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Post World War Two Survey: Architecture

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In 1945, the western world was emerging from a long, dark tunnel of economic depression and world-wide war. In the United States, the light at the end of that tunnel illuminated the deficiencies and shortages left after years focused solely on survival. Thus, with the conclusion of war, the country rushed to satisfy the needs and wants of a population overwhelmed and exhilarated by returning servicemen and a newly invigorated economy.

The post-war years saw common citizens experience economic prosperity not previously known. This, in turn, sparked a renewal and explosive expansion of trends begun in the wealthy 1920s. Some of the most notable and important of these patterns, with respect to the built environment, were suburban expansion, transportation improvements and accessibility, and a renewed interest in Modernist ideas about architecture. These three national trends created the three local contexts of community planning, transportation, and architecture in which Charlotte's post-war Modernist architecture developed. An examination of these contexts and the dynamic changes in the booming, post-war New South City of Charlotte between 1945 and 1965 can serve as a case study of the historical climate in which post-war architecture evolved throughout North Carolina.

 

Prior to World War II, the Prairie style, the International style, and the work of Frank Lloyd Wright had gained only limited acceptance in an America dominated by traditional architectural styles. It was into this America, whose architectural tastes were generally historically oriented, that European architects and landscape architects introduced European Modernism at the beginning of World War II. Most notable of these immigrants were the Germans, Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, and the Swiss architect, Le Corbusier. The ideas of the European Modernists and those of American architects already working in a Modernist vocabulary developed in tandem, with the Europeans exercising the most influence over this new architecture. Gropius, van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and others not only practiced Modernist and International style architecture in the United States, they also taught it. Their greatest impact was made in the late 1940s, with the accumulated needs of building in the postwar years and the rush of veteran enrollments in schools of architecture infiltrated by European Modernism....With one accord the educational establishment gave way to expatriate leadership, and in one school after another curricula based on Beaux-Arts theory and practice were dealt the coup de grace.105

 

This new Modernism spread to architecture schools across the country and, though Colonial Revival remained the dominant style, particularly for residential designs, Modernism entered American architecture.

The basic tenets of Modernism emphasized function and utility; abstract beauty, sculptural form, and symbolism; honesty in materials and honesty; and the use of modern materials and technology as well as an emphasis on the use of natural materials. Some of the most prominent and outspoken proponents of various aspects of Modernism in America were Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eric Mendelsohn, Rudolph Schindler, and Richard Neutra.

Wright's Usonian houses, the term he coined in reference to his simple and affordable, yet comfortable and technologically advanced homes, were the predecessors of most of the post-war, Modernist homes found in Charlotte. Hand-in-hand with his Usonian homes was his concept of Broadacre City, a decentralized suburb which fused the agrarian myth with the public's growing desire to leave the city. Wright was also influential, along with architects such as Eero Saarinen, in promoting an architecture that was more than functional purism. Buildings such as Wright's Guggenheim Museum suggested "mystical and psychological symbolism" in its sculptural form.106

Walter Gropius

Walter Gropius

Walter Gropius was another architect influential in the development of post-war Modernism in the United States. Gropius was the director of the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1928. He arrived in America in 1937 to become the chairman of the Department of Architecture at Harvard. He introduced the Bauhaus curriculum which, in a relatively short period of time, transformed architecture schools across the nation, bringing the International Style into the mainstream of architectural education, if not completely into the mainstream of popular American culture.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe also came to the United States from Germany in 1937. In 1938, he was named the director of the Architecture Department at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Here, he began designing a new campus for the school where he exercised his ideas about technology, universal functionality, and anonymity of architecture. Of this campus design, Leland Roth wrote, "From the comprehensive plan down to the smallest detail, a pervasive abstract technological ideal governs all."107 In Chicago, Mies's Lakeshore Drive Apartments (1948-1951) are composed of twenty-one foot bays which create two towers that are each three by five bays. Veneer I-beams are applied to the exterior to create a symbolic structure, brace the skin, and add a third dimension to the building. "The Lake Shore apartments became the paradigm of aloof, anonymous glass boxes that began to appear in every American city, beginning with Bunshaft's Lever House."108 Mies "viewed architecture as an expression of the order and reason that are embodied in structure, which in turn, is dependent on science and the technology of the time. . . He admonished his contemporaries: 'All forms not dictated by structure should be suppressed.'"109

Such Modernism was introduced to North Carolina chiefly through the experimental Black Mountain College near Asheville and the School of Design at North Carolina State College (now University). Black Mountain was established in 1933 by John Andrew Rice and other former professors from Rollins College in Winter Park Florida.110 That same year, artist Josef Albers came to the new school to develop art and architecture programs similar to those at the Bauhaus.111 He was followed by many former Bauhaus artists, professors, and students.

In 1937, Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer were commissioned to produce plans for a group of buildings at Black Mountain College.112 However, these buildings were not constructed due to fund-raising difficulties. Instead, a simplified version of Gropius and Breuer's concept was carried out between 1940 and 1944 under A. Lawrence Kocher.113 Kocher was a former managing editor of the Architectural Record and joined the Black Mountain faculty in 1938. Gropius and Breuer visited on several other occasions, and in 1948, Buckminster Fuller taught in the school's Summer Art Institute.114 The school closed in 1956.115

Better known to the general public was the School of Design at North Carolina State College. In 1948, Henry Leveke Kamphoefner, a professor of architecture from the University of Oklahoma, became the first dean of the School of Design. Kamphoefner was a staunch promoter of Modernism and perceived a progressive atmosphere in North Carolina. In a 1949 statement for the State College yearbook, Kamphoefner referred to North Carolina as "the most progressive state in the South," and that in such a state, "the opportunities are unlimited for the school's graduates to contribute to the solution of problems in building design, planning and general construction."116 Kamphoefner also wrote to Albers, "When my colleagues and I decided to come to North Carolina, being near Black Mountain College was considered by all of us to be one of the advantages."117

The School of Design and its faculty produced some of the most striking examples of Modernist architecture in the state. Matthew Nowicki was a young Polish architect who came to the School of Design in 1948. He designed Raleigh's Dorton Arena, which was completed in 1953, after his early death in a plane crash. The spectacle of the imposing arena, its sweeping roof line, and its architect's untimely death, created a new and heightened awareness of Modernist architecture in North Carolina.118

Other faculty members produced remarkable and award-winning smaller structures. Eduardo Catalano, an Argentine architect, built his own home with a thin hyperbolic paraboloid roof. George Matsumoto, G. Milton Small, School of Design graduate Robert P. Burns, Jr., and Kamphoefner designed many Modernist residences. Architectural dignitaries who visited the school included Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Buckminster Fuller, who was a visiting professor in the 1950s while he was working on his geodesic dome design.119

Beyond the city of Raleigh, the influence of the School of Design reached across the state. During the postwar period, as architects graduated from N.C. State, some made their way to fast-growing Charlotte where the greatest influence of Modernist tenets appeared in commercial and institutional architecture. By contrast, homes in Charlotte remained conservative, with only the occasional client interested in or open to Modernist architecture.120 Nonetheless, this limited activity was enough for several firms and architects to practice, in some cases exclusively, in the Modernist style. A.G. Odell Associates was one such firm, as was J.N. Pease. Other smaller firms and independent architects also prospered.

The best known and most prolific Modernist architect in Charlotte was A. G. Odell, Jr. Odell was the son of a wealthy Concord textile family, and after graduating from Cornell University, he began practicing in Charlotte in 1939. Though trained in Beaux Arts theory, Odell was always interested in Modernist architecture. He was a conservative businessman with a conservative, Tudor Revival style house, but he was a flamboyant personality with a house whose exterior concealed a remarkably Modernist interior.121

The firm was arranged with Odell as the head; it was a "seventy-five person one-man office." He was in charge of every piece of incoming correspondence and oversaw all the marketing. The firm was divided into four departments with Odell heading the design department. The administrative department consisted of project managers. The production department created working drawings, and finally a construction department supervised the building of the project.122

Although Odell's education pre-dated the formation of State's School of Design, his firm was linked to the school. In 1957, when the congregation of Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church indicated that they would like to use a less expensive roofing material than the copper Odell's plans called for, Dean Kamphoefner wrote to the congregation saying, "the material is and must be an integral part of the design," and went on to congratulate them on "bringing to one of the smaller North Carolina communities an outstanding example of first-rate contemporary architecture."123 In addition, various architects from the firm, including Odell himself visited the School of Design regularly for critiques, and Odell recruited heavily from State.124

According to Michael Warner, who was hired by Odell in 1966, Odell was most proud of his Blue Cross Blue Shield building on the edge of Chapel Hill. He also liked the Modernist churches he designed, particularly Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church (1957). He retired in 1982, but continued to come to his office every day, believing that a gentleman should never stay home during the day. Late in his retirement, he had his nurse drive him to the office.

