A Walking Tour Of Elizabeth
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Dr. Dan L. Morrill
A month after he launched Dilworth, E.D. Latta helped to form a
group of investors to develop the oldest part of Elizabeth. Latta
formed the Highland Park Company which included a real estate
developer, Walter S. Alexander, and a businessman, Walter Brem. The
name of this development company is significant, and it illustrates
the connection between Charlotte's real estate development and
textile industry, for the Highland Park Company was closely related
to the Highland Park cotton mill of North Charlotte.
Initially the venture experienced the same slow start and
consumer resistance that threatened Dilworth. However, in 1897
Walter Alexander decided that the company should donate a large
block of land at the top of the hill to attract a Lutheran woman's
college that was seeking a location. The college came to be called
Elizabeth after the wife of its sponsor, and the scheme proved to
be the boost that the neighborhood needed. By 1903, Latta had
extended the E. Trade St. trolley line up the new boulevard, and
many Charlotte business leaders chose to live in the luxurious
dwellings on "Elizabeth Hill" where they could benefit from the
genteel cultural pursuits of the college. Only a handful of these
houses survives today. Central Piedmont Community College which
located here in the 1960's in the buildings of the former Central
High School now dominates the avenue.
1. John Paul Lucas House. (1601 East Seventh St.).
John Paul Lucas, managing editor for the Charlotte Evening
Chronicle, purchase this lot and house in Elizabeth in 1913 for
$8,500. Later he became the publicity manager for the Southern
Public Utilities Company, which operated Charlotte's streetcar
system. His wife, Alice Craft Lucas, was a Wilmington native and
graduate of Trinity College, now Duke University. The house is
built in the Bungalow sub-set of the Craftsman style, meaning that
it was part of the first wave of modernism in American architecture
that broke with the period styles that had dominated the late
1800's. The smaller houses of the early 20th century were part of
an architectural response to the home economics movement. Women of
the American middle class wanted to revamp their homes to allow
more time for club and civic duties as well as for jobs in offices
and department stores. Fewer families employed live-in servants or
domestic help; cornices and niches that collected dust and germs
were rejected as too time consuming. Dining habits became more
relaxed with families eating simpler meals with fewer courses as
slim figures became the fashion of the day. In short, the American
home economics movement changed the style and size of the American
2. Hawthorne Lane United
Methodist Church. (501 Hawthorne Lane).
Hawthorne Lane United Methodist Church was designed by Charlotte
architect Louis Asbury, Sr. and opened on December 3, 1916. It is a
fine example of an early 20th century Gothic Revival style
building. Asbury used the "Akron plan" for the Hawthorne Lane
United Methodist Church, so named because it first appeared at the
Methodist Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio. The Akron plan is a
distortion of the circular plan since the square or rectangular
nave has a semicircular arrangement of pews around a point of focus
which is the sanctuary and the choir. Hawthorne Lane United
Methodist Church was just one of many Christian churches that
appeared in Elizabeth as it developed.
House. (1701 East Eighth Street).
Designed in the English Cottage subset of the Craftsman style, this
house was built in 1910 for Dr. Baxter Moore, whose family only
lived here for one year. It then became the home of Norman A.
Cocke, an official of Piedmont Traction Company, later part of Duke
Power Company. Lake Norman is named for him. This was Harry
Golden's last Charlotte residence before his death in 1981. When he
arrived in Charlotte in 1941, he brought with him a strong sense of
his New York Jewish immigrant background.
This was reflected in his witty and controversial bi-monthly
newspaper, the Carolina Israelite. During the late 1950's
and 1960's he gained national acclaim as one of the great liberal
voices in favor of racial integration. He is perhaps best
remembered for his "Golden Vertical Plan Of Integration." Harry
Golden sardonically pointed out that since the South's blacks and
whites managed quite well at grocery counters, bank teller windows,
and other places where they were not required to sit down together,
then perhaps seats should be removed from schools, buses, theaters,
and restaurants to assist integration in those places!
