James K. Polk
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
James K. Polk Birthplace is located on Polk St. in Pineville, N.C.
2. Name address and telephone number of the present owner and occupant
of the property: The present owner of the property is the State of North
Carolina. The property is a State Historic Site and is administered by:
The Division of Archives and History
Historic Sites Section
109 E. Jones St.
Raleigh, N.C. 27611
The local address and telephone number of the James K. Polk Birthplace
The James K. Polk Birthplace
Pineville, N.C. 28134
Telephone: (704) 889-7145
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 recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 2563 at
Page 564. The Tax Parcel Number of this property is 221-131-02.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
James K. Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on November
2, 1795. 1 The Polk family (the original family name was Pollock)
came to Maryland in 1680 and gradually moved southward to North Carolina. In
1806, when James was eleven years old, the Polk family moved to Tennessee
where James' father was a farmer and surveyor. Young James attended nearby
academies and in 1815 entered the sophomore class at the University of North
Carolina. He was graduated in 1818 with high honors.
Polk returned to Tennessee and practiced law until his election as
president. His success as a lawyer brought him into politics and his
speeches won him the nickname "Napoleon of the Stump." He was a member of
the Tennessee House of Representatives when he married Sarah Childress in
In 1825 Polk was elected to the first of his seven terms in Congress and
in 1835 he was chosen Speaker of the House. He refused renomination for
Congress in 1839 to become a successful Democratic candidate for governor of
Tennessee. In 1840 public sentiment began to favor the Whigs, and
consequently in 1841 and 1843 Polk was defeated in his attempts to be
re-elected governor of Tennessee.
Polk was the first "dark horse" in American politics when he was the
party's choice over Martin Van Buren as the Democratic nominee for president
against Henry Clay, the Whig nominee. The chief issues of the 1844 campaign
were the re-annexation of Texas and the re-occupatlon of Oregon, both of
which Polk favored. With a strong stand on these issues and the battle cry,
"Fifty-Four Forty or Fight," Polk rode into the White House.
Determined and stubborn, Polk came into the office of president with a
clear-cut program. "There are four great measures which are to be the
measures of my whole administration: one, a reduction of the tariff; another
the independent treasury: a third, the settlement of the Oregon boundary
question; and lastly, the acquisition of California." All of these ambitions
were fulfilled within Polk's four-year term.
Polk regarded the Texas question settled. Texas had been annexed to the
United States, but Mexico had not recognized the annexation. Mexico instated
that the Nuaces River was the legal boundary between Mexico and Texas. The
Texans, supported by Polk, insisted that Texas extended to the Rio Grande.
In May, 1846, after a clash between Mexican and American troops, Congress
recognized the existence of a state of war "by act of the Republic of
Mexico." The war with Mexico (1846-1848) ended after more than a year of
fighting and Mexico ceded Texas to the United States.
During the Polk administration over 500,000 square miles of territory
were acquired by the United States. Three new states were admitted to the
Union: Texas in 1845, Iowa in 1846, and Wisconsin in 1848. In 1849
California, although not yet admitted to the Union, organized its own
government. During these years the Mormon state of Utah was established and
In accepting the nomination for president in 1844, Polk had declared that
he would not be a candidate for re-election in 1848. He held firmly to his
word and when Zachary Taylor became president Polk retired to his home in
Nashville, Tennessee, where he died on June 15, 1849.
A log house and outbuildings thought to be similar to the original Polk
properties in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (now in Pineville, N.C.)
were reconstructed in 1967 at the James K. Polk Birthplace. Both the house
and an accompanying kitchen contain furnishings dating prior to 1806 when
the Polk family moved to Tennessee. A modern visitor center serves as an
orientation point and offers exhibits relating to the life and times of
James K. Polk.
1 The material in this essay is quoted directly from a
pamphlet, "President James R. Polk Birthplace, prepared and distributed by
the Historic Sites Section of the North Carolina Division of Archives and
7 A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Caroline
Mesrobian, architectural historian.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in NCGS 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in term of its history, architecture, and/or
cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as
the James K. Polk Birthplace does possess special significance in terms of
the history of the United States. The Commission bases its judgment on the
fact that President James K. Polk was born at this site in 1795.
Furthermore, the Concussion judges that the property possesses special
significance in terms of the history of Mecklenburg County. The Concussion
bases its judgment on the fact that the property contains a representative
frontier farm of the late eighteenth century.
b. Integrity of design. setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission judges that the architectural
description included herein demonstrates that the property known as the
James K. Polk Birthplace meets this criterion. Admittedly, the three
buildings (house, kitchen and barn) were reconstructed in 1967 and are not
on their exact original locations. However, the buildings were erected
according to the highest professional standards.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply annually 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 tax appraisal on the
21.19 acres of land is $137,740. The current tax appraisal on the
improvements (including the visitors center) is $107,060. The land and
improvements are exempt from the payment of Ad Valorem taxes.
"President James K. Polk Birthplace", a pamphlet prepared and distributed
by the Historic Sites Section of the North Carolina Division of Archives and
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Date of Preparation of this Report: March 5, 1980.