Another major Charlotte firm producing Modernist architecture was J.N. Pease Associates. Founded in 1938 by World War I veteran, Colonel J. N. Pease, the firm's first large scale commission was Fort Bragg. Pease was from Colombus, Georgia and after the first World War, worked in New York City. He came to Charlotte towards the end of the Depression, but with the outbreak of World War II, returned to service, leaving the firm in the hands of George Rollins and James Stenhouse.125

When the Colonel, as Pease was called, returned to Charlotte, he became heavily involved with the Chamber of Commerce, politics, and the newspaper in his efforts to promote his work and be a good citizen of the city, looking out for Charlotte's best interests. Through his civic involvement and promotion, the firm built a client base that included Duke Power, the City of Charlotte, Knight Publishing Company, Lance, Inc., A&P, Republic Steel, and other corporations.126

Pease also worked to gather the best engineers and architects he could find. The firm provided good benefits and Pease tried to keep his employees satisfied, happy, and productive. The firm was one of the first in the state to incorporate architectural and engineering practices under one roof.127

After World War II, J.N. Pease, Jr. completed school at Auburn University and came to work at the firm. Norman, as he was called, had been trained in the Modernist theories of Gropius, van der Rohe, etc., and brought these ideals to the firm. Up to this point, the Beaux Arts-trained James Stenhouse had been the firm's major designer, but Norman Pease's Modernist ideas set the design tone for the firm between 1955 and 1985. Norman began to bring in more Modernist architects, one of whom was Stewart Basel from New York City. According to architect John Duncan, Norman was especially proud of his Home Life building on East Morehead, which has been demolished.128

The firm was arranged with Colonel Pease as the head until his 1973 retirement at the age of 98. He was followed by a board of directors which included Stenhouse, Rollins, John Ward, and Norman Pease. Next came architects, junior partners, and associates. Basel was in charge of assigning projects to a designer. From the designer, it went to a project architect and draftsmen, and then on to an engineer.129

Another important Modernist architect practicing in Charlotte was Jack Boyte. Under the GI Bill, he went to college at Georgia Tech where he met Frank Lloyd Wright, who looked at his drawings and said, "You've got work to do." He graduated in 1951 and came to work in Charlotte for architect Lewis Asbury. In 1960, he established his own firm. Most influenced by van der Rohe, Wright, I.M. Pei, and the International Style, Boyte kept his firm small, never employing more than twelve people. He lists Odell's Coliseum as the best or most important Modernist building in Charlotte. He was also an admirer of the recently altered NCNB Building on Tryon Street.130

Boyte enjoyed his small, informal office. When a project came into the office, he sat down with a few of his employees and one would "run" with it. He did most of the design work and very little drafting, and had everyone involved in all projects.131

These architects, like others nationwide, utilized Modernist architecture mostly in commercial and institutional construction. Examples are located throughout Charlotte. The best illustrations are office buildings, but other representatives include truck terminals, drive-in restaurants, schools, and industrial buildings. The forms of buildings, and alterations to existing forms which evolved as a result of improved transportation and the growing dependency upon the automobile, are discussed in the section on transportation.

In Charlotte's center city, only a few Modernist buildings survive without significant alterations. While office buildings outside downtown were able to spread out with only one or two stories, downtown offices were forced to conform to the existing pattern of vertical growth and line up along the street like their neighbors from the previous century. Thus post-war, downtown buildings were similar to their predecessors in terms of verticality and set-back, but were usually larger and rarely incorporated traditional styles, instead turning to Modernism to present a clean, shiny new face to the core of the city.

One example of Modernism in the downtown area is the Wachovia Building at 129 West Trade Street. Built in 1956, with A.G. Odell and Harrison and Abramovitz as architects, the first four floors of the building comprise a base that carries fourteen stories above. The first floor is mostly glass, and interior integrity has been lost. The remainder of the base is clad in concrete panels and is topped with a narrow metal rail. The first floor above the base is glass and is recessed. The remaining upper floors are clad in concrete panels which are arranged to create angled projections between single pane, fixed sash windows.

The Home Federal Savings and Loan Building at 139 South Tryon Street (c. 1967), though slightly out of the survey time period, is a good example of small-scale Modernism downtown. At only eight stories high, the building is dwarfed by its current neighbors, but is still vertically oriented. This verticality is divided by prominent, projecting concrete sunshades between floors. Ribbon windows create another horizontal element. A side entrance is reached by crossing an Oriental bridge over a small water feature. The main lobby incorporates a sunken floor, a spiral stair with open risers, and a mezzanine level.

Another downtown Modernist office building is the 1961 North Carolina National Bank Building at 200 South Tryon Street. This building and the radically altered 1961 Kutter Building across the street may have been the first two Miesian, glass and steel skyscrapers in North Carolina. The NCNB Building consists of a four-story base supporting a glass and steel tower with eleven stories available for occupancy. The tower's skin remains intact, but the base has been completely stripped and gutted. NCNB planned this building to be eighteen stories high in response to Wachovia Bank's 1958 fifteen-story building at 139 West Trade Street.

Geographically and stylistically in between downtown and residential suburban areas is East Morehead Street where one finds Charlotte's highest concentration of Modernist office buildings. These buildings are generally one to three stories high and are horizontally oriented. Original tenants were those one might expect in a downtown setting, such as insurance companies, corporate headquarters or division offices, and various small, white-collar offices. These structures generally have a uniform setback away from the street with lawns and naturalistic plantings, but parking is to the rear of most and the lawns are not as big as those found in more suburban locations. They incorporate various elements of Modernism, such as ribbon windows, aluminum trim, terrazzo floors, entry areas with little articulation, and flat roofs.

Just beyond the city center, a key Modernist complex was constructed. Completed in 1950, A.G. Odell's Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium brought his firm and the city national recognition. The Coliseum is round and enclosed by a dome which, at the time of its construction, was the largest in the world. The Auditorium has a glass-walled lobby with an elegant mezzanine level. It is a notable sign of the times that such a grand public complex was not built in the city center, the traditional home to large-scale, civic buildings, but instead was constructed at the furthest reaches of the Charlotte's pre-war suburbs on the edge of a broad four-lane transportation corridor.

The Coliseum complex was an exception for the use of Modernism along the transportation corridors. For the most part, Modernism was applied to smaller service-oriented buildings. Drive-in restaurants including the c. 1955 South 21 Drive-In (3631 South Boulevard), truck terminals such as the c. 1960 Overnite complex (5204 North Graham Street), bank buildings such as the c. 1954 American Commercial Bank at West Morehead Street and Freedom Drive, and retail buildings like the Park-N-Shop stores are all examples of Modernist buildings. These and others along the corridors exhibit Modernism through the use of streamlined, horizontal features, such as banding and ribbon windows. They are usually one or two stories in height. In addition, they almost always incorporate at least one car accommodating feature such as a porte-cochere, garage, large parking lot, or drive-thru window.

As people and businesses moved to the suburb, so too did schools and churches. In the post-war years, school construction was booming nation-wide as cities struggled to educate the population of baby boom children. Charlotte was no exception. Sixteen schools were constructed in the Queen City between 1950 and 1955. For the five years between 1956 and 1961, four new senior highs, nine new junior highs, and fourteen new elementary schools were proposed.132 All of these schools were Modernist in design, and the majority were sited in woods, approached by curving drives, sometimes incorporating natural ravines or creeks into the landscape.

In the post-war years, architects begin to take a greater interest in school design, in part because it afforded them an opportunity to utilize Modernism. They advocated their work as beneficial to school boards, tax payers, and students. Odell wrote in his 1954 AIA President's Message, "Time and time again, the services of an architect have enabled a school board to build far better schools for far less money than had been thought possible."133 Architects also saw the use of the style as a way to open the public's eyes to Modernism. Said one writer in Southern Architect, "Unless architects accept the opportunity which they now have to make each school a school designed and suited to one particular site and location and to specific purposes, he misses an opportunity for developing a deeper and more sincere appreciation of architecture by the lay public."134

In addition to architects' desires to spread Modernism, and their proclamations of the benefits of Modernist schools, thought and theory on school planning during the post-war years pushed school architecture in the direction of Modernism. Recommendations for the size of school sites necessitated that they be located in suburban areas, and large, open sites allowed for the spread of one-story buildings, which lent themselves best to Modernism. The following suggestions are from a 1957 book entitled Planning Functional School Buildings: Primary schools with 200 students or less should have four acres. Elementary schools, defined as grades 1-6, 1-8, or 4-8, should have six acres plus one additional acre for each 75 pupils. Junior high schools should have 12 acres, plus one for each 50 students. High schools should have 25 acres, plus one for each 50 students.135 Large school sites recommended by educational consultants Engelhardt, Engelhardt, Leggett, and Cornell had been adopted in Charlotte by 1956 and though the exact size of these larger sites is not given, the acreages listed above are probably close to those adopted in Charlotte.136 Similar site size recommendations can be found in a variety of school planning documents from the survey period, and they often remain the standard today.

