This report was written on December 26, 1975
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as Oak
Lawn is located on the northern side of McCoy Rd. to the southwest of the
intersection of McCoy Rd. and Gilead Rd. in the northern portion of
2. Name, address, and telephone numbers of the present owners and
occupants of the property:
The present owner of the property is:
Mrs. Wilson L Stratton
930 Berkley Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Telephone: (704) 333-6018
3. Representative photographs of the property: Representative
photographs of the property are included in this report.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: A map depicting
the location of the property is included in this report.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
reference to the property is found in the Deed Book 1367, page 410, as filed
in the Mecklenburg County Registry.
6. A brief historical sketch of this property:
The traditional building date for Benjamin Wilson Davidson's house, later
called Oak Lawn, is 1818, the year Davidson married Elizabeth (Betsy) Latta.
The property on which the house was built, however, was not acquired from
his father, (Astor John Davidson, a participant in the American Revolution)
until April 14, 1819. Furthermore, purchases from Charleston in Davidson's
account with his father-in-law, James Latta, in 1821, are of the type and
quantity to indicate the building of his house at that time. Tradition holds
that Davidson was called "Independence Ben" by his father because he was
born on May 20, 1787, the twelfth anniversary of the controversial
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Davidson lived the life of a
prosperous cotton planter as a member of the numerous and locally prominent
Davidson family. Davidson died relatively young in 1829, leaving his widow
with six sons. Betsy Latta, Benjamin's wife, had been educated at Salem
Academy where, it is said the Moravians placed much stress on gardening.
One of her granddaughters, Mrs. J.W. Bradfield, wrote of the house as it
appeared just after the Civil War. She described an avenue of once a quarter
of a mile long, leading from the house to the road. Where the oaks ended,
cedars were planted to lengthen the avenue almost a mile. She further
described the gardens with their neat beds bordered with trimmed box bushes.
There were beds of old fashioned flowers and herbs which were planted to
blend the aromas of the garden. There were long seats under the grapevine
arbors. She tells of a high brick wall, with four gates, surrounding the
house. Only a few large oaks remain of the above description. Mrs. Bradfield
continues her recollection with the house interior: "but the glory of the
house was the Indian room. It was above the parlor and quite 30 by 20 feet.
The paper was from England, decorated with Indian scenes. Red men carrying
strings of fish and bananas and leading them in primitive ships and canoes."
This has been authenticated as "Captain Cook" wallpaper, issued by Dufour in
Macon, France, 1804.
She continued with her recollection that this was the guest room and that
there were three or four beds in this room. The kitchen at this time was
described as being forty feet from the rear door. Following her husband's
death, Betsy Davidson remained at Oak Lawn until 1835. It is said that
because of her strong religious convictions (Presbyterian) she would never
permit a fire in the kitchen on Sunday; meals were prepared on Saturday and
the servants were given a day of rest. To her religious convictions was also
attributed her calm among the panic and shouts of "Judgment Day" that ensued
at midnight on November 13, 1833, when "stars fell on North Carolina, "as
they did that same night on Alabama. On January 24, 1835, Betsy Davidson
married Rufus Reid, widower of one of her deceased sisters who had left
three small daughters. They lived at his plantation home, "Mount Mourne,"
until her death following the birth of their first child, a daughter.
Following Betsy's death, Reid married the step-daughter of the third Latta
sister, who was a widow with a daughter, and this marriage produced four
more children. Following the Civil War, the plantation passed from the
Davidson family to John W. Moore who bought the property at the courthouse
door on December 13, 1886. In 1904 the place was sold to John R. Cross and
his wife; in 1933 the farm was once again sold at public auction, this time
to the town of Huntersville. It passed through three more owners and was
purchased in October, 1941 by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson L. Stratton who began
architecture rescue work on the long-neglected house. Mrs. Stratton
continues as owner of Oak Lawn.
7. A brief architectura1 description of the property:
Oak Lawn is a transitional Georgian-Federal style plantation house with
distinctive features clearly related to Holly Bend, a nearby house also
related by family ties. Oak Lawn, facing south, is a two-story, five-bay,
frame house resting on a stone foundation with
Flemish bond exterior end chimneys. The central entrance is slightly off
center to the west (left), as is the corresponding window above. A
three-bay, one-story replacement porch protects the handsome entrance,
markedly similar to that at Holly Bend; the entrance has slender, fluted
pilasters flanking a boldly molded, three-part door frame which contains a
transoms. Near the top edge of the transom, each of the pillars is a
fluted scroll console surmounted by an applied circular molding; above, the
pilaster continues, unadorned, to the porch ceiling cornice. The front door
has six shallow flat panels. The three-bay wall area of the porch is flush
sheathed and is separated from the lapped siding by pilasters similar to
those flanking the door. The lapped siding is replacement but the flush
siding appears to be original. The
window sash is nine-over-nine at both levels but smaller at the second
level. The windows at the first level have shutters with three flat panels
in each leaf, supported by strap hinges. There are fixed louvered shutters
at the second level. The shutters and blinds are replacements but are made
to be patterned after the original. The windows also have three-part molded
frames an well as molded sills. There are three granite front steps; the
first step has a volute on each end.