4. Jennie Alexander
Duplex. (1801-1803 East Eighth Street).
To your left is one of three buildings erected in this area to
house members of the Alexander family. The Alexanders moved to
Charlotte from Union County, North Carolina, after the Civil War,
and quickly made a name for themselves in the city. During the
1890's, they became involved in real estate development, Walter S.
Alexander controlling the Highland Park Company which developed
Elizabeth Avenue. In 1904, his brother John and son Walter
developed this area of Elizabeth, and John bought a whole block of
land here for family houses two years later. In 1913, he built his
own house on the corner of Clement and 8th St.
This duplex was built by his sister Jennie in 1921. J.M.
McMichael was hired as the architect, and the popular new Bungalow
style was chosen. The Bungalow first gained popularity in
California during the 1890's, where its modest simplicity
challenged the ostentation and complexity of late Victorian
dwellings. It was not until the building boom of the 1910's and
1920's that the Bungalow became one of the predominant styles in
Charlotte. It was particularly well suited for smaller middle class
homes, but it could also be adapted to grand proportions. Bungalows
are distinguished by their prominent roof, with wide eaves sweeping
over a large porch supported by thick columns. They often have
dormer windows, shingled walls, and plain rustic decoration, such
as stone chimneys. The overall effect is intended to be functional,
and unnecessary decoration is avoided.
5. John Baxter
Alexander House. (509 Clement Avenue).
John Baxter Alexander purchased an entire block in Elizabeth in
1906 and erected this grand Bungalow style home in 1913. He was a
vice-president of the Highland Park Development Company, the
developers of this portion of Elizabeth. In recent years the house
has been converted to condominiums. A particularly interesting
design review issue for the Historic Landmarks Commission arose
concerning this house. There was a proposal to build a house in the
Happily, the owners of the house and their neighbors worked out
an arrangement whereby the new house was placed behind the John
Baxter Alexander House instead. You will notice that Clement Ave.
is unusually wide in comparison with its neighbors. The reason is
that it was originally intended as a grand boulevard for a
streetcar line from 7th St. to Central. The line, however, was
never built which has preserved Clement as a quiet neighborhood
6. Walter L. Alexander
House. (523 Clement Avenue).
Walter L. Alexander built this grand home next to his uncle's abode
in 1915. Like its neighbor, it is an elegant variation of the
Bungalow style, with a wide, wraparound front porch rounded at one
end to form a pavilion seating area. The front door sidelights and
transom are of heavy beveled glass placed in intricate variations
of the diamond pattern.
Walter Alexander, a Charlotte native, moved to Blowing Rock,
N.C. in 1919. The house was purchased by William Cook Wilkinson,
president of the Merchants and Farmers National Bank and the man
for whom Wilkinson Boulevard is named. It is now the home of Dan
Shoemaker, former City Council member.
7. Thad Adams
House. (604 Clement Ave.).
This home, built in 1908 for Thad Adams, a prominent Charlotte
attorney, is inspired primarily by the design vocabulary of
Colonial Revivalism. Colonial Revivalism , which emphasizes
classical ornamentation, geometric massing, and, at least in North
Carolina, simplicity of detail in comparison with the more
adventuresome examples of this motif in major cities of the North
and Midwest, was probably the most popular example of historic
revivalism that emerged in the late 1800's.
This widespread acclaim was in no small part due to the fact
that Colonial Revivalism provided compelling images which enabled
wealthy suburbanites to satisfy their "search for order" and their
desire to live in an "idyllic escape from the overcrowding, crime,
and ethnic strife identified with the city."
Park. (East Seventh Street).
The Elizabeth neighborhood continued to expand. Subsequent
development companies bought adjacent farms and commenced building.