School theorist William W. Caudill stated that in 1950, educators and architects began to work together to create inexpensive, pupil-oriented schools. He went on to say that by 1950, "the battle between 'contemporary' and 'traditional' was won. The public not only begin to accept 'modern,' but to demand it. So the architects had no choice but to try to produce logical schools."137 School buildings should be constructed not to impress adults, but to provide for the student, and educators, local officials, parents, and architects were advocating that the light-filled modern school was the way in which to create the most positive, comfortable learning environment for the pupil.138

This "humanistic approach" also promoted Modernism as architecturally honest. Caudill writes that such an approach,

holds too that logically 'form follows function' and, beyond that, that form should express function. It sees virtue in a school which says honestly and clearly in every line, 'I am a school; I am here to do a job and I am not ashamed to show you what I am and what I am doing, for I am doing it well.' On the other hand, this apporach sees a positive evil in schools which pretend to be colonial mansions or wear ornamental costumes, archaic or modern.139

 

The push for the use of Modernism in school construction was a nation-wide movement, and Charlotte was certainly a participant. There is a striking resemblance between plans for a high school in Northport, Long Island produced by a New York firm, and that of Garinger High School, opened in 1959, and designed by A.G. Odell, Jr.140 Both sites have a round library located in a central quad, which is surrounded by detached classroom, gym, administration, cafeteria, and auditorium buildings. Other plans from across the country were published in various school planning reports and are reflected in school buildings throughout Charlotte.141 Charlotte schools were noted at the national level in Architectural Record for "sensible pioneering in their campus plans, their schools-within-schools, their general education laboratories, and their concern for the development of the individual pupil as well as for the way they have helped the city grow."142

Another aspect of Modernism is the expression of Modernist ideas through landscape architecture. Many of the individual homes surveyed retain their Modernist, naturalistic landscape, but the broader landscape, specifically that of the curvilinear subdivision, has an integrity which is easy to recognize and a history which is better documented.

Emanating from the much earlier English Garden City ideals and the Romantic American suburbs such as Llewellyn Park and Riverside, the curvilinear subdivision became nationally institutionalized roughly one hundred years after its earliest introduction in the United States. During those first one hundred years, curving streets were incorporated into middle and working class subdivisions, but along the lines of existing or extended city grids, as opposed to the truly curvilinear lay-outs of the upper-class, self-contained subdivision. Between the mid-nineteenth century and the 1940s, the design of the pleasant, curvilinear subdivision moved from belonging exclusively to the wealthy, to becoming the pattern for subdivisions at large. This change was facilitated by the availability of inexpensive land that did not necessarily have to be divided in the most efficient manner, and which could be accessed via new roads by lower income families who could now afford a car.

As the government stepped in to the process of land development, the FHA sought to insure that financing was extended only to low-risk projects. One result was the standardization of the curvilinear street. The lay-out lent itself to privacy, and with few, if any through streets, and only one or two entrances, the influx, or even passing-through of "undesirable" people was curtailed. Curvilinear streets could also be used to lessen the number of four-way intersections, which were thought to be dangerous for automobile drivers.143

Popularization and standardization of subdivisions was furthered with the establishment of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in 1939. This non-profit organization conducted research in the field of planning and land development and supported the FHA approach to subdivision design. ULI's Community Builders Handbook, first published in 1947, was in its seventh edition in 1990, and continues to provide instructions for community development based on the curvilinear subdivision. These forces, combined with the public's enthusiasm for subdivisions resulted in the institutionalizing of subdivision regulations in most metropolitan areas by the middle of the twentieth century.144

Beyond the institutional, standardized, and bureaucratic influences on subdivision lay-outs, the aesthetic qualities of the curving streets were a major component of planned and designed landscapes. Curvilinear streets could conform to the natural terrain of a site and allow homes to take advantage of hills, ravines, and creeks. Such is the case in Sedgewood Circle where at one point, a street splits into one lane in each direction, one above the other on the side of a hill, minimizing the alteration of that hill and reinforcing a sense of naturalism. Streets were also laid out to accommodate man-made hills and lakes, as in The Cloisters where Cloister Drive creates a "P" shape around a man-made lake. Carmel Park incorporates natural and man-made landscape elements, including several ponds, lakes, and streams. The entire subdivision is insulated from the outside world by woods, and houses are situated on hills, on slopes, or in small secluded valleys. Just as architects sought to bring the outdoors in during this time, landscape architects also sought to incorporate the natural topography in the subdivision.

The use of curving streets produced subdivisions in which homes could be sited to attain maximum privacy or prominence, and have pleasant vistas of natural or naturalistic woods, sweeping lawns, or water features. The park-like atmosphere also fostered the ultimate goal of the subdivision, which was to house families in a peaceful county setting, with as few urban references as possible.

Nationally, as in Charlotte, most of the homes in these Modernist subdivisions were Colonial Revival in style, however, a few homeowners did commission Modernist designs. Odell designed Charlotte's first Modernist house, the Kenneth Shupp house on Sharon View Road, in 1947.145 His residential work was reserved for his friends and some of his largest commercial clients, and he sought to keep the general public from knowing of these designs.146 Thus, information about specific homes and their locations is scarce.147 He designed at least one home still extant in the Cloisters subdivision.148 He also designed the Cannon residence on Edgehill Road and the Spencer Bell Home on Providence Road, both of which have been demolished.

One Modernist home of particular note is the house Jack Boyte designed in the mid-1950s for the Neiman family. This house is an outstanding example of Modernist residential architecture, but fascinatingly, it is remarkably unaltered, in a time period when the destruction of many Modernist buildings is rampant. The house is located on Providence Road, sited on a wooded slope. Boyte had designed a similar house next to the Neimans a few years before and after seeing that one, Mrs. Neiman sought out Boyte. The earlier house has been demolished.

The Neiman House is loosely L-shaped with a very low hip roof, deep eaves, and wood and Roman brick siding. The interior retains original light fixtures, kitchen counters and cabinets, bathroom fixtures, square mahogany paneling, and a striking triangular, pink marble, fireplace. Boyte credits an inspiring parcel of land and open-minded clients for the beautiful results. Borrowing a little from Wright, he created a simple, clean home, whose crisp lines are softened by the use of natural materials, and planters indoors and out. Thanks to the long ownership of Mrs. Neiman, only the floor covering in the kitchen had been changed until the house was sold in 1997. Thanks to the present owners' love of the house, only a few wallpapers (namely the pink butterfly paper) will be removed.

Like the Neiman family, those who could afford to commission an architect and purchase the materials needed for a high-style Modernist home could also afford to choose where they lived. They preferred exclusive new subdivisions, such as the Cloisters, and established but fashionable neighborhoods, such as Myers Park and Eastover. Ironically, it is exactly this choice by the original owners to build in fashionable areas which are the root of current threats to Modernist homes in Charlotte. Because the locations of many of Charlotte's best Modernist homes are retaining their appeal and exclusiveness, the land under the houses has become, in many cases, more valuable than the building. This is coupled with the fact that today, as in the post-war years, most homeowners do not want a Modernist home. The end result is that many Modernist homes have been demolished to make way for new homes with dormers, Flemish bond, and fanlights. Such a fate will be a real possibility for all the high-end Modernist homes surveyed in this project when the current owners vacate the house.

For the most part, homes which have been demolished were located in older neighborhoods where they were constructed as in-fill. The following homes, most of which were featured in Southern Architect, are just a few of the many that have been removed: the Cannon House, c. 1954, 801 S. Edgehill Road, replaced by three houses; the Spencer Bell House, 6121 Providence Road, replaced by apartments; a home on Cassamia Place, designed by Jack O. Boyte, c. 1952, replaced by a neo-traditional home; the Carpenter House, c. 1954, 2708 Sedgewood Circle, replaced by a neo-traditional home; and the Efird House, c. 1953, also on Sedgewood Circle and also replaced by a more traditional home. These are only a few of the Modernist homes recently lost. Several other homes, such as A.G. Odell's Jackson-Wright House on Hempstead Place in Eastover, have been drastically remodeled.

Several reasons have been given for Charlotte's lack of interest in residential Modernism a pattern that prevailed throughout the state. In the immediate post-war years, the Federal Housing Administration was the major financier for many subdivisions and housing developments, and as such, the FHA wanted developers to engage in low-risk projects. This translated into the use of Colonial Revival and other historically influenced styles. In addition, traditional architecture was easier and less expensive to construct.149 It has also been noted that the overall atmosphere in Charlotte was fairly conservative and traditional, despite claims of New-South-ism.150 In writing about the development of American postwar housing, one author has stated, "As long as they [buyers] weren't presented with a residence that was shockingly avant garde, what they were after was not any particular style, but a super-modern, fully functioning, single-family house with ample outdoor space and all the mechanical and electrical conveniences the post-war world had to offer."151

As previously stated, many of these Modernist homes are located in high-end subdivisions, most of which are to be found in the south and southeast sections of the city. The Cloisters, Sedgewood Circle, Mountain Brook, and Carmel Park exhibit the highest concentrations of Modernist homes, but even in these small neighborhoods, Modernist homes are far out numbered by more traditional styles. Though most subdivisions have experienced few if any tear-downs, Sedgewood Circle has lost several examples, including the Efird and Carpenter Houses. The plan of Sedgewood Circle is also being compromised by the introduction of cul-de-sacs extending off the original streets to accommodate neo-traditional development. Other surveyed subdivisions such as Montclaire and Lansdowne never had many high-style Modernist homes. Modernist influenced buildings in these subdivisions remain desirable because they were not and are not particularly avant garde, the land they occupy has not become overly valuable, and their locations are not considered exclusive.

