Applications Videos

Historic Properties

Properties For Sale

About the Commission

Browse By Topic

Local History

Links

Home

Route II: South & East Charlotte

DILWORTH

Almost 100 years ago, this was farmland, and a suburb was only one man's dream. Edward Dilworth Latta was already involved in the manufacturing business in Charlotte when he formed the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company (the Four C's) in 1890 and bought 422 acres of farmland south of the city. Before the first land auction for his newly laid out development, Latta ran a lively ad campaign encouraging people to "buy a house with the rent money," and to "build a city where we now have a town." Other enticements included the promise of a park with a large lake, winding drives, gazebos, botanical gardens, and a grand pavilion.


Edward Dilworth Latta, 1851-1925

 

The sales began on May 20, 1891, before a crowd of 2,000 people. The event was boosted by the extension of the streetcar system to serve the new suburb. Originally, Dilworth was to be ringed by four grand boulevards, but only three were ever built: East Blvd., Morehead St., and South Blvd. Here on East Blvd. the streetcar used to run down the center of the street as it headed for Latta Park.

1. Notice where the road narrows behind you. For many years this was the end of the line for the trolleys. For 50 years these streetcars took passengers between the city and the pavilion. Speeds were restricted to ten miles an hour, and a bell had to be rung loudly as the cars neared a street crossing, but to Charlotte they seemed fast and exciting. Here at the end of the line people would have spilled out of the car and headed for the comforts of home or the pleasures of the park and fairgrounds. (The city fairgrounds were to the south of East Blvd.)

Drive up East Blvd. heading towards South Blvd., notice the Greek Orthodox Cathedral about three blocks up on your left, opposite the Dilworth Methodist Church.

2. Latta chose this site for his own home, which was not built until 1905-6. (It was demolished in 1965.) The very fact that his own house in the suburb was not built until 15 years after the suburb's inception suggests that Latta's development was not initially successful in luring new residents away from the city. Indeed, during the early years his company was only saved from bankruptcy by D.A. Tompkins, another New South leader, who kept the project afloat by buying a block at the southern edge of the suburb for his Atherton mill and mill village in 1892.


Latta's house

Continue to drive down East Blvd., still a very gracious street. Just past the traffic lights at Euclid Ave., stop at the fourth building on your right, 311 East Blvd. (Now a restaurant.)


The Mayer House, 311 East Boulevard

 

3. This was the first part of Dilworth to be developed, and for quite some time the streetcar passed through the countryside that divided the new suburb from the city proper. In addition to its turn-of-the-century charm, this Victorian cottage is worth noting as it was the former residence of the novelist Carson McCullers during the late 1930s. She drew inspiration for her novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter from the Charlotte that she saw. Particularly striking to her was the contrast between the affluent suburbs and the factories with their mill villages such as Tompkins's Atherton Mill just across South Blvd.

4. It is interesting to see how popular architectural styles changed during the growth of the New South Neighborhoods between 1890 and 1930. The house next door, 307 East Blvd., is a good example of the fashionable Queen Anne style. Houses of this type lined the major boulevards of the city, but there they mainly date from an earlier age. In 1903, when this house was erected, the Queen Anne was on its way out of fashion. Notice how asymmetrical the house is, with its pentagonal tower and parapet to the left, and its bays to the right. Also notice the variety of window styles, and the abundance of decorative woodwork.

 


Crutchfield-Bomar-Brem House, 307 East Boulevard

 


The Brem House


Special Note: Walter Brem's first house in Dilworth, built in 1901, stands at 211 East Boulevard. It is significant because it is one of Charlotte's earliest examples of the Colonial Revival style. The architect was C. C. Hook. You will have to take a special side trip to see the Walter Brem House, because it is not on the tour.

Walter Brem and his wife, Hannie Caldwell Brem, bought this house in 1912. Although his main line of work was insurance, Brem also invested in the development of the New South Neighborhoods. The Brems moved here from their larger house down the road, but this was not their last move. In 1916, Brem's young partner, George Stephens, persuaded Mr. and Mrs. Brem to move to the new suburb of Myers Park, but two years later they moved back here to this house complaining that Myers Park was "too far out in the country."

Almost immediately after the Brem house turn right onto Cleveland Ave.

