OLD HOLY COMFORTER EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Click here to view
photo gallery of the Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.
This report was written on November 2, 1987
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church is located at 1510 South Boulevard in
Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
Duke Power Company
c/o Mr. William Duren
General Manager of Corporate Properties
400 South Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28242
Telephone: (704) 373-7555
The occupant of the property is:
Brown-Shoemaker Tire Co.
1510 South Boulevard
Charlotte, NC, 28203
Telephone: (704) 334-3021
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map which depicts the location of the property.
Click on the map to browse
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
reference to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg Deed Book 3573, page
223. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is: 123-041-23.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. William H.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by
Joseph Schuchman and Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church does possess special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its
judgment on the following considerations: 1) Old Holy Comforter Episcopal
Church, erected between 1908 and 1912, is the only known local building
designed by Charles Coolidge Haight (1841-1917), an influential and
significant architect; 2) Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church is one of
only two early twentieth-century church buildings that survive in the
South Boulevard district of Dilworth, Charlotte's first streetcar suburb;
and 3) Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church is the former home of a
Christian congregation which continues to play an important role in the
religious life of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description by Joseph Schuchman and Dr. Dan L. Morrill which is included
in this report demonstrates that the Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church
meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50%
of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes
"historic property." The current appraised value of the improvement is
$89,860. The current appraised value of the 189 x 140 foot lot is $72,770.
The total appraised value of the property is $162,460. The property is zoned
Date of Preparation of this Report: November 2, 1987
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St.
Charlotte, NC 28203
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
Dr. William H. Huffman
The Old Holy Comforter Church Building on South Boulevard is
distinguished by its architecture and the fact that it was the first
suburban Episcopal church in the city. Designed by New York architect C. C.
Haight, it was built in stages from 1908 to 1912, and eras for many years a
landmark in the small commercial area of early
Dilworth, the city's first
At the turn of the century, St. Peter's on North Tryon Street was the
only Episcopal parish church in the city. In 1901, the Reverend Joseph
Blount Cheshire, the Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina (and the former
Rector of St. Peter's) appointed the Reverend George Meredith Tolson as City
Missionary in Charlotte, who ministered to the immediate outlying areas: St.
Martin's at Tenth and Davidson Streets, St. Andrew's in Seaversville in the
present Five Points area and in Dilworth.1
Dilworth was developed by Edward Dilworth Latta (1851-1925). Latta was a
Princeton-educated native of South Carolina who, after achieving success in
Charlotte with a clothing store (1876) and the Charlotte Trouser Company
(1883), formed the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company (often
referred to as the 4 C's) to develop the city's first suburb in 1890.
Originally laid out in grid fashion, the main boulevards and some side
streets boasted grand homes, while the remainder were more modest
middle-class houses, and, at the southern edge, mill houses for the
(1892-1893). Special inducements were devised to lure
people to the new suburb: a new electric trolley line from the Square
(opened 1891): a first-rate park, complete with a concert and dance hall,
racetracks, a pavilion, greenhouses, a large boating lake, and installment
buying for lots. With the Atherton Mill and seven other factories that were
put up along the western side of South Boulevard in 1894 and 1895,
Dilworth's success was assured.2
The Dilworth Episcopalians grew to the point that on February 6, 1903,
Reverend Tolson forwarded an application to Bishop Cheshire for the
formation of an independent congregation. It was accompanied by an objection
by the Rector of St. Peter's, Rev. Clarence O. Leman, who thought that his
own church would suffer if a new one was formed in the suburb. Nonetheless,
as Bishop Cheshire later reported in an address:
"March 5, 1903, upon the petition of certain inhabitants of Dilworth, a
suburb of Charlotte, I organized the petitioners into an independent
mission under the name of The Church of the Holy Comforter, Dilworth,
appointing as officers thereof Addison Arnold to be Warden, Frank B.
Ferris to be Treasurer, and Bertram Swift Davis to be Clerk."4
In the report on the church to the annual convention in 1903, the
following entry appears, which shows the number of people involved, and that
it was the women who were responsible for the formation of the new church:
"Families 15. Baptized persons 50. Confirmed 4. Communicants: admitted
4; received 26; present number 30. Sunday-school teachers 5; scholars 27.
Other Parish Agencies: A Women's Guild and Young Children's Guild, known
as the Busy Bees. Public services: on Sundays, 16; other days 31. Holy
Communion 4.... The minister in charge (Rev. George M. Tolson) held his
first service in Dilworth February 8, 1903. An instrument of organization
eras issued to the Mission on March 5th. The Women's Guild, named St.
