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Route II: South & East Charlotte

MYERS PARK

Several miles to the south of Plaza-Midwood, yet another development plan got underway in 1911. John Springs Myers had already carved off part of his farm to create the Cherry neighborhood in 1891. His new dream was to turn the rest of his large cotton farm into an elegant suburb. He must have spent many evenings discussing the plan with his family and especially with his son-in-law, George Stephens. Stephens, who came to Charlotte after graduating from the University of North Carolina, joined the insurance firm of Walter Brem (whose house we saw in Dilworth) in 1896.


John Springs Myers, owner of the farmland that became Myers Park



George Stephens, John Myers's son-in-law who hired John Nolen to design the neighborhood.


 

A talented businessman, Stephens was able to take advantage of the excellent opportunities that turn-of-the-century Charlotte provided, and he quickly became involved in several schemes. He and Brem joined realtor F.C. Abbott and textile banker B.D. Heath in developing part of Elizabeth, and in 1901, Stephens, Abbott, and Word H. Wood set up the Southern States Trust Company (now NationsBank).

Ten years later, he founded the Stephens Company with Word Wood and A.J. Draper, and began to turn his father-in-law's dream into reality. Moved by the same fashion consciousness as E.D. Latta, the company hired a city planner to make the plans. They chose John Nolen, whose design for Independence Park had impressed Stephens a great deal. It was a good choice, for Nolen later became one of the nation's top planners with over 400 projects to his name.

Nolen's vision for Myers Park was to use the natural curves, gentle hills, and creeks to create a secluded glen cut off from the city. A major boulevard would unite the whole and provide trolley service to homes scattered along winding side roads. The results earned Myers Park national acclaim as the "finest unified subdivision south of Baltimore." To the modern visitor, the New South Neighborhoods appear to have been constructed in the midst of a forest, but in fact this was not the case. It is hard to imagine those first years when it must have been plain to new residents that they were living on former cotton fields, and it was only hard work that changed the scenery. In Myers Park that work began in 1915, when Nolen hired the landscape architect Earle Sumner Draper to turn the almost treeless farmland into a suburban park. "Willow, oak, tulip, plane, and elm" were selected to grace the sidewalks and gardens. Early buyers even had their lots landscaped free of charge. Not a man to let nature take its own time, James B. Duke insisted that large trees be planted as well, and summoned one of his estate gardeners to oversee the task.

The oldest section of Myers Park is towards the northern area that you will enter first. For some years the suburb acted as a separate incorporated town. As houses were erected, wealthy Charlotteans were lured out of the center city. The first wave came from among the executives of the eight-year old Southern Public Utilities Company (now Duke Power), and included its legendary president, James Buchanan Duke. The next wave of residents included bank presidents and real estate magnates such as George Stephens himself. Then came the textile executives such as the famous Springs family. Civic and commercial leaders also chose to locate their family houses here, including members of the families that owned the Belk, Ivey, and Efird department stores, and "Good Roads" Governor Cameron Morrison.

After the junction with 4th St., Hawthorne becomes Queens Rd.

35. At this intersection notice the streetcar shelters on both sides of Queens, facing onto 4th St. When the trolley line was operating, this was the site of the streetcar gateway that marked the entrance into our fourth New South suburb, Myers Park.


Streetcar Shelter

Continue on Queens across 3rd St. and curve to the left and then right. At the next streetcar shelter, which is on the left hand side of the road, turn left onto Hermitage Rd. Shortly ahead, pause at the entrance to Hermitage Court on your left, which is flanked with large stone pillars.

 

36. Hermitage Court was developed by a subcontractor, Frank Simmons, and he built his own imposing Neoclassical house here in 1913. This is on your immediate right as you face the entrance. Notice its grand semicircular portico with two-story columns. You will notice a contrast between the earlier Colonial Revival houses of Dilworth, which retained some of their Victorian features, and their later counterparts here.


The Simmons House

Continue along Hermitage Rd., past Edgehill Park on your right. Pause in front of the large white house to your right.

37. Known variously as "Lynnwood," "White Oaks," or just "the big house," this large Colonial Revival mansion is where James Buchanan Duke and his family spent several months of each year between 1919 and his death in 1925. It was one of four family houses and provided Duke with a place from which to oversee his thriving utility empire. It also gave his only daughter, Doris, the opportunity to experience southern life and society. Duke enlarged an earlier mansion built here in 1915 by one of his executives, Z. V. Taylor, so that it included 45 rooms and 12 bathrooms. He chose the architect C.C. Hook to design the additions and Earle Sumner Draper to landscape the 15-acre garden. Duke had 12 miles of pipeline laid to the Catawba River to provide a 150-foot fountain on the grounds--this in itself became known as a local wonder.

 


"Lynnwood", or "White Oaks"

Duke was already a tobacco magnate when he acquired the fledgling Catawba Power Company of Fort Mill in 1904. Building dams to harness the power of the river, his Southern Utility Company facilitated the expansion of the cotton industry in early twentieth-century Charlotte.

It was in this house, incidentally, that Duke set up the endowments which transformed Trinity College into Duke University and which benefited several other institutions including Johnson C. Smith University and Davidson College.

Continue on Hermitage Rd. Cross Ardsley Rd.

38. After crossing Ardsley Rd, notice the wooded area to your left. This was the site of J.S. Myers's front yard which he proudly planted and maintained and which inspired the name "Myers Park."

 

At the next intersection, turn right onto Granville Rd. When Granville intersects Queens Road, turn right and then take the next right onto Harvard Place. Pause by 821 Harvard Place, the last house on the right hand side of the street.