5. The first house on your right,1717 Cleveland, is a more modest version of the popular Queen Anne style, typical of the first phase of building here during the 1890s and 1900s. Mr. C.M. Scott, owner of the Good Roads Machinery Co., had the house constructed in 1900 to 1901.

Drive two blocks, and pull to the curb just in front of the stop sign at E. Park Ave.

6. The imposing Colonial Revival style house filling the corner lot in front of you, across Park Ave., is the largest surviving private residence in the earlier part of Dilworth. It has been described as "a product of the turn-of-the-century industrial boom which marked the beginning of the New South," but which retains "the polite dignity and generosity of scale expressive of the Old South."

The original owners were John Villalonga and his wife, Constance. Mr. Villalonga owned a roofing company and a brick making company. They only stayed for two years, however, and were succeeded by Robert and Mary Alexander in 1903. Mr. Alexander was another representative of Charlotte's boom years, being a successful cotton broker and "one of the best authorities on staple cotton in the state." He was also a colorful character and conducted his own revival meetings in a tent on South Blvd. His message was that material prosperity would only come to those who followed his lead: "If you prefer to live on bacon and cornbread, keep living as you are living now. But if you wish to have good fat beef-steak and biscuits and butter, be sanctified as I am." One wonders what the mill workers thought of his advice. Probably not much.


The Villalonga-Alexander House

 

The Villalonga-Alexander house was designed by Charles Christian Hook, one of Charlotte's first resident architects. The son of German immigrants, Hook arrived in Charlotte in 1891 to teach mechanical drawing at the Charlotte Graded School nearby. By 1892 he was able to enter private practice, and he executed many of his first commissions in this growing suburb. He billed himself as a specialist in the Colonial Revival style, and his success can be measured by the prestigious projects he designed, including the Old Post Office building on W. Trade St., the VanLandingham estate on the Plaza, the Duke mansion on Hermitage, the Belk mansion on Hawthorne, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Station on N. Tryon St., and the Charlotte City Hall on E. Trade St.

7. To your left, diagonally opposite the Villalonga-Alexander house, is another gracious Colonial Revival house. This is believed to be one of Hook's earliest works in Charlotte; it was built in 1894 for insurance entrepreneur C. Furber Jones. Jones was at the heart of the booming business world of Charlotte's New South era. In 1894, he started the Piedmont Fire Insurance Company. Only 37 years old, Jones died in 1903 from pneumonia, and Joseph Garibaldi bought the house. A jeweler and local politician, Mr. Garibaldi worked his way up from the bottom. In 1896, he was able to open his own jewelry store with his partner William L. Bruns. He later served on the City Council and as Commissioner of Health, and eventually in the State Legislature.

 

The Colonial Revival style of both the Jones and Villalonga-Alexander houses represents a movement away from the fanciful Queen Anne houses of the Victorian period. Symmetry, harmony, and balance replaced the complex and whimsical mixtures of the Queen Anne. Both houses display classical features, with Doric columns, pilasters, and, on the Jones' house, modillians along the cornice.

 

Turn right onto Park Ave.

8. A stunning example of C.C. Hook's rendering of the Colonial Revival style is the house at 320 Park Ave., which is on your right just beyond the apartment complex. The wealthy New York widow Mrs A.R. Gautier had the house built in 1897 and sold it a year later to Peter Spence Gilchrist, a chemical engineer from England.

 


The Gautier-Gilchrist House

Continue along E. Park Ave. When you arrive at the park, take the left fork onto Myrtle Ave. and then an almost immediate right onto Romany Rd. Follow Romany Rd. as it winds along with Latta Park on your right.

9. Latta Park is the surviving remnant of the more extensive park which lured weekend crowds in the 1890s and 1900s. The valley on your right is the site of the lake where boating was so popular. Although sales were sluggish initially, by 1910 Charlotte's dramatic economic growth had secured an endless stream of new customers for Latta's real estate. As the population outgrew the city center, the new streetcar suburbs became the fashionable place to move to. To long term Charlotteans it must have seemed as if the whole county was being turned into a construction site.