Elizabeth's has done notable work in behalf of the new organization, and
it was through their efforts the enterprise was started. It is bending its
energies towards raising money for the purchase of a suitable lot on which
to build a house of Worship. They have abundant enthusiasm and ability,
and will no doubt succeed in all their endeavors. A good, strong Church is
much needed in Dilworth."5
Reverend Tolson resigned in January, 1904, and was replaced by Rev.
Francis Moore Osborne, who took over Holy Comforter and other outlying
missions the following September. That fall, a meeting of the congregation
was held in a hall over a store where they held their church services (the
Dilworth Drug Store building at the corner of Rensselaer and South
Boulevard; B. S. Davis, the Holy Comforter Clerk, ran the drug store), and a
building fund committee was formed.6 In March, 1905, the church
trustees acquired a 50' front by 150' deep lot next to the grocery store for
$1000, and the following January bought another 100' front by 150' parcel of
adjacent property for $2000.7 The building fund progressed to the
point that by 1908, work on the basement portion of the church had begun,
and the cornerstone for the new church was laid on August 6, 1909, which was
the Feast of the Transfiguration. At the ceremonies, Bishop Cheshire
dedicated the new church as the "Bishop Atkinson Memorial." Bishop Thomas
Atkinson of North Carolina had played a leading role in reuniting the
Southern Episcopal churches with the Northern after the Civil War.8
By 1910, the roof was completed over the chancel and transepts, and worship
services there being held in the basement Sunday school rooms, which
continued until early 1913.9 In the official record of 1913, the
church's completion was recorded:
"Since the last annual report, we have completed that portion of the
Bishop Atkinson Memorial Church, the basement of which has been used as a
place of worship for the past two years. This completed portion is now
furnished, and a pipe organ has been placed. This work was accomplished
towards the close of the fiscal year (1912). It is thought that the
completion of the building will immediately affect the growth of this
congregation. The number of communicants is now 90. The debt is $11,000."10
The building, which has the feel and look of an English country parish
church, was designed by New York architect Charles Coolidge Haight (
1841-1917). Haight's specialty was "an unpretentious variation of Victorian
Gothic." Educated at Columbia and wounded in the Civil War, Haight studied
architecture after the war in the office of a fellow officer before opening
his own office in 1867. His early work was country churches and houses in
Victorian Gothic and
English Tudor. Although he designed in a wide range of styles, his most
important work was in Collegiate Gothic, which appeared in a number of
buildings he did for Columbia College and Yale University. His connection
with the Episcopal Church was through his father, believed to be Dr.
Benjamin L. Haight ( 1809-1879), a prominent Episcopal theologian who became
the Bishop of Massachusetts.11 At a service on March 2, 1913, the
church building was formally opened with the first service in the main
auditorium. A contemporary newspaper article recorded the event:
"The present edifice is a portion of a larger plan of a cruciform
church with a massive Gothic tower, and is built of Bedford stone and
brick laid in cement mortar, with heart pine and selected maple flooring,
only the best materials being used throughout the structure. A new Estey
pipe organ, pronounced to be of the finest tone quality of any like
instrument in the city, has been installed. The furniture is of solid
walnut, the choir stalls being of the same material, with hand-carved
finials. The chancel furnishings are not yet complete, and a temporary
altar will be used for several months until the completion of a handsome
marble altar and reredos. By Easter, a handsome brass memorial lectern
will be placed, and the church is already in possession of a massive brass
altar cross, processional cross, altar vases, and candlesticks."12
In the following year, 1914, at the diocese's annual convention, the
Reverend Henry T. Cocke placed the following resolution before the assembly,
which they adopted: "Resolved, that the congregation of the Mission of the
Holy Comforter in the city of Charlotte [Dilworth was annexed in 1907] be
admitted as a parish into union with this Convention, to be known as the
Parish of the Church of the Holy Comforter."13 The last link
bringing it into being as a fully independent church came when, on January
10, 1916, the Trustees of the Diocese conveyed a deed for the property on
South Boulevard to the Vestry of Holy Comforter.14 Later that
year, Reverend Osborne, who had seen the church through from its beginnings
to a successfully completed parish with a handsome building, was reassigned
by the Bishop and was succeeded by Rev. Robert Bruce Owens.15
Three years after Rev. Owens took charge, Mary Lamb Smith, one of the
original signers of the petition to start the church, died in the influenza
epidemic of 1919. Her grief-stricken husband, Edward A. Smith, who built the
Chadwick, Hoskins and other mills in the area, commissioned Tiffany's in New
York, without regard to expense, to build a memorial stained glass window to
be placed above the altar. The resulting five-panel set of windows depicting
the Last Supper is a striking work of art, which was done by Tiffany's best
artist, Frederick Wilson. The center panel shows Christ with raised, open
arms, while a dove, the symbol of the Holy Comforter, spreads its wings
above his head. The windows were donated anonymously, and Reverend Owens was
under pledge not to reveal their source until after Smith's death.16
In the nearly three decades of Reverend Ovens rectorship, from 1916 to
1945, the parish grew from 154 communicants to 284, and the church was
consolidated into a financially sound, important part of the Dilworth
community.17 But the character of Dilworth and that part of South
Boulevard changed, and the changes accelerated in the post-war period.
