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On two small blocks bordered by North Brevard, North Caldwell and East 12th Streets, and bisected by Calvine St, are twelve modest frame houses associated with the Alpha Cotton Mill.  Click here to view maps depicting the locations of the mill houses.

 901, 904, 905, 909, 912, 913, and 920 Calvine Street are typical of the D. A. Tompkins’s “Operatives” houses.  These seven houses share a single floor-plan and appear to be nearly identical to the plans publishes by D. A. Tompkins in his self-published Cotton Mill, Commercial Features, 1899. 

Significant features include the single interior chimney, and the houses’ front and rear porches located on the side wing.  The house form is very closely related to the tradition Hall-and-Parlor form, which proved to be popular in North Carolina throughout the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century, and often found in rural settings.  The association with rural architecture is not coincidental. 

The whole matter of providing attractive and comfortable habitations for cotton mill operatives in the South may be summarized in the statement that they are essentially a rural people. They have been accustomed to farm life, where there is plenty of room. While their condition is in most cases decidedly bettered by going to the factory, the old instincts cling to them. The ideal arrangement is to preserve the general conditions of rural life and add some of the comforts of city life.

Failure to recognize this general principle has in at least one instance (known to the author) contributed to the utter failure of a large cotton mill located in a large seaport city. Operatives from country mills would be induced to go there, and would be subjected to the routine of strictly city life, which they could not learn to like. The result was that all good operatives (who could obtain work in their old districts) would leave, and the mill with strictly city environments was left with only the least competent operatives.

These homes differ from the Hall-and-Parlor form mainly in their orientation.  For these homes to follow the typical Hall-and Parlor plan they would need to be rotated 90 degrees, and the prominent side wing would instead project to the rear.  The other major difference is that hall-and-parlor houses almost universally featured full width porches.  Tompkins’s elimination of the full-width porch was very likely a cost savings measure and may account for the side orientation of these houses. 

All of these Calvine Street houses featured wood siding and frame construction, built on brick piers. The single interior chimneys were corbelled, and square louvered vents were located in each gable, and the roofs were moderately pitched.  Windows were six-over-six double-hungs.


901 Calvine Street, ca. 1889.  This is one of the more altered of this group, with replacement siding, and temporary flashing added the front gabled section.  Double windows, shorter than the original, have replaced the single double-hung window in the front gabled section.  The half-wall on the front porch is not original. 

904 Calvine Street, ca. 1889.  This house features a largely original exterior, windows, siding and porch.

905 Calvine Street, ca. 1889.  This house features a largely original exterior, with a modern replacement front door.  Original brick foundation pier are visible among the block infilling.  The house is protected by an early metal roof, and the 4”X 4” porch posts and handrail may be original.  D. A. Tompkins specified that “blinds,” probably shutters, be installed and these may be original.


909 Calvine Street, ca. 1889.  The most significant alteration was the addition of Craftsman Style posts on the front porch, perhaps in the 1930’s.  Shutters do not appear to be original.  House has retained its original six-over-six windows.


912 Calvine Street, ca. 1889.