Susie Harwood VanLandingham was a formidable woman. Born in St. Paul, Minn. in the late 1860's, she moved as a young teenager with her family to Florida, where her father worked for the famous railroad tycoon Henry Flagler. After her father's death in 1885, Susie moved with her mother to Atlanta, Ga. and became the head of the company that built the first fire-proof hotel in Georgia. It was in Atlanta that she met Ralph VanLandingham, a Charlotte native who was involved in the cotton business. They were married in Susie's hotel on September 17, 1901. The couple and their two young children, Ralph, Jr. and Susie, moved to Charlotte in 1907.
Susie VanLandingham was a sophisticated, elegant and wealthy lady. She loved to give lavish parties, but her home on Central Ave. in Piedmont Park was simply not big enough to suit Susie's opulent tastes. She therefore hired Charlotte's premier turn-of-the-century architect, Charles Christian Hook, to design a suburban mansion for her family and their frequent guests. Named Harwood in honor of her father, the house was completed in the nearby streetcar suburb of Chatham Estates in 1914.
Harwood is one of Charlotte's outstanding examples of the Bungalow style of architecture. It takes its inspiration from the design of buildings erected by the British in India in the late nineteenth century and is, therefore, particularly suited for hot weather. Broad, overhanging eaves and low-pitched roofs provide protection against the summer sun. Windows are grouped for ample ventilation.
Susie VanLandingham was active in community affairs. She was president of the Board of St. Peter's Hospital, forerunner of Carolinas Medical Center. She headed the Red Cross Canteen at Camp Greene, a huge World War I training camp just outside Charlotte. But her greatest love was her home. Among her guests was movie star Randolph Scott, a Charlottean. She and Ralph also loved rhododendron, which they brought to Harwood from their home in Linville, N.C. Susie died on September 26, 1937. Harwood endures.