39. George Stephens built this house for himself in 1915. His father-in-law's 1867 country home used to stand behind, and for a time it was used as a garage and servant's quarters. The house combines Colonial Revival and Bungalow influences. Its architect, L.L. Hunter, came from nearby Huntersville, and designed other buildings in the area, including the Carnegie Library on the Johnson C. Smith University campus, which you will visit on Route IV.


The Stephens House

At the intersection ahead, turn left onto Ardsley. (You can catch another glimpse of Lynnwood here; it is the house facing you at this intersection.) Continue down Ardsley and then turn left at the intersection with Queens Rd.

40. Until 1938, streetcars ran down the median of the road. The Charlotte Observer tells an amusing story of schoolboys greasing the tracks where Queens Road dipped into the valley on this stretch. One Halloween night in the mid-1930s both tracks were greased and a little gunpowder was included in the mixture. "As the streetcar struggled vainly to get up the hill in either direction, anonymous groups lighted the gunpowder-grease mixture. The way those streaks of fire swooshed down the tracks, under the car, and up the other hill was something to behold. No damage, just a real great sight."

Stay in the right lane and when you reach the major intersection of Queens Rd. and Providence Rd., turn right to remain on Queens Rd.

41. Louis Asbury, Sr. designed the Myers Park Methodist Church that faces you across this intersection of Queens and Providence roads. Built in 1929, the building closely imitates Medieval Gothic churches in its cruciform shape, and by using arched stained-glass windows, and stone facing.

 


Myers Park Methodist Church

 

42. Six houses past the high-rise Carlton Condominiums, look out for the McManaway House on your right (1700 Queens Rd.). Like "Victoria" on The Plaza, this 1874 house was moved from its uptown location to the suburbs in 1916. It is a rare surviving example of the Victorian Italianate style, with its bracketed cornice, tall arched windows with decorative crowns, and a shallow roof. The house has a sad history: the first two owners died when they were relatively young and at the height of their careers. The first was an immigrant and merchant, Jacob Rintels, who was a partner of Samuel Wittkowsky's in a successful uptown wholesale and retail business. Dr. Charles McManaway had the house moved from W. Trade St. to this location, but died two years later.


The McManaway House

Bear to the right when the road divides shortly past the McManaway house. This is Selwyn Ave. Immediately on your right you will see the campus of Queens College.

43. Stephens was no doubt copying W.S. Alexander's enterprising idea (remember Elizabeth College?) when he decided to attract Presbyterian College for Women from its uptown location to a 50-acre lot of its choice in Myers Park. He was not, however, the only suitor that Presbyterian College for Women had. Three others, including E.D. Latta, made their own offers and forced Stephens to increase his offer. Eventually he won out, and the college moved here in 1914. John Nolen laid out the plan for the college, renamed Queens College, and subsequently used the same ideas in other campus designs, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. C.C. Hook designed the first five buildings: Administration, Science and Art, the Conservatory of Music, and North and South dormitories.


Queens College

Turn left immediately after the college onto Wellesley and left again onto Roswell Ave. Notice the first house on the left.

44. This is a fine example of the Tudor Revival style, designed by the English born William H. Peeps for Mary P. Lethco in 1928. The Tudor Revival style was almost as popular as the Colonial Revival style in Myers Park in the 1920s and 1930s. Notice the mixture of building materials he used to create a rambling rustic effect.

At the next intersection turn left onto Queens Rd., and at the traffic light bear right. You will now be going back down Queens Rd. where you were before.

45. Almost opposite the Italianate McManaway house, at 1621 Queens, is Earle Sumner Draper's own Tudor Revival residence. From his beginning as on-site supervisor for John Nolen in 1915, Draper became the leading planner in the southeastern U.S. In 1933, he left Charlotte to become the chief of planning for the Tennessee Valley Authority and later acted as a director of the Federal Housing Administration. Between 1923 and 1933 he lived here with his wife, Norma, and five children. They enjoyed a typical upper middle class life-style, employing a cook, a maid, a chauffeur, and a gardener. Look for the family crest on the chimney face! After they left, local children thought that the house was haunted. Draper died in 1994 in Florida.

 


The Earle Sumner Draper House

At the junction of Queens and Providence Rds. at the next traffic signal, go straight across. This will put you on Providence Rd.

46. After passing the library and apartment buildings on your left, look for the stone house that's now a branch office of First Citizens Bank. This was the third house erected in Myers Park (1912) and was designed for hotel owners John and Lucille Jamison by Louis Asbury, Sr. It was built using North Carolina granite laid in a cobweb pattern. Sadly, before it was completed, Mr. Jamison was killed by a train at Mecklenburg community of Newell while out on a country drive. Mrs. Jamison, however, completed the house and the family lived there for 63 years.


The Jamison House

 

47. To your right, look out for the Villa Square Shopping complex and try to catch a glimpse of the unusual Tuscan Revival-style villa. (It is possible to park in front of the house or in the rear for a closer look.) The widowed Mrs. Blanche Reynolds met her second husband, Mr. Alexis Gourmajenko, a Russian émigré, during a tour of Europe. They had the house built in 1926 in a style which must have seemed a little eccentric for Charlotte at the time. Look for the piazzas to either side of the house, the square tower, and the low-pitched roof with roof tiles imported from Cuba. The architect was William L. Bottomley.

Turn right at the traffic light onto Cherokee Rd., and bear to the right when the road forks shortly thereafter. Pause just past the intersection with Fenton Pl.