RAMAH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
This report was written on January 2, 1979
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as
the Ramah Presbyterian Church is located on Ramah Church Rd. east of
Huntersville, NC, in the northern section of Mecklenburg County.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property:
The present owner and occupant of the property is:
Ramah Presbyterian Church
Route 2 Box 300
Huntersville, NC 28078
Telephone: (704) 875-6683
3. Representative photograph 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 recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed
Book 1638 at page 173. The earliest reference to the property as
belonging to Ramah Presbyterian Church is recorded in Old Deed Book 19
at page 266. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is 01115101.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
The founders of Ramah Presbyterian Church belonged to that
heterogeneous aggregate of pioneers who began to settle the Carolina
backcountry in the mid-l700's. Like their counterparts at such places as
Hopewell, Sugar Creek, Rocky River, Providence and Steele Creek, these
Scotch Irish immigrants faced the enormous challenge of bringing order
and structure to the Piedmont frontier. Because their collective
identity sprang largely from religious convictions, the yeomen who
secured land in the vicinity of Ramah Creek moved quickly to establish a
place of worship. Although the initial session house, a log structure,
was not completed until ca. 1783, local tradition holds that service
were held in a brush arbor at Ramah Grove several years prior to this
date.1 The records of the Mecklenburg Presbytery reveal that
the congregation was officially organized in 1795.2
Log structures, such as the initial session house at Ramah
Presbyterian Church, were predominant in the Carolina backcountry in the
1700's. Edifices with walls built of logs laid horizontally were a
medieval invention of various North European peoples and by the end of
the seventeenth century were common in the Scandinavian countries,
Finland and the Baltic provinces of Russia. Most scholars agree that the
form was brought to America by the Swedes who established the colony of
New Sweden on Delaware Bay in 1638. The log structures of the Piedmont,
however, followed the design which the Germans had brought to
Pennsylvania in the early 1700's. Constructed of square-hewn timbers
with dovetailed joints these buildings were well-suited to the region.
Because labor was expensive and tools rudimentary, the farmers who came
to the Carolina backcountry erected buildings which could be most easily
fashioned from the timber provided by the surrounding forests. Logs were
hewn to size by an adze and a simple
dovetail joint constructed at the corners. The average log without
too much tapering was about twenty to twenty-four feet in length. This
factor determined the maximum of the edifices which could be fashioned
in this manner.3
The initial session house survived until 1820, when it was replaced
frame edifice. This building served the congregation until 1881,
when the present church was built and dedicated. The size and character
of the physical facility used by the Presbyterian congregation at Ramah
Creek have experienced considerable expansion and alteration in the
twentieth century. A log structure, locally known as "The Hut" was
erected in 1935 for the Men's Bible Class. In 1954 a manse was built for
the first full time resident minister.4 An Educational
Building with a colored passageway to the church was completed in 1958.5
The church itself has undergone two major transformations, one in the
1920's and another in 1972-73. The first of these involved the
excavation of a basement in which a furnace was placed, the laying of
granite rubble in-fill between the original granite piers of the
foundation, the building of new entry steps and portico, and the
placement of partitions in the balcony for purposes of creating Sunday
The second and more extensive renovation included new windows, a new
roof and new shutters for the exterior, a new ceiling and new shutters
for the interior, new plaster and carpet, new electrical wiring and
light sources, the removal of the partitions in the balcony, insulation
of the walls, and the installation of central air conditioning and a
central vacuum cleaner.7 The members of Ranch Presbyterian
Church undertook the 1972-73 renovation with the following purpose in
mind: The aim is to restore the building as closely to the original as
possible using the style of architecture appropriate to the era in which
the church was built, and to retain the charm and beauty of this rural
church as well as the functional qualities for worship in simplicity and
On balance, the members achieved this objective. Indeed, both in
terms of the scale and appearance of the church itself and in terms of
the overall setting of the edifice, Ramah Presbyterian Church retains
the ambience of a place of worship in rural Mecklenburg during an
earlier era. Obtrusive encroachments upon the property have yet to
occur. The church itself continues to adhere to the denominational
preferences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for
unadorned, temple form edifices which would contrast sharply with the
symbols of Anglicanism and which would express the Presbyterian's
commitment to democratic values.9 The burial ground, situated
immediately across Ramah Church Rd., contains a metal entrance gate with
flanking granite posts, most probably dating from the mid-1800's.
Several gravestones from the early nineteenth century are extant.
1 "Our History," Ramah Presbyterian Church (A pamphlet
published by Ramah Presbyterian Church, ca. 1957.
