CHARLOTTE ARCHITECTURE: Design Through Time Part 1
by Dr. Thomas W. Hanchett
Architecture is many things. It encompasses the technology of building, the assembly of bricks and wood, glass and steel. It includes the organization of spaces inside and outside of structures so that activities flow easily. It also involves the artistic creation of visually pleasing forms and areas. Architecture, it may be said, is walk-in sculpture.
This essay is largely concerned with this last facet of architecture. It traces the evolution of Charlotte's built environment and attempts to understand why the look of the city has changed over time. To a large extent, the appearance of any city is determined by national and international trends, architectural fashions that fade in and out of style much as clothing fashions come and go. 1 The pendulum of American architecture has periodically swung from simplicity to complexity and back again.
The symmetrical, classically trimmed houses and stores of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century gave way to increasingly complex, asymmetrical Victorian era buildings after the Civil War. At the very end of the nineteenth century, Victorian complexity abruptly went out of fashion and the United States rediscovered Colonial forms and invented other straightforward architectural modes. The 1920s saw a return to complexity and artifice, especially in the quaint Tudor Revival style imported from Europe. By the early 1950s the pendulum had swung back to stark simplicity with the popularity of International style commercial buildings and a-historic Ranch houses.
The changing national ideas of what constitutes a beautiful building apply to all cities, yet each looks different. The architecture of a place inevitably reflects its location, its history, its economy, and its people. Charlotte is no exception to this rule.
Charlotte's architectural history speaks of a prosperous and conservative city. Since the opening of the New South era after the Civil War, Charlotte has been playing catch-up, wanting to be recognized as a big city. Leaders have perpetually looked around to see what other places have built, then copied it. As a consequence, the city has always been at least a decade behind the prevailing thought, even in the present era of instantaneous communication.
The bankers, developers, and business managers who have determined Charlotte's architecture have built more for image and investment than for function. The same generation that commissioned miles of tree-lined streets in Dilworth and Myers Park in order to emulate big-city suburbs, for instance, blithely chopped down the trees that lined Tryon Street with exactly the same reasoning. Even the finest buildings have seldom lasted their natural life in Charlotte; less is left of the city's heritage than would be expected even with its rapid growth. Charlotte's continuous prosperity has meant that as soon as a structure or area loses its image of newness, it is likely to be replaced. No county courthouse has outlived the generation that erected it. Barely a handful of the grand mansions built for Charlotte's wealthy before 1910 survive in the 1980s. Even before all the lots were sold in elite Myers Park, hailed as the finest suburb south of Baltimore, city fathers zoned much of it for redevelopment. Charlotte has shown little reluctance to spend money for things of beauty, hiring some of the nation's top planners and architects. But, like a five-year-old, it has been quick to discard its new toys.
The rapid changes in the city do not mean that it has no architecture of historic importance, however. On the contrary, however, it has some of North Carolina's finest buildings and neighborhoods. Charlotte's most historic architecture today dates from the 1890s through the 1920s when the city took the lead among Carolina urban centers, assuming the place as a financial and management center that had been long held by august Charleston.
Charlotte destroyed its antebellum mansions in the 1950s. It demolished miles of Victorian houses in the early 1970s even as the rest of America experienced a boom in Victorian renovation. It is not yet clear that Charlotte will avoid making the same mistake with its New South neighborhoods, its early skyscrapers, stores and mills.
II. The Colonial and Antebellum Period:
Vestiges of pre-Victorian building patterns in Charlotte are few. The frame and brick store buildings that made up the heart of the early village survive only in photos and drawings. The only remaining dwellings are those that originally stood farms outside the hamlet, and have been subsequently incorporated into the city.
Tradition and a few surviving rural examples indicate that log construction was the natural expedient for the Scotch-Irish and German immigrants to this timber-rich land. Charlotte architect Jack Boyte has written that structures of hewn timbers ". . .housed families, sheltered animals, protected farm equipment and produce, and enclosed all community activities, including churches." 2 Well into the nineteenth century, newcomers often built their first dwellings of logs, even when longer-established neighbors already had residences of more expensive timber framing and sawn boards.
A few of the most successful members of the county's settling generation were able to erect more substantial and permanent houses that echoed the traditions of the mid-Atlantic colonies whence they had come. One of these dwellings survives today, the only pre-Revolutionary structure in the county. Hezekiah Alexander, a prosperous farmer and community leader who is said to have signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, had a solid stone house built on his land east of the village in 1774. Its four room plan, stone work, and general character resemble the great stone houses of piedmont Cecil County, Maryland, from which Alexander had emigrated.
