THE WALTER L. ALEXANDER HOUSE
This report was written on November 5, 1986
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Walter L. Alexander House is located at 523 Clement Avenue, Charlotte, North
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
Mr. Daniel G. Clodfelter & wife, Elizabeth K. Bevan
523 Clement Ave.
Charlotte, N.C., 28204
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: Two parcels are
included in the Walter L. Alexander House. They are:
|Tax Parcel Number
||Deed Book Reference
||Book 4746 Page 287
||Book 4777 Page 544
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Ms. Dorothy Frye.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by
Thomas W. Hanchett.
8. Documentation of and in what ways the property meets the criteria
for designation 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 Walter L. Alexander House does possess special significance
in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on
the following considerations: 1) the Walter L. Alexander House, erected in
1915, is the grandest residence dating from the 1910's in the
streetcar suburb of
Elizabeth; 2) the Walter L. Alexander House has had a distinguished
list of owners, including Walter L. Alexander, William C. Wilkinson, and
Admiral Percy W. Foote; and 3) the Walter L. Alexander House is part of a
cluster of homes (it, the John Baxter Alexander House, and the Jennie
Alexander Duplex) which once formed a unique family complex in the
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description included in this report demonstrates that the property known
as the Walter L. Alexander House meets 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 improvement on
Parcel 127-013-05 is $77,980, for the .562 acres of land, $13,000, making
the total appraised value $90,980. The parcel is zoned R6MF. The current
appraised value of the .248 acres of land in Parcel 127-013-23 is $8,500.
The parcel is zoned R6.
Date of Preparation of this Report: November 5, 1986
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St., Box D
Charlotte, N.C., 28203
by Dorothy Frye
The Walter L. Alexander house at 523 Clement Avenue in Charlotte, built
in 1915 for the son of Charlotte banker and real estate developer W. S.
Alexander, is a somewhat scaled-down but refined version of the John B.
Alexander house next door, at 509 Clement Avenue. Like its neighbor, it is
an elegant variation of the bungalow design, with a wide, wraparound front
porch rounded at one end to form a pavilion seating area. The front door
sidelights and transom are of heavy beveled glass placed in intricate
variations of the diamond pattern; windows throughout the house--including
the basement--repeat the theme. In use since the 1940s as an apartment
house, it is now being reconverted to a single-family dwelling by its
present owners, attorney Daniel Clodfelter and his wife, Elizabeth K. Bevan.
In order to prevent overdevelopment of the Clement Avenue property, he has
also purchased a strip of land 541 x 200 ft between his house and the J. B.
Alexander house next door from Koch-Segal Corp., who had planned to build
additional condominium units on that property. 1 With the
assistance of interior decorator Calvin Hefner, the Clodfelters are
restoring the interior to its original state, modernizing only where
restoration is not practicable. 2
In January 1915, Walter Lamar Alexander purchased a large lot, 246 x 76,
x 246 x 115 ft, on which to build his home. 3 It was part of an
entire block that had originally been purchased in 1906 from the Highland
Park Company by Walter's uncle, J. B. Alexander. 4 It had changed
ownership several times during the interim; its various owners included
Carrie Maie and F. O. Landis, W. B. Huntington, contractor W. J. Crowell and
his wife Julia, and Harriet E. and Richard D. Thomas. 5
Some kind of structure may have been built on the property before it was
sold by John B. Alexander; City Water Department records show that a tap
application for 523 Clement Avenue was submitted in 1908 by Vance
Improvement Company and plumber T. C. Toomey. 6 However,
construction of the present house must have begun early in 1915, since a
contract drawn up in March of that year between the Alexanders states that
Walter L. Alexander is the owner of "a certain lot adjoining the said lot of
John B. Alexander, fronting 115 feet on Clement Avenue, upon which the said
Walter L. Alexander is now building a residence." 7 In April
1915, Walter Alexander was able to complete the purchase of five additional
lots facing Clement Avenue next to his homesite. 8 These five
lots, which had formerly been part of the Oakhurst Land Company property
9, were owned by Frank R. McNinch, who had just lost his bid for
the Democratic nomination for Mayor of Charlotte to Colonel Thomas L.
