, 1871."10 This was
the same dividend offered by the six year old First National Bank. By
September 1871, the board of directors announced an increase in stock by
$50,000.11 Finally, in December, 1871, the bank offered a 5%
In June of 1871, the directors of the Merchants and Farmers Bank
purchased a lot in the first block of East Trade Street from R.M. and Ellen
Oates, L.W. and Harriet Saunders, and D.W. and Anna Oates, at a cost of
$5,000.00.13 Construction of a new banking house was started soon
after. The new bank, which originally had a pressed iron front, one of many
constructed in Charlotte that year,14 was a source of pride for
Charlotteans, and was a symbol of industrial rebirth in Reconstruction North
Carolina. The Charlotte Democrat remarked,
"The Iron columns for the new building of the Merchants and Farmers
National Bank on Trade St., are as fine as anything of the kind ever
brought from the North. There is no further necessity of sending North for
such work. It can be done here."
The Democrat explained that "the iron fronts for the new buildings
now being erected were cast at the Foundry of Capt. John Wilkes in this
city."15 Wilkes owned and operated the Mecklenburg County Iron
Works on East Trade St., which housed the Confederate Naval Yard from
1862-65. Merchants and Farmers opened its new building around February 1872.
In late January the Democrat reported, "The three story iron front
building for the Merchants and Farmers National Bank is about completed and
business will be transacted therein hereafter."16 Around the time
the new banking house opened, the Augusta Chronicle took note of the
Merchants and Farmers Bank in an article entitled, "Trip to Charlotte, NC,"
which the Charlotte Democrat reprinted. Charlotte, the Chronicle
noted, was "a live and progressive city...rapidly looming into distinction
as one of the leading commercial and railroad centers of the South." The
city "possesses ample banking facilities," with three banks, "aggregating
$1,000,000 or more of capital." The Chronicle continued:
"The Merchants and Farmers Bank is a new institution having having been
in operation only about a year. It has a paid up capital of $200,000, is
well-officered, and enjoys a liberal share of public patronage and
confidence. Its organization is mainly due to the public spirited efforts
of T.H. Brem, R.M. Miller, A. Macauley, and S.P. Smith. The banking house
of the company is a handsome new three-story brick building finished in
elegant style on the interior."
Thomas H. Brem rose to the presidency of the bank in 1874 when Clement
Dowd became president of the Commercial National Bank, Charlotte's third
national bank.18 Brem served as president until 1879. Charlotte
added another bank, in addition to Commercial National, by 1875, Farmer's
Savings Bank. Both Commercial and Farmer's were located on East Trade
Street. The Bank of Mecklenburg had its offices on Tryon between Trade and
Fourth.19 Thus, an early banking district emerged around East
Trade Street with Merchants and Farmers at the center of activity. For the
next forty years, from the 1870s through 1910, Merchants and Farmers was
Charlotte's second largest bank, second only to First National. The 1879
City Directory reported First National with $400,000 of capital; Merchants
and Farmers had $200,000 of capital.20 That same year druggist
J.H. McAden was elected president. McAden, who ran a pharmacy on
Independence Square, served longer than any other president, from 1879
through 1904. By 1896, the City Directory reported that the banking capital
of Charlotte "is by far the largest in the state, the sum total which,
including surplus, is $1,243,500."21 By 1910, Merchants and
Farmers slipped to fourth place in capital behind American Trust Co.,
Commercial National, and First National.22
That year, Merchants and Farmers reported a total of $340,000 in assets.