Hezekiah Alexander House
More buildings survive from the post-Revolutionary decades in the county, and they give an indication of the growing plantation economy of the era. The model for much of the architecture of the early nineteenth century was directly or indirectly that of ancient Greece and Rome. The first post-Revolutionary style, aptly named "Federal", drew on the work of a pair of English designers, the Adam Brothers, who had adapted the elegant, orderly, symmetrical forms of Roman architecture to the requirements of 18th century housing. In the United States the delicate Adamesque trim soon gave way to the more robust Greek Revival, derived directly from Grecian temple architecture, but buildings retained their symmetrical forms. Larger houses in the period were often two stories tall with a gable roof and a central entry, and they were usually painted white to recall the stone structures of Greece.
Two frame houses in the present day city illustrate these tendencies. Rosedale, at 3427 North Tryon Street, was built about 1800, and for many years was the seat of the William Davidson plantation. It is made up of a main two-story block with a center entrance, flanked by a pair of one story wings. The interiors feature "Adamesque mantels, cornices, and ornamental blinds exhibit a correctness unique in Mecklenburg County, where vernacular interpretations of Adamesque interior detail was more usual in houses of the Federal period." 3 The Cedars, at 123 Grandin Road, by contrast, shows a more vernacular approach. Believed built in the 1830s, its heavy exterior cornices and gables with returns appear to be the work of a local carpenter only partially familiar with Greek Revival and Federal niceties.
Other fine houses are scattered outside the present day city. Known by names like Latta Place, Holly Bend, Beaver Dam, and Oak Lawn, many are today designated by Mecklenburg County as historic properties. Perhaps the finest is Cedar Grove on Gilead Road. Built in the early 1830s for planter James Torrence, it features handsome brickwork and stepped gables.
Torrence's mill and store also survive near his house, and solve as a reminder of the dozens of commercial buildings that once dotted the countryside crossroads around the grand mansions. Downtown Charlotte, of course, had the greatest concentration of Greco-Roman influenced commercial structures. Old drawings show the Osborne house and store which stood where the Independence Center now stands, from the 1810s to the 1900s. Its two-story, gabled form was in the Federal tradition, even to the delicate dormer windows it shared with Rosedale. The Granite Row built slightly later across the street had the severe rectangular forms of the Greek Revival, and used the same stepped gable seen at Cedar Grove.
The most common house type built in early nineteenth century Mecklenburg was what folklorists now term an "I" house. 4 It was two stories tall and one room deep, a long, narrow shape that looks like a sans-serif "I" when viewed from the air. Its central front door led to a central stair hall, with one room to the left and one room to the right on each floor. These symmetrical "I" houses continued to be built even after Greek decoration had fallen from favor. An example of the form constructed after the Civil War and clothed in Victorian trim may be seen on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, originally used as a teachers' house.
III. Victorian Period:
Beginning before the Civil War, builders and architects all over America began turning away from the severe, symmetrical formality of the Greek Revival. They created new freer, more ornate designs inspired by a diverse array of Italian, French, English, Roman and other prototypes. As years went by, they also tended to combine motifs of different ages and eras, a practice known as "eclecticism." This period is now called by the general name "Victorian", because it coincided roughly with the reign of English Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and took its initial inspiration from the experiments of English architects.
As Charlotte boomed with railroad prosperity after the Civil War, businessmen eagerly adopted the new mode of architecture. Many of the post-war commercial buildings in the expanding central business district seem to have been in the Italianate style. Lithographs show boxy brick structures with elaborate window moldings and heavy bracketed cornices, modeled on the townhouses of Florence. Their flat roofs were a marked contest to the pre-war Greek Revival shops topped by gables.
Among the Italianate store buildings of the post-war boom were the original First National Bank (demolished), erected in the first block of South Tryon in 1868, and the Central Hotel across the street (demolished), the city's main hostelry in the 1870s and 1880s. A single Italianate commercial edifice remains in good condition today. 123 East Trade Street was erected for the thriving Merchants and Farmers Bank in 1871-72. Its cast iron window trim and sheet iron cornice were a source of special pride for the growing city because they were among the first produced locally, at the Mecklenburg Iron Works. The Charlotte Democrat rejoiced, "There is no further necessity of sending North for such work." 5
First National Bank
Businessmen used the Italianate for their residences as well as their stores. The best remaining example may be seen in a house built in 1874 by merchant Jacob Rintels. Though it was relocated from West Trade Street to suburban Myers Park in the 1910s, it still retains the characteristic heavy cornice and boldly decorated windows. Factory owner John H. Newcomb's 1884 house at 324 West Ninth Street also incorporates some Italianate touches, primarily in its bracketed cornice and porch.
In this period national building fashions arrived in Charlotte principally via nationally published pattern books and magazines. There were no full-time local architects in the small town. Carpenters and masons took on the task of building design, drawing their inspiration from what they read and what their clients had seen on trips to other cities. Though few houses survive from the 1880s and 1890s, there are indications that each new national style had its local adherents. Evidence may be seen in the Stick-style exterior framing of the bay windows of merchant William Treloar's townhouse at 328 Brevard Street, in the Eastlake style gable decoration of the Johnson C. Smith Teachers' House, and in the Shingle style treatment of the upper floors of the Liddell-McNinch House at 511 North Church Street.