Though never the mainstream choice for building design, Modernism did make its mark on the state of North Carolina and on Charlotte. Remarkable Modernist designers found their way to the state, through Black Mountain College and North Carolina State University's School of Design. In Charlotte, A.G. Odell, J. Norman Pease, and Jack Boyte, and others such as Walter Bost and Murray Whisnaunt, led the movement. Widely popular for commercial and institutional buildings the style was never accepted popularly, especially for residential use. In the postwar era, Modernist buildings were rare even in their "heyday." As the sites these buildings occupy escalate in value, particularly those located downtown and in in-town neighborhoods, and because the style has only a small number of supporters, these uncommon buildings are becoming increasingly scarce.

Typology

These historical contexts came together in Charlotte's post-war years to foster the development of Modernist architecture in the city. Similarly, these contexts fostered the development of new building types and the alteration of established building types. The following discussion of the nomenclature for the building types recognized, documented, and researched in this survey is divided into five types: commercial, industrial, institutional, residential, and subdivisions.

Subsequent to the typology will be a definition of the Modernist style, created in an effort to establish Modernism concretely, as styles from earlier time periods have set definitions. Though this survey documented Modernist architecture, the types related in this typology may have any style applied to them. Some types are modern because of their use or form, such as the ranch house and truck terminal, but regardless of their modern type, they too, may be constructed in any style.

Type 1: Commercial

Description

Charlotte's surviving postwar commercial buildings cover a range of types most of which are directly related to their historic function. There are six basic function-related types: restaurant, motel, gas station, office, retail and service, and entertainment facilities. Within each of these types, several sub-types have been determined to further define the building's characteristics.

In general, c.1945 - c.1965 commercial buildings in Charlotte are constructed of modern materials such as steel, brick veneer, large expanses of glass, and concrete. With the exception of offices, commercial buildings are usually one-story tall and there tends to be a great deal of variety in their architectural expression. Those catering to passing motorists, such as drive-ins, tend to be exuberant and individualistic in their interpretations of Modernist themes while more refined, academic style buildings are typical for offices. The location of these buildings varies a great deal although the majority are found away from the center city along the major transportation corridors. The exception is offices, which are typically closer to downtown.

A. Restaurant

A restaurant is simply a building whose purpose is to house the production and sale of ready-to-eat food. It is not a new or particularly modern type. The following sub-types were found to occur in the post-war period.

1. Eat-in: This is a traditional restaurant. The post-war type is freestanding rather than being

located in a building which serves other purposes, such as an office or hotel. The eat-in has one main entrance, spacious seating area, and kitchen space, usually located to the rear of the structure. The building has a large parking lot located to the front, side, or both, or is a shopping center out-parcel and is surrounded by parking areas. Surveyed types include the Knife and Fork (2531 Sharon Amity Road) and the Ole Smokehouse (1513 Montford Road). A specific kind of the eat-in restaurant is the prefabricated diner. A National Register eligible example is Lil' Diner on Beatties Ford Road. The eat-in restaurant is so named based on current industry terms.

 

2. Walk-up: This type consists of a small building, often with three sides of windows, surrounded by parking. Usually, but not always, there is a small out-door seating area. Patrons must walk up to a service window to order and receive their food. They then either eat off the premises, in their cars, or in the outdoor seating area, if one exists. In rare instances, a canopy may shelter the seating area. There is no indoor seating. This name was derived from the way patrons approach the window to order and does not come from the industry or period literature. Surveyed examples include Zac's Hamburgers (4009 South Boulevard) and the Dairy Queen at 2732 Wilkinson Boulevard, which is National Register eligible.

3. Drive-in: This sub-type is particularly modern because of its car orientation. The drive-in consists of a small, boxy building used for preparing food, organizing it into orders, and pairing wait staff with orders to be delivered. Attached to the building is a long, narrow canopy that stretches away from the kitchen building and shelters the sidewalks used by wait staff. The canopy usually projects out from the front of the kitchen building, or out to the side. Patrons drive up to freestanding, permanent menu boxes located just under the canopy. Patrons either use an intercom system to place their orders, or wait staff come out to the cars to take orders. The food is brought out to the customers, waiting in their cars. The South 21 Drive-Ins on South Boulevard and Independence Boulevard are examples as is the BBQ King on Wilkinson Boulevard. The original, South 21 Drive-In No. 1 is eligible for National Register listing. The term drive-in is both the period and current way to denote this type of restaurant.

B. Motel

The motel is not a post-war invention, but the post-war form is the result of the continuation and evolution of an older type of building. The goal of the motel is to provide accommodations for both the person and his or her car. The term was coined in 1926 specifically to denote a place for lodging where the patron's car could be parked just outside his room. The motel is almost always accompanied by an eye-catching, street-side sign. Two types were documented in Charlotte.

1. Courtyard: This motel type is a building or complex of buildings, usually but not necessarily one-story, which embrace a courtyard. The buildings may form a "U," an "L," or even a nearly complete circle or square. In some cases, the building or buildings may not bend to form a traditional courtyard, but if it is not paralleled by another detached building or string of buildings, the complex should fall into the courtyard type. The courtyard may be mostly lawn, and may resemble a park, or it may be completely paved for parking. In the case of a grassy courtyard, parking will still be located directly adjacent to the rooms. The courtyard may also incorporate a swimming pool. The office is usually located at one end of the complex. Queen City Motel (4526 Wilkinson Boulevard), Romany Motor Court (5911 North Tryon Street), and the Casa Rancho (6001 North Tryon Street) are all surveyed courtyard motels. The term courtyard is derived from the form of the building or complex and, so far as it is known, is not a period term.

2. Parallel: Again, usually one-story in height, the parallel motel is formed by two long narrow buildings, or string of buildings, which face one another with parking between. Usually, this type is utilized to make the most of a smaller lot, and generally, the narrow end, or gable ends of the buildings face the street. An office is usually located on the end of one of the buildings, closest to the street. A lawn area, sometimes with a swimming pool, may be located at the rear of the lot. A surveyed example would be the Oak Den (5104 Wilkinson Boulevard). The term parallel motel is derived from the form of the building or complex and, so far as it is known, is not a period term.

C. Gas Stations

Like the motel, the gas station is not a post-war invention. The purpose of the type is to facilitate the sale and dispensing of gasoline. In some cases, it may also accommodate automobile servicing. The following two types were derived from observations by the authors and the typology set forth in Jakle and Sculle's The Gas Station in America (1994).

 

1. Box: This type is a small rectangular or square box, generally incorporating plate glass windows, which provides shelter for sales and restrooms. During the post-war period, restrooms were designed with exterior entrances rather than through the sales space. Sometimes, one or more of the corners of the building are rounded, and in types executed in the Modernist style, windows often slant back and in to a low knee wall or bulkhead. To the rear or side of the box, one or more service bays may be additions or may be original construction. The remainder of the lot is paved and two to four gas pumps are located in front of the building. A good example of this type can be found at 5137 Central Avenue.

2. Box with canopy: This type is the box as described above, but with a canopy extending out over the gas pumps to shelter employees, patrons and cars from the weather. The canopy may not be attached to the building, or it may be an extension of the box's roof. Canopies can be small and rather non-descript, or they can dominate the facade and set the style of the building, as in the use of the sweeping, triangular canopy found on some "66" stations. Various versions of the box with canopy were documented including the Central 66, at 4731 Central Avenue, which is eligible for the National Register.

D. Office

Office buildings, like many other types discussed in this section are not a post-war phenomenon, but during this period, they moved into the suburban landscape, and were no longer limited to downtown locations. Thus, the office building divides into three sub-types. These sub-types reflect the variety of locations in which offices may be found, but are not limited to that location. These terms are recognized architectural terms used in reference to a building's height.

 

1. High-rise: This type is similar to a traditional downtown commercial building, and as such, its most important features are its small or non-existent setback and vertical orientation. When executed in the Modernist style, this verticality may be emphasized with vertical planes and/or no capitol, or it may be dominated by horizontal planes. This type is more than five stories high. In the post-war period, it was generally constructed downtown (NCNB Building, 200 South Tryon; Wachovia Building, 129 West Trade), but may be found further away, particularly along major transportation corridors (Ervin Building, 4037 Independence Boulevard). Both the Wachovia Building and the Home Federal Building (139 S. Tryon St.) are eligible to the National Register.

