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Local History




During the decades immediately following the Civil War Charlotte experienced, along with much of the country, a period of rapid and chaotic growth. Larger concentration of people and the accelerating growth of industry involved new conditions and new experiences. This increasing variety of circumstances found expression in greater diversity of building than had been known in the American past. A romantic mood lingered over the entire scene. Mark Twain called this the "Gilded Age". Leading Architects drew inspiration from many sources for their exuberant new designs. Numerous new ideas were developed, usually with deference to a dominant theme such as Greek, Gothic, Tuscan, Egyptian, etc. Often they were combined in a single eclectic style known vaguely as 'Victorian'. From R. M. Hunt, H. H. Richardson, A. J. Davis, Stanford White, and other leading architects came trend setting designs. Their work was published regularly and provided regional inspiration for widespread use of these new ideas.

In the carefully developed grid street pattern of Fourth Ward, well-to-do citizens purchased newly available lots, and built an astonishing variety of 'Victorian' houses. On the corner of West Ninth and Poplar Streets the brothers John and George Newcomb bought side-by-side lots and built identical houses in 1883-84. Today the house of John Newcomb remains on the corner, a well-preserved and remarkable example of eclectic Victorian Architecture.

Basically the house is a two story square form with a classic center hall plan. Drawing strongly from the work of Charles Eastlake, the exterior ornamentation is highly elaborate and reflects the obvious fact that the Newcomb brothers operated a planing mill a few blocks from the house where Ninth Street met the North Carolina Railroad. With four high narrow windows across the front and a square peaked roof the tower gives the front a strong Italianate flavor borrowed from Etruscan Villa designs. The tower roof rises from an overhang resting on small scroll brackets. The high tower surfaces are covered with small square edge slate tiles and terminate in a turned finial at the peak.


  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • Notice the fairly symmetrical design of the house. Victorian houses are generally not symmetrical. That's the influence of the Italianate style.
  • Notice the elaborately carved brackets atop the columns on the verandah. The columns are solid 8 inch wooden posts. Wood of that quality just isn't around much anymore.


    At the site...

  • Sketch one of the columns and brackets. Notice that the brackets are composed of many semi-circles.
  • Sketch the tower and identify the shapes you see. Keep this in mind when you compare this house to other houses with a tower, like the Overcarsh House.
  • Observe characteristics of the house that will help you to complete this table:
    HouseSymmetry (Y/N)?Roof ShapesRoof Shingles TypesWindow ShapesTower ShapeWall MaterialOutstanding Feature
    Berryhill House . . . . . . .

    There are three other houses you will observe. To see the complete list and table, go to the activity for the McNinch House.