The ultimate residential style of the Victorian period was the Queen Anne. This mode thrived on eccentricity. Builders combined a wide variety of asymmetrical building shapes, surface materials, paint colors, and historic motifs on a single house. This flamboyant style was evidently a favorite in Charlotte around the turn of the century, as the successful campaign to "Bring the Mills to the Cotton" transformed the town into a city. One of the earliest surviving examples is the residence built by J. M. Miller, son of an officer of the D. A. Tompkins mill-construction company. Miller's 1891 house sported a corner turret with a conical roof, a variety of gabled wings, walls of beveled wood siding and shingles, and a wrap-around porch featuring turned and scroll-sawn ornament. The house was moved from its North Tryon Street location to suburban Plaza-Midwood in 1915, and has been recently restored to its Victorian glory.
A number of other Queen Anne dwellings are scattered around the city today. John Price Carr, who ran the city's main hauling and delivery company at the turn of the century, built a handsome Queen Anne residence in 1903, that may be seen today at 200 North McDowell Street. Methodist minister Elias Overcarsh enlarged and remodeled an old Fourth Ward house in the new style in the 1880s or 1890s. One hundred years later the residence, at the corner of Eighth and Pine Streets, is still a major neighborhood landmark. Most examples of the style are two stories tall, but another minister built a one-story Queen Anne house at the corner of Sunnyside and Piedmont avenues in the new suburb of Piedmont Park about 1903. The Reverend Detwiller House features a corner tower, elaborate porch, and complicated roofline just like larger examples of the style.
Charlotte had hundreds of Queen Anne houses by the time the turn of the century building booms had passed. Few are left today. When the style was at its height of popularity the city consisted only of Wards One through Four in the Center City, and the beginnings of Dilworth, Belmont, and Elizabeth. Almost all the well-to-do residential streets of those areas -- Trade and Tryon, College and Church, McDowell, Elizabeth Avenue, South Boulevard -- have since been cleared of residential development.
Charlotte's less wealthy citizens seldom had money to bused full-blown copies of the latest Victorian fashions, but once the new ideals of complex form and abundant ornament were well accepted, middle-class builders began to adopt them. Joseph Harrill, a shoe store clerk and part-time builder, is a good example. The two story frame house he built for himself in 1894 at 429 Kingston Avenue in Dilworth is too simple to be considered a full-fledged example of the Queen Anne style, but its gable trim, and its asymmetrical massing with a projecting front wing pick up some of that style's feeling. The James B. Galloway House at 702 Brevard Street, today believed to be the oldest remaining structure in the center city, is a good one story example of the same tendency. When Galloway built his frame cottage in 1870, using money he had saved while working as a mechanic at the nearby Confederate Naval Yard during the Civil War, he chose simple trim in the Greek Revival fashion. When his children expanded and modernized the dwelling in the 1900s, they chose new Victorian trim. Today the house boasts Victorian "gingerbread" in the gables, and porch columns topped by scroll-sawn brackets. Diagonal boarding enlivens the front gable wall. Windows are tall and narrow to make the house seem taller, a favorite trick of highstyle architects in the Victorian period.
There are more of these middle class Victorian dwellings surviving in the 1980s, surprisingly, than there are high-style examples. In the Victorian era, the wealthiest residents built their residences on the busiest streets closest to the center of the city, but the middle class built on side streets which have been less often cleared. Today clusters of Victorian era middle class dwellings may be found in Fourth Ward, in Dilworth, and especially in the working-class streetcar suburb of Belmont.
Even mill housing sometimes showed the influence of the Victorian ideas. By the early 1900s over a dozen cotton mills ringed the city, and each built housing for the workers it drew from the rural countryside. Charlotte's oldest surviving mill village is adjacent to the 1889 Ada Cotton Mill at 12th and Brevard Streets at the Edge of First Ward. The Ada's owners wasted no money on ornament for their rows of cottages, but the tall windows, multi-gabled roofs, and relatively complex T-shaped massing definitely reflect Victorian design ideals. Other mill villages show the same tendency through the 1910s. Later, massing would simplify and porches become larger, to follow Bungalow patterns, and by the 1950s mill houses would come to resemble miniature ranch houses with gentle roof slopes and no porches, as each generation adapted current styles to inexpensive housing.
Charlotte's Victorian builders favored detached single-family dwellings usually set back a few feet from the street on fairly spacious lots, even close to downtown. The city never widely adopted rowhouse construction, a popular residential mode in larger United States cities in which dwellings shared sidewalls much as in today's townhouse condominium projects. This Charlotte characteristic may possibly be traced back to the antebellum distrust of city living. Southerners leery about urban life in general had no desire to give up their accustomed single family living arrangements as well. As important was the city's small size. In the Victorian period, the newcomer could still find vacant land within a fifteen minute walk on which to build his detached single family home.