George E. Wilson, a prominent Charlotte lawyer, took over as president. In
1904 and served through 1918. W.C. Wilkinson took over in 1918 and served
through 1933.23 In addition to housing the Merchants and Farmers
National Bank in this period, the building at 123 East Trade Street served
as a meeting place for fraternal and civic organizations. The third floor
was an Odd Fellows Hall. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Mecklenburg
Declaration Lodge #9, the city's oldest Odd Fellows lodge, met at "Odd
Fellows Hall over Merchants and Farmers Bank" from 1875 through 1914.24
Charlotte Lodge #88, IOOF, met there from 1918 through 1920. The Catawba
River Encampment #21 IOOF used the hall in 1879 and 80. From 1904 through
1914, the Rosalie Lodge #22, Daughters of Rebekah, an IOOF women's
organization, met at the hall as well.25 Many other organizations
used the IOOF hall, including the Mecklenburg Literary Society, the North
Carolina Scotch-Irish Society, the Carpenters and Joiners Union' and The
Improved Order of Heptasophs. The YMCA used the hall "over the Merchants and
Farmers Back". in 1879/80, before its own hall was built on S. Tryon Street.26
In addition, offices were available for organizations. Charlotte's first
Chamber of Commerce, the forerunner of the Greater Charlotte Club, and the
present day Chamber of Commerce had offices in the bank building in 1889.27
In 1921, Merchants and Farmers National Bank moved to a new location, 5 West
Trade Street. From 1921 through 1934, the bank rented its old building to
two businesses. From 192l-24, the U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Co. of
Baltimore occupied the building. Askin's Clothing rented from Merchants and
Farmers from 1925-34.28
The demise of Merchants and Farmers took place in March of 1933 when
President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a "bank holiday." All banks in
North Carolina were closed and by March 18, the state banking commissioner
allowed those with sufficient funds to reopen, a total of 222 banks. The
Merchants and Farmers Bank was not among these, one of many bank casualties
in the spring of 1933. On February 1, 1934, J. A. Stokes, as conservator of
the Merchants and Farmers Bank, and "vested with all rights, powers, and
privileges now possessed by receivers of insolvent banks, sold the property
at 123 E. Trade Street to Fred Y. and Florence B. Bradshaw of Charlotte for
$35,000.30 The Bradshaws continued to rent the building to the
current tenant, Askin's Clothing, until 1939. The building was vacant in
1940. Bradshaw Millinery, owned and operated by Fred Y. Bradshaw, occupied
the building from 1941-1952. From 1953 through 1972, Belk's Children's Shoes
Annex rented the structure.31 On September 30, 1974, North
Carolina National Bank, the executor of Fred Y. Bradshaw's estate, sold the
property to Sidney and Tena Levin of Cocoa Beach, FL.32 The
Levins rented the building to The Shoe Mart, which had rented the building
since 1973. The Levins sold the property on July 3, 1981 to Robert T. Glenn
of Charlotte, who continues to rent the building to The Shoe Mart.33
Glenn is interested in preserving the structure.
1 T. Harry Gatton, "Banking History in North Carolina: The
Story of Creative Enterprise," The Tar Heel Banker, September, 1981,
2 Charlotte City Directory, 1875/76.
3 Charlotte Democrat, Jan. 24, 1871, p.3; February 7,
4 "Dowd Family," Vertical Files, Carolina Room, Public Library
of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
5 Charlotte City Directory, 1875/76.
6 Charlotte Democrat, January 24, 1871, p.3.
7 History of Charlotte. Charlotte City Directory,
9 Charlotte Democrat, February 7, 1871, p.3.
10 Ibid., July 4, 1871, p.3
11 Ibid., September 26, 1871, p.3.
12 Ibid., December 23, 1871, p.3.
13 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 11, p.38.
14 The Charlotte Democrat reported an "iron front"
buildings going up in Charlotte in the winter of 1871/72, including Brown
and Brem's store on E. Trade St. and Mr. Joseph Henderson's 2 story store.
15 Charlotte Democrat, October 10, 1871, p.3.
16 Ibid., January 23, 1872, p.3.
17 Ibid., March 12, 1872, p.2.
18 Charlotte City Directory, 1875/76.
20 Ibid., 1879.
23 Ibid.,1904, Lyle, 1933.
29 Gatton, "Banking History," p.22.
30 Mecklenburg City Deed Book p.349, p. 281.
31 Charlotte City Directory, 1941-1972.
31 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3711, p. 281.