2. Mid-rise: As the name implies, this building is lower than the high-rise. It has a horizontal orientation and is wider than it is high. When done in the Modernist style, this horizontal character is often emphasized by ribbon windows and banding, though occasionally, vertical members may be applied. Often the entrance is located off-center. The mid-rise is most commonly two or three-stories high, but may be as much as five-stories. It is usually found in suburban areas, generally not far from downtown, but can and does occur downtown or in further-flung suburbs. Examples eligible for listing the National Register include a dentist and office building at 1200 The Plaza, the J.N. Pease Associates Building at 2919-2925 Independence Boulevard, a potential district of office buildings on East Morehead Street, the Pure Oil Building also located on East Morehead, the Walter Hook Building on West 4th Street, and the American Commercial Bank at the intersection of West Morehead Street and Freedom Drive, is also National Register eligible.

3. Low-rise: In the simplest of terms, this type of building is a one-story box, with either the short or long end used for the entrance. Often symmetrical, its horizontality is usually emphasized with deep eaves or a wide fascia. This type is most often found on shopping center out parcels or along suburban transportation corridors, though it can be found anywhere. The most common uses of this type are as branch offices for banks or insurance companies, or as offices for veterinarians, accountants, or doctors and dentists. First Citizens Bank and Trust branch office (3055 Freedom Drive) is a good example.

E. Retail and Service

A broad type of building, retail and service encompasses two basic types. Retail buildings may be found any where in a city, but during the post-war period, new retail buildings were confined almost exclusively to suburban locales with plenty of parking. One type is the well-known, still-utilized shopping center. The second type is equally known and used, but is less defined. This is the detached type.

 

1. Shopping Center: The shopping center is a well defined type. It is one-story, though early versions were sometimes two, and it is either oriented parallel to a major road, or it curves or bends to embrace the parking area. In either layout, the parking area is substantial and is prominently located in front of the building. The building is divided into smaller shops each with their own storefronts, which are sometimes stylistically individualized. A sheltered walkway is almost always incorporated into the front facade so that shoppers can stay out of the weather as they move from store to store. The shopping center often houses one or more large "anchor" stores, usually a grocery or department store. The anchor is set apart from the rest of the center by its substantial width, taking up the space of several storefronts, and often by its height which is increased by a second story or tall parapet. Examples include Hutchison (2016-2050 North Graham Street) and Park Road (4100 Park Road) Shopping Centers. The term, shopping center, has been used to describe this type of building since the survey period.

2. Detached: The detached type of retail building is a free-standing building which houses retail and service activities. It is often an out-parcel in a shopping center, but equally often is sited on its own lot along a transportation corridor. It may also be found on the edge of a downtown, though it is almost never embedded in downtown. The detached type must be further divided into three more types, defined below. Detached is a term created by the authors based on the type's location relative to other buildings. Super-, middle-, and small-mart were all created by the authors as a way to combine the term "mart" which, beginning in the study period, was and is applied to suburban retail outlets, with a term to reflect the size of the building.

a. Detached super-mart: This is a large, one-story building with a wide-open interior retail space. It is often used as a grocery store or automobile dealership, but almost never used for service purposes. The detached super-mart is usually rectangular with the entrance on the narrow end of the building. It can be found along transportation corridors and in the largest shopping center, it may occupy an out-parcel. A large parking lot accompanies the building. The Park-n-Shop located at the corner of North Tryon Street and Sugar Creek Road is eligible to the National Register.

b. Detached middle-mart: This is similar to the detached super-mart, but on a smaller scale. The middle-mart may be located on a transportation corridor, on a shopping center out-parcel, or occasionally on the edge of downtown. This type may house a hardware store, auto repair shop, or other retail or service activities. Like the super-mart, it is almost always rectangular, though the main entrance may be on the long or short side of the structure. Good examples of the detached middle-mart are the Firestone buildings at 4305 Park Road and 530 South Tryon Street.

c. Detached small-mart: The detached small-mart is the smallest of the detached retail-service types. As its name indicates, it is a small building, but like its larger relatives, may be located on its own lot, or on a shopping center out-parcel. When this type has its own lot, it has parking in front of the building, but the lot is considerably smaller than those at the super- or middle-mart. One of the most common uses occupying this type is dry cleaning services and convenience stores. Examples of the small-mart include Holiday Cleaners (4201 Park Road) and the Lil General Store (1616 North Graham Street).

F. Entertainment Facilities

Post-war entertainment options were similar to those before the war, but two types in particular are specific to post-war architecture. The terms are recognized terms for these types.

1. Movie Theater: The post-war theater is similar to its predecessors in that it consists of a box office, lobby, marquee, and the theater space itself. However, the post-war theater is a multi-plex, generally housing two or more screens, and it is often located along a suburban transportation corridor, in a shopping center parking lot as an out-parcel, or as part of a shopping center. The screening room has only floor seating, and the screen surround lacks articulation. The post-war theater almost always has a flat roof. Drive-in movie theaters had their hey-day in the post-war period. Drive-ins consist of a large, often sloped, parking area, projection building, which usually includes a food service area, and the large screen. No drive-ins were surveyed. Surveyed theater examples include the Capri (3500 Independence Boulevard) and Park Terrace (4289 Park Road).

2. Bowling Alley: Post-war bowling alleys were usually large metal or brick buildings housing a shoe rental counter, restaurant or snack bar, and sunken alley space with benches, score keeper tables, and ball return. Park Lanes (1700 Montford Drive) and Coliseum Lanes (2801 Independence Boulevard) are surveyed examples.

Significance

The c.1945 - c.1965 commercial buildings of Charlotte are significant because they

reflect several important trends. The first of these is economics. Following the end of World War II, the U.S. economy boomed with an onslaught of construction projects some of which received support from Federal programs. This boom is evident in the large number of commercial structures surveyed. A second trend was suburbanization. The location of the commercial buildings surveyed is an important indicator both of the emergence of heavily traveled automobile corridors lined by service-oriented businesses as well as the expansion of retail facilities accompanying residential development in suburban areas around the city center. A third trend indicated by the stock of commercial buildings, is the preference for Modernism. A large number of the Modernist resources surveyed were of the commercial type. This type also displayed some of the finer examples of the style, offices in particular, as well as some of the most unusual and unique (Minit Carwash on South Boulevard for example).

Registration Requirements

To qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a commercial building covered under this survey and report must have been constructed during the post-World War II period between circa 1945 and circa.1965. The resource must retain sufficient architectural features to identify its original function and the activities surrounding that function. Factors such as integrity of design, materials, workmanship, setting and association will be of particular importance to those properties significant for their historic function. Properties significant because of their architecture should be outstanding, intact representatives of either their particular type or the Modernist style. In some cases, groups of commercial buildings, such as the offices located on the 1300 Block of East Morehead Street, may be eligible for listing on the Register as districts. Thus, their integrity of setting, location, design, feeling, and association are important.

 

Type 2: Industrial

Description

Post-World War II industrial buildings in Charlotte fall into two types related to their historic function: trucking and manufacturing/distribution. Within the trucking type, two sub-types have been identified. There are no significant variations warranting subtypes within the manufacturing/distribution category.

Industrial buildings built between roughly 1945 and 1965 are most often sheathed in brick veneer, although some examples exhibit the use of concrete and large expanses of glass. Industrial buildings are typically one-story tall although occasionally, the main (front) office will be two stories, as in the Overnite Building on North Graham Street. Stylistic detail is found almost exclusively on the main office blocks while the areas dedicated to warehousing or production exhibit little architectural expression. Industrial buildings were surveyed along the transportation corridors throughout the suburban areas of the city, but are concentrated in the north and northwestern sections of Charlotte along such corridors as North Graham Street and Rozzelle's Ferry Road.

 

A. Trucking

As Charlotte maintained her railroad connections, expanded and improved her highway system, and produced increasing quantities of exportable products, the local trucking industry grew. Two types of trucking complexes were documented in Charlotte. They are named and described based on accepted type names used within the industry.

 

1. Terminal: The trucking terminal consists of one main office building, usually two-stories in height. To either the rear or side of the main building, a long, narrow shed extends. This is the actual truck dock to which transfer trucks back up for loading and unloading. Some dock areas are completely open with columns supporting the roof, while some have full walls with openings to accommodate the transfer truck's trailer. In this case, the opening can usually be closed with an overhead or sliding door. The terminal is located along a major transportation corridor, such as a large street, like North Graham Street, or at the entrance to an interstate. Car parking is located to the side or front, with transfer truck parking to the rear. Often a grassy lawn is located between the main street and the front office. A good example is the Overnite terminal (5204 North Graham Street). Another example, Akers Motor Lines, on I-85 Service Road is eligible for listing on the National Register.

2. Hub: The hub is exactly like the terminal, but the end of the dock opposite the office is used to connect the complex to a railroad facilitating the movement of goods between trucks and the railway. The Alison-Erwin complex at 2920 North Tryon Street is a surveyed example of a hub.

B. Manufacturing/Distribution

Post-war manufacturing and distribution complexes moved from the city center and spread out on inexpensive land, along with residential and business operations. These industrial complexes are similar in lay-out to trucking terminals. The site consists of a lawn between the front office and the highway. The office is often brick and is one or two-stories high. Behind the main office, or occasionally to the side, is the factory or warehouse space. This area is usually large and one-story in height with little or no architectural style. Parking areas are located to the side and/or rear of the building. In the case of distribution centers, a truck dock will usually be located on the side or rear of the warehouse space. Western Electric (2833 North Tryon Street) is an example that is National Register eligible.

