This report was written on September 1, 1983
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Poplar Apartment Condominiums is located at 301 W. Tenth Street, in
Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property: (Please see attachments for the present owners
and occupants of the property).
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
deeds to this property are listed in Mecklenburg County Deed Books (see
attachments). The Tax Parcel Numbers of the property are: 078-037-16 through
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
as brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. William H.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Lisa A.
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 Poplar Apartment Condominiums does possess special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its
judgment on the following considerations: 1) the Poplar Apartments,
completed in 1930 and designed by Lockwood, Greene and Company,
represented a major breakthrough in the local apartment development
business in terms of the elegance and lavishness of its architectural
appointments; 2) the Poplar Apartments document the transformation of
Fourth Ward into a fashionable multi-family residential district in the
1920s; 3) the building is the most elegant early 20th Century apartment
building which survives in uptown Charlotte; and 4) the Poplar Apartments
have more recently participated in the conversion of Fourth Ward into the
residential showcase of uptown Charlotte.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission contends that the attached
architectural description by Lisa A. Stamper demonstrates that the Poplar
Apartment Condominiums meet 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 1.149 acres of land
is $543,200. The current appraised value of the building is $2,411,100. The
total current appraised value is $2,954,300. The property is zoned UR2.
Date of Preparation of this Report: September 1, 1983
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
218 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
Dr. William H. Huffman
The Poplar Apartments, located at the corner of Tenth and Poplar Streets
in Charlotte's Fourth Ward, is still one of the most majestic and well-built
multiple-unit buildings in the South. This landmark was a physical
representation of the growth, confidence and affluence of Charlotte in the
late 1920s. Coming as it did at the very end of the boom of the Twenties and
beginning of the Great Depression, if it had been delayed even six months or
a year, it is doubtful that this unique building would ever have been
constructed at all. The bad economic times of the early Thirties still
played a role in the Poplar's early history, however.
The site where the Poplar now stands had been occupied by the residence
of Professor George B. Hanna (1835-1906) and his wife, Nola Alexander Hanna
(1857-1927). Hanna, a Massachusetts native, was an assayer at the Charlotte
mint for nearly forty years, from 1868 to 1906, and president of the
Charlotte YMCA for twenty-nine years.1 Nola Hanna, who was the
daughter of Dr. A. W. Alexander of Charlotte, lived in the house alone after
her husband died until her own death in November, 1927.2 In a
deed handled by the Home Real Estate and Guaranty Company of Charlotte, the
property was subsequently sold by Mrs. Hanna's executor (her brother,
Charles L. Alexander), to Willetts Construction Company of New York in July,
It was Willetts' intention to build the five-story Poplar as "cooperative
homes," that is, similar to those in New York, it wanted to sell 99-year
leases and issue stock in a cooperative apartment house. In January, 1929,
three local businessmen set up the Poplar Apartments Corporation, headed by
Hal L. McKee (1898-1979), a Charlotte realtor, to contract the building for
Willetts. To design the structure, the firm of Lockwood, Greene and Company
was engaged, which was a major architectural and engineering company with
offices in Charlotte, as well as Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Detroit,
Cleveland, Montreal, and Paris. Among others, Lockwood, Greene also designed
Charlotte Supply Company building on Mint Street in Charlotte's Third
Ward. In the building permit taken out on January 25, 1929, the apartment
house was estimated to cost $250,000, which was a considerable sum for a
residential building not in the very center of town, even though within
By that fateful month of October, 1929, work on the building had
progressed to the point where Willetts contracted with Home Real Estate and
Guaranty to manage and handle leases for the apartments. It was signed on
the 24th, the day of a massive sell-off of stocks in New York, and five days
before "Black Tuesday," when the bottom fell out of the stock market.