To attract customers, several companies donated land which was
landscaped as Charlotte's first public park, and proudly christened
in 1906 with the name Independence Park. Only a small part of the
park remains today, since much of it was sacrificed to build
Independence Blvd. in 1949, but in its heyday it provided locals
with tennis courts, a rose garden, and landscaped lawns. The
landscaping was the first Charlotte project of the Harvard-trained
John Nolen. It was a lucky commission for Nolen, since it
introduced him to George Stephens who was to employ him seven years
later to design and landscape his Myers Park suburb.
9. St. John's Baptist Church. (300 Hawthorne Lane).
St. John's Baptist Church makes an impressive sight as it stands
on the corner of 5th and Hawthorne. Its architect, J.M. McMichael,
intended that impact. "A church building should not hide its light
under a bushel but rather should be built as a lamp set upon a hill
whose light cannot be hid." McMichael chose cream colored brick and
limestone as the materials for this "Roman Ionic" design. When he
built the church in 1925, McMichael had already established his
reputation as a church architect in Charlotte, having designed First Baptist Church (now Spirit
Square), Little Rock
A.M.E. Zion Church (now the Afro-American Cultural Center), and
the Tabernacle A.R.P. Church on Trade St. Note the six, two-story,
Ionic columns with characteristic spiral scroll molding on the
10. William Henry Belk
House (Presbyterian Hospital Campus).
To the immediate left of the hospital on your right is the grand
mansion built by William Henry Belk, the founder of Belk's
department stores. When he came to Charlotte to open a store in
1895, he was already a successful businessman, having operated a
store in Monroe with his brother. An advertisement for the original
Trade St. store gives us a flavor of Charlotte at the turn of the
century: "Catch the first train. Hitch up your beast or come at a
run if you expect to keep up with the crowds flocking to Belk
Brothers--Cheapest Store on Earth."
William Belk was not one to squander money. He slept in a room
over his shop and remained a bachelor until he was 52 years old,
only then moving to this mansion in Elizabeth to rear his family.
An ardent Presbyterian, he helped to finance the move of
Presbyterian Hospital to the site of Elizabeth College. He and his
family originally lived in the old president's house close by, but
they had this mansion overlooking the city constructed in 1924. The
Belks chose C.C. Hook to design their Neoclassical house which is
executed in beige brick and stone. The house was recently moved
under arrangements approved by the Historic Landmarks
11. Richard C.
Biberstein House (1600 Elizabeth Avenue).
Richard C. Biberstein was an engineer and designer of industrial
buildings, mainly cotton mills. For example, the Spaghetti
Warehouse, formerly Nebel Knitting
Mill on Camden Road in Dilworth, was one of his designs
Biberstein's papers are in the UNCC Library. When this house was
built in 1906, Elizabeth Avenue was a grand residential boulevard.
The streetcar moved up the hill and delivered riders to Elizabeth
College. Biberstein's papers are in the UNCC Library. The house is
rendered in the Rectilinear Style. Though derived from the
Victorian, it rejected lavish ornamentation.
12. James L. Staten House. (322 Hawthorne Lane). Another
department store owner, James L. Staten, resided in this
Neoclassical style mansion erected in 1911. Originally known as
Kingston Ave., Hawthorne Lane was the most sought after residential
street in early Elizabeth, because it afforded a dramatic view of
the uptown skyline. Today this gracious building acts as the
headquarters of International House, a non-profit organization
which assists internationals in adjusting to life in the United
States and facilitates interaction between Americans and
13. Lillian Arhelger
Memorial. (Hawthorne Lane & Seventh Street).
It was deciated to Lillian Arhelger, a physical education teacher
at Central High School, perished on June 21, 1931, in an attempt to
save a young child from falling over the Glen Burnie Falls near
Blowing Rock. In appreciation of this heroic and selfless act, the
people of Charlotte raised the funds to erect a memorial.
Designed by Helen Hodge, an associate of Earle Sumner Draper,
the landscape architect who fashioned the Rosemont section of
Elizabeth. Happily, the Arhelger Memorial is essentially unchanged
from the original.
Neighborhood Guide: Elizabeth