2 Charles Raven Brockmann, Mecklenburg Presbytery: A
History (Office of the Executive Secretary, Mecklenburg Presbytery,
Charlotte, NC, 1962), p. 40.
3 Dr. Lawrence S. Barden, Dr. James W. Clay, Mr. Owen J.
Feruseth, Dr. Dan Morrill, Dr. Nelson S. Nunnally, "Socio-Economic
Overview Of The Uwharrie National Forest And Environs" (An Environmental
Impact Statement submitted to the National Forest Service, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, 1978), pp. 17-18.
4 "Our History."
5 Ramah Church Renovation Fund Drive. (A pamphlet
published by Ramah Presbyterian Church, ca. 1973).
6 Interview of Rev. Glenn L. Hill, pastor of Ramah
Presbyterian Church, by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (December 18, 1978).
7 Ramah Church Renovation Fund Drive.
9 Eliza Davidson, "North Carolina Country Churches:
Explorations in the Mountains and the Tidewater" in Doug Swaim.,
Carolina Dwelling (The Student Publication of the School of Design,
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., 1978), vol. 26., pp.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This
report contains an architectural description of the property prepared by
Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
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 Ramah Presbyterian
Church rests upon the following factors. First, it is one of the older
Presbyterian congregations in Mecklenburg County. Second, the present
church building retains its essential exterior integrity and is
surpassed in age only by Providence Presbyterian Church as an example
of a nineteenth century frame session house in Mecklenburg County.
Third, the overall setting of Ramah Presbyterian retains its essential
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The church
and grounds are in an excellent state of repair and are highly suited
c. Educational value: The Ramah Presbyterian Church has
educational value because of the historical and cultured significance
of the property.
d. Cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance, or repair:
At present, the Commission has no intention of securing the fee simple
or any lesser included interest in this property. The Commission
presently assumes that all costs associated with restoring and
maintaining the property will be paid by the owner or subsequent owner
of the property.
e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the
property: The Commission believes that the property is best-suited
to the needs of the congregation of Ramah Presbyterian Church.
However, if necessary, the property could be adapted to a variety of
f. Appraised value: The current tax appraisal of the 30
acres of land owned by Ramah Presbyterian Church is $22,500. The tax
appraisal of all improvements on the land is $126,190 and $20,370 for
the church itself. As a religious institution, the Ramah Presbyterian
Church is not required to pay Ad Valorem taxes. The Commission is
aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for a deferral
of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property
which becomes "historic property." The deferral would not apply in the
case of the current owner.
g. The administrative and financial responsibility of any person
organization: As stated earlier, the Commission presently has no
intention of securing the fee simple or any lesser included interest
in this property. Furthermore, the Commission presently assumes that
all costs associated with the property will be paid by the present or
subsequent owner of the property.
9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for inclusion in the National Register of Historic
Places: The Commission judges that the property known as the Ramah
Presbyterian Church does meet the criteria of the National Register of
Historic Places. Basic to the Commission's judgment is its knowledge
that the National Register of Historic Places, established by the
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, represents the decision of
the Federal Government to expand its recognition of historic properties
to include those of local, regional, and state significance. The
Commission believes that its investigation of the property, known as the
Ramah Presbyterian Church, demonstrates that the property possesses
local historical and cultural importance. Consequently, the Commission
judges that the property known as the Ramah Presbyterian Church does
meet 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: The
property known as the Ramah Presbyterian Church is historically
important to Mecklenburg County for three reasons. First, it is one of
the older Presbyterian congregations in Mecklenburg County. Second, the
present church building retains its essential exterior integrity and is
surpassed in age only by
Providence Presbyterian Church as an example of a nineteenth century
frame session house in Mecklenburg County. Third, the overall setting of
Ramah Presbyterian retains its essential rural ambience.
An Inventory of Older Buildings In Mecklenburg County and
Charlotte for the Historic Properties Commission
Dr. Lawrence S. Barden, Dr. James W. Clay, Mr. Owen J. Furuseth, Dr.
Dan Morrill, Dr. Nelson S. Nunnally, "Socio-Economic Overview of the
Uwharrie National Forest and Environs," (an Environmental Impact
Statement submitted to the National Forest Service, U.S. Department of
Charles Raven Brockmann. Mecklenburg Presbyterian: A History
(Office of the Executive Secretary. Mecklenburg Presbyterian) Charlotte.
Eliza Davidson. "North Carolina Counted Churches: Explorations in the
Mountains and the Tidewater," in Carolina Dwelling, ed. By Doug
Swaim (The Student Publication of the School of Design. North Carolina
State University. Raleigh. NC, 1978. vol. 26).