Nonetheless, construction of the apartments continued, and in December,
1929, Willetts borrowed $125,000 from the Independence Trust Company in
Charlotte to help finance the project, and by March, 1930, the Poplar was
completed and ready for occupancy. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March
20-22, 1930, a truly exciting event took place in Charlotte on the occasion
of the Poplar's formal opening. Home Real Estate and Guaranty took out three
full-page ads in the Charlotte Observer inviting the citizens of the
city to visit "Charlotte's newest and most elaborate project":
"The Poplar Apartments represent an investment of a half-million
dollars and are the latest things in ultramodern large apartment. Above
23,000 visitors saw our model home. Attendance at exhibition of model
apartment expected to be as large..... The comfort, convenience and high
quality of these magnificent apartments is rapidly filling the 39-family
structure with select and highly pleased tenants. Representatives and
hostesses will be in attendance to escort visitors from top to bottom of
the building, explaining its fine features and the excellent material that
went into its make-up." The showplace of the grand opening was indeed the
model apartment, which had been furnished by the W. T. McCoy Company of
Charlotte, one of the finest in the area, and the Smith-Wadsworth Hardware
Company (which provided bric-a-brac), all done in the best of taste for
comfortable middle-class living of the time. It also featured a shiny new
majestic four-legged radio, and "even the refrigerator has been stocked by
E. W. Berryhill, neighborhood grocer."3
The Poplar Apartments were truly unique in a number of ways, making them
unusual not only in Charlotte, but among those in the South. Not only was
the building fireproof and soundproof, every apartment had cross-ventilation
(there were no inside rooms) and an unobstructed view. The thirty-nine unit
building ranged from a three-to a seven-room apartment, with corresponding
rents from $70 to $150 per month, and each apartment was equipped with a
working open fireplace in the living room. All also had a completely
equipped modern kitchen of the day with electric refrigerator, tiled baths
(the larger apartments had two baths) and the latest steam heat and
incinerator. Included as well was a garage basement for the residents' motor
cars.14 In sum, the Poplar was clearly one of the best, if not
the best, multi-family dwelling to be erected in Charlotte and the entire
region. It was a splendid anchor for Charlotte's residential Fourth Ward.
Unfortunately for the owner, Willetts Construction, the economic climate
worsened rapidly after the stock market crash, and just over four months
after the grand opening, Willetts defaulted on their note to Independence
Trust, and the Poplar was sold to S. T. Henderson of Charlotte for $165,000
in August, 1930.15 Stephen Thomas Henderson (1896-1940) was quite
familiar with the elegant apartment building, because he was president of
Home Real Estate and Guaranty at the time of its construction and opening.
After his successful bid, Henderson assigned ownership to another of his
companies, Henderson, Whitener and Company, which had been formed in 1928
with Henderson, his brother-in-law, J. H. Whitner, and H. L. McKee and John
D. Shawl. Two months later, Henderson, Whitner sold the Poplar to Home Real
Estate and Guaranty, which then made the original agent and manager also the
When Home Real Estate borrowed money in October, 1930, they also
eventually fell victim to the effects of the Depression, although they
lasted through five of the worst years. Poplar Apartments, Inc., a company
formed in August, 1935, by W. Latimer Brown, his wife Ruth Harding Brown,
and H. B. Lockwood, bought the building through a foreclosure sale for
$32,000, plus the assumption of a $135,000 deed of trust in September, 1935.21
For fifteen years, Poplar Apartments, Inc. successfully guided the dwelling
through the remainder of the Depression and the following wartime years. In
1950, the corporation was taken over by a new set of stockholders, headed by
Edwin L. Jones, Sr., and included his wife, Anabel L. Jones, their son,
Edwin L. Jones, Jr., a daughter, Louise Jones Brown, and son-in-law, W.
Franklin Brown, and the name was changed to Jones Realty Co., Inc. (later
Jones-Brown Realty Co., Inc.).22
After nearly thirty years of ownership of the Fourth Ward landmark,
Jones-Brown sold the Poplar to NCNB Community Development Corporation in
1978.23 Two years later, under a joint development venture with
SYNCO, Inc., a major Charlotte developer, the venture, going under the name
Hackberry Place Associates, converted the Poplar into condominiums. Under
the conversion, the first units were sold in September, 1980, some fifty
years after its much-heralded opening during a very different time.
It is entirely fitting, however, that the Poplar should be a part of the
revitalization of Fourth Ward in Charlotte. It was built at a time when that
mostly-residential neighborhood near the city center was enjoying the peak
of its prosperity, as was the rest of the city. Its massive elegance and
exceptionally solid construction, complete with the best equipment of the
time, and fine tile, marble, terrazzo and woodwork, represent a visual
testament to the belief the developers had in the life of the city then and
in the future. Their view has proven true through the renaissance of Fourth
Ward following a decades long period of decline. Through it all, the Poplar
remained the vision of the solid, lasting values of the community.
1 Charlotte News, May 21, 1906, p. 1.
2 Mecklenburg County Certificate of Death, Book 28, p. 121.
3 Deed Book 717, p.65, 26 July 1928.
4 Deed Book 764, p.260, 24 October 1929.
5 Record of Corporations, Book 11, p.356.
6 Building Permit No. 9781, dated 25 January 1929.
7 Plans in possession of O'Dell Associates, Charlotte, NC.
8 See note 6.
9 Deed Book 764, p.260, 24 October 1929.
10 Deed Book 766, p.288, 15 December 1929.
11 Charlotte Observer, March 16, 1930, Section 4, p.1.
12 Charlotte Observer, March 20, 1930, pp.l9-21.
15 Deed Book 766, p.288; 15 December 1929; Deed Book 754,
p.433, 8 August 1930.