Nonetheless, old photographs indicate that a handful of Victorian rowhouses were erected in the center city area. Two survive in the 1980s. St. Peters Catholic Rectory, with its whimsical "keyhole" window, probably owes its rowhouse configuration to the fact that the congregation had only a narrow sliver of land left over on fashionable residential South Tryon Street after the church building had been erected: it would have been disrespectful to have the priest's house face onto the less prestigious sidestreet. The William Treloar double house at 328 North Brevard, with its cast iron trim, is a second variation on the urban house type. Built to house different parts of the extended Treloar family, it is a duplex that sits close to the street and has the characteristically long, rectangular urban form, quite unlike single family dwellings.
Commercial architecture in Victorian Charlotte was not subject to as many changing styles as was residential design. The blocky form of the Italianate proved economical to build, and it remained popular through the turn of the century. Old photos indicate that Roman influence -- pilasters and especially elaborate masonry arches -- became more important as years went by, but downtown facades continued to be tall and narrow, and topped by a heavy cornice.
Red brick was the favorite building material for downtown structures in Charlotte from the 1860s through 1900s. Charlotte masons seem to have enjoyed exploring the decorative possibilities of their craft. Even minor buildings were enriched with arched windows and corbelled brickwork -- brick stepped out from the face of the building to create ornamental patterns. Two good examples of this today are the 1903 side-street commercial row in the first block of West Fifth Street and the 1908 Philip-Carey Warehouse at 301 East Seventh in First Ward. In addition to corbelled arches and cornices, the masons of both buildings used vertical pilasters of projecting brick to break up wall surfaces and give added vertical emphasis.
Most of Charlotte's churches in the period also exhibited elaborate brickwork. The Gothic was the preferred style for Victorian churches, and its distinctive corner buttresses and pointed window arches could be expressed well in brick. The forms had been developed by Medieval architects to make their churches seem to soar toward heaven, and fitted easily into the Victorian desire to make all buildings seem taller. Charlotte's grandest Victorian church, First Presbyterian (spire 1884, sanctuary lays) has its Gothic forms sheathed in stucco. All the other religious edifices remaining from the textile boom years of the 1890s and 1900s are brick, ranging from Saint Peters Catholic (1893) to humbler First United Presbyterian (1893) and Grace A. M. E. Zion (1902).
First United Presbyterian Church
Charlotte's finest specimens of the Victorian mason's art are Biddle Hall on the Johnson C. Smith campus, and St. Peter's Episcopal Church at North Tryon and West Seventh Street in Fourth Ward. Both use elaborate combinations of brick and brownstone trim. Biddle Hall, built in 1884, is a cluster of bays, towers, and dormers, somewhat resembling Jubilee Hall erected earlier at prestigious black Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The main block of Biddle Hall is three and one-half stories tall with a four story pavilion projecting from the front, topped by a clock tower that rises to six stories and is visible from many parts of the city. Decorative masonry includes a variety of window arches, pilasters, buttresses, heavily corbelled cornices, and sawtooth string courses marking the tops and bottoms of the window openings. Brownstone trim highlights the entrance, and a cornerstone of the same material is inscribed with the motto "Sit Lux": let there be light. The intricate brickwork continues to the former chapel and assembly hall projecting from the rear of the main block, which has corbelled brick crosses worked into its chimneys.
The later Saint Peter's Church, 1893, is even more elaborate in its combination of brick and stone textures. Its architect may well have been inspired by the work of New England designer Henry Hobson Richardson, whose skillful masonry detailing was widely emulated in the era. Saint Peter's designer only used two materials, red brick and brown sandstone, but managed to create half a dozen different surface textures. Walls are of rough brick with highlights of smooth brick. The regular bond gives way to basketweave bond below the large rose window, and carved brick is used for several window hoods. Stone is carved smooth for the crocketed Gothic parapet and cross that top the front facade, for the rose window, and for the belt courses. In blunt contrast are the rough stone window sills, lintels, and tower belt courses. The resulting interplay of textures makes for a building that becomes more interesting with each repeated viewing.
Today Johnson C. Smith University's Biddle Hall, adjacent turreted 1895 Carter Hall, and the handful of churches are all that remain of Charlotte's Victorian institutional buildings. In the period, nearly all the city's public structures exhibited elaborate Victorian design, from the ornate brick Post Office on West Trade Street to the brownstone tower of the 1800s City Hall at North Tryon and Fifth. They reflected the city's rising prosperity as the textile economy took hold, but they were soon to fall for newer structures as growth continued unabated.
IV. The Anti-Eclectic Years:
The 1900s and 1910s saw a revolution in architectural taste in the United States. The Victorian fascination with complex decoration, eclectic combinations, colors, shapes, and historical motifs, came to an end. A new concern with simplicity and symmetry expressed itself in new styles for houses, stores and public buildings -- the Colonial and NeoClassical Revivals, the Rectilinear, and the Bungalow. Charlotte was flush with money from the growing Piedmont industrial region and attracted its first resident body of professional architects. They and their New South clients eagerly adopted the national trends.
