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Survey And Research Report

On The

Barnum and Sarah Sustare House

1.      Name and location of the property:  The property known as the Barnum and Sarah Sustare House is located at 13700 Idlewild Road in Matthews, N.C. 

2.      Name, address, and telephone number of contact for the current owners of the property:

Stuart Phelps and Charity Hope Brown Phelps

13700 Idlewild Road

Matthews, N.C. 28105

Telephone:  (704) 201-9020

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 depicting the location of the property.   The UTM coordinates of the property are  17 529508.7E  17 3888281.9N.


5.      Current Deed Book Reference to the property:  The most recent deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 23078 at Page 538. 

6.      A brief historical sketch of the property:  This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill. 

7.      A brief architectural and physical description of the property:  This report contains a brief architectural and physical description of the property prepared by Stewart Gray. 

8.      Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S 160A-400.5. 

a.   Special significance in terms of its history, architecture and/or cultural importance:  The Commission judges that the Barnum and Sarah Sustare House possesses special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations: 

1)  The Barnum and Sarah Sustare House is a rare remnant of the rural built environment which once characterized this section of Idlewild Road.

2)  The Barnum and Sarah Sustare House shows the hand of a professional builder, especially in the extensive use of store-bought millwork.

3) Barnum Sustare, the original owner of the Barnum and Sarah Sustare House, was a prominent citizens of eastern Mecklenburg County, including the town of Matthews, N.C.

b.   Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural and physical description prepared by Stewart Gray demonstrates that the Barnum and Sarah Sustare House meets this criterion.

9.      Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal:  The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owners to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes a "historic landmark."  The appraised value of the property is $258,900. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is  21526105.  The most recent annual property tax bill on the property was $3,667.98.

10.  Amount of Property Proposed for historic landmark designation.  The interior of the house, the exterior of the house, and the entire 5.22 tax parcel.

Date of Preparation of this Report:  September 16, 2010

A Brief History Of The Barnum and Sarah Sustare House

Dr. Dan L. Morrill

The Barnum and Sarah Sustare House, a Queen Anne style domicile located on the south side of Idlewild Road in Matthews, N.C., was originally the centerpiece of an approximately 40-acre farm.  The house is a remnant of the once-rural built environment of eastern Mecklenburg County that has become predominantly suburbanized since the house was erected, most likely at the turn of the last century.1  The special significance of the Barnum and Sarah Sustare House can only be understood within the context of Mecklenburg County.  There are no other extant farm era houses on this section of Idlewild Road, which has been a major thoroughfare at least from the late 1800s.  Additionally, the house shows the hand of a professional builder, especially in the extensive use of store-bought millwork -- a testimonial to the economic standing of the first owners of the house.

Barnum and Sarah Sustare taken in Norfolk, VA. in June of 1940, which would have made Barnum 78 and Sarah 73.  They were married on April 15, 1889.  Source:  Carol Lorraine Sutton

The initial owners were Barnum A. Sustare (1862-1951) and his wife, Sarah Ferguson Sustare (1867-1962).2  Born in Lancaster County, S.C., Barnum Sustare migrated at the age of 12 with his widowed mother to Mecklenburg County in 1874 -- a move most likely induced by the completion of the Carolina Central Railway just two years before.3   It is reasonable to assume that the family sought to benefit from the more robust economic infrastructure provided by Matthews and the railroad running through it.

Holly Elizabeth Hemby Sistare, Hollie Elizabeth Hemby Sustar, Holly_Hemby_Sistare_sm.jpg, photo; Carol L. Sutton

Holly Elizabeth Hemby Sustare (1837-1902), mother of Barnum A. Sustare,  moved with her children to Mecklenburg County in 1872.  Her husband had been killed in 1862 in the Civil War.Source:  Carol Lorraine Sutton

Eastern Mecklenburg County was profoundly impacted by the opening of the Carolina Central Railway between Charlotte and Wilmington in 1872.  A depot was constructed near a former stagecoach stop called Fullwood Station; and an agricultural support community, named Matthews, grew up nearby and was incorporated in 1879.5    Matthews and its attendant amenities, which included a bank, mercantile stores, a cotton mill, and a grist mill, facilitated the cultivation of cash crops, especially cotton, in the surrounding countryside. 6    

Barnum Sustare was an innovative entrepreneur.   In addition to farming, Sustare actively participated in the business and civic affairs of Matthews, eventually relocating there.  He was a trustee and stockholder in the Bank of Matthews  and served for many years as a town aldermen and member of the school board.  Having helped organize Mount Harmony Baptist Church before moving to town, Sustare became a deacon of Matthews Baptist Church.7    Most interestingly, Sustare developed a recreational and entertainment center just north of the central business district of Matthews, appropriately known as "Sustare's."8  It consisted of a swimming pool, a refreshment stand, a faux beach, and a place to dance and listen to music.9   Beginning in the 1940s, Sustare's became one of a number of inland venues where Carolina Beach Music was played.10  Barnum Sustare, called a "prominent businessman and farmer" by the Charlotte Observer, died on March 13, 1951.11   His wife, Sarah, expired in June 1962.12   Both are buried in the cemetery at Mount Harmany Baptist Church.

The history of the Barnum and Sarah Sustare House is rather straightforward.  The house and a portion of the original farm remained in the hands of members of the family until June 1981, when it was sold to Jim and Pamela Humphrey.12   By then agricultural use of the land had ended.   The Humphreys in turn conveyed the house and  5.22 acres of land to the present owners, Stuart Phelps (1973-       )  and Charity Hope Brown Phelps (1975-     ) in November 2007.13   Stuart Phelps, a native of Sulphur, Louisiana, is a G.I.S. analyst.  Charity Phelps was born in Cumberland, Kentucky and is the daughter Dr. Joe B. Brown, minister of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.  Stuart and Charity Phelps, who were married on August 28, 1999, maintain the house as their residence and have completed a major addition to the house.14



1.  Mecklenburg County Deed Book 132, Page 316.  Barnum Sustare acquired his first parcel in Morning Star Township, and which the Barnum and Sarah Sustare House is located,  on January 6, 1899.  It is reasonable to assume that the house was erected soon thereafter.  The deed records of Mecklenburg County reveal that Sustare was actively engaged in the buying and selling of land in eastern Mecklenburg County.  There are variations in the spelling of his surname, including Sistare, Sustair, and Sistaire.

2.  Charlotte Observer (March 14, 1951; June 15, 1962).  Interview of Stuart Phelps by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (2010), hereinafter cited as Interview.

3.  Charlotte Observer (March 14, 1951).  For a comprehensive essay on the small towns of Mecklenburg County, including Matthews, see  For historic photographs of the Sustare family see the website of Carol Lorraine Sutton at

4.  See

Barnum Sustare had an identical twin brother, James Sustare.  James is on the left and Barnum on the right.  Source:  Carol Lorraine Sutton


5.  Dan L. Morrill, "Survey and Research Report on the Funderburk Buildings" (1991) for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Histosric Landmarks Commission. See


7. Charlotte Observer (March 14, 1951).

8. Charlotte Observer (June 15, 1962).

9. Interview of William Caldwell  by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (2010)

10. See

11.  Mecklenburg County Deed Book 4444, Page 308.

12. Charlotte Observer (June 15, 1962).

13.  Mecklenburg County Deed Book 23078, Page 538.

14.  Interview.