16 See note 11.
17 Deed Book 754, p.433, 8 August 1930; Record of
Corporations, Book 11, p.l9, 27 February 1928.
18 Deed Book 778, p.l50, 3 October 1930.
19 Deed Book 785, p.289, 20 October 1950.
20 Record of Corporations, Book 15, p.132, 30 August 1935.
21 Deed Book 876, p.28, 28 September 1935.
22 Record of Corporations, Book 30, p.178, 3 May 1950.
23 Deed Book 4101, p.786, 7 September 1978.
24 Deed Book 4317, p.362, 30 June 1980; Deed Book 4334,
pp.288-345, August 1980 (Declaration of Condominium).
25 Deed Book 4383, p.300, 19 September 1980, et seq.
Lisa A. Stamper
Being a relatively new concept in American housing, the public was just
beginning to accept the apartment house in the late 1910s and 1920s as a
decent and even fashionable residence. Modern conveniences available in
luxury apartment buildings were overcoming the stigmas of the lower-class
connotation of tenement houses, the fear of health hazards, and the critics
warnings that apartment house living would foster moral degradation into the
eventual fall of the American family. Large apartment houses moved onto the
outskirts of residential areas close to city centers.
Charlotte's Poplar Apartments were a good example of this trend. Located
at the corner of West Tenth and Poplar Streets, within easy walking distance
from the central business district, the Poplar Apartments were built c.
1929. These luxury apartments were built in Charlotte's old Fourth Ward
residential area, then and now considered a fashionable address. Today the
building retains its residential appeal, and is known as "The Poplar"
following a 1980 condominium conversion.
The Poplar Apartments are five levels high. The apartment building has an
underground parking garage, one of the first residential parking garages in
Charlotte. The overall shape is a double-cross, with various bays and
rectangular protrusions with crenels. These double-cross shapes with various
slight protruding elements create a very visually stimulating back and forth
Another significant design feature of this building is that each
apartment was designed for maximum natural light and cross-ventilation. At
the center of each cross is a circulation core with an elevator, a main
stair, and two servants' stairs plus a short cross-shaped hallway to four
apartment units. Each unit occupied a leg of the cross, thus giving it
natural light on three sides as well as cross-ventilation. These two
circulation cores are connected at the ground floor level only.
This Jacobethan Revival style building was constructed with
Flemish bond brick, limestone blocks, and concrete. The limestone blocks
were cut into various angular shapes which were cut to fit together
beautifully and which add a great deal of visual interest to the exterior.
During restoration, the building was repainted with the original mortar
color taken into consideration. Based on ancient English models, the Poplar
Apartments are the large-scale counterpart of the
Tudor Revival cottages popular in wealthy
Myers Park in the 1920s.
The roof is
flat with crenels cut into a concrete band which surrounds the top of
the building. A short shingled,
pyramidal-roofed tower topped by a weathervane is located near the front
end of the building. Brick chimneys, elevator shafts, and other mechanical
enclosures extend past the flat roof line, but are largely invisible from
the street level. Also, a wooden deck was built on the roof. The deck is
invisible from the street. The horizontal character of the roof is
reinforced by the crenellated concrete band, a brick work section below it,
and a solid concrete band underneath the brickwork. The continuously
surround the building and carries one's eye horizontally along the
perimeter. In the brickwork section between the concrete bands, occasional
Jacobethan decorative elements are found, such as diamonds and shields.
Rectangular casement windows of various sizes dominate the building. The
windows are of metal and are composed of many rectangular panes. The window
sills are of concrete. Most of the first level windows have brick lintels,
but others are surrounded by large rectangular one-story sections of stone
blocks with a crenel at either end and which have an arch cut over the
window openings. Above most of these windows, a concrete band surrounds each
of the four upper level windows as well as encompassing all four windows
into one vertical unit. Rectangular brickwork between windows is divided
vertically in half by another concrete band. At the time of restoration in
1980, individual heating/cooling units replaced the original central heating
system. Unobtrusive vents were cut under the appropriate windows of each
The first floor front of the Poplar Apartments, which faces West Tenth
Street, is recessed to form a porte cochere with a half-circle concrete
drive. Two large
Tudor arched openings allow the driveway to swing up to the front doors.
Decorative carved stone reliefs are directly below the window sills above
the Tudor arched openings. The outside wall of the entryway has three
openings with grillwork: a large Tudor arched opening like those on the
sides, and flanking thin rectangular openings. These openings allow natural
light into the entryway. The front facade above the entryway is emphasized
by limestone quoins.
For security, there were only two entrances to the building. One door was
for guests arriving on foot, and the other was for those arriving by auto.