Latta Park

 

Eager to follow up on the success of his initial vision, Latta sold his streetcar system to J.B. Duke's Southern Power Company in 1911 and used the capital to develop his Dilworth extension on the site of the city's fairground and ballpark. By this time the orderly grid-iron approach to suburban design had become outdated, and sweeping drives following the natural contours were all the rage. Not one to be behind the times, Latta hired the prestigious Olmsted brothers to plan and landscape his new suburb. The Olmsted brothers were the son and stepson of pioneer landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and theirs was the leading planning firm in the United States. The landscaping of the grounds of the White House and Duke University were among their major achievements.

Since the development of the Dilworth extension took about 40 years to complete, some of the Olmsteds' plans were sacrificed, but the commitment to curving tree-lined streets can still be seen. You will notice a sharp contrast in architecture between the part of Dilworth that you are now driving through and its older part of the neighborhood that you just left. When the Dilworth extension was being developed in the 1920s and 30s, conservative brick Colonial Revival and English Tudor Revival styles were sweeping the Charlotte market, and they are well represented here.

At the junction of Romany and Dilworth Road, turn left, and continue along Dilworth Rd.

10. Dilworth Rd. was the centerpiece of the Olmsteds' plans for the suburb--a grand boulevard, linking Morehead St. to East Blvd. via two forks: Dilworth Rd. East and West. (The Olmsteds never envisioned the confusion that this has created, for they intended each road to have a separate name.) During the 1920s, the streetcar tracks were extended from South Blvd. down Morehead St. and along this road. They then looped around Berkeley, Myrtle, and Mount Vernon, and back onto Dilworth Rd. for the twelve minute return journey to uptown Charlotte.

11. Businessmen were not the only residents of Dilworth's streets. The movie star Randolph Scott lived at 1301 Dilworth Rd. (on your right just before the church grounds) for a short while in the 1920s, before departing for the bright lights of Hollywood in 1927. He had spent his boyhood in the 4th Ward of uptown Charlotte. Scott's talent was recognized by Cecil B. DeMille, and he went on to make 150 films, mostly Westerns.


Randolph Scott House

 

12. Covenant Presbyterian Church was constructed in the 1950s when the Second Presbyterian Church joined with the Westminster Presbyterian Church and decided to follow their congregations to the suburbs. The success of the New South Neighborhoods had by this time drawn people away from the city center, and the character of uptown Charlotte was changing as businesses replaced dwellings. The church is on your right.


Covenant Presbyterian Church

 

Immediately after the church, and before the traffic island, take a sharp right onto Morehead St.

13. Before you get onto Morehead, notice the Charlotte Woman's Club that faces you across the street. Founded as part of a national movement the club challenged the view that a "woman's place is in the home." An early president of the club, Mrs. F. C. Abbott, told her members: "You should...include civic activities for the sake of [your] children. There are health, laws, school matters, and social influences which you should investigate and discuss." The group began with just six members in 1899, but soon needed more space than private drawing rooms could provide. By the time that this clubhouse was built in 1924, it boasted 500 members. Among their many achievements were the organization of the YWCA and the P.T.A., the introduction of Charlotte's first kindergarten and public health nurses, the creation of the League of Women Voters and the Domestic Relations court. The clubhouse was designed by the redoubtable C.C. Hook.


Charlotte Woman's Club

14. About two blocks beyond the church on your right, look out for the imposing two-story, frame home on your right. The first Buick south of the Mason Dixon line was driven by the man who had this house built in 1917. On his way to Charlotte from New York, Charles Campbell Coddington stopped at a drugstore in Greensboro, North Carolina, and remained there for a year to woo and wed a woman he happened to see there. He and his new wife, Marjorie, arrived together in 1909, and he made his reputation as the only Buick dealer in the Carolinas. Eight years later their dream house was built here on fashionable Morehead St, following the plan of an old house of Marjorie's ancestors in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Marjorie Coddington's tragic death in 1925 must have overshadowed her husband's triumphs of that year; he completed the Coddington building uptown and bought WBT radio station. He swapped the house for the Duke mansion in Myers Park in 1926, but the Duke family never lived here on Morehead St.


C. C. Coddington House

 

Merge into the left lane in preparation for making a sharp left turn onto Kings Dr., which is two blocks down at the second traffic signal. Once on Kings Dr. take the first available right turn onto Baldwin St.