THE NEEL HOUSE
This report was written on May 31, 1976
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Neal Home is located to the southwest of the intersection of Shopton Rd. and
Withers Rd. in the southern portion of Mecklenburg County.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owners of the
The present owner of the property is:
Mrs. Hannah J. Withers
2001 Queens Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28207
Telephone: (704) 332-5744
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.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
reference to this property is found in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 911 at
page 426. The parcel number of the property is: 19921101.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
Sufficient documentation is not available to determine the exact date of
the construction of the house. Samuel Neel, son of Henry Neel and Nancy Reed
Neel, built the Neel house sometime between 1810 and his death in 1828. The
structure replaced a less refined dwelling which Samuel Neel and his family
had occupied nearby. A prominent farmer and landowner in the Steele Creek
Community, Samuel had married Margaret Grier in 1798. Eight children were
born to this union. They were William Henry Neel (1799-1888), Susan Spratt
Neel (1801-1844), Thomas Grier Neel (1803-1885), Samuel I. Neel (1805-1861),
James Hamilton Neel (1807-1827), Nancy Hannah Neel (1810-1857), Alexander
Grier Neel (1815-1898), and Margaret Adeline Neel (1821- 1896). That Samuel
Neel achieved prominence in the Steele Creek Community is not surprising.
His father, Henry Neel was among the early Scotch-Irish settlers in this
section of what was then a portion of Anson County. Henry Neel began to
acquire land along the Banks of Armour's Creek as early as 1762. A
significant portion of this property was subsequently acquired by his son,
Samuel. In other words, Samuel did not start from scratch. His birth on May
28, 1773, had brought him into a family of considerable substance. Margaret
Grier Neel lived in the house as a widow until her death on October 18,
The plantation continued to prosper under the supervision of her four
surviving sons. The youngest, Alexander Grier Neel, resided in the house
until his death on February 25, 1898. For many years, Alexander served as an
elder in the Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, thereby carrying on the Neel
tradition of active membership in that congregation. Indeed, many members of
the family are buried in the cemetery there. The most prominent of Samuel's
children was William Henry Neel, his eldest son. Acquiring the title of
"General" because of his leadership of the local antebellum militia, General
Neel maintained a keen interest in public affairs. Married in 1819 to Miss
Hannah G. Alexander, he lived in a home which he constructed nearby. He was
County Commissioner and a member of the Steele Creek Presbyterian church. He
derived his livelihood from the cultivation and processing of cotton. He was
one of the first citizens in Mecklenburg County to engage in the cotton
manufacturing business. In the years before the Civil War, he operated a
cotton mill near his home. Alexander Grier Neel's widow and children sold
the Neel House and surrounding property in 1899. In the second decade of
this century it was purchased by Benjamin F. Withers, who lived on what was
then East Ave. in Charlotte at the present location of the Lawyers Building.
Mr. Withers conducted farming and dairy operations on the property and used
the house as a summer residence. His son and daughter-in-law, Hannah J.
Withers, lived in the house for a short time after they were married. Their
daughter and son-in-law, James B. Craighill, also moved into the house as
newlyweds, residing there for about four years. The house has continued to
serve as a rural retreat for the Withers family.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description prepared by Jack O. Boyte.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N.C.G.S. 160-399.4:
a. Historical and cultural significance: The historical and
cultural significance of the property known as the Neel House rests upon
two factors. First, it has strong associative ties with a family of
considerable local prominence. Second, it has architectural value as one
of the finer Federal Style plantation houses extant in Mecklenburg County.
Indeed, it is the only structure of its type in the Steele Creek
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The Neel House
retains much of its original integrity and therefore is suitable for
preservation and restoration.
c. Educational value: The Neel House has educational value as
one of the finer older homes Mecklenburg County.
d. Cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance or repair: The
Commission has no intention of purchasing this property nor is it aware of
any intention of the owner to sell. The Commission assumes that all costs
associated with renovating and maintain the structure will be paid by the
owner or subsequent owners of the property.
e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property:
The Commission concurs with the present owner's intention to maintain the
house as a viable dwelling. The house could be transformed into a house
f. Appraised value: The current tax appraisal of the structure
is $8,220. The current tax appraisal value of the land is $68,140. The
Commission is aware that designation of the property would allow the owner
to apply for a special tax classification.
g. The administrative and financial responsibility of any person or
organization to underwrite all or a portion of such costs: As
indicated earlier, the Commission has no intention of purchasing this
property. Furthermore, the Commission assumes all costs associated with
the structure will be net by whatever party now owns or will subsequently
own the property. Clearly, the present owner has demonstrated the capacity
to meet the expenses associated with maintaining the structure.