Both entered into the front lobby. The main entrance is the door within the
porte-cochere. The Tudor arched double door is wooden with glass in its two
upper panels and two wooden panels in the bottom portion of each door. The
doorway is decorated with a stone label hood mold and label stop as well as
stone reliefs. Two round arched brick niches flank the entrance door. These
niches contain brick and concrete benches on which to sit. The pedestrian
entrance also opens into the lobby, but from the Poplar Street side. Rounded
brick steps and a brick walkway lead from the street to the doorway.
Although smaller than the main door, this one is of the same style.
Quatrefoils, towers, shields, etc. elaborately decorate this entrance. All
door knobs are of intricately detailed metal.
The entrance the underground garage is located on the back portion of the
building on the Poplar Street side. Limestone block walls with rusticated
gray stone corners lead down from the street to the garage area. A new
garage door has been added at the bottom of the drive; however, it is not
obvious from the street. Each resident had a parking place originally. This
indicated that the Poplar Apartments was intended to be inhabited by the
upper class. Simple, square concrete columns which fan out at the top and
base are found here. The mechanical operations which were located in the
underground area off from the garage area in 1919 are still intact. The
garage/basement is still used as much as it was originally except that
storage closets have been added for each resident. A laundry area was added
for the residents' convenience.
The lobby contains most of its original wood-paneled
wainscoting which extends approximately seven feet high from the floor.
Even the large square columns are paneled in the same manner. There is
painted paneling above the wainscoting. Dentil molding defines the
transition from wall to ceiling. The stone floor is now covered by a red
carpet; however, the stone can be seen around the perimeter of the lobby and
does not appear to be damaged. It is composed of irregular shapes and colors
of stone held together by a black joining material.
From the lobby, stone steps lead one up to the hallway which leads to
circulation cores located in the center of each "cross" in the building
plan. The elevator in each core is an Otis elevator with the original
fixtures intact. The secondary stairwells were probably used as servants'
stairs and only one can be entered through the hall. These stairs are of
metal. Next to the main stair is a maid's closet with a sink and what is
believed to have been a trash or laundry chute.
The condominiums stem off in four directions from each circulation core.
There are nine types of condominiums ranging from an one bedroom 800 square
foot unit to a three bedroom, two bath with sunroom, 1,550 square foot unit.
In the 1930s, the lure of these apartments were their modern conveniences
without the bother of maintaining a house. Modern baths were provided, some
apartments even had two. Both a living room and dining room were available
as well as a modern kitchen.
Although some of the walls and moldings were removed by some of the
residents, most condominiums still retain many of their original elements:
original walls, molded window sills, moldings which formed rectangular
panels on the walls, ceiling molding, wood floors, mantels, door knobs, and
other fixtures. All doorways had heavily molded frames and all the doors
were paneled. Heavily molded mantels were of wood, with brick inside. Niches
flanked these mantels, giving the wall the same in-and-out movement of the
exterior of the building. When changes were made, for example replacement of
cabinets, most were made with thoughtful consideration of the original
The exterior of The Poplar is surrounded by sensitive new brickwork and
beautiful plantings. West Tenth Street runs in front of the building. The
street has a landscaped median with benches for sitting. On the opposite
side of West Tenth Street recently constructed townhouses can barely be seen
through the trees. Poplar Street runs lengthwise on the southeast side of
the building. Across Poplar Street is Edwin Towers. Behind The Poplar is
Setters Land, a new condominium development. On the northwest side of The
Poplar a parking lot was built during the restoration for residents and
their guests. A small shed was built between the building and parking lot to
shelter a staircase which leads down to the parking garage. A brick and cast
iron fence was built to enclose the parking lot. On the other side of the
fence is property to be developed into condominiums. Brick and cast iron
fences are also located along the back of The Poplar and on the Poplar
Street side to enclose court yards. The fences were built at the time of
restoration. Brick sidewalks run alongside the building next to Poplar and
West Tenth Streets. Small, rectangular courtyards are formed where the shape
of the building creates recesses. Decorative stones and bricks are used in
landscaping these areas, as well as grasses, bushes, and small trees. Many
trees and bushes, following the original landscape theme, were planted along
the building foundation.
The Poplar Apartments building is an architecturally important part of
Charlotte's residential historical development, and represents an excellent
example of the national trend of the late 1920s and early 1930s. The
Jacobethan style of the building reflects one of the most popular
residential styles of the city's prosperous years before the Depression in a
new and progressive form. Charlotte was very fortunate to have had the
Poplar Apartments built, considering the drastic economic shift shortly
after construction began, and Charlotte would be very unfortunate to let
anything harm the character of its first luxury apartment building.