Kirkpatrick in Kirkpatrick in a close race. (McNinch ran in the next
election and won, serving as Mayor from 1917 to 1920.) 10 McNinch
had purchased the lots from Carolina Realty Company five years earlier, but
had not built on them. Although the home of Walter Alexander did not extend
over into these lots, the two closest to his house remained vacant until
recent years. John B. Alexander had originally invested in the lots with
Walter, but then sold his half-interest to Walter in September 1915. 11
Walter Lamar Alexander was born in Charlotte in 1884, the son of Walter
S. and Minnie Ramser Alexander. He married Ernestine Bridges of Wilmington,
North Carolina, and they had two children, Preston Stewart and Ernestine
Lamar. 12 Walter Alexander attended North Carolina A&M College
(now N.C. State University) and graduated from Davidson College in 1904 . At
the time he built his home, he was working as a salesman for his father in
the Southern Real Estate Loan and Trust Company. 14 However, he
left Charlotte around 1919 to live in Blowing Rock, North Carolina,
where--as a successful land developer--he built the Mayview Manor Hotel, a
prestigious resort. 15 He died in 1925 of an apparent heart
ailment at the age of 41, while in Charlotte for a visit. 16
When Walter Alexander moved to Blowing Rock in 1919, he sold his home on
Clement Avenue to William Cook Wilkinson, president of the
Merchants and Farmers National Bank, and his wife, Rosalie Booker
Wilkinson. From then until Mrs. Wilkinson's death in 1943, it was the
Wilkinson family home. 17 W. C. Wilkinson was born in Charlotte
in 1866, the son of Thomas Jefferson Wilkinson of Tennessee and Laura Wilson
of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. His father was a tailor by trade, and
W. C. rose from "self-respecting poverty" to a position of wealth and
prominence. At the age of 16, he took a job with the Merchants and Farmers
National Bank and worked there for 48 years, becoming president of the bank
by January 1919 and one of Charlotte's most prominent citizens. He is
perhaps best known for his work as head of the State Highway Commission for
the 6th District. Wilkinson Boulevard, a twenty-mile road built in 1926
between Charlotte and Gastonia, and considered one of the best highways of
that period, is named for him. He was also president of the Charlotte Bonded
Warehouse Company, of Elizabeth Mills, Inc., and of the Lowell Mills at
Lowell, North Carolina, as well as director of the Mechanics Building and
Loan Association. 18
Rosalie Hamlett Booker Wilkinson, born in Martinsville, Virginia in 1868,
was the daughter of John W. and Adelaide Hamlett Booker. She married W. C.
Wilkinson in 1888, and they had five sons and two daughters: W. C. Jr., T.
Harvey, Lawrence H., James W., George B., Laura (Mrs. W. R. Hopkins) and
Mrs. Rosalie W. Haynes. After W. C. Wilkinson died in May 1930, his wife
continued to live in the home, joined during the last few years of her life
by two of her children, Mrs. Rosalie Haynes and George B. Wilkinson. 20
At her death in 1943, the property at 523 Clement Avenue was left to her
four surviving children, Rosalie Haynes, and James W., George B., and Thomas
H. Wilkinson. 21 They house remained in their possession until
November 1944, when it was sold to Mildred Myatt Aycock. 22
Richard Noble Aycock and his wife, Mildred Myatt, had come to Charlotte
in 1942 when he became treasurer of Rulane Gas Company. He was born in 1886
in Johnson County, North Carolina, and had become a school teacher at age
17. In 1918 he became the first National Bank Examiner in North Carolina,
and lived in Raleigh. Later, he became vice-president of the First National
Bank of Gastonia and business manager of Glenn Mills in Lincolnton, North
Carolina. He and his wife had one daughter, Jane, and four sons, Richard N.
Jr., William L., Everett, and Daniel Aycock. 23
In 1946, the Aycocks sold the house to Rear Admiral Percy W. Foote and
his wife, Genevieve C. Foote. 24 Adm. Foote had retired in 1936
after a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy. Among his honors were the
Order of the Crown, personally awarded to him by King Albert of Belgium in
1919, and the Distinguished Service Cross given him by President Woodrow
Wilson. He also served as an aide to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
from 1918 to 1921. After his retirement he served as Commissioner of the
Pennsylvania Motor Police Force before moving to Chapel Hill, North
Carolina. Adm. Foote was born at Roaring River, North Carolina in 1879, and
was the son of Confederate Army Major James H. Foote, a founder of Wake
Forest College. 25 Until Adm. Foote and his wife bought the home,
it had remained a single-family residence. However, in 1947 three couples
were living there in addition to the Footes: Cyril and Eloise Jones, Russell
and Virginia Smith, and Dr. Julian Neel and his wife, Phoebe. 26
Dr. Neel was a resident physician at Charlotte Memorial Hospital. Between
1947 and 1958, a series of tenants are listed in the Charlotte City
Directory at that address with Adm. and Mrs. Foote--sometimes with as many
as five apartments being occupied. 27 Adm. Foote died in 1961,
and his widow apparently went to Hawaii to live. She sold the house to Mr.