9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for inclusion of the National Register of Historic
Places: The Commission judges that the property known as the Neel House
does meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places. Basic to
the Commission's judgement is its knowledge of the fact that the National
Register of Historic Places functions to identify properties of local and
state historic significance. The Commission believes that the property known
as the Neel House is of local historic significance and thereby meets the
criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
10. Documentation of why and in what ways the property is of
historical importance to Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County: As noted
earlier, the property known as the Neel House is of local historic
importance for two reasons. First, it has strong associative ties with a
family of considerable local prominence. Henry Neel was among the first
settlers in the Steele Creek Community. His son, Samuel, made the house the
center of a major cotton plantation. His son, Alexander, was an elder in the
Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. General Neel was prominent in political
and commercial affairs. Second, the house has architectural value as one of
the finer Federal Style plantation houses extant in Mecklenburg County.
An Inventory of Older Buildings in Mecklenburg County and Charlotte
for the Historic Properties Commission.
Materials supplied to James A. Stenhouse by James B. Craighill.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Date of preparation of this report: May 31, 1976
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
139 Middleton Drive
Charlotte, NC 28207
Telephone: (704) 332-2726
In Southern Mecklenburg County, where Shopton Road approaches the Catawba
River at Armour's Creek, stands the remarkably preserved ancestral home of
the Neel family. This two story Federal house, with Georgian influences, is
an exceptional example of the plantation architecture favored by the hardy
18th century Scotch-Irish settlers in Piedmont Carolina. Since its original
erection, probably early in the nineteenth century, the house has been
constantly inhabited, most of the time by members of the Neel family, so it
has suffered no damage from neglect and little from weather or age. The
house is a simple two story rectangular structure with a one story lean-to
wing extending across the full width at the rear. Built on a high knoll and
facing southeast toward the river, the house has a center hall plan with two
primary rooms on each floor. Two lesser rooms occur off the hall in the
lean-to, and one is at the head of the stair. The front facade is three bays
wide with symmetrically-placed nine-over-nine light windows at each side of
the main entrance downstairs and three balancing six light-over-nine light
windows on the second floor. Each end elevation features carefully
crafted double shouldered chimneys rising high above a gabled roof. Single
windows flank these chimneys on each floor, and small, four light garret
windows occur beside the chimneys in the gable walls at each end. In the
southwest end of the first floor lean-to is a small single shouldered
chimney flanked also by six light over six light windows.
All chimneys are of hand-made brick, likely produced on the farm, and
expertly so, since they show no deterioration. Brick colors range from deep
brownish and bluish red to lighter sand and earth tone buff, also typical of
the eighteenth century Plantation brick of this region. Coursing is
Flemish bond and shows the expected queen closers at each corner. The
chimneys rest on field stone bases which rise to the same height as the
solid foundation walls of the house, also of field stone. Above this
foundation wall, the exterior surfaces of the house are covered with
moderately wide clapboard finished on the lower edges with a delicate hand
planed bead. Corners are defined with narrow boards joined at a beaded edge.
At the eave a shallow overhang rests on a relatively plain bed mold with no
frieze. The overhang facia is trimmed with wide intricately-shaped shingle
molding. This wide molding is repeated in the barge trim on the gable rake.
The barge molding terminates at the eave ends in a unique pedestal, designed
as the top of a small classical pilaster and capital and showing strong
Exterior window and door openings are surrounded with elaborate wide
casing. One piece window sills are exceptionally heavy molded wood with bull
nose edges turning down to a cavetto form below. A tall exterior windows are
original three panel blinds with hand-wrought strap hinges and drive pintles
still in place. The original six panel front and rear doors are intact, set
in fine heavy molded frames which include four light
transoms above both entrances. The high pitched roof is now covered with
tin sheets, though the original surfaces were likely hand riven cypress or
oak shingles smoothed with a draw knife. On entering the front door one
encounters a strangely narrow canter hall running front to rear. Just inside
the entrance, the hall forms a small foyer from which doors open at the left
into an elegant dining room and at the right into a much simpler and smaller
parlor. In the rear portion of the hall, whose length is reduced by an
interior door at the rear of the two story section of the house, is a narrow
stair which begins with steep winders in the rear hall corner and rises in a
single run toward the front thirteen feet to a small second floor landing.