Significance

Industrial buildings constructed circa 1945 - 1965 in Charlotte are significant

because they exemplify the changes occurring in the economy of the city. Moving away from textile manufacturing, Charlotte became the home to more diverse and more technical manufacturing endeavors with companies such as Celanese and Western Electric (North Tryon Street). The completion of Interstate 85 in 1962, as well as the completion of Interstate 77 in the 1970s, enabled two transportation industries, trucking and distribution, to grow. Resources related to the trucking industry are of particular note because they represent the dramatic expansion of trucking in Charlotte; a trend evident throughout the country. The truck-related resources surveyed tend to be located near Interstate 85 along streets such as North Graham Street. In fact, most of the industrial resources surveyed are located in the north and northwestern sections of the city although there are examples from other areas such as the American Envelope Company on South Boulevard.

 

Registration Requirements

To qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, an industrial building covered under this survey and report must have been constructed during the post-World War II period between circa 1945 and circa1965. The resource must retain sufficient architectural features to identify its original function and the activities surrounding that function. Factors such as integrity of design, materials, workmanship, setting and association will be of particular importance to those properties significant for their historic function. Properties significant because of their architecture should be outstanding, intact representatives of either their particular type or the Modernist style.

 

Type 3: Institutional

Description

There are three types of Post-World War II institutional buildings in Charlotte: educational, religious, and civic. Overall, institutional buildings exhibit the greatest number of high-style or academic examples among the four primary property types. The form of institutional buildings varies with the creativity of their designers although there are some commonalities within the separate types discussed below. Furthermore, as the buildings vary in form and architectural expression, their construction materials also vary but materials such as concrete, steel, brick veneer, enamel panels, and large expanses of glass are commonly featured. The location of institutional buildings, especially educational and religious facilities, tends to be near residential areas. While often found in suburban areas, churches and schools were also surveyed and observed in older residential sections near the center city. Civic buildings are usually located in or quite near the center city with the exception of public works facilities such as the Franklin Water Works on Brookshire Boulevard.

 

A. Educational

Schools constitute a very old public building type, but a distinctively modern form does emerge in the post-war years. Post-war schools are usually one-story, but may be two or three-stories. They are often divided into several buildings separating administrative activities, the cafeteria, gym, auditorium, library, and classrooms. Landscaped plazas and/or covered walkways link the buildings. As with much suburban residential design, the campus spreads over a large parcel of land, incorporating woods, streams, and other natural landscape features. The buildings are horizontally oriented and have large expanses of glass. They nearly always feature a flat roof. Examples eligible to the National Register include Chantilly Elementary, Double Oaks Elementary, and Garinger High School.

 

B. Religious

Similar to schools, churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are among the oldest types of buildings. However, the use of new forms and the Modernist style created a recognizable, modern type. Sanctuaries of the post-war period are typically two or three stories in height for dramatic effect and to allow space for a small balcony and/or organ pipes. A great deal of Modernist expression was usually found at the sanctuary in the form of large expanses of glass or swooping, stepped or otherwise highly articulated roof forms. A traditional hold-over, the sanctuary roof, even when not a traditional gable, usually provided for a gable-end entry. The form of religious properties is of particular note as the property usually included both a central sanctuary or worship space with attached appendages serving functions such as fellowship hall and classroom space for Sunday School or weekday church schools. These appendages usually resembled educational facilities described above, being two or three stories with flat roofs, brick veneer or material complementary to sanctuary, lots of windows, and occasionally, enameled panels. An example with an outstanding surviving interior is St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Queens Road; it is eligible to the National Register. Westminster Presbyterian Church at the corner of Colville Road and Randolph Road is also National Register eligible.

C. Civic

Civic properties are particularly difficult to describe because of their design varies significantly with their function. Serving public uses ranging from event facilities such as the Charlotte Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium (Independence Blvd.) to public works such as the Franklin Water Works (Brookshire Blvd.), the only consistent design feature is a recognizable effort to create a memorable public "landmark." Civic properties also tend to be large and typically express their function in their design, the Coliseum being the ultimate example. Like religious properties, this type also tends to express good-quality, high-style Modernist design. The Charlotte Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium, the Franklin Water Works, the YMCA Building on East Morehead Street, and the Charlotte Union Bus Station (418 W. Trade) are eligible for the National Register. Civic was chosen by the authors as a term to refer to a variety of public buildings.

Significance

Charlotte's post-World War II (c.1945-c.1965) institutional buildings are significant

for different reasons depending on the specific resource type. For example, the schools surveyed in Charlotte are significant because they exemplify the trend for suburban schools at the time. The large number of schools dating from the post-war period indicates the explosive suburban expansion and associated baby boom. Finally, educational facilities are significant because of the multi-building, campus plan (a feature new to grade schools during the period) as well as their expression of Modernist architecture. Religious properties also developed a new post-war form that included structures or wings attached to the well-known sanctuary for use as education and fellowship facilities. Religious and civic properties are usually significant for their expression of Modernist architecture; being some of the finest examples of this style observed during this survey.

Registration Requirements

To qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, an institutional building covered under this survey and report must have been constructed during the post-World War II period between circa 1945 and circa 1965. Many institutional buildings are individually significant, typically because of their architecture. To qualify individually, an institutional building should be largely intact and be an outstanding example of its form or style. Integrity of materials, workmanship, and design is crucial. Other resources, such as buildings on college campuses, may be eligible as part of a district. For these resources, the connection with neighboring buildings and their surroundings should be considered. The integrity of location, setting, feeling, and association will be particularly important. Buildings with modest alterations, particularly interior alterations, are considered as contributing elements in a district if the overall historic character of the building remains evident.

Type 4: Residential

Description

There are two basic types of Post-World War II residential buildings in Charlotte: apartments and single family. While examples of Modernist residences are relatively rare, those that do exist often exhibit outstanding architecture. Similar to institutional buildings, the form of the houses varies according to the creativity of their designers. Almost all Modernist residences are one-story at the front facade although many use the topography to have two or even three levels evident on the rear facade. This feature is usually designed to take the greatest advantage of woodlands or other natural elements at the rear of the property. Materials primarily include brick veneer, large expanses of glass, and vertical wood siding although concrete and stone are often used as accents. Almost all of the Modernist residences surveyed were located in a subdivision.

A. Apartments

The apartment is a well-defined building type. During the post-war period, it can be found throughout the city, from the edge of downtown to out-lying suburbs. The apartment is a building which houses more than two housing units under the same roof. A group of apartment buildings constitute a complex, though in the case of the superblock type, defined below, the term "complex" is superceded in favor of the more specific term, "superblock."

 

1. Tower: The tower is a vertically oriented apartment building, which is at least four-stories high. It may be located downtown, but is generally found in older, established single family neighborhoods and was constructed as in-fill or on the site(s) of demolished homes. Sometimes the tower occurs in suburban areas further from the central city. Often, though not always, the tower is actually divided into condominiums rather than technical apartments. Also, oddly, the tower is most commonly the type used for high-end, luxury apartments and low-income, public housing. The tower may be rectangular in plan, or its footprint may be irregular. Often, each unit has an exterior balcony. Parking areas are located around the building and many times, the building is actually raised up on columns or stilts, creating parking beneath the building. National Register eligible examples include Queens Terrace at 1300 Queens Road and Kimberlee Apartments adjacent to Park Road Shopping Center. Tower is a commonly accepted term used to describe a tall apartment building.

2. Courtyard: The courtyard type is often a complex of two or more apartment buildings. The buildings, or building, are horizontally oriented and surround a courtyard, which may incorporate all or one of the following: a parking lot, swimming pool, or lawn. Usually the courtyard apartment is two to three-stories high, but can be as many as four-stories. Examples include the Ambassador (4438-4432 Central Avenue) and the Phil-Mor (1125 East Morehead Street). Courtyard was a term created by the authors based on the relationship of the building or complex to a central outdoor space.

 

3. Superblock: The superblock is a complex of many apartment buildings. Each building is nearly uniform in plan. Buildings are often nearly uniform in exterior appearance, with only three or four minimally distinctive treatments applied. Structures are arranged so that tenants share large, park-like lawns. Automobiles are restricted to certain parking areas which are not necessarily right beside the buildings. In the superblock neighborhood, maintaining common pedestrian areas takes precedence over providing parking close to the buildings. Buildings are almost always under two-stories in height. A superblock neighborhood can be found in any part of a city, with the exception of downtown. Examples eligible to the National Register include Selwyn Village and Cotswold Homes. The term superblock has been accepted by many architectural historians and is discussed on pages 266-269 of Leland Roth's A Concise History of American Architecture.