and Mrs. Calvin Gibson and to two brothers, Arthur Pue, Jr. of Charlotte and
Charles Leslie Pue of Hillsborough County, Florida. 28 The
Gibsons apparently never lived in the house, and in 1963, when they sold
their interest in the house to the Pue brothers, were living in Fulton
County, Georgia. 29 Charles and Arthur Pue, Jr., were the sons of
Arthur Pue, Sr. of Clarksville, Maryland. Their mother, Leslie Gray Pue, was
living in Charlotte at the time of her death in 1976, but her burial was in
Brunswick, Georgia. Of this family, only Arthur Pue, Jr. lived in the
Alexander house during their ownership; he was salesman for Engineering
Sales Associates. 30 In 1965 the house was sold to Francis R.
Samaha, assistant supervisor for Ford Motor Company in Charlotte, and his
wife, Martha . 31 They lived in the house until 1969 when it was
sold to David L. and Maria Ditroi Douglas. The Douglases were later
divorced, and Maria Douglas was awarded the deed to the house as part of the
settlement . 32 Maria Ditroi Douglas was a native of Hungary, and
two of her sisters, Miss Lili Ditroi and Mrs. Emil Mascovits, also settled
in Charlotte. 33 Maria died in 1980, and in her will she named
her eldest daughter, Nora Drye, as trustee of her estate. The property at
523 Clement Avenue remained in trust until 1983, when her children, Nora (Drye),
David Paul, Michael Barry, and Maria Lili Douglas sold it to Daniel G.
Clodfelter and his wife, Elizabeth K. Bevan. 35 Dan Clodfelter,
an attorney with Moore, Van Allen and Allen, is the son of Billy G.
Clodfelter of Thomasville, North Carolina, and Lorene Wells Clodfelter of
Rocky Mount, North Carolina. His father's family were among the earliest
settlers in the Thomasville area in the 1800s. Elizabeth K. Bevan, who works
for First Union National Bank, is from Sumter, South Carolina, where her
mother's family--the Dabbs--lived for many generations. Her father is from a
Welsh family in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The Clodfelters have one
daughter, Julia. Dan Clodfelter, a member of the City-County Planning
Commission, has served for about seven years on the Board of Directors of
the Elizabeth Community Association, which actively works for the
preservation of the Elizabeth neighborhood. 36
1 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds, Deed Book 4777, Page
544 (18 January 1984).
2 Daniel G. Clodfelter, personal interview by Dorothy Frye, 21
3 Deed Book 340, page 205 (23 January 1915).
4 Deed Book 216, page 16 (4 September 1906).
5 Deed Book 248, page 356 (23 November 1909); Deed Book 280,
page 524 (22 December 1911); Deed Book 290, page 22 (8 February 1912); Deed
Book 290, page 87 (6 March 1912).
6 Charlotte City Water Department, Tap Application No. 2336, 7
7 Deed Book 337, page 511 (27 March 1915).
8 Deed Book 337, page 510 (23 February 1915); Deed Book 334,
page 596 (29 April 1915).
9 Deed Book 257, page 618 (5 April 1910); Deed Book 257, page
682 (5 April 1910).
10 Charlotte Observer, 14 April 1915, pp. 1, 6; Blythe,
Legette, and Charles L. Brockman, Hornets' Nest: The Story of Charlotte
and Mecklenburg County. (Charlotte: McNally of Charlotte, 1961), page
11 Deed Book 340, page 593 (17 September 1915).
12 Mecklenburg County Record of Deaths, Book 23, page 227;
The Charlotte Observer, 10 September 1925, page 9, and 11 September
1925, page 5. These two sources differ in the spelling of Walter L.
Alexander's mother's name; it is either Ramser or Ramsey.
13 Charlotte Observer, Ibid.; Alumni Catalog of
Davidson College, 1837-1924. (Charlotte: The Presbyterian Standard
Publishing Co., 1924), page 156.
14 Charlotte City Directory, 1916.
15 Charlotte Observer, 10 September 1925, page 9.
16 Ibid.; Record of Deaths, Book 23, page 227.
17 Deed Book 399, page 637 (13 August 1919); Charlotte City
18 Charlotte Observer, 12 May 1930, pp. 4, 5; Ibid., 5
December 1937, Section 3, page 9; North Carolina, special limited
supplement. (The American Historical Society, Inc., 1927), page 9; Record of
Deaths, Book 37, page 469.