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
3500 Shamrock Dr.
Charlotte, N.C. 28215
Telephone: (704) 332-2726
September 1, 1979
The James K. Polk Memorial is located in Pineville, ten miles south of
Charlotte, on US 521. The original buildings were torn down around 1920;
1 no photographic sources of of the complex exist. A log house and
outbuildings thought to be similar to the original Polk properties were
reconstructed on the site in 1967 on the basis of a survey of late
eighteenth and early nineteenth century buildings in Mecklenburg County and
a description of the Polk place from an address given by Governor David L.
Swain in 1867. The report reads: "The place where President Polk was born
was, in 1849, the property of Nathan Orr. The house pointed out to me was of
logs, had never been weather-boarded, and was much dilapidated. It was
formed by two pens, one about 20 by 16. the other about 12 by 16, making a
structure 32 by 16, with a single roof and brick chimney at the north end,
and stood about 200 yards south of Little Sugar Creek." 2 The
reconstructed buildings stand on a twenty-one acre tract that encompasses
the original Polk homestead. The site of the present buildings is within a
few hundred yards of the original homestead location. The small farm complex
consists of two single pens which have been joined; a one story kitchen with
loft situated northeast of the main house; and a small barn (originally the
packhouse) to the north of the main house and kitchen buildings.
All of the
log structures were brought from other Mecklenburg County sites. The
large pen of the main structure is the Coffey Log House (16 by 22 feet),
which was constructed about 1810 on a site approximately seven miles
southeast from the Polk homestead. The oak logs of the Query Cabin, a log
house built around 1805 and located near Harrisburg just off US 49, were
employed in the construction of the smaller pen. The kitchen cabin is the
Kuykendall or Billy Rea log house (circa 1805) which stood near
Providence Presbyterian Church on NC 16. The outbuilding (packhouse) was
formerly located on the Kinsey family property at the intersection of NC 16
The squared logs of each structure are notched with
half dovetail joints, the interstices plugged with cement colored to
resemble clay. Each building has a
gable roof covered with cedar or cypress shingles, slightly overhanging
eaves, and weatherboarded gables. The shingles are overlapped so that there
are small openings for ventilation; they swell and close with rain. Both the
dwelling and the kitchen have single exterior end chimneys, the main
dwelling chimney located on the north side, the chimney of the kitchen on
the east side. Each chimney is of brick laid in
Flemish bond, with stepped shoulders and a moulded cap. Rough stone
piers beneath each corner of the structures serve as foundations. A split
rail encloses the entire complex.
The main (west) facade of the dwelling has a board-and-batten door in the
central bay of each pen, and a window in each outer bay. On the south end a
central window occurs at the first level and in the gable, while on the
north end, a small window is located in the gable to the west of the
chimney. The first story windows have
six-over-six sash, and the smaller windows above are unglazed and were
protected by board-and-batten shutters hung on strap hinges at one time. A
simple architrave borders each opening, and below each window is a plain
wooden sill with diagonally sawn corners. The rear facade is marked only by
a board-and-batten door in the north pen.
The interior of the main house consists of two rooms at both the first
and second levels with an enclosed two-flight
stair rising in the northeast corner of the north room. Around the loft
stairwell is a simple balustrade consisting of square
balusters and a moulded
handrail. The walls of the first story are finished quite simply with
vertical pine sheathing. The chair rail in the north room is from the Query
Cabin. The ceiling has exposed beams and is eight feet seven inches in
height. The pine mantel in this room, which was originally in the Kuykendall
House, is of simple late Georgian design with a flat-paneled frieze beneath
a moulded shelf. The doors between the rooms on each level are constructed
of wide vertical boards and hung on HL hinges. Door hardware is of the
period. The walls in the attic are left unfinished. A fireplace with wide
brick surround and brick hearth without mortar filling is located in the
north side of this floor.
The kitchen contains a room on each floor, with a central entrance
surrounded by a plain architrave on the main(north) facade. The two windows
which formerly pierced this side (later additions) have been closed up. The
only functional windows -one located in the first story and one in the gable
of the west side - are unglazed and are protected by board-and-batten
shutters with strap hinges attached with rosehead nails. The south facade
also contains a centrally located door. The interior walls of both the first
story (white washed) and the loft are unfinished, and the first story
fireplace consists of a simple large rectangular opening. The ground story
ceiling has exposed beams and is eight feet three Inches in height. The
enclosed stair rises in two flights in the southwest corner, and a plain
balustrade encloses the stairwell at the loft level. The original floor
level of the loft was raised during reconstruction. Both the main cabin and
the kitchen contain period furnishings.
The outbuilding, to the north of the main house and kitchen, is a cotton
and meat house, a type of storage building typical of the North Carolina
Piedmont. On the upper level cotton was stored; on the lower, meat. It is
presently used as a barn. Access to each level is through a square opening
closed with vertically sheathed doors, the upper reached by an exterior
ladder. Widely overhanging- gable eaves protect the front (south) of the
1 Kays Gary, "Did Polk Paint Panel From Home?", Charlotte
Observer, July 26, 1974, Section B, page 1.
2 Eva M. Young, "Polk, the Forgotten Man," State
(N.C.), April 15, 1967. page 11.
3 Polk Memorial Files; and "Early Log Buildings Moved to James
K. Polk Birthplace Site," Enquirer-Journal (Monroe, N.C.), June 20,
1966, page 2.