In residential architecture, the national backlash against the ornate Queen Anne style had started in the 1880s. First a few leading architects, then the professional building journals, and finally even the popular household magazines cried out for a simpler approach to residential design. As early as 1885 a west coast architecture magazine flatly stated, "The general tone of Eastern journals is against continuance of the Queen Anne as a style of domestic architecture." 6
Writers criticized complex Victorian massing, pointing out that it "certainly leads to a very large increase in the cost, not in the item of material only, but in that of labor." 7 They ridiculed the characteristic elaborate roof shapes as "Crazy and Sham Roofs." 8 Architects castigated the widespread use of machine-made ornament, one calling the Queen Anne an "architecture of pretense" because of "its ambition and its desire to make a vain show with small means. The facility with which wood and galvanized iron may be molded, painted and sanded to imitate stone or other nobler materials makes this baleful process possible." 9 Even newspaper humorists took aim at the style. Columnist Bill Nye mocked its fanciful window treatments and complicated paint schemes, describing a Queen Anne dwelling whose builders "throw in odd windows nobody else wanted, then daub it up with colors they have bought at an auction and applied to the house after dark with a shotgun. . . ." 10
All across the country, architects began searching for alternatives to the Queen Anne. The most radical ideas came from Chicagoan Frank Lloyd Wright. He proposed to remedy the excesses of Victorian eclecticism by discarding all historic ornament. He went on to do away with attics, basements, and conventional ideas of interior arrangement, as well. Many of his proposals were incorporated in the suburban Ranch houses built after the Second World War, but in the 1900s and 1910s his houses seemed too unusual to most people. Few "Prairie School" designs were built in the South, and none are known to have been erected in Charlotte.
The most popular alternative to the Queen Anne turned out to be the Colonial Revival. In New England, architects such as McKim, Mead and White had already begun to explore the possibilities of American Colonial forms. Now they became less and less free in their interpretation of the Colonial prototypes, moving "toward geometric and spatial discipline in design," in the words of architectural historian Vincent Scully. 11 Designers might still combine forms from different Colonial buildings, and might even go back to the Colonial's European antecedents, but they now restricted their eclecticism to one tradition rather than drawing from many. Colonial houses, with their white or brick red exteriors, their symmetry, and their symbolic ties to our supposedly plain, honest forebears, were the perfect antidote to Victorian opulence. Beginning in the 1890s the Colonial Revival style swept the country.
The Colonial Revival came to Charlotte in 1894 at the urging of C. C. Hook, the booming city's first full-time architect. Hook had arrived in Charlotte about 1890 after schooling at Washington University in St. Louis to take a job as a drafting teacher at the Charlotte Graded School. He was quickly drawn into providing building plans for Edward Dilworth Latta and other New South developers who were transforming Charlotte from a crossroads town into a city. His earliest designs, like the Mallonee-Jones house with its many sunburst gables, on Kingston Avenue in suburban Dilworth, were in the Queen Anne style.
Hook evidently began reading the architectural journals of the day, for he soon became convinced that Victorian architecture was passe. In September of 1894 he announced plans for a
"genuine 'ye olden time' house. . .after the style of the typical Southern home, with four large columns, two full stories high, surmounted by a classic pediment. Mr. Hook. . twill make the plans after the true classic style of architecture, which at one time predominated in the South and is being revived. The most striking feature of the house will be its simplicity of design and convenience of arrangement. The so-called 'filigree' ornamentation will not be a consideration, and only the true design will be carried out and thus give Charlotte another new style. . .." 12
The house, for J. Frank Wilkes on Morehead Street, no longer exists, but a handful of early Hook-designed Colonial Revival residences do survive in Dilworth to illustrate Charlotte's first experiments with the new mode. The 1896 Gautier-Gilchrist house at 320 Park Avenue, the 1900-1901 Villalonga-Alexander residence across the street at 301, and the 1902 Walter Brem house nearby at 211 East Boulevard are all two story frame structures. They are heavily decorated compared to later Colonial designs, an indication of lingering Victorian sensibilities. Massing is also relatively complex for the genre, especially in the Brem house with its projecting corner pavilions and recessed center porch. Their symmetrical massing, and simple hip or gable roof shapes, however, represented a definite break from Hook's earlier complex Queen Annes. Hook combined Georgian, Federal, Greek, and Renaissance details in his decoration, including pilasters, dentil molding, and classical porch columns, but all of it was drawn from a single line of architectural tradition. Hook had clearly pointed the city in the new national architectural direction.
As additional professional architects flocked to the city with the 1900s building boom, more and more houses appeared in the new Colonial style. Louis Asbury, son of a respected Charlotte builder, returned from architectural training at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and plunged into designing houses for the new Myers Park elite. Most showed some colonial influence, a good example being the 1913 Charles P. Moody house at 830 Providence Road with its symmetrical red brick facade, white columned entry, and characteristic tripartite Palladian dormer window. Perhaps the grandest early Colonial house to survive in the 1980s is the 1906-07 F. O. Hawley mansion at 923 Elizabeth Avenue. Newly arrived architect L. L. Hunter created a massive pedimented front portico, with two-story fluted Corinthian columns, which shelters a smaller Ionic columned entrance.