 

B. Single Family

The single family residential unit is divided here into three basic types, the ranch house, the split level, and the contemporary house. Other housing types continued to be used throughout the post-war years, many of which lent themselves to the application of the Colonial Revival style. However, for the purposes of this typology, only the three types which reach a pinnacle of popularity during the post-war years are discussed.

 

1. Ranch House

The ranch house is an accepted term used to describe the long, low, informal homes which began to dominate American residential construction in the post-war years. Promoted initially by Cliff May through Sunset magazine, the ranch was an immediate hit and continues to be built today. Any style may be applied to the ranch, though Colonial Revival and "California" are the most common. The California style developed solely for use on the ranch house and is characterized by the use of two natural materials on the exterior which emphasize its horizontality. Brick, often Roman brick, or stone is utilized to create a skirt around the home, usually coming up to the height of the window sills. Above the window sills is vertical wood siding, usually redwood. Shutters may or may not be found on ranch houses in the California style. Elements of the California style may be found on ranch houses whose dominant style is Modernist, and sometimes when the dominant style is Colonial Revival. The ranch house may be sub-divided into two basic types. Ranch is a widely accepted term to describe this type of house.

 

a. Rambler Ranch: This is the ranch house. It is long, with a facade that rambles across the width of the lot. Various projecting and receding planes on the facade further the rambling appearance. The rambler ranch is one-story high, has a very low pitch hip or gabled roof, and may or may not incorporate a cross gable. The facade usually contains of mix of ribbon windows and large picture windows, and integrates natural and horizontally oriented materials, such as wood, stone, and Roman brick. A wide, low chimney often rises up from near the center of the house. In rare cases, when the homebuilder's lot did not permit the rambler to be constructed parallel to the street, the home is oriented so that the narrower end of the home faces the street. The rambler almost always incorporates a garage, either prominently on one end of the house, or discretely in the basement. It is executed in California, Modernist, and Colonial Revival styles and may be found in any residential setting, though it is uncommon as in-fill in older neighborhoods. An example of this type is found at 501 Lansdowne Road. Rambler is a term found in several current, on-going post-war survey projects and is becoming accepted by architectural historians.

 

b. Rectangular Ranch: This is a smaller, more economical version of the rambler. The rectangular ranch is usually less "high-style" in character. It lacks the length and projecting and receding planes of the rambler. The facade usually has a large picture window on one side of the front door, with one or two short banks of ribbon windows on the other side of the door. Occasionally, picture windows will be located on both sides of the front door. The rectangular ranch often does not have an integrated garage, and when it does occur, it is often attached to the rear as opposed to the prominent location on the front of the house, as seen with the rambler. The rectangular ranch may be found anywhere, but is often the dominant house in middle or lower income subdivisions. It may be executed in Modernist, California, or Colonial Revival styles, though the style is usually weakly articulated. An example exhibiting mild Modernist influences may be found at 1536 Emerywood Drive. Rectangular ranch is a term created by the authors based on the footprint of the type.

 

2. Split Level

The split-level house may, occasionally, fall into the Contemporary type as a Gable Front Contemporary, but generally is a type unto itself. It is a three-level house which is usually about the same height as a standard two-story house. To one side of a centrally located door, the rooms are on the same level as the entrance and are used as the dining room, kitchen and living room. On the other side of the entrance are two levels, one several steps above the entry level, one several steps below. The upper level houses bedrooms. The lower level contains casual living spaces, such as a den, game room, and/or playroom. A garage is usually included as part of the lower level. The split-level can be found anywhere, and was used by a variety of income levels. It is most commonly found in subdivisions, and is usually done in Modernist or Colonial Revival styles. It roof is usually gabled, but may be gambrel, hip, or in very rare examples, flat. An example with Colonial Revival details is located at 5242 Addison Drive, while a Modernist example can be found at 2128 Collingsdale Place. This is a commonly accepted term for this house type.

 

3. Contemporary

The contemporary house is a type of single family home that is exclusively high-style Modernist in style. The contemporary is generally a formal building, though its interior spaces are arranged in casual, open, post-war plans. The contemporary is marked by its low hip, low gable, or flat roof, or otherwise non-traditional roof, which often incorporates a clerestory. It may be linear, like the rambler ranch, but is often considerably more compact. The contemporary house is most often one-story in height, but may be as many as three or four-stories, however, these stories are usually arranged more as levels and situated into the natural landscape in such a way that the home still appears horizontal. Incorporation into the landscape is one of the most distinguishing traits of the contemporary house. Often, its structure is exposed or highlighted, and large windows, which may be confined to the rear of the home, bring the outdoors in. Patios or decks on the rear of the house are usually present. The line between the contemporary and other post-war types with the Modernist style applied is difficult to draw. The contemporary is divided into four sub-types, all of which exhibit the above described characteristics. Contemporary is a term used by Virginia and Lee McAlester's A Field Guide to American Houses, though here it is expanded and elaborated.

 

a. Shoebox: The shoebox is a contemporary sub-type, which is, essentially, a rectangular box. The type may be small, or it may only appear small, while in fact is two or more stories in height, with the other levels concealed in the landscape. The shoebox is generally clad in wood siding, which is often vertical, and has Asian influences. The shoebox has either a flat roof or a non-traditional roof, usually consisting of intersecting slopes which create a clerestory. The front facade often has no windows, or when windows are present, they are small, often narrow slits. Usually, the rear and/or sides of the type will have large expanses of glass. Examples eligible for National Register listing the Jones House on Knob Hill Court and the Cutter House on Country Ridge. Shoebox is a term derived from the overall shape of the type.

b. Gable Front: Though a common type of traditional home, the contemporary gable front house is particularly Modernist. It has a broad roof which usually has an off-center peak. A garage or carport is often incorporated on the end of the house, and is sheltered by an extension of the roof which descends to a low wall, or any of a variety of column or supports. The gable front may be one-story, or it may be a split-level. Generally, the living side of the house, located on one side of the front door, has a glass facade, or large picture window. Ribbon windows can be found in the bedroom section of this building type. A good examples of this type are located at 2300 Cloister Drive and 2113 Stonewood Drive. The term gable front is derived from the orientation of the type's gable roof, and is commonly used in describing homes from earlier periods.

c. LV: The LV takes its name from its most common shapes. The LV is a one-story Modernist building which may, in some cases, be confused with the ranch. Its most common footprint is the shape of an L or V, though the angle of the home's bend is rarely as severe as the letter. The LV may also be constructed in a Y shape, though the wing which modifies it into a Y is usually very short. The LV is related to the ranch rambler because of its distinctively horizontal arrangement in the landscape, and by the fact that its exterior ornamentation usually incorporates natural materials, similar to the California style. The LV often spreads out on slopes or on the top of ridges. Its roof is flat or a very low pitched hip. An extremely well-preserved example, which is National Register eligible, is the Neiman House at 1930 Cassamia Place. Other National Register eligible examples include the Henning House (3521 Johnny Cake Ln.), the Hearn House (3517 Johnny Cake Ln.), and the Bluementhal House (3850 Sedgewood Circle). The term LV was created by the authors and based on the general footprint of the type.

 

d. Formal: This contemporary type has an irregular lay-out like the LV, but it is less horizontal and usually noticeably more compact. Its exterior materials are less naturalistic than those found on other contemporary houses, thus lending itself to a more formal appearance. Tile and aluminum are common siding materials, and the type has a flat roof. Like other contemporary houses, the formal takes advantage of any natural landscape features. It may or may not use ribbon windows, and most use of windows and glass is reserved for the rear. A National Register eligible example is the Little House at 2301 Red Fox Trail. Formal is a term created by the authors, though Formalism is used to describe some Modernist work in Roth's Concise History. The term, as used in this typology, is a reference to the clean lines and the use of man-made materials, rather than natural, which give the type a less casual atmosphere.

 

Significance

The post-World War II (c.1945-c.1965) residential buildings in Charlotte are significant

because they represent the influence of national trends in the city. The abundance of ranch, split-level, and other nationally popular house types are indicative of Charlotte's connection with the ideals of suburban life that pervaded the United States during this period. The large quantity of these houses illustrates two important aspects of Charlotte's development: the large population growth during the post-war period and the building boom associated with this growth.

In addition to single-family dwellings, multi-family dwellings are also critical to the understanding of national influences. The superblock developments, for example, often represent the use of the Federal Housing Administration's 608 program to construct residential properties.

While all of the superblock developments and most other residential properties are significant as groups or neighborhoods, there are some examples of individually significant properties that exhibit high-style, Modernist design. Because Modernism was never widely accepted in Charlotte (or in most of the country) as an appropriate residential mode, houses exhibiting the style are quite rare. Those that do exist however, are often among the best examples of Modernist design. These residential examples are becoming even more significant because of the destruction of so many of those that once existed.

 

Registration Requirements

Most of the dwellings built between c.1945 and c.1965 in Charlotte are significant as components of a neighborhood rather than as individual structures. Therefore, the resources covered under this survey and report will qualify for listing as contributing elements within a district. As components of a neighborhood, the integrity of location, setting, feeling, and association is particularly important. Dwellings with modest alterations such as rear additions are considered contributing elements if the overall historic character of the building remains evident.

