Survey and Research Report On The
- Name and
location of the property: The property known as the
Rowland-Clay House is located at 606 E. Charles Street in Matthews,
- Name and
address of the present owner of the property:
James Edward Clay and William Franklin Jackson
P.O. Box 213
Matthews, North Carolina 28105
Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
- Map depicting
the location of the property: Below is a map depicting the
location of the property. The UTM coordinates are 526004E
- Current deed
book reference to the property: The most recent deed to
this property is recorded in the Mecklenburg County Deed Book 7172,
page 454. The tax parcel number of the property is 21504114.
- A brief
historical sketch of the property: This report contains a
brief historical sketch of the property.
- A brief
architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property.
of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria for
designation as set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5:
Special significance in terms of its history,
architecture, and or
cultural importance: The Commission judges that the
property known as the Rowland-Clay House does possess special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission
bases its judgment on the following considerations: 1.) The
Rowland-Clay House is one of only four houses that remain to
demonstrate the architecture of Tank Town, a rural community settled
by freed slaves in the 1860’s. 2.) The Rowland-Clay House is the only
one of these extant domiciles of Tank Town that is built in the
Craftsman style. Its relative grandness demonstrates the strivings of
rural African American workers in the first half century after
emancipation. 3.) The Rowland-Clay House is an important remnant of a
rural community, and way of life, that no longer exists in Mecklenburg
County, and is therefore a valuable reminder of early 20th
century rural life in Mecklenburg County.
- Ad Valorem
tax appraisal: The Commission is aware that designation
would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of
Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes
designated as a “historic landmark.” The current
appraised value of the lot, which is 1.16 acres, is $27,000.
The appraised value of the building and features is $65,700.
The current total tax value is $92,700.
Date of preparation of this report:
Prepared by: Hope L. Murphy
The Rowland-Clay House is located in what is now Crestdale, a
historically African American neighborhood in Matthews, North
Carolina. When Charlie and Vivian Rowland purchased land to
build their home in 1929, the area was known as Tank Town.
Dating from the 1870’s, the area was called Tank Town because a
railroad water tank stood near the railroad tracks that bisected the
district. The first inhabitants of Tank Town were historically
freeman and former slaves, many of whom were employed in operating the
tank and performing other duties associated with the railroad.
In 1874 the Central Carolina Railroad Company erected a depot near a
stagecoach stop and post office, at a point approximately halfway
between Monroe and Charlotte. When it opened, the depot was
called “Matthews” in honor of Watson Matthews, a member of the Board
of Directors of the Central Carolina Railroad.
Though a number of Tank Town’s residents were
employed by the railroad, most were sharecroppers or day laborers in
Matthews. Railway jobs were the best option available to blacks
in Tank Town. The railroad provided steady employment, cash wages,
housing, and later, insurance benefits. Few of the black farmers could
afford to acquire land. A fifteen-acre tract in the community, now
developed, once belonged to Abelola Weddington, the mulatto daughter
of a prominent white farmer in the area. Abelola and her husband Green
Lee Stewart farmed the land until they lost it in a crop lien. Abelola
and Green Stewart were probably the only independent farmers in Tank
In 1929 Charlie and Vivian
Rowland purchased six acres of land in Tank Town, for which they paid
Charlie Rowland was employed by the railroad, and though his position
is not known, his income was sufficient enough to allow him to build
this relatively stylish brick Craftsman style bungalow for his family.
Though the Craftsman style was a popular building style for the
period, very few of the Rowland’s African American neighbors built
such homes. In the 19th century housing for rural
tenant farmers such as those in Tank Town usually consisted of the
hall-and parlor style. These simple two-room homes were
three-bays wide and one-room deep. After the turn of the century,
rural African American communities began to adopt a larger housing
style. Houses of this style were typically built on a one-story,
hipped-roof, three-bay wide, four-room plan.
The Rowland-Clay House is
one of only four remaining homes in Crestdale. The others are the
Clyburn, Garris, and Thompson Homes. None of these surviving homes, of
the Rowlands’ more affluent neighbors, is as stylish as theirs.
Manley Clyburn, who built his home on Crestdale Road was a barber and
small storeowner. He also owned several parcels of land in Tank
Town on which he built rental homes. While his home still stands, none
of these rental units survives. John Garris was another African
American who owned a number of pieces of land in Tank Town; his home
was built ca. 1920, adjacent to the Presbyterian Church. The
Thompson home is the oldest remaining home in Crestdale, the deed for
this parcel is dated from 1904. However, it is not as
architecturally significant as the Rowland-Clay House.
Mildred Clay Spring, whose
parents later bought the house, remembers visiting the Rowlands as a
child, before her family moved to the home. Vivian Rowland was
Spring’s Girl Scout leader, and meetings were held in the house.
Spring recalls that the floors in the house, “shone like glass.”
Rowland, in an effort to preserve her fine floors, required that the
girls remove their shoes prior to entering the house. If a girl
had no socks, Rowland would provide her with a pair.
Mildred Spring moved to the house with her parents and four siblings
in 1951. Her parents, Odell and Allie Clay, bought the house,
the first they had owned, after the family ceased sharecropping. The
family had labored for the Funderburks, a prominent white family in
the area that owned a general store, livery stable, and operated the
Bank of Matthews.
After moving to the house Spring’s father began work in construction,
while her mother was employed at East Mecklenburg High School. These
occupations, like Charlie Rowland’s railway job, provided the steady
and relatively high wages that allowed them to buy a home. Allie Clay
was an active member of the nearby United House of Prayer.
Allie Clay’s grandson, James
Edward Clay, currently lives in the house. In 1993 he and his brother,
William Franklin Jackson, bought the house at auction after their
grandmother passed away.
The Rowland-Clay House is a
unique structure. It is one of only four dwellings that remain
from Tank Town’s early twentieth century architecture, and the only
Craftsman style bungalow. The one story house is additionally
significant because of its solid masonry construction.
While brick veneer became common during the early 20th
century, the vast majority of homes in early 20th century
Mecklenburg County were of wood frame construction. The house is
located approximately 20 feet from the street on a 1.16 acres back
sloping lot. Across the street from the house are railroad
tracks, which were present when the house was built, on a steep
embankment. The neighborhood is of modest homes set on similarly
A porch extends over the
entire length of the façade of the Rowland-Clay House.
Substantial tapered square posts set on brick piers support the porch,
with its overhanging eaves. The posts have capitals formed by
molded trim. A shingled hipped-gable roof covers the porch. The
front of the house is pierced by a front door, set slightly off center
to the east. The door is flanked by one-over-one windows, one on
each side. The front gable roof has white wood shingling with a small
The east elevation is three
bays deep. At the center of the elevation is a pair of one-over-
one windows, these are flanked on either side by a single one-over-one
window. The west elevation is also three bays deep, with
three single one-over-one windows. The brick surface of the west
elevation extends until it joins the wooden addition at the rear of
the house. The white wood shingled addition is of an unknown
date. Half of the addition forms a small porch. The porch is set
on red painted cinder blocks and is reached by a small staircase of
wooden steps. The roof of the covered porch is supported by two
slender posts, set on a wooden porch rail, which is in turn supported
by simple rectangular posts. There are two windows, one smaller than
the other, and a door leading off of the porch, into the rear interior
space of the house. A small window is set in the wood shingled
portion of the addition.
There are two brick
chimneys located on the interior of the west and east sides of the
roof. The chimneys are decorated with a row of bricks, near the
top, which alternates red and yellow brick headers.