The mid-1900s also saw introduction of the Dutch Colonial variant of the Colonial Revival to Charlotte. The trademark of the style was a barn-like gambrel roof, borrowed from Dutch building in the New York area. Both Hook and his partner W. G. Rogers erected gambrel-roofed Dutch Colonials for their own residences in Dilworth, and several similar designs followed.
C. C. Hook's most influential Colonial Revival design came in the late 1910s. In 1915 he and partner W. G. Rogers built a two-story white-columned Colonial residence for Southern Power executive Z. V. Taylor. Four years later utility and tobacco magnate J. B. Duke bought the residence and had Hook triple it in size. The mansion became the architectural centerpiece of the city's most prestigious neighborhood. Duke's adoption of the new mode undoubtedly was partly responsible for the Colonial Revival's overwhelming popularity during the next decade.
The same urge for simplicity that informed the well-known Prairie and Colonial styles also led to development of a third anti-eclectic mode in the United States during the 1890s, a mode which some architectural historians now identify by the term Rectilinear. 13 Designers in the Rectilinear mode abandoned historic ornament, as had Frank Lloyd Wright, but they did not give up conventional ideas of interior arrangement. The result was an array of new, boxy, plainly-trimmed house forms, popular for both the middle class and the well-to-do.
Charlotte's prosperous New South leaders seized on this mode in the 1900s and l910s almost as eagerly as they did the Colonial. The clean-cut Rectilinear forms evidently appealed to the businessman's desire for efficiency. Most of the well-known Charlotteans who built Rectilinear houses were entrepreneurs involved in creating new businesses, men who were willing to take risks in the name of efficiency. Charles W. Parker may have been the first to adopt the mode. He was a self-made man who had recently founded the Parker-Gardener Company, selling furniture and later musical instruments. In 1903-1904 he bought a spacious lot on prestigious suburban Central Avenue and had a large house erected. It was considered a work of architectural art worthy of inclusion in the 1905 photo book Art Work of Charlotte, North Carolina, by the Gravure Illustration Company of Chicago.
Charles W. Parker's house is a two-story cube with a pyramid-like hip roof and a one-story porch across the front. The original interior plan had four rooms upstairs and four rooms plus a kitchen downstairs. The winding stairs were at the side of the structure, rising from the entry hall that made up one of the downstairs rooms, quite unlike the typical Colonial Revival center-hall plan. Architectural historians now call this distinctive house type the Four Square variant of the general Rectilinear style. 14
Not only is the basic form of Parker's residence without historic precedent, but all the trim of the house is geometric and a-historic, making it an excellent example of Rectilinear design. Eaves are wide and undecorated. The grooved wooden exterior siding is broken by plain trim boards. Window sashes have large diamond-shaped panes, and inside the fireplaces are flanked by columns turned on a lathe in such a manner as to emulate no historic form. Even the balusters that support the front porch rail have a square profile.
Numerous other wealthy Charlotteans chose to use the mode in the years before World War I. 15 In 1914 retired Trinity College (now Duke University) president and Methodist Bishop J. C. Kilgo had Louis Asbury design a frame Rectilinear house at 2100 The Plaza in the present-day Plaza-Midwood area. Kilgo was known for his businesslike approach to college administration, and he introduced the school to co-education, and also gave black leader Booker T. Washington his first speaking engagement at a white institution. The same year that Kilgo had his Rectilinear house built, David Clark commissioned a stuccoed mansion in the new style on a prominent corner in Myers Park at 100 Hermitage Road. David Ovens, the efficiency-minded president of the J. B. Ivey Company who did much to build the department store into a regional chain, had a large Rectilinear residence erected in 1916 at 805 Ardsley Road in the heart of Myers Park.
Many large houses show influences of the Rectilinear movement in combination with other styles. 802 Providence Road, designed by Louis Asbury for hotel owner J. M. Jamison in 1912, includes a Colonial bracketed cornice and a Palladian-influence dormer, but otherwise exhibits Rectilinear severity of line. Rectilinear influence may also be seen in Asbury's grand design for bank president H. M. McAden at 920 Granville Road. Completed in 1917, the mansion is a simple symmetrical hip-roofed block, with NeoClassical front porch and side porch columns enlivening its otherwise plain exterior.
As with the Colonial, the Rectilinear style went on to become quite popular with middle class home builders following its adoption by the wealthy. Both the center-entry and the Four Square Rectilinear house types were popular in middle class neighborhoods through the 1920s, even after the upper class had moved on to other styles.