Some houses will be individually eligible Register as outstanding examples of their form and style. Integrity of materials, workmanship, and design is crucial in determining the individual eligibility of residences.

 

Type 5: Subdivisions

Description

There are two types of Post-World War II subdivisions in Charlotte: transitional and suburban. The plan of these developments tends to be focused on curving streets, although the degree of individualism in the design varies depending on type. Transitional neighborhoods, usually being developed earlier than suburban types tend to be more closely related to traditional grid-plan neighborhoods. Within the suburban type there are two sub-types. Overall, the subdivisions are made up of paved streets with or without concrete gutters and usually without sidewalks. Depending on type, there will be some attempt at creating a wooded, naturalistic setting with large house lots. The date of a subdivision's development is based on the plat date and the age of the individual homes.

A. Transitional

Transitional subdivisions are so named because of their intermediate status in age, location, and design. Transitional subdivisions were built from c.1935 to c.1955 and have the greatest number of the structures within them dating from the 1945-1950 period. The term was created by the authors.

These subdivisions are typically located between the nineteenth and early twentieth century neighborhoods near the center city and the suburban neighborhoods located at the fringe of the city at the time in which they were constructed. In terms of design, transitional subdivisions display variety in their street patterns as designers slowly drew away from traditional grids towards curvilinear suburban designs. Thus, surveyed examples such as Chantilly (which was platted well before the post-war period, but not built-out until the 1950s) exhibit a grid quite close to other early twentieth century Charlotte neighborhoods. Sedgefield, however, was platted in the 1940s and has several streets which curve broadly, yet still form a loose grid. The house lots in transitional subdivisions tend to be much smaller than those in suburban subdivisions and there is little response to the topography in the siting of the houses or streets. While naturalistic subdivisions place a high priority on using the available topography and natural features to best advantage in street layout and situation of residences. The housing stock tends to be dominated by brick veneered dwellings although wood siding is used; sometimes in combination with brick. Stylistically, the houses run the gamut of post-war architecture from Cape Cod, Minimal Tradition, Colonial Revival, and Modernist.

B. Suburban

Suburban subdivisions were typically platted in the 1950s and 1960s (although similar subdivisions were platted through the 1980s) and built out during the 1950s - 1970s with occasional resources from the 1980s and 1990s. The term "suburban" was created by the authors and is intended to connote both the peripheral location (when built) of these neighborhoods as well as give an indication of the typical plan and housing stock. The house lots tend to fairly large, with the largest lots being found in exclusive, naturalistic subdivisions. The names of the two sub-categories below were created by the authors in reference to the level of adherence to high-style, Modernist subdivision principles attained in the subdivision's design.

1. Standardized: Most of the subdivisions built between 1955 and 1965 are standardized subdivisions. In plan, they exhibit curving streets that usually do not curve in response to a natural or topographical feature. The curving streets do not usually create a circular, enclave type form, but are spread loosely over the land often creating several entrances into the subdivision and occasionally linking with neighboring subdivisions. In some cases, a curving street may have streets running parallel to it mimicking its curves. The streets themselves are wide with gutters and usually do not have sidewalks. The housing stock in standardized subdivisions may include any number of post-war styles depending upon the age of the development, but most often include ranch, split-level, and minimal traditional forms either with little stylistic detail or Colonial Revival detail. There are usually few resources exhibiting strong Modernist influences. While the relatively large house lots suggest an effort at a natural, open setting, there is a lack of response to the natural (or even man-made) terrain in the siting of streets and houses. Montclaire and Lansdowne are surveyed examples.

 

2. Naturalistic: This type of subdivision was most often platted in the mid- to late-1950s. As the name suggests its plan/form focuses on creating a naturalistic setting. The streets are almost always curvilinear and often create a circular arrangement that is meant to suggest a secluded (and usually exclusive) enclave. While typically quite small, this type of subdivision, even when in its larger form, usually has only one or, at the most, two main entrances. Most of these neighborhoods exhibit wide, guttered streets without sidewalks. In the case of Carmel Park, however, the naturalism was furthered with narrow streets without gutters or sidewalks. Other naturalistic features include large house lots and houses that take advantage of the available topography in their architecture and/or setting. The housing stock of these subdivisions consists primarily of ranch, split-level, and Colonial Revival houses, but there tend to be more Modernist designs and design influence. The Cloisters and Carmel Park are examples eligible to the National Register.

Significance

The post-World War II (c.1945-c.1965) subdivisions in Charlotte are significant for their

representation of national trends. Similar to the residences themselves, the subdivision, both in its abundance and form are indicative of Charlotte's connection with post-war suburban ideals throughout the United States. Charlotte's large population growth and the associated building boom are important features of the city's development evidenced by subdivisions.

 

Registration Requirements

Most of the subdivisions built between c.1945 and c.1965 in Charlotte are significant as representative examples of trends common in Charlotte and the nation as a whole. Therefore, the subdivisions covered under this survey and report will qualify for listing as districts. The integrity of setting, feeling, association will be important in addition to the integrity of the overall design and materials. Subdivisions with modest alterations such as the addition of new streets liking the subdivision with neighboring subdivisions will be considered eligible.

Some subdivisions will be individually eligible Register as outstanding examples of their form and style. Integrity of materials, workmanship, and design is crucial in determining the individual eligibility of subdivisions.

 

Criteria Consideration G

Since many of the properties considered in this study have not yet achieved fifty years of age, it is necessary to address their potential eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. Although the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 set a fifty year age limit for eligible properties, it is possible to list properties younger than fifty years old if they can be shown to be of "exceptional importance." While a great many of the properties surveyed would not meet this high standard there are some important exceptions. In the case of properties eligible for their architecture or design, the growing body of "specific scholarly studies" enables us to provide the necessary context for evaluating exceptionally important works of architecture or design.

Of even greater importance to the stock of post-war resources in Charlotte is the rarity of examples surviving with integrity. The National Register allows "relatively young survivors" to be "viewed as exceptional and historic." This is especially useful for road-side resources such as shopping centers, motels, and gas stations where taste, road construction, and obsolescence work against the preservation of the building. Perhaps even more rare are Modernist residences, of which there were never large numbers, and which are being demolished at increasing rates. This demolition also compromises the integrity of neighborhoods, such as Sedgewood Circle where many Modernist houses have been removed, the lots subdivided, and large neo-traditional homes inserted.

 

Modernist Architecture Defined

As stated in the section examining the context of architecture, Modernism holds several principles, of which some or all were advocated by various architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe. These tenets include an emphasis on function and utility, a concern with structure, the use of modern materials and technology, and interests in abstract beauty, sculptural form, and symbolism.

Through the use of these principles, the Modernist style draws heavily from the International style, Miesian concepts, and Wrightian ideas. As with any style, Modernism is applied in a broad range of strengths, from minimal touches such as the use of deep eaves or ribbon windows, to high-style in which the building exhibits most of the style's characteristics. The style is also commonly applied in a streamlined form resembling Art Moderne, or in a futuristic, Jetson-like style, often incorporating space motifs. This variation is most commonly applied to roadside commercial architecture, like gas stations or drive-in restaurants.

 

Occurrence

Modernism concepts applied to residential architecture occur most often in exclusive subdivisions and as in-fill construction in older, established, high-end neighborhoods. It can also be found on suburban homes outside of subdivisions. Modernism in its less high-style application is to be found on homes in suburban locations, usually in lower-end subdivisions, but rarely, or never, as in-fill in older in-town neighborhoods.

Modernism, with high levels of Miesian influence, may be used on commercial buildings in the traditional setting of downtown and mid-town commercial zones. These buildings usually house offices, and those located downtown conform to traditional set-backs and street orientation. In addition to these traditional locales, during the post-war years, commercial and industrial architecture spread out along the newly constructed, large, four-lane highways radiating out from cities, or encircling cities. These buildings will not only exhibit Modernist style, but they will also have a modern, car-accommodating form, and will rarely be more than two-stories high.

 

Identifying Features

Unlike Italianate or Queen Anne, Modernism is not a well-defined, commonly understood style. The following is a list of features to facilitate the identification of Modernist architecture. This list draws on previous attempts at defining the style, tenets of post-war Modernist architects, and the surveyors' observations as they have documented Charlotte's Modernism.

 

Roof: flat or low pitch hip; churches have large, sweeping forms

 

Walls: contrasting materials and textures, or smooth, blank walls; office buildings generally have an emphasis on the grid

 

Windows: "special" windows, such as ribbon, picture, or corner windows; usually a marked use of large expanses of glass on one section of the building, most often the rear, with small windows, if any, on other sections of the building

 

Landscape Integration: sliding glass doors, patios and outdoor living spaces, large expanses of glass, courtyards, horizontal orientation and integration of natural landscape features into design, use of natural materials

 

Form: horizontal with simple, clean lines, form following function, exposed structure, asymmetry, de-emphasis or lack of articulation at main entrance, and lack of ornamentation.