19 Charlotte Observer, 12 May 1930, pp. 4, 5; Ibid., 12
March 1943, Section 2, pp. 1, 13.
20 Charlotte City Directories, 1942-1944.
21 Mecklenburg County Clerk of Superior Court, Will Book V,
page 189; Will Book 2, page 517.
22 Deed Book 1126, page 527 (1 November 1944).
23 Charlotte City Directory 1945/46; Death Records, 1983, page
3559; Charlotte Observer, 25 December 1983, page 10-B.
24 Deed Book 1221, page 311 (29 November 1946).
25Charlotte Observer, 24 June 1961, page 8-A; The
Heritage of Wilkes County, Wilkes County Genealogical Society, Mrs. W.
O. Absher, ed. (Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Co., c. 1982); Death
Records, 1961, page 987.
26 Charlotte City Directory, 1947.
27 Ibid., 1947-1958.
28 Deed Book 2279, page 591 (22 November 1961); Death Records,
1961, page 987.
29 Deed Book 2463, page 3 (7 October 1963). The City
Directories do not list Calvin and Charlotte Gibson as residents of 523
Clement; they lived at 1233 East Boulevard, Apt. 44, in 1963.
30 Charlotte City Directory, 1965; Charlotte Observer,
22 November 1976, page 7-A; Estate File 77-E-107.
31 Deed Book 2678, page 572 (25 August 1965); Charlotte City
32 Deed Book 3113, page 590 (31 July 1969); Deed Book 3746,
page 860 (4 April 1975).
33 Charlotte Observer, 7 January 1980, page 4-C.
34 Ibid.; Estate Files 80-E-84, 80-E-1622.
35 Deed Book 4746, page 287 (3 November 1983).
36 Daniel Clodfelter, ibid.; Charlotte Observer, 15 May
1982, page 16-A, and 1 November 1983, page 1-B.
by Thomas W. Hanchett
The Walter L. Alexander House is a large two and a half story residence
whose broad roofs,
wood shingle siding, and rustic stone trim show the architectural
influence of the Bungalow style. Along with its near-twin., the J. B.
Alexander residence next door, the Walter L. Alexander House ranks as the
grandest residence dating from the 1910s in the streetcar suburb of
Elizabeth. Today the exterior, interior, and large tree-shaded lot (complete
with servants cottage) look much as they did after Walter L. Alexander moved
in about 1915.
W. S. Alexander, chief developer of the Elizabeth neighborhood, conceived
Clement Avenue as one of the suburb's grand streets, a broad boulevard that
would connect Seventh Street to Central Avenue. The connection was never
made, and today Clement Avenue remains a handsome, tree-shaded by-way,
retaining the elegance which most of Charlotte's main streets have lost in
the age of automobile traffic. The two dwellings which dominate the street
were erected for members of the developer's family. John Baxter Alexander,
W. S.'s brother, built the house at 509 Clement Avenue in 1913. Walter L.
Alexander, W. S.'s son, was evidently so impressed by the house that he
copied it for his own residence at 523 Clement Avenue two years later.
In massing, the Walter L. Alexander House is basically a
gable-roofed, two-and-a-half story rectangle, enlivened by
asymmetrically placed two-and-a-half-story gabled wings at the front (east)
and north sides, and two
hip-roofed rear wings. The roof is sheathed in asphalt shingles, and
features front and rear gabled
dormers, plus a small decorative front gable. Near the center of the
main ridgeline is a small stone chimney, and a larger interior chimney rises
at the south side of the house. Eaves extend far out beyond the walls of the
house, and are supported by large brackets built of square timbers.
Exterior walls are covered in wood shingle siding and windows have wide,
plain surrounds. Most are double-hung sash units with a single lower pane
and multi-paned upper sash with the mullions arranged to create a series of
interlocking diamonds. In the main front and side gables, windows are
arranged in a tripartite form that represents a variation on the Palladian
At the first story, a huge porch shelters the entire front of the house.
Its wide-eaved roof is supported by square pillars of rough-hewn stone. The
balustrade has flat wooden balusters. The porch wraps around the north side
of the house, and then extends to form a porte cochere over the driveway. At
the south side the porch extends beyond the edge of the house to form a
semicircular nook, then wraps around the north facade connect with a one
story enclosed sunporch, whose bay-windowed form echoes the porch curve. The
rear of the house also has porches, at the first and the second story level.