A fourth national residential style which developed to counter the excesses of Victorian eclecticism was the Bungalow. It rose to popularity in California at the end of the 1890s and swept across the country in the next decade. The basic form of the house was borrowed from British India, where a "bangle" was a "low house with porches all around," a rustic back-country dwelling. 16 The American Bungalow was likewise low and compact and usually sported a wide front porch. The roof was a prominent feature of the design, an unbroken sweep that spread its wide eaves over the porch and any other projections. A Bungalow might include two or three floors but the sloping roof always made it appear to be a low, one-story dwelling from the front.
The Bungalow's horizontal emphasis was the exact opposite of the Victorian accentuation of height. Its decoration tended to be rustically plain, unlike the Victorian reliance on elaborate machine-carved ornament. Architects often specified wood-shingled exterior walls, porches and chimneys built up of rough stone borders, and heavy, square molding.
The Bungalow's compact form was best suited to middle class dwellings, and that was where it was evidently first used in Charlotte. In 1908 architect Fred L. Bonfoey arrived in town and made the Bungalow his province. A 1911 newspaper article noted that Bonfoey "during the course of the past year has designed more than fifty of these homes which have become so popular with suburban residents of the Queen City.'' 17 Building permits indicate that Dilworth's Four Cs company was a major Bonfoey Bungalow client. Hundreds of other examples of the style were copied by builders or owners from the house plan books and magazines that proliferated in the period. Today, excellent collections of Bungalows dating from the 1910s may be seen lining Worthington and Sarah Marks avenues in Dilworth, Grove Street and the 1000 block of West Fourth Street in Third Ward, and the 1500-1700 blocks of East Eighth Street in the Elizabeth neighborhood. Hundreds of others are scattered throughout the city.
Charlotte's New South entrepreneurs admired the Bungalow for its "up-to-date" ideals, and were not content to leave the new style to the middle class. Norman Cocke, the power company official for whom Lake Norman is named, built a large wood-shingled bungalow for his family at 816 Harvard Place at the center of Myers Park in 1914. The style's spreading roofs, wide bracketed eaves, and rustic details also found their way into large mansions that made no effort to appear compact. The best example is realtor Charles Lambeth's house for himself at 923 Granville Road in Myers Park. The rambling two-story design has wood-shingled walls and spreading eaves supported by large, plain brackets. A subsequent long-term owner of the house was Benjamin B. Gossett, a leading textile magnate who controlled half a dozen companies across the Carolinas. Cotton broker Ralph Van Landingham's estate across town at 2010 The Plaza is another good example of the tendency. The Hook and Rogers design features wood-shingled walls and stone chimneys. Other mansions freely combined Bungalow and Colonial motifs, including bank president Walter Alexander's residence at 509 Clement Avenue in Elizabeth or developer George Stephens' home at 821 Harvard Place in Myers Park.
Lambeth -Gossett House
The adoption process for the Bungalow apparently differed from the Colonial and Rectilinear styles in Charlotte in that the new mode was used first for the middle class and then for the wealthy. Once adopted, however, the Bungalow followed a familiar pattern. By 1920 the well-to-do had moved on to other styles, but middle-class homeowners continued to build Bungalows throughout the decade.
The shift in architectural taste away from Victorian styles was seen in Charlotte commercial and institutional buildings as well as residences in the 1900s and 1910s. The New South movement's success in making Charlotte an industrial hub meant the city had abundant resources to invest in new architecture. Perhaps the best illustration of the mood of the period could be seen in the fate of the opulent 1891 City Hall on North Tryon Street. In 1925, barely 30 years after it had been built, before the government outgrew its space, it was demolished. City fathers wanted to be rid of the Victorian building so that they could erect a modern NeoClassical structure, which still stands on East Trade Street.
The NeoClassical style was an extension of the same impulses that saw rediscovery of the Colonial in residential architecture. Architects working in the NeoClassical style abandoned playful Victorian brick and stone work, and went back to the time-tested purity of ancient Greek and Roman forms. Commercial and institutional buildings increasingly came to be decorated with dentil molding, pilasters, and classical columns, and sheathed in white stone or beige brick to imitate stone temples.
The 1925 City Hall, built of limestone with a rectangular outline and colonnaded facade designed by C. C. Hook, was by no means the first public building in the NeoClassical style. The earliest was probably the 1897 County Courthouse at South Tryon and Third Street, now replaced by the tower of First Union Bank. Old postcard views show a rectangular stone structure with a projecting temple-like portico, topped by a tall dome that resembled the one atop the United States Capitol. Architect J. M. McMichael created a very similar structure for the Carnegie Free Library at the other end of Tryon in 1903. Until it was demolished for the present Public Library, McMichael's building sported a dome and a handsome pedimented entrance with tall Ionic columns.
1925 City Hall
As with the City Hall, Charlotte's Victorian Post Office gave way to a new NeoClassical structure. The 1915 building with its limestone columns still stands, though much enlarged in a 1934 expansion. The oldest NeoClassical building to survive today in its original form is the Carnegie Library erected on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University in 1912. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie donated half its cost, and half was raised locally through the efforts of University president H. L. McCrorey. There was not enough money for a carved stone exterior, so architects Hunter and Gordon used white-glazed terra cotta to create an impressive whitecolumned facade.