32 Ibid., Book 4447/552.
Thomas W. Hanchett
The 1871 Merchants and Farmers National Bank Building is a three story
brick loft structure in the heart of the business district of Charlotte,
North Carolina, the oldest commercial building in the central city. Its
stuccoed front is decorated in the
Italianate style with iron trim manufactured by the Mecklenburg Iron
Works, believed to be the oldest surviving example of locally produced
architectural ironwork. Though changes have been made to the first story
over the years, the upper facade is in excellent original condition and the
second and third floors of the interior retain much period trim, including
fireplace mantels In addition, the third floor walls are painted with mystic
symbols of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodges which met there from
the 1870s through 1920. The front of the Merchants and Farmers Bank is a
flat-stuccoed wall pierced by three windows on the second floor and three on
the third. To this flat wall is applied iron decoration. At the top is a
sheet iron cornice with modillion brackets between heavy end blocks. Cast
iron quoins define the two sides of the facade.
Windows are tall and narrow double-hung one-over-one pane
sash. They have cast iron lintels at the top and cast iron sills at the
Originally the first floor shopfront had five square cast iron columns
topped by a sheet iron cornice. Like the rest of the building's ironwork,
the columns were cast at the nearby Mecklenburg Iron Works. This shopfront
is now gone, replaced by glass show windows that curve in to a recessed
entry. The shopfront appears to date from the early 1950s, probably part of
remodeling done when Belk's children's shoe shop moved into the structure in
1953. Behind the facade the Bank is a simple three story brick structure
with a flat roof. Side walls butt against the adjoining buildings and have
no windows. Between 1900 and 1905, according to Sanborn Insurance maps, a
large two story brick addition was made at the rear, nearly doubling the
building's size. It has one-over-one pane double-hung windows set in arched
openings, unlike the flat-topped six-over-six pane windows at the back of
the original structure. Inside, the first floor of the building appears to
date from the same early 1950s remodeling that produced the shopfront. At
one time the stairs from the second floor came down to a door opening onto
the street. In the remodeling this stairway, inside the original building
along the east side wall, was removed to add retail space and new stairs
were built in an old airshaft running along the side of the rear addition.
Both the second and third floors, vacant for many years, remain much as they
were in the nineteenth century.
The second floor is made up of one large room and a bathroom in the
addition and three rooms in the original building. These consist of a large
room across the front of the building, a small glassed-in office across the
middle, and a medium sized room across the back. Along the east wall of the
front room is a wood and glass partition that originally surrounded the
stairwell to the street. Wood and glass doors open from the old landing into
the front room, the office, and the back room. Along the west wall of the
second floor are three fireplaces, all of which retain their mantels. Two
are in the front room, one in the back. The front and back fireplaces were
evidentially converted to gas at one time, for they contain curved cast iron
inserts. All three fireplace openings have been closed up. Besides the
mantels, second floor trim consists of wooden molding around the windows and
doors, and a high wooden baseboard topped by molding. Mid-twentieth century
electric light fixtures of milky white glass hang from the ceiling, an Art
Deco touch probably from the 1953 remodeling. The staircase to the third
floor runs up the east wall toward the rear of the building, rising from the
old landing. At the top of it is the third floor with two rooms. The rear
room has a small enclosed toilet at the back west corner with the remains of
an overhead flush tank and a wooden sink. Next to it on the west wall is the
building's only open fireplace, brick-hearthed but now missing its mantel.
From the back room two glass-transomed doorways open onto the IOOF Lodge
Hall. Each has a four-panel mortise-and-tenon door, with the panels
surrounded by raised molding. Each door has a peephole associated with lodge
rites. The Lodge Hall occupies the front two-thirds of the floor, a large
room approximately twice as deep as it is wide. It is lit by three tall
windows looking onto the street. Two small pipes protruding from the ceiling
indicate the room once had gas lights. A heavy molded chair rail showing
traces of gold paint runs around the room. A bright metal picture molding
runs around the room about four feet below the high ceiling. The west wall
has traces of only one fireplace, now closed up and lacking its mantel,
compared with two fireplaces in the same area on the second floor. Partially
revealed beneath peeling wallpaper is the Lodge Hall's most striking
feature. The plaster walls are painted red with lodge symbols starkly
painted in black and white. Visible are a pair of angels with arms crossed
on breasts, an hourglass, an all-seeing eye, a row of numerals, a sun, and a
skull and cross bones. The symbols are evenly spaced five to six feet apart
on the east and west walls of the Hall, about ten feet from the floor so as
to command the viewer to look up.