This stair occurs within the hall space and results in a hall width barely
adequate for the rear interior door. The stair is relatively simple and
cramped yet it features exceptionally fine scroll brackets at the ends of
open treads on the string. Walls in the first floor hall are plaster above
fine molded chair railing. Below this are carefully trimmed recessed wood
panels forming a sophisticated wainscot. At the top, a simple crown mold
joins the plaster walls to flat wide ceiling boards. The door leading from
the foyer to the dining room is not original, but when one enters this room
an extraordinary display of elegant trim appears. Most striking is the large
fireplace surrounded by a sophisticated mantle and overmantle. This woodwork
is an elaborate combination of molded and reeded members delicately
fabricated by hand to create an impressive center piece.
While the work is light and somewhat delicate, it still has a Georgian
character. In this room, which encompasses half of the first floor area,
there is also fine panelled
wainscoting on all walls below plastered upper surfaces. The repeated
recessed panels in the wainscot are two feet or more wide and fabricated
from a single board. At the ceiling, a massive modillion cornice surrounds
the room. Featuring intricate molded bands with an intermediate reeded band,
this cornice includes a continuous line of small dentils separated by round
pierced inserts. The ceiling consists of wide tongue and grooved boards on
whose surface one can see the elongated plane marks typical of hand finished
material. Floors are also hand-planed wide tongue and grooved pine planks.
In this room one window faces the front and two occur at the side, flanking
the centered fireplace. A noteworthy feature in this fireplace is the hearth
formed of large flat sand stone slabs. It is said that these stones have the
ability to trap and hold heat, and thus provide a lasting warming surface
for food containers.
In the rear dining room wall an original door leads to a small lean-to
room containing a simple fireplace. This was likely a pantry area and the
fireplace used to warm food prepared in an exterior kitchen. Much of the
finish work in the lean-to room has been replaced with modern materials in
recent years. From the entrance foyer a hall door on the right opens into a
surprisingly simple parlor. Since the dining room is so elaborately
decorated, the restrained detailing in the parlor is more striking. The
fireplace in this room is quite small and surrounded with-just a minimum of
narrow molded trim. There is no over mantel. Walls in this room have molded
panel wainscoting with the same chair rail that occurs elsewhere. Above this
the surfaces are plaster and terminate at a narrow crown mold joining
smooth, hand-planed ceiling boards. Of the three second floor rooms, the
large master bedchamber dominates. This room comprises fully half of the
second floor area and matches the size of the dining room below. In this
room the panelled wainscoting with smooth wide surfaces cut from boards
fully two feet presents an impressive lower wall finish. Above this,
plastered surfaces extend to a simple crown mold at the wood ceiling. The
fireplace in this room is small and simple.
On the opposite side of the stair landing is a small unimposing
bed-chamber. In this room the trim is simple, though there is fine
wainscoting similar to that found elsewhere in the house. There is no
fireplace in this chamber even though the chimney at this end is double
shouldered with the high shoulder above the expected location of second
floor fireplaces. As a matter of fact, the house has been altered on several
occasions. Some changes appear to have been made early in the nineteenth
century. Aside from the obvious removal of the east side second floor
fireplace, there are strong indications that a garret stair was installed in
the corner of the small bedchamber in the early 1800s. Several changes in
the garret framing were made soon after the original construction, including
the addition of four light garret windows in the early years. The entire
garret is now floored with modern planks. In the garret one can see the
remarkable hand hewn rafters and joists mortised and tenoned and secured
with trenails. Each member is marked in a Roman numeral series. This is
typical of the identification method used by early craftsmen for ground
fabrication and fitting prior to the erection of heavy framing members. In
the attic the original rough water sawn shingling strips remain with ends of
the original stamped shingling sprigs showing. The massive water sawn
exterior framing members are exposed in a small closet below the garret
stair. These members are fully six inches or more square and joined with
typical mortise and tenoned connections secured with large wooden pegs, no
nails having been used in the frame of the house. In this closet area one
can see the exceptional brick 'noggin' (or filler) which occurs between all
of the exterior wall studs. Plaster surfaces are applied directly to this
brick on both floors and remain in fine condition.
There is one original dependency remaining in the main house vicinity. A
two story log storage building stands at the rear which retains much of its
original material. Of particular note is a fine handmade battened door with
original wrought iron strap hinges. During the middle years of the
eighteenth century, the Piedmont region of North Carolina south of Salisbury
saw a steady influx of Scotch-Irish settlers. After early years in log
structures, most of which have been lost, these families steadily improved
their fortunes and around the turn of the century and many of them built
more sophisticated manor houses. The Neel House is an outstanding example of
this Federal period architecture in Mecklenburg, and must be numbered among
the most important structures remaining in the county. Its preservation and
restoration are essential.
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on the Neel House