The cornice of the house and the front and rear porches is ornamented
with a series of blocks formed by incised lines suggestive of tiny triglyphs
-- one block running vertically and the next horizontally. The pattern is
said to have been original but the cornice was so badly decayed that it had
to be replaced. The cornice has a small, neat return at each gable end. The
gable ends are similar, with windows flanking the chimney at both the first
and second floors, as wall as eight-light windows flanking the chimney in
each gable. The basement entrance is in the east gable end, north of the
chimney. The gable ends have no roof overhang. The rear of the house is
similar to the front except for a door in place of a window in the second
bay from the east and a one-story,
hip roof porch that carries the length of the house. The extra door led
into the one-story wing, since removed, that can be seen in a documentary
photograph made in 1941. The interior is a modified "Quaker plan" with a
center hall; that is, there is one large room to one side and two small
rooms at the other. The hall has a molded chair rail and cornice. The
stair rises from the rear of the hall along the east wall in an unbroken
run. A unique feature of the stair is the end of the first step which is
defined by an extended baseboard in a crossette-like manner. The square
newel and one
baluster rest on the first step. The balustrade treatment is like that
at Holly Bend. The newel has a molded cap flush with the molded
handrail. The handrail is supported by very short, turned balusters, two
per step. Both have an equally unturned long base section, but the urn-like
turned section of the rear one of the pair is longer to accommodate the rise
of the handrail. The stair brackets are ornamented with distinctive,
fanciful, curvilinear forms.
The string is defined by a robust half-molding which is repeated on the
wall above the stair
treads. The horizontal wooden edge on the stair supporting platoon is
chamfered and molded. There is a closet beneath the stair and the sofitt of
the stair has a large, flat panel. Overall, the balustrade is Georgian in
feeling and is such lower than might be normally expected. The interior
doors have six shallow flat panels and are supported by long strap hinges.
Much of the original hardware survives throughout the house. The parlor is
to the west of the hall and occupies all of that end of the house. It has a
wainscot, and molded cornice annular to the hall but it is dominated by
the vigorous, vernacular, highly ornamented chimney piece which is nearly
identical to that at Holly Bend. Flanking a reeded, molded architrave are
pilasters resting on unadorned plinths of baseboard height and rising to the
height of the fire opening where a small scroll-shaped console with gouged
stop molding which ends at the top with a curvilinear pattern located. The
console has a reeded and molded lower portion. A doubled, square-link
chain-like motif is deeply incised to about one-third of the way down the
pilaster. The molded and reeded shelf breaks over the end consoles and
center tablet; the tablet is unadorned except for quarter fans in each
corner. The overmantel has two panels with a molded outer frame and a cable
molding within. At the upper outside corners of each panel is a truncated
pilaster and cap with pierced atop fluting and a reeded band. The molded
reeded band carries into a broken pediment with circular bosses ornamented
with uneven gougework in a rosette-like pattern. The pediments are joined to
the central element above the panels by a cable molding swag. The central
element -- an elaborate composition resembling a tall, complex keystone
reaches almost to the ceiling and consists, from top to base, of a seeded
and molded band, a wooden floral boss, a small molded band, a block with two
concentric applied rings, and a molded console resting on a gouged band with
a gouged shell design suspended from the bottom. Near the bottom of the
panels, separating them, is a reeded and molded block.
Across the hall in the front root are a chair rail, wainscot and molded
cornice similar to the others with notable but less elaborate mantel. The
other room of the first floor has become a kitchen. The upstairs rooms are
well finished but less elaborate than the first floor. Remnants of "Captain
Cook" wallpaper, issued by Defour in Macon, France, in 1804, remain in a
corner of an upstairs room made into a closet. To the rear of the house is a
well house made of brick which are laid in Flemish bond. There are iron
ventilator grills in the well house walls. There is also a small square
Greek Revival outbuilding with
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Historical and cultural significance: The historical and
cultural significance of the property known as the Oak Lawn is primarily
due to its architectural merit. As one of Mecklenburg County's notable
group of Federal era dwellings, Oak Lawn is especially significant for its
elaborate vernacular woodwork of a vigorous and distinctive character,
clearly the work of the same carpenter who worked at nearby Holly Bend, a
house related by family as well as stylistic connections.
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The present
owners of the property maintain it in a high state of preservation.
c. Educational value: The structure's architectural merit alone
is sufficient proof of the educational value of Oak Lawn. Moreover, the
fact that the builder and his wife came from families of local historical
importance increases the educational value of the structure.
d. Cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance, or repair: The
Commission has no intention of purchasing this property. Neither is it
aware of any intention of the owner to sell the property. Therefore, this
criterion would not seem to be applicable.
e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property:
Because the structure is maintained in a high state of preservation
and is of substantial architectural merit, it should not be adapted to an
f. Appraised value: The 1975 appraised value of the structure
itself is $8,780.00. The appraised value of the land is $82,600.00. 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 willing to underwrite all or a portion of such costs: The
Commission assumes that the present or subsequent owners will meet all
financial obligations associated with the preservation of the property.
9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for inclusion on the National Register: The
Commission believes that the property known as Oak Lawn does meet the
criteria of the National Register of Historic Places because of its
architectural merit and because of its association with locally prominent
families of distinguished lineage. Also worth noting is the fact that the
North Carolina Division of Archives and History is presently processing Oak
Lawn for nomination to 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: Oak Lawn,
as one of the few surviving Federal era structures in Mecklenburg County,
possesses considerable local historical significance, especially in view of
its refined architectural merit and unspoiled setting. In addition, its
association with the Latta and Davidson families places it among the
structures which reflect the lifestyle of the gentry of Mecklenburg County
of the early nineteenth century.
An Inventory of Older Buildings in Mecklenburg County and Charlotte
for the Historic Properties Commission.
Letter from Charles Greer Suttlemyre, Jr. to Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
Materials Supplied by the Division of Archives and History.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Date of Preparation of this Report: December 26, 1975
Prepared by: Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
Telephone: (704) 332-2726