Interview with Rev. Glenn L. Hill, pastor of Ramah Presbyterian
Church, by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (December 18, 1978).
"Our History," Ramah Presbyterian Church (A pamphlet by Ramah
Presbyterian Church, ca. 1957).
"Ramah Church Renovation Fund Drive." (A pamphlet published by Ramah
Preservation Church, ca. 1973.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Resister of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Date of Preparation of this Report: January 2, 1979
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
139 Middleton Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28207
Telephone (704) 333-2726
The Ramah Presbyterian Church is a three bay wide by five bay deep
frame structure with a
random ashlar foundation and
gable roof of wood shingles. Its design, reflective of the
denominational preference for unpretentious but dignified temple-form
edifices, is typical in most respects of the meeting house style that
was so popular in earlier Presbyterian churches. In terms of Mecklenburg
County, Ramah Presbyterian is similar to Providence Presbyterian Church
in that it is a simple rectangular high box shape of white frame
construction with a gable front and rear. The dimensions are 40 feet by
60 feet and 20 feet in height from the ground to the eaves. The design
is symmetrical. The foundation wall is two feet high and initially
consisted of a series of granite single-stone piers. Later the space
between was filled with granite blocks laid in a random ashlar pattern.
Topping the foundation is a twelve inch wide board with a water table
from which the siding starts. At the top of the siding is a twelve inch
wide frieze board, with a overhang above the frieze projecting about two
feet. The soffit of the overhang, being too wide for one board, is made
of two, and the innermost laps the outermost. To soften the square edge
of the innermost board, a small cove is used. This design is unusual.
There is a normal sized coved bed mold in the corner between the frieze
and the soffit. On the outer edge of the overhang the narrow facia board
of the cornice is capped with a 5 inch convex crown mold. The frieze
returns about 18 inches on the front and rear walls, thus causing the
crown mold to have a return of 5-1/2 feet paralleling the frieze before
turning back again 2 feet to butt the front wall. The rake up the gables
has the same overhang and moldings as the sides. The four corners of the
exterior walls have nine inch wide corner boards or pilasters running
from the water table to the frieze.
There is a small mold across the boards at the top. On the two front
corners of the church there is mounted on the frieze above these
moldings the date 1881 in cast iron numerals. On the rear wall is a
small projection or apse 5 feet by 11 feet and as high as the church
windows. It may not be original since those pitches were often added to
old Presbyterian churches. A brick chimney has been added to the rear.
The siding is composed of square-edged lapped boards with a 5-1/2 inch
exposure and is almost certainly the original. The floor boards appear
to be the original and are of a random width of 4 to 5 inches. The
framing lumber was cut by circular saw and the floor joists are modern
in size and spacing but rough sawn. The main entrance is located at the
center of the front and is 5-1/2 foot by 81/2 feet high. The brick steps
and metal balustrades providing access thereto are not original, but the
six-paneled double doors probably are. Surrounding the
transom light above the front entrance is a straight-sided segmental
arch more typical of the Italianate style.
A single doorway, not original, is situated at the rear bay on the
right side of the church and opens on to a covered passageway which
leads to the Educational Building. A basement entrance of recent origin
is on the rear. The window sash and glass are not the originals nor are
the exterior blinds. Five nine-over-nine
windows with louvered blinds with splayed tops are on the right
side, four on the left side and two equidistant from the front entrance.
Three six-over-six windows are located at the balcony level of the front
and a louvered window is situated above. Four-over-four windows are on
either side of the apse, and nine-over-nine windows, without blinds, are
at the outer bays of the rear. The interior of the church is composed of
a vestibule which is not original and from which two doorways lead to
the sanctuary, an original enclosed stairway on the left side of the
vestibule which rises in one landing to the balcony, a room at either
side of the vestibule, the balcony which is bordered by a balustrade,
the sanctuary and the apse. Red carpet covers the original floor. The
beaded ceiling except at the transom light above the front entrance and
at the stairway was installed in the 1972-73 renovation, as were the
lighting fixtures and the blinds. According to the minister "none of the
original church furniture survives." As noted earlier, Ramah
Presbyterian Church is similar to Providence Presbyterian Church. The
difference is in the fenestration. At Ramah the five windows on each
side and the two in the front and in the rear are only 9-1/2 feet high
and thus stop 51/2 feet short of the eave leaving a blank wall above. On
the front t-here is a smaller window over each big window and over the
center doorway. These smaller windows are for the balcony, and since
there is no balcony on either side, the windows on the sides do not run
up to the eave as they do at Providence, which has the typical side
balconies and high window.