As Charlotte leaders modernized the city's public face with civic buildings in the new style, they also used the modern mode in their religious architecture. Three center city churches designed by Charlotte's J. M. McMichael between 1908 and 1914 illustrate the new influence of Greek and Roman forms. Old First Baptist (now Spirit Square) at 318 North Tryon Street, old Little Rock A. M. E. Zion at the corner of East Seventh and North Myers in First Ward, and East Avenue Tabernacle on East Trade near McDowell all include white classical columns and triangular pediments. There is not a Gothic pointed arch, buttress or soaring spire to be seen. The most striking motif shared by the three structures is McMichael's use of domes, a feature first perfected by the ancient Romans.
First Baptist Church
Charlotte's civic leaders were also her business leaders, and it was not surprising that they eagerly embraced the new mode of architecture for their stores and offices as well as their civic and religious buildings. Just as with the Italianate style four decades earlier, banks seem to have led the way. Every new banking building built after 1900 was a replica of a Roman temple. The massive stonework and ancient associations of the style were favored by bankers because they projected an appearance of solidity and permanence.
In 1913, architect Louis Asbury already becoming known for his Rectilinear and Colonial houses, designed a new NeoClassical facade for the Southern Loan and Savings Bank at 102 South Tryon Street. He used white-glazed terra cotta to form classical pilasters with Ionic capitals, topped by a Roman frieze, architrave, and attic. Entrepreneur George Stephens' American Trust Company followed suit and commissioned a larger white-columned bank at South Trade and Third Street, now demolished. The city's finest example of the trend may still be seen at the corner of South Tryon and West Fourth streets. The Old Charlotte National Bank, now First Citizens Bank and Trust, was designed in 1918 by New York City architect Alfred Bossom. He created a full-scale Roman temple, with massive columns carved from Carolina granite along the street facades. The columns support a stone and terra cotta frieze, architrave and cornice, making the building a literal "temple of commerce."
The grandest expression of Charlotte's textile boom wealth was the crop of skyscrapers that began rising in the 1900s. To the New South businessmen they were an important symbol of the former small town's transformation into a major industrial city, a visible assurance that Charlotte had "arrived." Where more self-assured, longer-established cities like St. Louis, New York and especially Chicago might experiment with a-historic forms for their tall buildings, Charlotte played safe and used the NeoClassical style. It was up-to-date when compared to the Victorian, and left no question about the grandeur and permanence the New South leader wished to convey.
Real estate promoter F. C. Abbott kicked off the skyscraper boom with the 1907 completion of his seven story Realty Building on South Tryon Street. Old photographs show that the Hook and Sawyer design featured abundant "filigree work," soon to disappear from Charlotte office towers. It burned shortly after its completion, and was replaced by the present Johnston Building, in the NeoClassical style.
Charlotte's crowning architectural achievement in the New South era, literally as well as figuratively, was the 1909 Independence Building (originally Realty Building). A consortium of the city's leading businessmen funded the venture ostensibly to provide space for a bank, real estate company, and other offices. The twelve story tower was the tallest in North or South Carolina, and was the first example of steel frame high-rise construction in the state. 18 It was evident that its major purpose was to function as a symbol of Charlotte's emerging power in the region. The tower far outstripped the actual needs of a town that had only just passed the twenty thousand mark in population.
The investors held a design competition with entrants from all over the east coast. The winner was Frank P. Milburn, who at that time was becoming known as the leading architect of public and commercial buildings in the Carolinas. He clothed the steel frame in stone and beige brick. Tall brick arches harked back to Victorian Romanesque precedents, but the light stone and brick as well as most of the details were drawn from Greece and Rome. Milburn's NeoClassical touches were most pronounced, not unexpectedly, at the ground floor bank level. It consisted of "a high granite foundation, wide quoined piers surfaced with finely striated limestone, Doric capitals, a wide frieze, and molded cornice." 19 The building dominated the corner of Trade and Tryon until its demolition in 1981.
One noteworthy group of commercial buildings in the l910s and 1920s did not rely on NeoClassical precedent. In 1914 streetcar and real estate magnate Edward Dilworth Latta commissioned architect William Peeps to design a new headquarters for Latta's business interests. Peeps' beige brick structure on South Tryon Street had a simple, almost undecorated exterior. Inside was a breathtaking two-story office and shopping arcade, a glass and steel design with sunlight streaming in through skylights. Peeps repeated the arcade motif in the next decade on East Trade Street. This Court Arcade, however, had NeoClassical exterior trim. A third arcade, also dating from the 1920s, made up the first level of the Builders Building on West Trade. Shopping arcades, the predecessors of enclosed shopping malls, were not an uncommon feature in cities at the turn of the century, but Charlotte is unique in North Carolina in that it has three surviving examples of this genre.