They are skillfully interwoven with the two rear wings, until all becomes
Before venturing inside the residence, we will take a look at the yard
and servants cottage. The Walter L. Alexander house sits on an oversize lot,
a bit further back from the street than most Elizabeth residences. This
siting is very important, because the surrounding greenery gives the house a
spaciousness and rusticity that complements its rustic Bungalow
architecture. Today the yard is plainly landscaped with grass and trees and
a minimum of shrubbery, but probably once had carefully manicured gardens.
At the rear of the lot is the servants house, one of the largest such
structures of its era surviving in Charlotte. It is a full-sized
one-and-a-half story Bungalow, as big and well detailed as many middle class
dwellings of the day. It has a gabled roof whose bracketed eaves and gabled
side dormers echo the main house. Also like the main dwelling, the cottage
has wood shingle siding, double-hung windows with diamond-shaped upper panes
and wide surrounds, and a broad front porch (with wood columns on brick
piers, rather than stone). The cottage appears to contain three living
units. It has a small, shed-roofed addition on the west side.
Returning to the main house, we will examine the interior. Its design
matches the Bungalow exterior -- handsomely detailed throughout with high
ceilings and wide, plain moldings and
wainscoting, but with none of the intricate ornament characteristic of
the earlier Victorian era. Despite the dwelling's years as rental property,
little has changed. This is especially apparent in the main downstairs rooms
and in the second-floor hallway, where the fine varnished woodwork survives
unpainted. Even the early electric switched, brass plates with pushbuttons,
remain in use throughout the house.
One enters through the front door (the door itself is not the original
one) into a large corner-entry hall. Exterior windows here have beveled
glass in their upper panes, said to be leaded with copper to best split the
morning sun into rainbows. The space is dominated by a massive fireplace of
red brick. To the right, a French door opens to the port-cochere. Waist-high
paneled wainscoting rings the walls. The ceiling is criss-crossed by beams.
The blond wood floor is trimmed by two strips of dark wood near the edge of
the room, which form an ornamental design at each corner. At the rear of the
entry hall is the grand stair, located near the exact center of the house.
stair features wainscoting, a curved
banister with square
balusters, and a chunky, square
newel post. At the back of the stair area on the first floor are
closets, an opening for what was once a dumb-waiter, and a door to a porch
that is now an enclosed utility room.
The two other main first floor spaces-- the dining room and the library
-- open off to the entry hall. To the left, through a large pocket door, is
the dining room. Its wainscoting is nearly five feet high, broken at one
side by a built-in china cabinet with beveled glass doors and vintage
electric lighting. The ceiling has beams like those in the entry hall and
the floor has an identical ornamental border. Adjoining the dining room is
the sun porch. It has unusual, sliding, double-hinged exterior windows, as
well as an early screen door. Behind the dining room was the kitchen and
pantry. This area has been completely rebuilt over the years with new walls
and fixtures. Returning to the entry hall, we can move right and toward the
rear of the house through a small pocket door into the library. It also has
a beamed ceiling and ornamented floor. The room is dominated by an angled
fireplace whose hooded mantel is supported by massive curved uprights.
Wainscoting here is five feet high, and there is a built-in bookcase along
the rear wall. Next to the bookcase is a door to the original downstairs
bathroom, which retains its high tile wainscot and original fixtures.
On the second floor is a wainscoted central hallway with a window seat at
either end. On each side of the hall is a four-room suite, consisting of a
front bedroom, a shared bath, a back bedroom, and a sleeping porch. Each
bedroom has a closet with a built-in bureau. The bedrooms also retain their
brass sconces and ceiling fixtures. The north bathroom still has its
original high tile wainscoting, pedestal sink, and unusually long tub, while
the south bathroom has recently been remodeled. The north front bedroom was
probably intended as the master bedroom, for it alone has a fireplace. The
fireplace has a white tile hearth, cast iron coal grate, and a plainly
designed mantle flanked by pilasters. Close inspection shows that the
pilasters are surprisingly not solid, but rather are hinged to reveal
several small cupboards inside.
From the second floor hallway, the stair rises to the small third floor,
nestled under the roof. Unlike most big houses of the period in Charlotte,
this space is fully finished, and in fact surpasses downstairs detailing in
one room. Pilasters flank a central hallway. On the south side is a bedroom
and closet, similar to those on the second floor. On the north side is a
spectacular room with five foot high paneled wainscoting and a window seat
along one wall. Its highlight is its parquet floor, which mixes light and
dark woods in one main pattern and one border pattern. It is a showpiece of
the woodworker's art, unexpectedly tucked away under the eaves.
The house also has a half basement. It is divided into several rooms, and
may have once held a servant's apartment.
Survey & Research Report: Jennie Alexander Duplex
Survey & Research Report: John Baxter Alexander House