Dilworth lost its identity as a separate neighborhood, and suffered decay
and indiscriminate development along South Boulevard. In 1948, property for
a new church site, containing over five acres at the corner of Avondale and
Park Roads, was donated by Mrs. Salem A. Van Every in memory of her mother,
Mrs. Philip L. Lance, wife of the founder of Lance Packing Company. In 1949,
a new building committee was formed, and by 1954, the South Boulevard
property was sold and the church moved to the new location.18
The old Holy Comforter church building, along with its next-door neighbor
where the first services were held (the Dilworth Drug Store building),
constitute a small remaining historic core of early Dilworth's commercial,
civic and religious activities. Their preservation and rehabilitation are
crucial to the revitalization of that part of South Boulevard and a new
Dilworth that is very much aware of its historic heritage.
1 Typescript copy of speech by the Right Reverend Edwin A.
Penick, Bishop of North Carolina ,at the 50th anniversary of the Church of
the Holy Comforter, March 5, 1953, on file at the Historic District
2 Dan L. Morrill, "Edward Dilworth Latta and the Charlotte
Consolidated Construction Company (1890-1925): Builders of a New South
City," The North Carolina Historical Review 62 (1985),293-316.
3 Bishop Penick's address, cited above. The original
petitioners were Ida Clarkson Jones, Caroline Davis Taliaferro, Lora Marie
Stokes, Jennie L. Woodruff, Catherine Stokes, Frances McDonald, Mr. & Mrs.
Frank B. Ferris, Mrs. Horace Baker, Philip L. Lance, Jr., Mrs. Amanda L.
Ferris, Mrs. Addison Arnold, Ella Gardner, Mr. & Mrs. Philip Lance, Mrs.
Hattie C. Dorr, Addison Arnold, Miss Mary Lance, H. L. Hunter, Mrs. L. B.
Mann, Miss Ruth Lance, Mrs. H. L. Hunter, Mrs. E. A. Smith, B. S. Davis,
Mrs. B. S. Davis, Miss Agnes McCarthy, Ida V. Lamb, Mrs. Laura R. Gardner,
A. R. Gardner, Mrs. James F. York, and F. A. Gardner.
4 Journal of the Eighty-Seventh Annual Convention of the
Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of North Carolina (Raleigh:
Edwards & Broughton, 1903), p.62.
5 Ibid., p. 75.
6 Bishop Penick's speech, cited above; William H. Huffman, "A
Historical Sketch of the Dilworth Drug Store Building," Charlotte
Mecklenburg Historic Properties Communion, 1987.
7 Deed Book 195, p. 388, 23 March 1905; Deed Book 204, p.609,
January 1906. An additional 2-1/2' strip was obtained on September 9, 1909:
Deed Book 254, p. 173.
8 Bishop Penick's speech, cited above, "A Bulletin of
Information Concerning the Progress of the Bishop Atkinson Memorial Church,"
undated pamphlet on file at the Historic District Commission office.
9 Bishop Penick's speech, cited above.
11 The Carolina Churchman (1913), p. 13, A. F. Placzeck,
ed., Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architect (New York: The Free Press,
1982); Vol. 2, p.296; The Church Almanac (New York: The Protestant
Episcopal Tract Society, 1880), p. 96.
12 Reprinted in Carolina Churchman, cited above.
13 Bishop Penick's speech, cited above.
14 Ibid.; Deed Book 358, p.179, January 10, 1916.
15 Bishop Penick's speech.
16 Typescript copy of article by Fannie Lou Bingham in
Charlotte News. May, 1934, entitled, "Church Window Given as Memorial to
Wife," on file at Historic District Commission Office.
17 Bishop Penick's speech, cited above.
18 Deed Book 1718, p.581, October 27, 1954.
Mr. Joseph Schuchman and Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, which faces south, was erected
between 1908 and 1912 in Dilworth, Charlotte's initial streetcar suburb.
Once part of a thriving residential, industrial and commercial district, Old
Holy Comforter is one of only two surviving early twentieth century church
buildings in the South Boulevard section of Dilworth, the other being
Chalmers Memorial A.R.P. Church at 1800 South Boulevard, a
Neo-Classical style structure.1
Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church has a one and one-half story
rectangular Gothic Revival style nave with a covered, pedimented, single bay
entry porch, an offset left chimney, a cross gable on each side, and a
gable roof. The building rests on a foundation of rusticated granite and
is sheathed in man-made striated blocks. A rectangular shaped original wing
runs off the rear elevation and projects eastward toward South Boulevard.
Essentially an unpretentious brick building, this wing does have a front
facade of rusticated granite and striated blocks (to match the main portion
of the building) and a large, pedimented entrance. A stairway, originally
outside but now enclosed by a one story brick building that houses
Brown-Shoemaker Tire Co., is situated near the front of the eastern
elevation of the church.
Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church remains fundamentally incomplete. The
architect, Charles Coolidge Haight (1841-1917), submitted plans which called
for an extension of the nave southward, the construction of a two and
one-half story venerated belfry, and the placement of the main entrance at
the southeastern corner of the extension, thereby creating a cruciform. The
fact that these additions were never built gives the edifice a subdued,
almost rustic feel. Even though the design motifs commonly associated with
Gothic Revivalism are present, such as tracery, buttresses and, of course,
the pointed arch, Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church is by no means a
The most impressive features of Old Holy Comforter Episcopal Church are
inside the main block of the building. The first floor has four principal
rooms, each of which remains undivided. A chapel on the west side, the nave
or sanctuary in the middle, and a room off both front sides of the nave,
both reached from the sanctuary by a large arched entryway. All have elegant
vaulted coffered ceilings. Two modest rooms, most probably used as offices,
one having a door which leads to the nave, radiate off an entrance hall in
the right cross gable, and an "L" shaped stairway with square newels and
pickets leads to a full basement.
That the Holy Comforter Episcopal congregation selected the Gothic
Revival style for its suburban church is not surprising. Taking its
inspiration from the romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th
centuries, which rejected rationalism and extolled the supposed virtues of
Medieval Christendom, the Gothic Revival style, at least in the United
States, gained greatest and most enduring favor in church architecture.2
Moreover, the two Episcopal congregations in Mecklenburg County that predate
Holy Comforter, St. Mark's Episcopal and St. Peter's Episcopal, had selected
the Gothic Revival style, the former in 1886 and the latter in 1893.3
1 The only other Dilworth church now on South Boulevard is
Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church at 1117 South Boulevard. All of its
buildings are of relatively recent origin. For a detailed analysis of the
history of Dilworth, see Dr. Dan L. Morrill, "Edward Dilworth Latta and the
Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company: Builders of a New South City,"
in the North Carolina Historical Review, July, 1985, pp. 293-316. For
a detailed analysis of the architecture of North Carolina's early twentieth
century suburbs, see Catherine W. Bishir and Lawrence S. Early, Early
Twentieth-Century Suburbs in North Carolina: Essays on History,
Architecture and Planning (Raleigh: Archeology and Historic Preservation
Section, Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of
Cultural Resources, 1985).
2 Marcus Whiffen, American Architecture Since 1780: A Guide
to the Styles (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1969), pp.l73-177. John
Poppeliers, S. Allen Chambers, and Nancy B. Schwartz, "What Style Is It?
Part Two." Historic Preservation July-September, 1976), pp. 39-42.
3 Thomas W. Hanchett, "St. Peter's Episcopal Church
Architectural Description" (October, 1986), an unpublished manuscript
prepared for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission. Dr.
Dan L. Morrill, Survey and Research Report On The St. Mark's Episcopal
Church (March 1, 1983) an unpublished manuscript prepared for the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission.