Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

Survey & Research Reports

Delburg Cotton Mill House















1. Name and location of the property:
The Delburg Cotton Mill House
303 Delburg Street
Davidson, North Carolina

2. Name and address of the present owner of the property:
Prosser D. Carnegie
PO Box 363
Davidson, NC 28036

3. Representative photographs of the property:
This report contains representative photographs of the property.

4. Map depicting the location of the property:

Please note: this map depicts numerous mill houses along Delburg Street that have since been demolished.

5. Current deed book reference to the property:
The most recent deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 05247 on page 680.
The tax parcel number of the property is 00326203.

6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property.

7. A brief architectural description of the property:
This report contains a brief architectural description of the property.

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:
Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance: The
Commission judges that the property known as the Delburg Cotton Mill House possesses special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
following considerations:

1) The Delburg Cotton Mill House at 303 Delburg Street is an important artifact of
Davidson‟s industrial history, and of the once largely working-class west side of

2) The Delburg Cotton Mill House is also important in understanding the history of the
well-preserved Delburg Cotton Mill, and its quickly disappearing mill village.

3) The Delburg Mill House is an artifact of the significant social divide that once existed
between the mill workers and the other white residents of Davidson.

9. Ad Valorem tax appraisal:
The current assessed value of the property is $93,800.

10. Portion of property recommended for designation:
The interior and exterior of the house and
the approximately .10 acres of land associated with the tax parcel.

11. Date of Preparation of this Report:
December 5, 2014

Prepared by:
Stewart Gray, Preservation Planner, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission


The Delburg Cotton Mill House

The Delburg Cotton Mill was not the first cotton mill in Davidson. The Linden Cotton Mill was
built in Davidson in 1890 on the west side of the railroad. The town embraced industrialization
in the last years of the 19th century and during the early years of the 20th. The mills and other
industrial plants built in Davidson drastically changed the town‟s landscape, and the introduction
of a non-agricultural blue-collar workforce significantly changed the social dynamics of the
community. However, as the 20th century progressed, the prominence and importance of industry
in Davidson decreased.

Some of the artifacts of Davidson‟s historic industrialization, including the town‟s two cotton
mills have survived. However, much from that period has been lost, and the town‟s recent and
unprecedented institutional, non-industrial commercial, and residential growth has overshadowed
and threatened the built environment associated with the town‟s industrial past. The “mill
village” character of the west side of Davidson is quickly eroding. Many mill houses have been
lost, and arguably all of the surviving mill houses are endangered. The Delburg Cotton Mill
House at 303 Delburg Street is an important artifact of Davidson‟s industrial history and of the
once largely working-class west side of Davidson. The Delburg Cotton Mill House is also
important in understanding the history of the well-preserved Delburg Cotton Mill and its quickly
disappearing mill village. The Delburg Mill House is also an artifact that represents the social
divide that once existed between the mill workers and the other white residents of the town.

Industrialization and the Development of an Industrial Landscape in Davidson

In 1890 the Linden Manufacturing Company was incorporated, and a cotton mill was built in
Davidson on the west side of the railroad directly across the tracks from the commercial district
along Main Street. The company‟s board of directors was local, two professors and four
Davidson businessmen.1 A small collection of mill housing developed around the mill on Eden
Street and what was then known as Linden Street (now Depot Street). 2 This was not a
traditional mill village, but more an ad hoc collection of various types of small frame houses.
And it appears that initially the mill workers were not isolated to the west side of town. An
1891 article in the Davidson College Magazine indicated that the mill opening resulted in no
vacant houses in the town. 3

At first it appears that the town embraced industrial development. In 1891 this article appeared in
the Davidson Monthly:

Our cotton mills are still booming. The local editor was very much surprised to
see so great a progress when he visited the mills a few days ago. There are two
thousand and eight hundred spindles running all the time, and the president
informs us that more are to be added shortly. The machinery is of the very best
material and has all the latest improvements. An automatic fire extinguisher will
be put in during the next few days. They already have electric lights in full
running order. These mills are quite an addition to Davidson.4

Perhaps reflecting a spirit of industrialization that was found throughout the South in the late 19th
century, Davidson businessmen, and townspeople in general, saw the mill as a „tangible sign of
progress.”5 Another significant industrial development occurred in 1899 with the opening of the
Davidson Cotton Oil Mill:

One has but to visit the new oil mill situated on the southern extremity of the town
to realize the progressive spirit which rules at Davidson. Here one sees the
workings of complete machinery and all the modern equipments of an oil mill,
while the products guarantee success. The people cannot be too highly
commended for this enterprise. 6

Other industries that followed the cotton mill included a flour mill, sawmill, roller mill,
fertilizer plant, and an ice plant, all located in the west side of town. In addition, at the
beginning of the 20th century, around 2,000 bales of cotton were bought and sold in town.
This process involved wagons loaded with 1,500 pounds of raw cotton traveling down
Main Street and Concord Road, and the ginning of the 500 pound bales at a ginnery near
the cotton oil plant along South Main Street. At its peak early in the 20th century, the
industrial presence (its buildings, structures, workers, and activities) in Davidson may
have rivaled the Davidson College for prominence.

The opening of the Delburg Cotton Mill in 1907, and its expansion in 1917, represented
the apex of the industrial development of Davidson. The 1917 addition greatly increased
the size of the Delburg Cotton Mill and the industrial capacity and workforce of the town
as a whole. An article in the September 1917 Davidsonian states that the expansion
doubled the size of the mill and required 100 new employees or “operators.” A 1930
article from the Davidsonian estimated the entire mill village population at 300, so the
addition in 1917 of 100 new workers would have been dramatic.


1917 article from the Davidsonian (Davidson College Archives)

Evidence of the 1917 expansion of the Delburg Cotton Mill can be found in the orderly
development of a mill village along Delburg and Watson Streets. The 1915 Sanborn Insurance
Company Map for Davidson shows no houses immediately around the 1907 section of the
Delburg Cotton Mill. Watson Street does not appear to exist, and Delburg Street is shown as
Delburg Alley, and does not extended to the west of the rail line. Tax records indicate that from
1916 to 1921 small, three-bay-wide, side-gabled, frame mill houses were erected close to the
mill along the newly established Delburg and Watson streets. It is easy to assume that these
houses were built to accommodate the additional workers who were required by the mill
expansion. The Delburg Cotton Mill House, located at 303 Delburg Street, is the best preserved
example of this generation of mill houses and is located just 60 feet from the 1917 Delburg Mill addition. Farther west on Delburg Street hipped-roof houses replace the closer in side-gabled
mill houses, perhaps representing a later mill village expansion.

An aerial photograph of the west side of Davidson shows the expanded Delburg Cotton Mill
(upper left-hand corner), with orderly and evenly spaced, small, frame houses extending west
along Delburg Street and north along Watson Street, typical of a mill village. With two cotton
mills, a cotton seed oil plant, and various other industrial operations in place, the build-out of the
Delburg Cotton Mill village solidified the blue-collar/industrial character of the west side of

The above photograph is an aerial view of Davidson taken soon after World War II. In the foreground is the African-American Mock Circle Neighborhood. In the upper-left corner is the Delburg Cotton Mill (by that time re-named the Davidson Cotton Mill). Delburg Street extends from the mill to the left edge of the photograph. Watson Street intersects with Delburg Street at the rear of the mill and extends to the top of the photograph. (Davidson College Archives)

Social Effects of Industrialization

The increased industrialization of Davidson encouraged a social division between the white mill
workers and the other white (mostly middle-class) residents in Davidson.7 While this
phenomenon was widespread throughout the sections of the Piedmont where industrialization
was taking place, in Davidson the changes were especially vivid.

Throughout the 19th century Davidson remained small. And despite the fact that ancient Greek
and advanced mathematics were being taught at the college, the place had a distinctly rural
atmosphere, surrounded as it was by very little but agricultural land.

Aerial view of Davidson, looking to the northeast, ca. 1930 (Davidson College Archives)

In late-19th century Davidson, like most other rural communities in North Carolina, whites were
jumbled together. Regardless of wealth or social rank they generally worked together, lived near
each other, and worshiped together. The introduction of the mills and other manufacturing plants
into Davidson changed that order.

…as mill populations increased, social divisions between middle-class and
working-class whites grew. In Davidson there were separate recreation programs
and a separate chapel for the mill families. And while there was never a separate
mill school, the town continued to offer only four months of free schooling with
additional months offered for a fee, thereby creating a two-tiered system that
disadvantaged the mill children.8

While many southern towns may have had a class division between mill workers and a merchant
class, Davidson also had the distinction of having a “town and gown” split. With a significant
number of citizens who worked for Davidson College, and who possessed an advanced
education, the cultural, social, and economic differences among the town‟s elites and the mill
workers were quite distinct. A note in the January, 1892 issue of the Davidson Monthly gives
some insight into this separation:

Dr. Munroe gave the factory children a Christmas tree at his residence. It was
quite a success, and thereby Dr. has made a warm spot for himself in the hearts of
the factory hands. If all employers would treat their laborers so, how much
brighter would be thousands of homes in our land, and the great chasm between
capitalists and laborers would be bridged over. 9

By 1920, Davidson was a socially and geographically segregated town. Mill workers were
housed to the west of the railroad tracks, around the Delburg Mill on Delburg, Watson, Griffith,
and Armour Streets, and around the Linden Mill on Depot, Sloan, and Eden Streets. Other
whites (including college faculty, merchants, builders, boarding house operators) generally lived
east of the tracks. Blacks lived along Brady‟s Alley to the east of the tracks, and to the west of
the mill housing around Mock Circle.
The designation and preservation of the Delburg Cotton Mill House would help to demonstrate
the historic cultural and economic separation of mill workers in Davidson.


Decline of the Significance of Industry in Davidson

Unlike the neighboring northern Mecklenburg towns of Cornelius and Huntersville, Davidson
pre-dates the railroad, which arrived in the town in 1861. The Town of Davidson owes its
existence to the establishment of Davidson College in 1837. Thus, Davidson was never a
typical Piedmont mill town. Cotton milling and other industries that followed greatly influenced
the development of the town, but the identity of the town was primarily linked to the college.
While the neighboring towns of Cornelius and Mooresville, which largely developed because of cotton milling, were considered “mill towns.” Davidson, despite significant industrial
development around the beginning of the 20th century, was always a “college town.”
Several factors contributed to the diminution of the prominence of industry in Davidson.
Davidson College embarked on an aggressive building campaign in the 1920s. And in 1924,
industrialist James Buchannan Duke established the Duke Endowment with Davidson College
receiving a five percent share. This insured continual financial support for the college leading to
a progression of material and academic improvements. While always dominant, the steady
physical and workforce expansion of Davidson College assured the college would remain the
focal point of the town. 10
At the same time that the college was growing, the mills of Davidson were facing hardships.
Davidson was never a major cotton milling center, and as the 20th century progressed, larger,
more modern milling operations developed in Gastonia, Kannapolis, and Mooresville. In 1923
the Linden Mill and the Delburg Cotton mill were merged, and the president, J. P. Munroe, was
negotiating to sell the company.

“…conditions in the mill business are such with labor conditions uncertain, money
commanding high rates of interest, cotton constantly fluctuating in price, yarn buyers
comparatively scarce and hard to please, that considering all these things, I myself am
willing and anxious to sell at some price even though that price be considerably below
par.” 11

The mills were soon sold to Martin Cannon, of Cannon Mills. Cannon closed the Linden Mill and turned
it into a warehouse, and the Delburg Mill was renamed the Davidson Cotton Mill. The mill struggled
through the Great Depression and then rebounded during World War II. After the war, the Davidson
Cotton Mill was considered old and outdated.12 The mill closed suddenly in April 1947. The news made
the front page of the local newspaper. The owner stated that the mill needed repairs. 13 In contrast to the
boosterish rhetoric that accompanied the introduction of cotton mills to Davidson, the end of the mills
elicited little more than a whimper. Two weeks after the mill closed, the local newspaper reported on
workers signing up for unemployment compensation. In the same article, the reporter interviewed local
merchants about the effect of the closing. The merchants responded that “they could not tell any

Architectural Context of the Delburg Cotton Mill House

In 2013 the 300 block of Delburg Street retained a high degree of integrity. Of the twenty-five
houses on the block, twenty were side-gabled or hipped-roof mill houses with a good degree of integrity. Significant development is occurring on the block. Since 2013, six of the thirteen mill
houses with good integrity on the south side of the street have been demolished, with additional
houses (347 and 376 Delburg) slated for demolition. The houses are being replaced with new
residential development.


Above: 309 Delburg St., 2013 Below: 309-13 Delburg St., 2014


Above: 313 Delburg St., 2013 Below: 309-13 Delburg St., 2014


Above: 329 Delburg St., 2013 Below: 329 Delburg St., 2014


Above: 333 Delburg St., 2013 Below: 333 Delburg St., 2014


Above: 361 Delburg St., 2013 Below: 361 Delburg St., 2014


Above:369 Delburg St., 2013 Below: 369 Delburg St., 2014


With the substantial loss of integrity for the 300 block of Delburg Streeet to what was until
recently an intact mill village setting, the significance of the Delburg Cotton Mill House located
at 303 Delburg has greatly increased. With its unique location adjacent to the mill, the Delburg
Cotton Mill House still conveys the historic relationship of the mill to the mill houses.

The Delburg Cotton Mill House, with the mill in the background


Architectural Description

The Delburg Cotton Mill House at 303 Delburg Street is a one-story, frame, side-gabled house,
typical of early-20th century Piedmont mill housing. The house faces north and sits on an
irregularly shaped .10 corner lot. The house fronts on Delburg Street and is located
approximately 21 feet from the pavement. The east side of the house faces Watson Street. Until
recently, Delburg Street was populated by a fairly intact collection of one-story side-gabled and
hipped-roof mill houses. Many of these houses have been demolished. The neighboring house
to the west of the Delburg Cotton Mill House is a new two-story frame house. To the east,
across Watson Street, is the two-story, brick Delburg Cotton Mill/Davidson Cotton Mill. A large
water oak is located in the front yard.


The front of the house is dominated by a full width engaged porch. The original porch floor has
been replaced with pressure-treated boards supported by a block foundation. Block steps with
block cheek walls lead to the porch. The porch roof is engaged with the principal roof, but has a
slightly lower pitch. The porch roof is supported by six simple square posts. The porch ceiling is
original tongue-and-groove boards. The front elevation fenestration is symmetrical with a
replacement door centered between one-over-one windows. The double-hung windows contain
replacement one-lite sash. Like the other elevations, the front elevation is covered with
weatherboard that terminates at simple corner boards. Centered on the ridge is an internal
chimney with a corbelled cap. The chimney has been parged.
It is likely that the house was originally a single-pile (one room deep) building. It appears that
the roof was extended to cover additional rooms added to the rear of the house. On the west
elevation, the original brick piers are exposed, and are now infilled with block. The principal
section of the house is two bays wide. Each bay contains a single double-hung window with
replacement single-light sash. An original rectangular louvered vent is located high in gable.
The same siding found on the front was used on the side elevations. There is no transition in the
siding on the side elevations indicating that the house was expanded to the rear.


The east elevation is similar to the west elevation. The window in the rear bay was replaced with
a shorter double-hung window to accommodate kitchen cabinetry. The lower section of the
original window opening is patched with short pieces of siding. Unlike the west elevation there is
no vent in the gable.

A shallow shed addition was added to the rear of the house and may incorporate portions of a
rear porch. The addition is flush with the principal west elevation, and is set back approximately
six feet from the principal east elevation. On the west side of the house, the weatherboard siding
of the principal section is separated from the German siding of the addition by a vertical board.
The west elevation of the addition is pierced with a six-light casement window.
The rear of the addition is covered with German siding. A replacement door is roughly centered
on the rear of the addition. To the west of the door, the rear elevation is pierced by a pair of sixlight
casement windows. To the east of the door are two covered window openings. The opening
closest to the door is covered with a plywood panel. The second window opening is set low in
the wall and is covered with beaded board. The west side of the addition is supported by a
continuous block foundation. The east side of the addition features a brick pier at the corner.
The siding on the west side of the addition stops at the level of the door threshold. The siding on
the east side of the addition extends lower by four courses. The east elevation of the addition is
blank and is covered with weatherboard, as is the only exposed section of the rear elevation of
the principal section of the house.

The interior of the Delburg Cotton Mill House has retained a good degree of integrity. The fourroom
layout of the principal section of the house has been retained, and the interior of the
principal four rooms should be included in any landmark designation. The original pine floors
appears to have survived in all four rooms. The front two rooms feature tall (approximately 9‟6”) ceilings. Wallboard has been added over the original ceiling boards. The living room
walls are also covered with wallboard. Original window and door trim is in place. Tall original
baseboards have been topped with additional moulded trim.
The front bedroom has also retained the original beaded-board wall covering. The central
chimney services fireboxes in both front rooms. The brick fireplace surrounds and mantles are
of recent construction. An original recessed space features recently added louvered doors.

The rear two rooms feature lower ceilings. The rear bedroom features the original beaded-board
wall covering, baseboard, and simple window trim. Recent trim has been added to juncture of
the walls and ceiling. The ceiling has been covered with wallboard.

The kitchen has retained the original pine flooring. The ceiling is covered with wallboard, and
the walls are covered with cabinetry and wallboard.
The rear addition of house contains a bathroom and a mudroom/laundry room. The interior
features of the rear addition are in poor condition and do not contribute to the significance of the



A small concrete block outbuilding with a gabled roof is located behind the house. The
outbuilding dates from the second half of the 20th century, and does not contribute to the
historical significance of the property.

1. Jan Blodgett and Ralph B. Levering, One Town Many Voices: A History of Davidson, NC
(Davidson: Davidson Historical Society, 2012), 66.
2 Sanborrn Map, Davidson,NC. December 1915.
3 Davidson College Magazine, vol. VII, no. 1 (October 1891) 28.
4 “Davidson – Linden Manufacturing Company Begins Operations” Davidson Monthly,
November 1891.
5 Stewart Gray and Dr. Paula M. Stathakis “Survey and Research Report on the Davidson Cotton
Mill,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg HJistoric Landmarks Commission, 2004.
6 Davidson Monthly, January 1900.
7 Blodgett and Levering, One Town, 98.
8 Blodgett and Levering, One Town, 100.
9 Davidson Monthly, January 1892, 140.
10 Blodgett and Levering, One Town, 100.
11 Gray and Stathakis “Report on the Davidson Cotton Mill.”
12 Gray and Stathakis “Report on the Davidson Cotton Mill.”
13 Community, Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 3, 1947) 1.
14 Community, Vol. 1, No. 3 (April 17, 1947) 1.

Defiance Sock Mills













  1. Name and location of the property:  The property known as the Defiance Sock Mills is located at 520 Elliot Street, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.


  1. Name and address of the present owner of the property:


       520 Elliot Street LLC

c/o Enventys

520 Elliot Street

Suite 200

Charlotte, North Carolina  28202


  1. Representative photographs of the property:  This report contains representative photographs of the property.


  1. Maps depicting the location of the property:  This report contains a map (Figure 4) depicting the location of the property.


  1. UTM coordinate: ____________________________


  1. Current deed book and tax parcel information for the property:  The tax parcel number for the property is 07324219.  The most recent reference to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 16786, pages 582-585, dated 17 February 2004.


  1. A brief historical sketch of the property:  This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property.


  1. A brief architectural description of the property:  This report contains a brief architectural description of the property.


  1. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5: 


  1. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance:  The property known as the Defiance Sock Mills does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  This judgment is based on the following considerations:


1)  Built in 1918, Defiance Sock Mills was one of the first two hosiery mills constructed in the city and is the only one to survive.  The production of socks was an important specialized type   of textile production, especially during World War I when demand was high, and the mill   represents the heyday of textile manufacturing and its related industries in Charlotte during the period;


2) Defiance Sock Mills is a good example of mill architecture with its heavy timber construction, brick walls, tall windows, and narrow form.  Its location along the Piedmont and Northern interurban rail line also illustrates the importance of the railroads to industrial development before the era of trucking.  Defiance is part of a small industrial district that emerged in the McNinchville neighborhood to take advantage of the proximity of the Southern Railway and the Piedmont and Northern.


  1. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and/or association: 

Like most textile plants, Defiance Sock Mills has had additions made since the construction of the original mill in 1918, but the middle section was added before 1929, during the historic period, and is part of the historic fabric of the building.  Only the 1987 warehouse is a modern addition, and its location at the rear of the building makes it less visually obtrusive.  Although a portion of the building has been stuccoed, and the window lights are replacements, the building retains the form, design, and workmanship of early twentieth century textile mills.


  1. 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 a designated historic landmark.  The current total tax value of the building and features is $270,400.  The current tax value of the lot is $954,600.  The current total value is $1,225,000.


  1. Portion of property recommended for designation:  The interior and exterior of the building and the property associated with the tax parcel are recommended for historic designation.


Date of preparation of this report: October 15, 2011


Prepared by: Mattson, Alexander and Associates, Inc.




Historical Overview/

Summary Statement of Significance


Constructed in 1918, Defiance Sock Mills reflects Charlotte’s rise as a textile manufacturing center and booming New South city during the early twentieth century.  Erected as one of the city’s first hosiery mills, the building was later a mattress factory and was eventually the home of a local roofing firm where asbestos goods were also produced and sold.  Defiance Sock Mills arose amidst the rapid industrial development of Charlotte and the surrounding Piedmont.  By World War I, there were over 300 textile mills within a 100-mile radius of the Queen City, and by the 1920s the Piedmont had surpassed New England as the leading textile producer in the world.  Textiles, in turn, attracted other industries to Charlotte, and with the growth of manufacturing, the population of Charlotte skyrocketed from just 18,000 in 1900 to over 82,000 in 1929, becoming the largest city in the two Carolinas.

Defiance Sock Mills was sited within the McNinchville subdivision just west of downtown Charlotte.  McNinchville took shape as a small streetcar neighborhood within the city’s Third Ward with industries as well as middle-class and worker houses.  But the area was strategically situated for industrial development because of its proximity to both the Southern Railway and the Piedmont and Northern Railway, an electric-powered interurban line completed in 1912 to connect Charlotte to the textile center of Gastonia, twenty-four miles to the west.  With its low-pitched roof, brick exterior walls, and mill construction of heavy timber posts and beams, Defiance Sock Mills typifies the textile mills and factories built in Charlotte during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.



Historical Background

In 1915, Charlotteans Morehead Jones (president) and Kenneth S. Tanner (secretary) organized Defiance Sock Mills, makers of men’s and women’s hosiery.  In August 1915, the new company purchased land from the Fabrik Development Corporation on the south side of the McNinchville subdivision in Charlotte’s Third Ward (Figure 1).  McNinchville had been platted in 1909, following Samuel McNinch’s acquision of the tract from Heriot Clarkson.  Along with the nearby Woodlawn and Irwin Park neighborhoods, McNinchville became a small streetcar suburb on what was then the western periphery of the city.   Laid out primarily for single-family houses, the area soon attracted industrial development as well.  McNinchville was bounded by the Southern Railway to the east, the Piedmont and Northern (P&N) Railway to the south and the 1884 Victor Cotton Mill to the north.  The freight yards and terminals for both the Southern and the P&N railways stood just several blocks away.  In 1913, the Fabrik Development Corporation began buying a number of McNinchville parcels in anticipation of the area’s growth.  Two years later, Fabrik sold Lots 9-10, on Block 17 to Defiance Sock Mills for five hundred dollars.  The lots were located alongside the P&N Railway at 520 Elliott Street.  In 1918, Defiance Sock Mills purchased two adjoining parcels (Lots 11-12) for another five hundred dollars and constructed the mill (Figure 2).  The brick mill included a concrete loading dock on the west side that was served by a P&N spur line (Mecklenburg County Map Book 230:46; Deed Books 144: 632; 302: 476; 345: 564; 391: 488; Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Charlotte, 1929).


Defiance Sock Mills was one of many Piedmont mills that were formed or expanded to meet the growing demand for hosiery products after the outbreak of World War I in 1914.  Although the United States did not declare war on Germany until 1917, the conflict was a boon for American manufacturers who made the clothing, tents, and other textile goods needed by the United Kingdom and its allies.  The mill’s name, “Defiance,” probably expressed the resolve and sympathies of its owners, Jones and Tanner, in the war effort.  In October 1917, the national textile publication, Textile America, announced that Defiance Sock Mills in Charlotte was planning to purchase knitting equipment, and in June 1918, near the end of the war, construction finally began.  Charlotte contractor, P. N. Hunter, was hired to erect the new mill.  Hunter was a major local builder whose important commissions included the 1912 Carnegie Library at Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University) in Charlotte.  The front section of the mill was completed in 1918, and a seven-bay brick addition to the rear (now the middle section of the building) was constructed before 1929 (Textile America October 1917; Charlotte Building Permit, 7 June 1918; Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Charlotte, 1929).


Defiance Sock Mills was soon in full operation.  Manufacturing ladies stockings and men’s half-hose, the knitting room contained eighty-one knitting machines and thirteen sewing machines.  The company employed forty-three women, twenty-three men, and nine children.  In 1918, Defiance Sock Mills purchased a series of house lots along streets adjacent to the mill and in the nearby Woodlawn subdivision, presumably to construct dwellings for its workers (Mecklenburg County Deed Book 391: 518-519; N.C. Department of Labor and Printing 1920: 75).


Defiance Sock Mills was one of only two hosiery mills in Charlotte at the time of its construction.  The other was Charlotte Knitting Company (now gone), which had been established in the Dilworth neighborhood the same year.  By the 1920s and early 1930s, however, hosiery manufacturing expanded in Charlotte and across the region.  These new knitting mills reflected the growing diversification of the textile industry after World War I as well as the emerging demand for women’s full-fashioned hose.  The position of Charlotte as a textile center and the boom town of the Carolinas in the 1920s made it an attractive location for full-fashioned hosiery mills.  By the early 1930s, the city contained five such textile plants.  Charlotte Knitting Company; Larkwood Hosiery Mill; Hudson Silk Hosiery Mill; Okey Hosiery Mill; and the Nebel Knitting Mill were all concentrated along the Southern Railway in Dilworth’s industrial section.  Nebel was the largest of this group, employing some 250 workers by World War II (Hall et al. 1987, 237-288; Pickens and Mattson 1990).


While Charlotte’s hosiery industry advanced during the 1920s, Defiance Sock Mills, suffering perhaps from the country’s postwar economic slump, ceased operations in 1922.  The property was purchased for $10,000 by Charlotte businessmen, Felix and Henry Hayman.  Owners of downtown meat markets, the brothers Hayman also invested in a variety of downtown buildings and business ventures after World War I.  Felix Hayman bought the Philip Carey Building (now Dixie Tavern) on Seventh Street, and in 1919 he purchased Wearn Field on South Mint Street, becoming president of Charlotte’s baseball team, the Hornets (Mecklenburg County Deed Book 470: 217; 481: 146; Spratt 1992:  244).


Under the Haymans’ ownership in the 1920s, the building housed Dixie Waste Mills and Caro Bedding Company, which made mattresses and upholstery padding from the bales of cotton waste (Figure 3).  By the mid-1930s, the building served as warehouse for Guy Beaty Roofing Company, which marketed asbestos insulation and shingles.  The building remained a roofing supply warehouse until 1996 when the Beaty family sold the property.  The building has subsequently been converted to professional offices (Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Company, Charlotte, N.C. 1929, 1951).



Architectural Description

The former Defiance Sock Mills is located in the Third Ward neighborhood of center city Charlotte on the north side of the former Piedmont and Northern Railway interurban line.  Third Ward was one of four areas that comprised the original city of Charlotte, and by the early twentieth century, the area was developed with numerous mills, factories, and both worker and middle-class housing.  Third Ward has undergone much redevelopment in recent years with the construction of a football stadium and Johnson and Wales University.  Many of the mills and factories have been renovated for commercial use, and single-family houses, condominiums, and apartments have been built among the surviving early to mid-twentieth century dwellings.


Defiance Mills occupies a long, narrow parcel that slopes down from Elliot Street west towards Irwin Creek.  Interstate 77 was built in the Irwin Creek stream bed and now roughly forms the western boundary of the parcel.  Built in the mid-1920s, the well-preserved Armature Winding Company plant (local landmark 2003) stands across Elliot Street from the mill while a modern, multiple-story apartment building occupies the lot to the north.


The mill is a long, two-story building with brick walls laid in American bond, a low-pitched, gable roof with exposed rafter tails, and tall, segmental-arched windows.  The windows have their original configurations, but fixed, single lights have replaced the original multiple-light windows and aluminum now covers the original wood sash.  Because of the sloping topography, the main entrance facing Elliot Street opens onto the second floor.  The building was constructed in three phases, and only the warehouse (1987) to the rear breaks the otherwise rectangular plan of the mill.  A spur line from the adjacent P&N ended at a concrete loading dock on the side (southwest) elevation of the building.


The original mill has an asymmetrical front elevation (east) with a replacement front door and stoop, flanked by the pairs of tall, segmental-arched windows found on the side elevations.  There is also evidence of bricked-in, segment-arched windows on the lower floor.  Now largely below grade, these windows may originally have opened onto light wells, but only the arch is currently visible.  On the side (north) elevation of the original mill is a corrugated-metal shed roof that shelters the lower story windows and a loading bay that is now used as one of the principal entrances to the building.  Beyond this entrance is a projecting stair tower.  Original multiple-light, wooden-sash windows survive on the tower.


The opposite elevation, facing the P&N, is also punctuated by pairs of tall, segmental-arched windows as well as several loading bays that have segmental-arched transoms but replacement doors.  The loading dock, and a later paved driveway and handicap ramp, sit on an area of fill that made the loading area on grade with the P&N and Elliot Street.  As with the front elevation, the once ground level windows in this area are now largely below grade.  Behind the dock, the terrain follows its natural slope, and the lower story is at ground level.


The middle section begins just behind the stair tower.  This addition was altered during the 1988 renovation with a stucco veneer that obscures all but the transom portions of the upper story windows.  On the side (south) elevation, the middle addition has brick walls, pairs of shorter, segmental-arched windows, and a loading bay that has been modified with a single-leaf door, sidelights, and transom.  The rear warehouse is a prefabricated, metal building with a steel structure.  A covered, concrete dock extends out from the north elevation to allow for truck loading.


The interior of the original building reveals the characteristic mill construction of heavy timber piers and beams.  The chamfered piers are capped by simple, timber capitals that deflect the loads.  The exposed brick walls are unpainted.  The interior has been partitioned into offices, and the original divided-light, wood-sash transoms are used as interior features.  The once exterior rear wall of the original mill retains its windows.  Here, the wood sash between the individual windows and transoms appears original, but the steel-sash, reinforced-glass windows appear to date to a post-World War II renovation.  The middle section also has heavy timber mill construction, but the piers are capped by steel collars that join the piers and beams.  This section is also divided into offices and work spaces.  A concrete block separates the rear of the middle section from the open interior of the rear warehouse.

Bibliographic References


Hanchett, Thomas W.  Sorting Out the New South City:  Charlotte and Its Neighborhood.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Mecklenburg County. Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Register of Deeds.

Charlotte Building Permit.  7 June 1918.  Available at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library, Charlotte.

Glass, Brent D.  The Textile Industry in North Carolina, A History.  Raleigh:  Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1992.

Goldfield, David R.  Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers.  Chapel Hill: University of  North Carolina Press, 1982.

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, et al.  Like a Family:  The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World.  Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Charlotte City Directories, 1918-to the present.  Available at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library, Charlotte.

Lefler, Hugh and Albert and Newsome.  The History of a Southern State:  North Carolina Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1954.

Mitchell, George Sinclair.  The Industrial Revolution in the South.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 1930.

North Carolina Department of Labor and Printing.  Thirty-fourth Report by the State of North Carolina, 1920. Raleigh: Mitchell Printing Company, 1920.

Pickens, Suzanne, and Richard L. Mattson.  Nebel Knitting Mill:  Survey and Research Report. On file at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, Charlotte, 1990.

Sanborn Map Company.  Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.  New York:  Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1929, 1951.

Spratt, Mary Norton.  Charlotte, Spirit of the New South.  Charlotte: Continental Heritage Press, 1992.


Figure 1

 McNinchville Plat, 1909




Source:  Mecklenburg County Map Book 230, page 46

Figure 2

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1929






Figure 3

 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1951






Figure 4


Defiance Sock Mills (Tax Parcel Outlined in Black)

Location Map


Source:  Mecklenburg County Tax Map


Davis House and Outbuildings


Croft Schoolhouse


S. W. Davis House


This report was written on 30 March 1992

1. Names and locations of the properties: The properties known as the Croft Schoolhouse and the S. W. Davis House and Outbuildings are located on Bob Beatty Road in the unincorporated area known as Croft, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

2. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the present owners of the properties: The owners of the properties are:

Investors Real Estate Investment Company
P. O. Box 51579
Durham, NC 27717

Local Agent: John A. Gilchrist
East West Partners of Charlotte
8800 Davis Lake Parkway
Charlotte, NC 28269

Telephone: (704) 598-0063

Croft Schoolhouse
Tax Parcel Number: 027-201-07
Deed Book 5744, page 542

S. W. Davis House and Outbuildings
Tax Parcel Number: 027-201-06
Deed Book 5744, page 542

3. Representative photographs of the properties: This report contains representative photographs of the properties.

4. A map depicting the location of the properties: This report contains maps which depict the location of the properties.

5. Current Deed Book References to the properties: The most recent deeds to the Tax Parcels, as listed in Mecklenburg County Deed Books, are given above in item 2.

6. A brief historical sketch of the properties: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the properties prepared by Paula M. Stathakis.

7. Brief architectural descriptions of the properties: This report contains brief architectural descriptions of the properties prepared by Nora M. Black.

8. Documentation of why and what ways the properties meet criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5:


a. Special significance in terms of history, architecture, and /or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the properties known as the Croft Schoolhouse and the S. W. Davis House and Outbuildings do possess special significance in terms of Mecklenburg County. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:
1) the community of Croft was an important early railroad stop between Charlotte and Huntersville;
2) the original two room, two story Croft Schoolhouse was constructed ca.1890;
3) the ca. 1910 two story addition to the Croft Schoolhouse was built by Neil Barnett, a local carpenter;
4) the Croft Schoolhouse served the community until the 1930s;
5) S. W. Davis became a prominent farmer, and with his brother, Charles, a retail merchant;
6) the S. W. Davis House was built ca.1903 by Neil Barnett;
7) the S. W. Davis House is a fine example of a Queen Anne style farmhouse;
8) the largely intact exterior and interior of the S. W. Davis House show the early 20th century pattern of living in rural Mecklenburg County;
9) the two outbuildings, the flower house and the spring house, are fine examples of early 20th century brickwork; and
10) the Croft Schoolhouse, the S. W. Davis House, and the outbuildings provide a set of timeless landmarks in the changing landscape of northern Mecklenburg County.

b. Integrity, design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and /or association: The Commission contends that the architectural descriptions by Nora M. Black included in this report demonstrate that the Croft Schoolhouse and the S. W. Davis House and Outbuildings meet 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 a designated “historic landmark.” The land has been divided into new Tax Parcels so recently that the Tax Office has not recorded the new current appraised value of the improvements, the current appraised value of the land included in the Tax Parcels, the total appraised value of the properties, and zoning.

Date of preparation of this report: 30 March 1992

Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill in conjunction with Nora M. Black
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
The Law Building, Suite 100, 730 East Trade Street
P. O. Box 35434
Charlotte, North Carolina

Telephone: (704) 376-9115



Historical Overview

P. M. Stathakis

The Croft Community is located on NC 115 along the Norfolk Southern Railroad, between Charlotte and Huntersville. Croft was once described by a train conductor as “a mud puddle between Charlotte and Statesville.”1 The Croft School and the S.W. Davis House are two of the twenty-one contributing structures and sites of the National Register Historic District that make up the small community.2 In addition to the school and the Davis House, other principal structures in Croft include the S.W. and C.S. Davis General Store, the C.S. Davis house, and the Robert Beatty House. Minor features include warehouses, storage buildings, barns, a smokehouse, and a flower house (located adjacent to the S.W. Davis house).3

The focal point of Croft is the S.W. and C.S. Davis General Store, established in 1908 by brothers Silas Winslow and Charles Spencer Davis. The Croft District is, as a whole, representative of the time when Mecklenburg was still largely rural, and when a significant part of its economy was based on agriculture. During this time, country merchants, such as the Davis brothers, controlled part of this rural economy by acting as suppliers, middlemen, and bankers to area farmers.

Croft and its general store would have never developed without the railroad. The tracks that run through Croft, in front of the general store, the S.W. Davis House and the school house were formerly part of the Atlantic, Tennessee, and Ohio Railroad. This line, which connected Charlotte to Huntersville and points beyond, was completed in 1863. Shortly after its completion, portions of this track were torn up and re-laid to supplement the wartime needs of a railroad between Greensboro, NC and Danville, VA. After the Civil War, the A.T. & O. leg between Charlotte and Huntersville was restored in its entirety by 1871. This railroad has been aptly described as the “spine” of the subsequent industrial and commercial development in Northern Mecklenburg in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.4

The railroad and the general store in turn-of-the-century Mecklenburg County, and in the south as a whole, were tremendously important social and economic forces. The construction of railroads changed the outlook of southern agriculture and the situation of the yeoman farmer. Railroads brought the market closer to the farmer, and it seems that farmers could have reaped great financial benefits from this arrangement. However, many farmers ultimately found themselves trapped between the railroad and the merchant. Railroads brought cheap manufactured goods, that undercut regional monopolies, and effectively put most domestic manufacturing and artisans out of production. Rural families became less reliant on domestic manufactures, and more dependent on area merchants who extended credit on purchases. Farmers were also often vulnerable to the credit system provided by local merchants which required that credit customers provide a cash crop as security on their account. In Mecklenburg County, as in many other parts of the south, farmers were consequently forced to shift from subsistence farming to cotton cultivation to satisfy merchants. Small farmers were always in debt to merchants for seed and fertilizer, and by the turn of the century, cotton became the crop that chained the farmer to the merchant in the cycle of debt and obligation.

It was in this economic climate that the Davis brothers established their store. The general store had a cotton gin on site to process bales for local farmers. According to the Annual Accounts of the Estate of Silas Davis, this gin pressed 500 pound bales with processing fees ranging from 22 l/4 cents per pound to 25 cents per pound. Part of the cotton ginned by the Davis brothers was sold directly to area mills and cotton brokers, and could be distributed to these customers easily by train.5 The Davis general store also sold agricultural supplies, general merchandise and provided the first telephone in Croft.6

Silas Davis combined farming and retailing throughout his adult life. The 1900 and 1910 manuscript census lists Silas Davis as a farmer and lists his brother Charles as a retail merchant.7 According to Helen Brown, daughter of Silas Davis, her father grew cotton, corn, wheat and oats. Silas Davis routinely kept three or four tenants on the farm, but much of the agricultural labor was performed by his children. During picking season, each child was required to pick a certain quota of cotton, and if this quota was not met, Davis would pop them once with a hickory stick for each pound that was lacking. Davis also raised several different kinds of fowl, goats, sheep, hogs, cows, mules, and horses. Every week, Silas Davis slaughtered a cow and sold the fresh meat in the store.8

The two story Queen Anne style farmhouse where the S.W. Davis family lived was built in 1903 by Neil Barnett, a local carpenter. Silas and his wife, Nannie J. (Nancy Black) Davis, whom he married in 1895, raised their ten children in this house. Silas and Nannie occupied a smaller house that was situated behind the large house while it was being built. The Davises told their children that this small house was located next to a fig tree in what became their back yard. This house was torn down after the two story house was completed.9

The Croft School, located next door to the S.W. Davis house, was originally built as a two room, two story schoolhouse in 1890. A two story addition, completed in 1910, enlarged the schoolhouse to four rooms, with four teachers instead of two. Silas Davis had lobbied for a schoolhouse expansion for several years, but the county school board was unable or unwilling to accommodate his wishes. Davis had the addition built at his own expense and billed the school board for the construction costs for which he was promptly reimbursed. The 1910 addition was built by Neil Barnett.10

In its early years, the Croft School served as a combined elementary and middle school. When the building had only two rooms, grades one through nine were taught there. By the 1920s, in its expanded version, grades one though seven were taught at Croft. Although students were grouped according to grade, teachers had more than one grade per classroom. During most of Helen Brown’s tenure at Croft there were two students in her grade, and by the time she graduated from the seventh grade, the size of her graduating class had doubled to four. Students who finished at Croft were sent to Huntersville High School.11

Students who attended the Croft School in the l910s and 1920s remember that the school never had electricity or running water. Students had to bring their lunch from home and they were also required to bring their own drinking glass. Each day, different children were chosen to go next door to the Silas Davis house to pump the drinking water for school. It took several trips and several buckets full to meet the schools daily drinking water requirements. However, the pupils looked forward to having their turn to escape class for a few minutes to pump water. Two outhouses were located behind the school, one for boys, the other for girls. In the winter, the school was heated by a wood stove.

Since the school was close to the general store and the railroad tracks, teachers and pupils became accustomed to the seasonal whistle of the cotton gin and the daily noise of trains. Three northbound trains passed through Croft each morning and three southbound trains passed through each afternoon. Teachers and students were so used to the noises that marked the rhythm of life in Croft, that the trains and whistles frequently went unnoticed.13

Nena Thomasson Davis came to teach at Croft in 1925. She was a native of northern Mecklenburg County, and had completed two years at Huntersville High School in addition to ten years of public school at a one teacher school on Concord Road. Because her family could not afford to send her to college, the principal at Huntersville High School encouraged her to attend a six week summer course to study for a provisional teaching certificate. Nena Thomasson attended Lenoir Rhyne College for six weeks to earn her certificate, and before her studies were complete, she was approached by several individuals who were desperately trying to recruit teachers for rural schools. She taught her first year in Leagrove, NC (in Harnett County), but she missed her home, and she soon returned to Mecklenburg County to teach. She taught at Croft for seven years. During this time, she also attended Davidson College where she earned her a certificate in teaching, a requirement for all teachers in Mecklenburg County.14

In 1931, Nena Thomasson married Charles Spencer Davis. She had to give up teaching because the school board did not permit married women to teach. Within a few years, Charles Davis led a movement to build a new school house in Croft. The new schoolhouse (now the VFW post) was built in the 1930s across the road from the original school, which has stood empty ever since.15



1 Interview with Nena Thomasson Davis, by Paula M. Stathakis, February 1992. According to Nena Thomasson Davis, Croft was named for Croft Woodruff, a major landowner in the area. The railroad authorities chose Mr. Woodruff’s name when they created a new railroad stop between Charlotte and Huntersville.

2 National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Croft Historic District. Prepared by Richard Mattson and William Huffman, July 1990, section 7 page 2.

3 Ibid. See section 7 pages 2-7 for a complete inventory of all structures and sites of the Croft Community.

4 D.L. Morrill, Survey and Research Report, S.W. and C.S. Davis General Store. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, October 1, 1980.

5 These figures are accurate for the year 1925 and are derived from the Annual Accounts of The Silas Winslow Davis Estate filed in 1925 in Record of Accounts Book 20 page 238, Mecklenburg County Court House.

6 Survey and Research Report, S.W. and C.S. Davis General Store, Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, October 10, 1980.

7 Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Manuscript for Mecklenburg County; Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. Manuscript for Mecklenburg County.

8 Interview with Mrs. Helen Davis Brown by Paula M. Stathakis, February, 1992. One of the tenant farmers lived in the flower house.

9 Ibid. The Davis children were Alma Davis Hucks, Naomi Davis Lewis, Bruce Hill, Mattie Rebecca, Silas Washington, Charles Edward, Helen Davis Brown, Carl Wilson, Ruth Virginia Davis Wallace, Catherine Davis Marcus, and John Woodrow. Mattie died when she was nine, the rest of the children survived to adulthood. Helen Brown recalled that as there were so many men in the family, she spent a great deal of time ironing shirts. The Davis children used to joke that Silas and Nannie ran an “old folks home” because elderly aunts and uncles as well as several cousins came to live in the Silas Davis household for extended visits. Charles Davis was also a member of the Silas Davis household until his brother died, in 1925.

10 B.C. Fincher, “Change Comes Slowly to Croft”, Charlotte Observer, April l9, 1989. Good Neighbors Section, p. 22. Interview, Helen Brown.

11 Interview, Helen Davis Brown; Interview, Nena Thomasson Davis. In one of the lighter moments during the school day, Bruce Davis, one of Silas Davis’ sons, recalled that he was once dangled out of a second story window by his heels by some of the older school boys, B.C. Fincher, “Change Comes Slowly to Croft.”

12 Interview, Helen Davis Brown; Interview, Nena Thomasson Davis; Interview with Mr. James and Mrs. Rosa Hucks Davis by Paula M. Stathakis, February, 1992.

13 Ibid. B.C. Fincher, “Change Comes Slowly to Croft.”

14 Interview, Nena Thomasson Davis.

15 Interview, Nena Thomasson Davis.



Architectural Description


Croft Schoolhouse

Nora M. Black

The Croft Schoolhouse is located in the unincorporated area known as Croft in north Mecklenburg County. The Schoolhouse is on the east side of Bob Beatty Road (State Road 2483). The front or west facade of the Schoolhouse is parallel to Bob Beatty Road; the rear or east facade overlooks land slated for development as part of the Davis Lake subdivision. The Schoolhouse is located on the east side of a square lot of 0.908 acres owned by Investors Real Estate Investment Company; it is currently unused.

The late 19th century part of the Croft Schoolhouse is the north half of the building. The south half of the building was constructed in the early decades of the 20th century. Although both halves look similar, differences in building materials can be seen. The ground plan of the Croft Schoolhouse is a massed plan with two units of width and depth. The building presents a symmetrical elevation to Bob Beatty Road. The two-story facade dominates the front view in spite of the high hipped roof. A one-story hipped roof porch runs the length of the front of the Schoolhouse. This plain, utilitarian front or public side of the building is enlivened by two cross gables.

The siding is lapped horizontal boards with vertical corner boards. The siding on the older north section is narrower than that of the newer south section. A former student, Mr. Donald Penninger, Sr., remembers a time approximately 57 years ago when the north part of the building was painted red while the south part was painted white. The siding is original and mostly intact. Some pieces are missing above the front porch. There is also some deterioration of siding around the north chimney on the back of the building. The foundation consists of original brick piers infilled with newer brick in the north section; the south section has a brick foundation laid in running bond.

The front elevation is divided into two symmetrical bays defined by a strip of vertical molding. Each bay has a single window on the second floor over a single door on the first floor. Each bay also has a centered cross gable with a large diamond-shaped vent. The steep pitch of the hipped roof tends to unify the two sections. The dark gray composition shingles are old and curled; their three-sided tabs lend the appearance of hexagonal tiles on the roof. The roof of the front porch is covered with rusty but intact metal roofing material. The two cross gables and the boxed eaves have a moderate overhang.

Some of the windows in the Croft Schoolhouse contain the original leaded glass; most are 6/6 double hung wooden sash. Pairs of 6/6 windows occur only on the east or back facade. In the older section, the east facade has one pair of 6/6 windows on both first and second stories. The newer section has two pairs of 6/6 windows on both stories. Many windows have broken lights. In some cases, the entire sash is missing. The window surrounds in the older section are wide boards and not elaborate; however, the windows in the newer section have simple decorative moldings. The only exceptions to the 6/6 windows are two pane square windows located on the first floor. One is near the southwest corner of the building; the other is near the northwest corner.

The north wall has three 6/6 windows on both first and second stories. The south wall has two 6/6 windows on each story. The east wall of the building has two exterior masonry chimneys. The older north chimney is constructed of red/orange brick but it has collapsed to the level of the cave. The newer south chimney is constructed of red/brown brick. Some of the bricks of the south chimney have fallen too, but it still rises well above the level of the cave. Each chimney served two classrooms – one room upstairs, one room downstairs.

The entry porch on the west facade is a one-story hip-roofed porch with three turned wooden posts and two rough cedar posts. The south corner post is missing altogether. The two turned posts on the older section of the porch have square bases and Doric capitals. The early 20th century post has both a square base and capital. The outline of a classic dentil molding is evident in the red paint of the architrave of the older porch section. There is no evidence that such a molding ever existed on the newer section of the porch. The porch has tongue and groove flooring of same width boards; much of the wood on the south end is deteriorated. The steps leading to the porch have been removed. Each section has a single door opening into a vestibule. The door on the older section had an upper panel of glass (now missing) over a wooden panel. The newer section has a six panel wooden door; the doorknobs are missing.

The interior of the Croft Schoolhouse has not been modernized. It is remarkably dry inside considering the amount of glass missing from the windows. Some old bed frames, tractor tires and miscellaneous items are in the building. Both sections of the building have tongue and groove floors; however, the boards in the older section are wider than those in the new section. The stoves that once heated the classrooms are gone.

The older north section has walls and ceilings covered with wide beaded boards. All four window openings on the south wall of this section were covered when the new section was added. If one entered the door to the vestibule of this section, the stairway would be to the right or south side. The newel on the first floor is fluted; however, the newel on the landing is plain. There are two small rooms on the north side of the vestibule. A five panel wooden door opens into the first floor classroom. Another opening for a door has been covered with narrow beaded boards. On the second floor of the older section, a door at the top of the stairway opens directly into the classroom. The east wall of the classroom is deteriorating around the chimney. A narrow room over the vestibule runs the length of the classroom. An opening in the ceiling of this room leads to the attic.

The newer south section of the Croft Schoolhouse has walls and ceilings covered with narrow beaded boards. The window surrounds in this section have some decorative molding. If one entered the door to the vestibule of this section, the stairway would be to the left or north side. The square balusters and newels of the newer section are simple in shape. There is one small room on the south side of the vestibule; shelves line the walls. The door from the vestibule opens directly into the classroom. Lack of paint on the classroom walls shows the locations of blackboards and bulletin boards. A door in the southwest corner of the classroom leads to a book room. On the second floor of the newer section, a door at the top of the stairway opens directly into the classroom. As in the older section, a narrow room over the vestibule runs the length of the classroom. In the southwest corner of the classroom, there is a small storage closet with a six panel door.

The Croft Schoolhouse did not have electricity or running water during the time it was used as a school. Electricity was added at some time as evidenced by the exposed wiring strung between porcelain brackets fastened to the ceiling. The electrical box was installed in the vestibule of the older section.

Another change to the Croft Schoolhouse occurred after World War II. According to Mr. Penninger, housing was so scarce that a family moved into the Schoolhouse.3 That might account for the wallpaper that is still fastened to the beaded board walls in some rooms.

The Croft Schoolhouse provides a solid architectural link to the early educational system in Mecklenburg County. Most of the original fabric is relatively unchanged and in fair condition. The Schoolhouse provided more than just an education setting. It also served as a community gathering place. Mr. Robert Houser, Jr., a Croft native, still speaks wistfully of the ice cream suppers that the Woodsmen of the World held at the Schoolhouse in the 1930s.4 The building could be used as an example of early classrooms. Perhaps it could again become a gathering place for the residents of Croft.



1 Interview with Mr. Donald Eugene Penninger, Sr., Croft native who attended school at the Croft Schoolhouse; 20 March 1992.

2 Interview, as in #1.

3 Interview, as in #1.

4 Interview with Mr. Robert Houser, Jr., Croft native who attended school at the Croft Schoolhouse; 20 March 1992.



S. W. Davis Outbuildings

Nora M. Black

The S. W. Davis House is located in the unincorporated area known as Croft in north Mecklenburg County. The house is on the east side of Bob Beatty Road (State Road 2483). The driveway running from Bob Beatty Road to the house runs near the southern edge of the tax parcel. The front or west facade of the house faces Bob Beatty Road; the rear or east facade overlooks a field that is slated to be developed as part of the Davis Lake subdivision. The house is located on an irregularly-shaped lot of 1.685 acres owned by Investors Real Estate Investment Company; it is currently leased as a residence. The house sits near the rear of the site with most of the acreage between the S. W. Davis House and Bob Beatty Road.

The S. W. Davis House is a Victorian House built in the Queen Anne style. The house is a subtype of the Queen Anne style called the Spindlework type. Houses built between 1860 and 1900, the last decades of the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria, are usually referred to as “Victorian.” The advent of balloon frame construction, replacing heavy timber construction, simplified the home building industry making it easier to add bays and overhangs and to construct irregular floor plans. Industrialization in the United States allowed large factories to mass produce wire nails, doors, windows, siding, and decorative details. The growing railroad system carried these mass-produced items throughout the country.2 Although the S. W. Davis House displays some of the benefits of the era including the dormer with its decorative details and the decorated cross-gables of the varied roofline, the house is a simpler interpretation of the style than Queen Anne houses built in town. To see the contrast to the high-style, town version of the Queen Anne Style, compare the S. W. Davis House to the Overcarsh House or the Sheppard House (both located in Charlotte’s Fourth Ward).

The ground plan of the S. W. Davis House is a compound plan with irregular projections from the principal mass. The house presents an asymmetrical, two-story elevation to Bob Beatty Road. The front view is dominated by the one-story porch that runs across the front and part of the south side of the house. The shaped wood shingles in the gable ends add the wall texture variation that is common in the Queen Anne style. The hipped roof with lower cross gables is a common roof type found in this style.

According to local accounts, the lumber used in the house was cut from woodlands on the property and milled on the site as well. Brick used for the chimneys and supporting piers is said to have been produced from the brick yard behind the Davis Store.3 The S. W. Davis Houses has three types of siding: original horizontal lapped-board siding, channel siding with a beaded edge, and wood shingles. The channel siding with beaded edge occurs only under the protective cover of the first floor porch. Wood shingles are used in the cross gable ends as a decorative element. The repeating three-row pattern of shingles consists of a bottom row of rectangular-cut shingles; diamond-shaped shingles form the middle row; triangular shingles form the last row. The gables have wide overhangs with cornice returns. The wide eave overhang is boxed and has shingle molding. Wide boards serve as a simple frieze wrapping the house at the level of the eaves. Wide corner boards terminate at the frieze. The exterior of the house is painted white; however, the paint has weathered and is flaking in many spots.

The hipped roof encloses a large, unfloored attic. The hipped ridge, which runs parallel to the front facade, is approximately 42 feet from ground level.4 Two interior brick chimneys with corbeled tops pierce the asphalt-shingled roof. The one-story kitchen wing, located on the east side of the house, has a single interior brick chimney that is no longer used for reasons of safety. A new metal chimney vents smoke from the wood-burning stove in the kitchen.

Many of the windows in the S. W. Davis House contain the original leaded glass. Most are double hung, 2/2 wooden sash with vertical mullions. Shutters believed to have been used on some windows are stored in a barn off the property.

The front elevation is three units wide with the widest unit being the two-story cross gable section located on the northwest corner. Each floor of the cross gable section has a single, centered window; a small window is centered in the gable end as well. The cross gable section does not project far from the face of the house. The front entry forms the center unit; a single square window completes the first floor of the front facade. The second story center unit is composed of a single 2/2 window. The second story unit on the southwest corner has a single pane, square window. The gable end of the attic story has the repeating shingle pattern described earlier. It also has a decorative spandrel with a sunburst pattern set over a row of spindles with knob-like beads. A dormer on the southwest end of the facade has the same ornament as the gable end. Decorative bargeboards complete the gable and dormer ends. A cross gable end on the south side and a dormer on the north side are finished in the manner just described.

The one-story porch extends across the front of the house and halfway across the south side of the house. The roof of the porch is supported by lathe-turned columns. The balustrade consists of graceful turned balusters. The porch is floored with tongue and groove boards; it has a ceiling of beaded board. Five deteriorated wooden steps lead to the porch. The porch roof is covered with rectangular pieces of metal roofing.

The front entry has a modern aluminum and glass storm door protecting the inner door. The wood and glass paneled inner door has applied millwork and incised decorative detailing. The hardware, with the exception of the dead bolt, appears to be original. The door surround has wide fluted boards and bull’s-eye corner blocks. A side entry opening onto the one-story porch has a similar door with one difference — the large pane of glass is surrounded by smaller rectangular and square panes of stained and pebble-textured glass. The second door is also protected from weather by a modern storm door.

The S. W. Davis House had a back porch on the south facade of the kitchen wing. The framework of that porch has been covered with siding to provide space for a bathroom and an enclosed back porch. The back of the house is unremarkable with the only ornament that of the east gable end of the kitchen wing.

The interior of the S. W. Davis House has not been modernized. Most of the historic fabric is not only intact but visible. The rooms have original moldings and original hardware for the wooden, five-panel interior doors. The door surrounds are fluted with bull’s-eye corner blocks. Walls throughout the house are of plaster with beaded board wainscot. Exceptions are the parlor which has plaster walls with no wainscot, and the kitchen which has horizontal beaded boards covering the walls. Beaded boards were also used for the ceilings. Pine flooring is used throughout the house.

The front door opens to a large center passage hall that runs the length of the house; an open staircase to the second floor is on the south side of the hallway. The front section of the hall is somewhat separated from the back section by a wall with a scalloped opening. The effect is that of a separate foyer at first glance. The stairway to the second floor hallway has a balustrade of simple lathe-turned balusters. The square, fluted newels on the first and second floors are topped with lathe-turned urns.

To the left (north side of the house) when standing at the front door is the parlor. Wide crown moldings decorate the plaster walls. The focal point of the parlor is the fire surround with rectangular mirror. The painted fire surround has slender Ionic columns on each side of the fireplace to support the shelf. Centered above each column is a lathe-turned post that supports a higher shelf. Applied decorations are primarily floral although a fan is centered in the main panel. The fireplace has been closed for many years; at one time it was used to vent a stove.

The second room on the north side of the center passage hall has closets on each side of the fireplace. The fire surround has slender posts supporting the single shelf. Beadwork, sawn in half, decorates the panel. This fire surround is much simpler in character than the one in the parlor. A door on the east walls opens into the kitchen.

The kitchen is contained in a one-story wing located on the east side of the house. As mentioned earlier, it has horizontal beaded board covering all four walls. The cabinets, sink, and appliances have been added over the years. The kitchen has a doorway on the south wall leading to a large pantry. The door to the enclosed back porch is also on the south wall. The enclosed back porch is located on the south side of the kitchen wing. A door on the west wall of the enclosed porch opens to the center passage hallway. A shed addition to the enclosed porch provides space for a bathroom. Originally installed in 1934 by the Davis family, it is currently being renovated to provide a new shower and to repair termite damage.

On the south side of the center passage hallway, there are two rooms. The small room in the southwest corner of the first floor has a simple fire surround with three undecorated panels and two lathe-turned posts supporting the shelf. A door to the south side of the fireplace opens into the room beyond the fireplace. That second room on south side of the hallway has a door (described earlier) opening to the side of the one story front porch. The original wooden fire surround has been replaced by a modern brick fire surround. Otherwise, the room retains its original details.

The staircase climbs from the center passage hall to the second floor. The long single-run staircase lands in the hallway on the second floor. The second floor hallway, like that of the first floor, runs the length of the house. There are two rooms on each side of the hallway. Fire surrounds on the second floor are simple and unadorned; turned posts support the shelves. All the second floor rooms appear to have served as bedrooms for the Davis family. The entrance to the attic is a set of steps in the northeast room. That room also contains an access door to the attic above the kitchen wing.

The S. W. Davis House was constructed without a central heating system. Electricity was installed in the 1930s; it appears that many of the fixtures installed then are still in place. The house now has a wood stove located in the kitchen. Insulated ductwork carries heat from the kitchen to one upstairs bedroom. The fireplaces are not used.

Flower House
A brick structure, called the flower house, stands on the south side of the S. W. Davis House. The front, or west, facade of the flower house runs parallel to Bob Beatty Road. The brick, said to have been made near the Davis Store, is laid in common bond with 6th course headers.6 The building has a wooden five panel door centered on the west facade. Large 2/2 windows would have admitted plenty of light for the plants. Thick vines of ivy have grown over most of the building.

Spring House
A brick structure, located to the southeast of the house, is said to be a spring house. The front, or northwest, facade of the building is set at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the back wall of the S. W. Davis House. Constructed of brick laid in common bond with 6th course headers, the building has segmental arches of two rowlock brick courses over the windows and the door. The segmental arch over the door has deteriorated. The side walls have parapets that step down from front to back of the building in three steps. The top course of brick is corbeled. Two wing walls at the back of the building extend to the southeast. The space enclosed by the walls has metal roof. The building is currently used for storage by the tenants.

The S. W. Davis House is an intact example of a Spindlework, Queen Anne style house from the early years of the 20th century. The finishes and decorative details of the S. W. Davis House are typical of those found in farmhouses. It can provide insight into the type of houses that large farm families inhabited during the days when Mecklenburg County was one of the nation’s leading producers of cotton.



1 Virginia & Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses (New York, 1986), 264-265. Ibid., 239.

2 Ibid., 239.

3 Interview with John and Mary Wilber, current tenants of the S. W. Davis House; 22 March 1992.

4 Interview, as in #3.

5 Bargeboards (or vergeboards) are projecting boards placed against the incline of the gable of a building; they are frequently decorated.

6 Interview, as in #3.

7 Interview, as in #3. Interview, as in #3.

Dr. George E. Davis House











Click here to view Charlotte Observer Article on the Dr. George E. Davis House

This report was written on March 7, 1984

1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the Dr. George E. Davis House is located at 301 Campus Street in Charlotte, North Carolina.

2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the property: The present owner of the property is:

Johnson C. Smith University
100 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, N.C. 28216

Telephone: 704/378-1007

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 deed to this property is listed in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1807 at page 152. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is: 069-012-20.

6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. William H. Huffman.

7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Mr. Thomas W. Hanchett.

8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria 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 Dr. George E. Davis House does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations: 1) Dr. George E. Davis (1862-1959), a graduate of Biddle Institute (now Johnson C. Smith University) and Howard University, was a figure of seminal importance in the history of black education in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and North Carolina, as the first black professor at Biddle Institute, as Dean of the Faculty, and as North Carolina state agent for the Rosenwald Fund; 2) Dr. George E. Davis was a successful and adroit black businessman in Charlotte at the turn of the century, especially in real estate activities; and 3) the Dr. George E. Davis House, erected in the 1890’s, is in the opinion of Mr. Thomas W. Hanchett the most imposing example of pre-World War II black residential architecture in the city of Charlotte.

b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The Commission contends that the attached architectural description by Mr. Thomas W. Hanchett demonstrates that the Dr. George E. Davis House 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 .979 acres of land is $12,795. The current appraised value of the improvements is $45,550. The total current appraised value is $58,345. The property is zoned R6MF.

Date of Preparation of this Report: March 7, 1984

Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell Street, Box D
Charlotte, North Carolina 28203

Telephone: (704) 376-9115



Historical Overview

Dr. William H. Huffman
January, 1984

The imposing house of Dr. George Edward Davis (1862-1959) at the corner of Campus and Dixon Streets in the Biddleville section of Charlotte only one block from the Johnson C. Smith University campus, which was nicknamed “The Ponderosa” by students in recent years, was originally constructed in the 1890s, perhaps added onto in the early 1900s, and given a brick veneer probably in the 1920s.

Dr. Davis himself was an important figure in three respects: he was the first black professor at Johnson C. Smith University, and, as Dean of the Faculty, a major shaper of education at that institution; he built a number of houses near his own as rental housing, thus molding the character of that part of the neighborhood near the university; and he was a North Carolina state agent for the Rosenwald Fund, and in that capacity had a direct hand in raising more than a half-million dollars for many of the black schools built in the state which were partially financed through the fund. The influence of George E. Davis on Johnson C. Smith, Biddleville and education for blacks in the state is unmistakable.

He was born in Wilmington, N.C. on March 24, 1862, to Edward Alexander Davis who was a member of the Wilmington police force for thirty years, and the former Hester Ann Price. The Gregory Institute in Wilmington provided his early education, and at the age of fifteen he began teaching at a school in Laurinburg. From there he entered Biddle (now Johnson C. Smith) University, and graduated with an A. B. in 1883. During his studies at Biddle, he had so impressed the staff that he was offered a teaching post there, which to that time had only employed white professors. But the twenty-one-year-old graduate had decided on medicine as a career, and in that pursuit he enrolled in Howard University in Washington. By 1885, however, he finally accepted the repeated requests to return to become a professor of natural science and sociology for the next thirty-five years, during the early part of which he earned his doctorate from Biddle. In addition to his long teaching service, Dr. Davis became Dean of the Faculty in 1905, a post he held for fifteen years. 1

In 1889, Dr. Stephen Matoon, the president of Biddle, who did much to build up the institution and provide housing for faculty by selling them land at a bargain price near the school, sold Davis about one acre of land at the corner of Campus (then Matoon) and Dixon Streets for $100. 2 The records suggest that, perhaps as early as 1891, Dr. Davis built a house on the corner of his lot nearest the intersection of the two streets, and eventually subdivided the property to build three additional rental houses on it as well. 3 For in that year he married Maria Gaston, and the five of their seven children who lived to adulthood were raised in the house: Fannie C. Dennis (1891-1944), of Charlotte; Hattie G. Williams (1893-1943), also of Charlotte; Dr. Alexander G. Davis, of Detroit; Celeste C. Sampson) of Greensboro; and Gladys E. Wood, also of Greensboro.

It appears that over the years George Davis added to both his house and his real estate holdings in Biddleville. In 1903, a mortgage deed describes his house as having eight rooms, but one of the following year says it is a fourteen-room frame dwelling. 5 The present brick veneer appears to date from about the 1920s, and obviously is not the same as the chimney work. The county deed books also reveal the fact that the Davises took out many mortgages, often three or four a year, for thirty years (1891-1921). 6 Much, if not all, of this money seems to have gone to build houses on properties they owned near their house and elsewhere. As early as 1919, they owned a five-room house next to their own on Campus Street, and two four-room houses behind it on Dixon Street. 7 In addition, they at one time owned other lots on Dixon, Yorkville Road, Hill Street, College Street, S. Graham, N. Myers and Beatties Ford Road. 8 According to his will, besides the home place with the houses just described, Dr. Davis owned four houses on Carmel Street and one on Mill Road at the time it wan written (1954). 9

In 1920, George Davis began yet another career when he became a state agent for the Rosenwald Fund. 10 This fund was set up by Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), who amassed a great fortune as an early investor in (1897), and as president of (1909-1924), Sears, Roebuck and Company. After a meeting with Booker T. Washington in 1911, Rosenwald became very interested in education for blacks in the South, and built a pilot school near Tuskegee Institute two years later. In 1917 the fund was incorporated to provide money for education, health, fellowships and race relations, and Rosenwald’s total contributions to it eventually came to twenty million dollars in Sears stock. By 1948, the fund had contributed $4,071,463 toward the building of schoolhouses alone, and nearly three times that much for all its educational programs. 11 Between 1917 and 1937, the Rosenwald Fund had given the money to help build 5,357 schools in 883 counties in fifteen Southern states, and in twelve of those states, they were one-fifth of all the schools. 12

For Southern black education in particular, the fund focused on four areas: building rural schools; providing library services; education of teachers, and the development of strategic centers of higher education. Since Rosenwald envisioned the work as a “community enterprise in cooperation between citizens and officials, white and colored,” there were several conditions attached to receiving a grant for a rural black school, including: it had to be a common effort by the state or county authorities and the local black and white citizens; the state and county had to contribute to the building and maintain it as a regular part of the public school system; and the black citizens themselves had to show their interest by making gifts of money or labor, usually both. 13 It was Dr. George E. Davis’ job to travel the state as an agent of the fund to get local groups to meet these conditions.

In 1921, the State of North Carolina set up a Division of Negro Education in the reorganized Department of Public Instruction, which then administered state Rosenwald projects. It was headed by N. C. Newbold, the director; under him was an assistant director, G. H. Ferguson, who was in charge of teacher training, and four supervisors: W. F. Credle, supervisor of the Rosenwald Fund; and three black supervisors, Dr. George E. Davis, supervisor of Rosenwald buildings; Mrs. Annie W. Holland, supervisor of elementary schools; and W. A Robinson, supervisor of high schools. As building supervisor, paid half by the fund and half by the state, Davis’ main duty was to travel throughout the state to speak to local black groups for the purpose of persuading them to contribute money for the building of Rosenwald schools, and to improve existing ones, as well as to meet with local officials (see Figures 1 and 2). 14 As he explained in his own words, in a letter of 1921 when the new division was set up,


In my work as supervisor of Rosenwald Buildings, I have worked in fifty counties of the state, have traveled 15,277 miles, have been immediately concerned in helping collect on school buildings and equipment $19,555, have presented our work in addresses at all of our schools of higher grade and in all the denominational colleges. Have addressed large audiences composed of white and colored people throughout the state and have in the main been most cordially received in all sections.

I have inspected and supervised 103 school buildings and have as far as possible helped the people in section where our Rosenwald schools have already been completed, to beautify and improved prove the school grounds, by grading and planting trees and shrubbery. 15

By 1930, George Davis had been responsible for raising $655,124 from the. black communities from around the state for Rosenwald schools, and by 1932, this figure had risen to $666,736. At that time, there were 787 schools, 18 homes and 8 shops partially built by the fund in the state, which had the capacity for 2538 teachers and 114,210 pupils, and were constructed for a total cost of $5,167,042. 16 In Mecklenburg County, there were twenty-six Rosenwald schools, including Billingsville in Grier Heights. 17

By the time he retired in 1935 at the age of seventy-three, Dr. George E. Davis had left a legacy of unparalleled achievement in raising money for black education in the state. When one considers that this was accomplished after a long and distinguished career as the first black professor at Biddle/Johnson C. Smith University and Dean of the Faculty, it is without doubt that he must be considered in the front rank in the history of Charlotte’s leading black citizens. In 1946, he moved to Greensboro to live with his daughter, Mrs. Gladys Wood, and in 1955, he sold the home place to Johnson C. Smith University, which has been used for student housing, but it has been vacant for the last two academic years. 18 No doubt Dr. Davis was happy for it to be used as part of the educational institution with which he was allied for so many years. On education itself, his words of over fifty years ago still seem appropriate amid the present-day debates on the subject:


There is no investment of the state’s funds today yielding better returns than the money spent in building good schools, paying for competent teachers and building good roads to get to them. 19




1 A. B. Caldwell, ed, History of the American Negro (Atlanta: A. B. Caldwell Publishing, 1921), IV, pp. 52-3; Greensboro Daily News, Jan. 13, 1959, p. (?); Crisis.,. 23 (Feb. 1922), p. 178. Grateful acknowledgment is given to Tom Hanchett, Principal Investigator for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, whose research turned up the above valuable material, as well as that on the Rosenwald schools, notes 14 through 19, and Figures 1 and 2.

2 Deed Book 66, p. 112, 10 May 1889.

3 Index to Deeds, Grantees, 1848-1918; Deed Book 73, p. 263, 18 June 1891; Ibid., Book 103, p. 60, 6 Dec. 1894.

4 Caldwell, cited above; Greensboro News, cited above; monuments in Pinewood Cemetery; Will Book 17, p. 99.

5 It is not clear what is meant by this, since the present structure has nine rooms.

6 Index cited in note 3.

7 Deed Book 403, p. 416, 4 April 1919.

8 Index cited in note 3.

9 Will Book 17, p. 99.

10 Crisis, cited in note 1.

11 Edwin R. Embree and Julia Waxman, Investment in People: The Story of the Julius Rosenwald Fund (New York: Harper Brothers, 1949), p. 5 et seq.

12 George Tindall, The Emergence of the New South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), p. 271.

13 Embree and Waxman, cited above.

14 Outline, c. 1930, State Department of Public Instruction, Division of Negro Education, in North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.

15 Letter from Davis to Newbold, 1921, N.C. State Archives, Raleigh.

16 Outline, cited in note 14; “Report on Schoolhouse Construction, Transportation and School Libraries to July 1, 1932” (Nashville: Julius Rosenwald Fund, 1932), N.C. State Archives, Raleigh.

17 “Rosenwald School Building in North Carolina,” July 1, 1930, NC. State archives, Raleigh; pp. 10-11.

18 Greensboro News, cited above; Deed Book 1807, p. 152, 19 Sept. 1955.

19 Letter from Davis to Newbold, cited above.

Davidson School


1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the Davidson School is located at 251 South Street, Davidson, North Carolina. 2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the property: The present owner of the property is:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools/Board of Education Education Center 701 East 2nd Street Charlotte, NC 28202

3. Representative photographs of the property: This report contains representative photographs of the property.

4. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report contains a map depicting the location of the property.  The Coordinates of this property are:  School  Gymnasium


5. Current deed book reference to the property: The most recent deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 824 on page 576. The tax parcel number of the property is 00701319.

6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property.

7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a brief architectural description of the property.

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.:

Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as the Davidson IB Middle School possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

1) The site of the Davidson School has been associated with public education for over one hundred years.

2) The 1937 Davidson School Gymnasium is a fine example of the later New Deal public works projects that were accomplished in Mecklenburg County.

3) The 1948 Davidson School was designed by local architect Louis Asbury, and is an important example of early post-war Modernist architecture.

4)  The Davidson School has an exception degree of integrity in terms of historic school buildings in Mecklenburg County.

5)  The Davidson School is a significant artifact, useful in understanding the history of the Town of Davidson.  The 1948 school building is one of the best preserved public buildings in the town, and it was central to the education of many of the town’s residents.

9. Ad Valorem tax appraisal:  The current assessed value of the property is  $3,690,500. 

10. Portion of property recommended for designation: The exterior and interior of the Davidson School, Gymnasium and the 5.1 acres of land associated with the tax parcel.

11. Date of Preparation of this Report:  September 1, 2008

Prepared by: Stewart Gray


A Brief History of the Davidson School


The site of the Davidson School has been associated with education since 1893.  A prominent Davidson family, the Sheltons, donated a lot on South Street in 1892 for a school that opened the next year and was known as the Davidson Academy.  This school operated as a hybrid private/public school.  Tuition was required for the fall and spring school terms, while the winter session was free of charge. 1  It appears that the nature of the Davidson Academy changed in 1911 with the state legislature voting to add Davidson to a list of North Carolina communities with established graded schools supported by taxes.   The Davidson Special Charter District included the town’s white and African American schools, and was controlled by a Board of Trustees.  This situation continued until October of 1932 when a committee of the Board of Trustees requested that the Mecklenburg County Board of Education take over the Davidson schools.   The takeover occurred in February 1933 when a deed to the property was tendered, and five of the six acting school trustees became committeemen of the newly formed Davidson School District. The Davison School at that time consisted of the two-story brick Davidson Academy building, a detached wooden cafeteria building, and a janitors house.


Davidson Academy in 1923 with new addition being built


The addition of the Davidson School to the larger Mecklenburg County system was part of a process that moved the education of young people from a strictly local affair in the late 19th century, to a system that by 1934 became dependent on Federal money.  It appears that even before the merger of the Davidson School into the larger Mecklenburg Board of Education, the “Davidson School Board” had applied to the Civil Works Administration for funding for a Gym/Community House.   In February  1934 the Mecklenburg Board of Education decided to pursue this funding.  3


The construction of the nearby 1934 Long Creek School Gymnasium was typical of early New Deal public projects.   That project required the participation of the local rural community in the form of money, labor, and materials.  And it appears that the “Davidson School Gym/Community House” was conceived of in a similar way.4 


Interior of the 1934 Long Creek Gymnasium


At the Davidson School, the CWA and the local community were to provide labor and material.   It was estimated that the building would cost the board $9,000, with $5,500 coming from the town of Davidson.  Perhaps the building’s dual use as a community center was agreed upon to ensure more local funding. 5 


However, the CWA program ended in the March 1934, and in just a few years the nature of public works projects in Mecklenburg County had changed significantly.  Planning for the gymnasium continued, but gone was the reference to a “Community House.”  Also gone were any mention of local labor and material.  In 1936 the cost for the Davidson gym, estimated at $17,000, was bundled with county-wide school building needs that totaled $268,000.  The Board of Education applied to a different agency, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (FEA) for funding of 45% of the cost. 6 In 1937, four years after the funding for the gymnasium was first requested from the Federal government, construction planning for the building began in earnest. 


1937 Davidson School Gymnasium


The Davidson gymnasium may have been envisioned as a grassroots or community-based project, but the construction of the Davidson School Gymnasium was accomplished in a more standard fashion, relying on an architect to design the building and manage a general contractor during the construction process.   However, the New Deal’s philosophy of invigorating the economy by putting as many people to work as possible can still be seen in the construction of the Davidson School Gymnasium.  It appears that in 1937 the Board of Education was involved in putting nearly all of Charlotte’s architects to work.  Under the guidance of William H. Peeps, the “secretary of the Charlotte Architects Associated (sic.)” work on school projects was divided up among a virtual “Who’s Who” of Charlotte architects including: Peeps, Willard G. Rogers, Martin Boyer, Charles Connelly, Lucian Dale, M. R. Marsh, Walter Hook, and C. C. Hook.7   With the notable exception of Louis Asbury who closed his office from 1935-1939, this list included nearly every prominent architect in Charlotte.  It appears that the “make-work” philosophy associated with the earlier New Deal programs had trickled-up to the professional class.  Regardless of how this was perceived or transpired, the Davidson School Gymnasium was part of a major Federally-supported building program taking place in the Mecklenburg school system in 1937.


Peeps assigned the Davidson gymnasium project to Willard G. Rogers (1863-1947).  Rogers was a native of Cincinnati.  He moved to Charlotte about 1900, where he was employed as an architect for industrialist Stewart W. Cramer.  In 1910 he partnered with leading Charlotte architect C. C. Hook.  This partnership led to Roger’s most significant commission, the 1914 Charlotte Masonic Temple.  When the Temple burned, Rogers was again hired to rebuild the building which re-opened in 1938.   Rogers started his own practice in 1916 and went on to design many prominent commercial and institutional buildings, including the 1918 Gastonia First Baptist Church, the 1924 Catawba County Courthouse, and the 1926 Addison apartments in Charlotte.8


The Davidson Gymnasium was one of three projects assigned to Rogers in northern Mecklenburg in 1937.  He was also responsible for designing and supervising the construction of a new building for the Davidson Colored School (now the Ada Jenkins Center) and a new 12-room school building for Cornelius.  For the Davidson School Rogers designed a classically-inspired gymnasium building with arched windows and solid masonry walls, large enough for basketball, the main floor surrounded on three sides with built-in wooden bleachers.   Rogers had two sets of plans for the gymnasium, Plan 1 and Plan 2.  We do not know the difference in the plans except that if budget allowed, the more expensive Plan 1 would be built.  At their March 10, 1937 meeting the Board of Education instructed all of the architects to get their plans approved by all of the agencies in Raleigh (perhaps that is where the FEA money was administered) so that bids could be procured.  Bids for the Davidson Gymnasium and for most of the other projects being considered came in too high.9 To help control costs, and because there were so many projects commencing at the same time, the members of the Board of Education were individually assigned projects to help oversee.  Mr. Potts was assigned the Davidson projects as well as work at the Cornelius, Huntersville, and Long Creek Schools. 10 Measurers were taken to reduce the costs of the Davidson Gymnasium.  Common bricks replaced glazed brick; a proposed  furnace was canceled; and plans for a new principal’s house were abandoned.  Other projects also suffered through cost-cutting. 11 A proposed auditorium at the new Davidson Colored School building was canceled; but when these savings were realized, the canceled furnace at the Davidson Gymnasium was put back into the project. 12  It appears that the building went into service during the 1937-1938 school year.


Edith Cashion, who attended the Davidson School from 1937-1948, remembers using the gymnasium.  She remembers that it was cold and that the community held square dances in the building.  But most importantly, the gymnasium hosted the basketball games.  With no football team, the boy’s and girl’s basketball teams were very important to the school.  Cashion remembers that Davidson’s teams were very good.   Cashion and schoolmate Martha Fulcher Montgomery both attended classes in the old Davidson Academy building.  They remember wooden desks and dark, oiled wooden floors.  In addition to the new gymnasium, the campus at that time included a wooden-framed cafeteria building run by a Mrs. Griffith, and a frame Boy Scout Hut.  Also on the property was a house for the janitor.  This arrangement of buildings served the school through the Second World War. 13


 “Wartime” conditions with shortages in material and labor had made it impossible to keep Mecklenburg schools in repair.  A report to the Board of Education stated that its schools were “now in very bad condition.” 14   To address this circumstance, in February 1946, the Mecklenburg Board of Education requested the substantial sum of  5.972 million dollars in a bond package to fund city and county schools.   At the same time the school superintendent was authorized to increase fire insurance by 25% or so that buildings would be insured for 90% of their value.  However, budget restraints must have been too great.  On April 8, 1946, the B.O.E. decided not to alter its present coverage for the 1946-1947 school year or seek more money for insurance premiums, even though it was aware that  the school’s buildings were “not insured for more than 50% of the present value…”  This would prove to be a bad decision.  On July 15, 1946, during an electrical storm, the 1893 Davidson Academy building, the principal building of the Davidson School, burned severely.


It appears that nearly everyone who lived in Davidson saw the 1893 Davidson Academy building burn or at least saw the smoke. 15 Martha Fulcher Montgomery and Edith Cashion are alumni who had classes in the old building.  Neither was surprised that the structure burned, noting that the interior of the two-story building was largely dark, dirty, oiled wood, and was full of wooden desks and chairs.  Some of the solid brick exterior walls had survived the fire, and on July 19, 1946, the Board of Education decided to completely demolish the rear of the building and to try to stabilize the remainder of the building, with the idea that it could be rebuilt, possibly as a temporary way to house the students.  In the meantime, it was decided to partition the gymnasium into classrooms.    However, it soon became apparent that none of the 1893 Davidson Academy building could be saved. The surviving material would be sold as salvage.   Attention turned to the problem of housing students for the upcoming school year.  Two thousand dollars was spent adding toilet facilities to the gymnasium and to “one of the society halls” on the Davidson College campus. 16  Edith Cashion recalls that the older students were taught in the first-story rooms of both the Eumenean Hall and  its counterpart  the Philanthropic Hall on the college campus but that the Davidson School students were not allowed on the second stories which feature fine furniture, chandeliers, and decorative woodworking.   The basement of the nearby Davidson College Presbyterian Church was also used.   Where there had been a cafeteria available at the old school site, Martha Fulcher Montgomery remembers Davidson School students going home for lunch.  Elaine Caldwell McArn recalls students in the seventh and eight grades using the nearby Methodist Church for classes. 17


In October 1946, a delegation from Davidson with spokesman J.C. Bailey urged the Board of Education to: build a new building on the same site, open the new school building by 1947, purchase more land for the new building, and be sure that the new building would be large enough to accommodate the present and future needs. 18 The Board responded by directing the school superintendent to hire architect Louis Asbury for the project, to pursue the purchase of adjoining land, and to seek Federal Works Administration (FWA) funds for the cost of the architect.  The project did not proceed quickly. 


An adjoining lot containing the home of J. M. Potts was sought to expand the school site.  In January 1947 the Board of Education had authorized spending up to $10,000 for the property, but after long negotiations, no agreement could be reached.  In March 1947 the Board approved a contract with Asbury that paid the architect 6% of the construction costs for designing the building, supervising construction, and representing the Board of Education’s interest.  Gaining the additional land continued to be problematic, and in April the Board directed Asbury to move ahead with plans for just the existing school property.  In May, frustration with the slow pace of the project was demonstrated when a large delegation from the town requested the “immediate erection of a ‘fire proof’ building.” 19  Negotiations with Mr. Potts continued until June, 1947, when Mr. Potts agreed to sell his lot for $7,980 and move his house to a nearby parcel.  With all of the impediments cleared, the Board of Education met in special session on July 8, 1947, nearly one year after the 1893 Davidson Academy building had burned, to approve spending $245,690 on the new building. 


Two photos taken of Louis Asbury during his forty-eight year career


Born in Charlotte in 1877, Louis Asbury was arguably the most important local architect of his time.  Educated at Trinity College and M.I.T, Asbury studied architecture in Europe and then returned to Charlotte and became the first North Carolina member of the American Institute of Architects.  He practiced in North Carolina from 1908 until his retirement in 1956.  Asbury designed a wide array of buildings including homes, commercial buildings, and government and other institutional buildings.  Among his notable surviving designs are the 20-story First National Bank Building (1927), the Mecklenburg County Courthouse (1928), and the Myers Park United Methodist Church (1929). 20


Asbury, who partnered with his son in 1939, designed an L-shaped, two-story, 32,000 square-foot building for the Davidson School.  Asbury’s design surely addressed the citizens’ desire for a fireproof building.  Solid masonry walls supported steel trusses, and concrete floors replaced the oiled wooden floors of the old building.  In terms of public education buildings, the new Davidson School was surely a showplace.  Little non-military building of any type was constructed during the War, and the contrast in style and construction between the new school building and school’s gymnasium, built just one decade earlier, was dramatic.    Whereas the gymnasium featured a restrained classically influenced style that had been employed in institutional buildings for at least half a century, the new building featured a Modernist design that highlighted simple functional lines and industrially produced building materials, most especially the large prominent ribbons of aluminum windows across the façade and rear elevation.  Functionally the new building offered large classrooms well lit with natural sunlight and rows of modern fluorescent lighting, wide halls and stairwells, dedicated offices for the staff, a large auditorium, and a modern cafeteria in the basement.  Asbury may have faced some limitations in producing a modernist designed due the availability of material.  In contrast to the metal ribbon windows, tall traditional triple-hung wooden sash were used on the auditorium.  While many Modernist slab doors were used in the design, including some with round porthole windows, many secondary doors were frame-and-panel doors that would have been typical on most early-twentieth-century school buildings.  But despite these compromises, the Davidson School represented a definite break with the past.  Like the later Second Ward Gymnasium (1949), and the radical Dr. Elmer Garinger High School (1958), both built in Charlotte and both designed by Modernist architect A.G. Odell, the Davidson School served as a demonstration of progressive school design. 


In June 1948 the Board of Education expressed its appreciation to Davidson College, Davidson College Presbyterian Church, and the Davidson United Methodist Church for the use of classroom space and agreed to paint and renovate the rooms that were used.  In anticipation of the new school opening, the old frame cafeteria, the “scout hut”, and a janitor’s house were moved off of the property. 21



On September 15, 1948, the Board of Education met in the new Davidson School to inspect and approve the building.  The building was approved with the understanding that the plumbing and lighting would be finished, and that some issues involving painting, doors, and drawers would be addressed.  The opening of the school was unfortunately delayed due to a polio outbreak.  When it finally opened around the first of October, many elements of the school were still not finished including the lighting and the seats for the auditorium.  Money for library books was not approved until January 1949.  Despite these delays, students enjoyed the new school building.  Martha Fulcher Montgomery remembers the new building as modern and luxurious, with high ceilings and nice bathrooms.  Edith Cashion remembers the building as “new, modern, and clean.”


The building served grades 1-12.  Alumni remember that the auditorium was used for choral concerts, plays, and weekly assemblies.  While the Presbyterian church was being re-built, services were held in the auditorium, including a wedding.  The cafeteria was the site of an annual Halloween carnival hosted by the fire department.  High school students moved to the new North Mecklenburg High School in Huntersville when it opened in 1951.  John M. Alexander Junior High School opened in 1960, and after a few transitional years, the Davidson School became the Davidson Elementary School.  In 1994 a new elementary school was built farther south on South Street.  The 1948 building now serves as an magnet middle school. 


 Architectural Description

1.Beaty, Mary D.  Davidson a History of the Town from 1834-1937.  Davidson, North Carolina:  The Briarpatch Press.  1979 (p. 63-64).


  1. Mecklenburg County Board of Education Minutes, 2-6-33.  Davidson School District Trustees in 1933 included: JR Withers, JJ Withers, A Currie, JM Douglas, RD Mooney, and JM McConnell.  All continued as school district committeemen except for Douglas.


  1. Mecklenburg County Board of Education Minutes, 2-6-34


  1. See the Survey and Research Report for the Long Creek School Gymnasium:


  1. BOE Minutes, 2-6-34


  1. BOE Minutes, 7-8-36


  1. BOE Minutes, 3-10-37


  1. Information on Willard Rogers can be found on the following documents produced by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission:;;;


  1. BOE Minutes, 5-14-37


  1. BOE Minutes 5-21-37


  1. BOE Minutes 6-23-07


  1. BOE Minutes 10-05-37


  1. Interviews with Edith Cashion and  Martha Fulcher Montgomery were conducted in the summer of 2008.


  1. BOE Minutes 6-28-46


  1. Everyone interviewed for this report either saw the smoke, came to the site, or were out of town when the building burned.


  1. BOE Minutes 9-17-46


  1. Interviews with Elaine Caldwell McArn were conducted in the summer of 2008.


  1. BOE Minutes 10-22-46


  1. BOE Minutes 5-5-47


  1. See the Survey and Research Report First National Bank Building,;


  1. BOE Minutes 6-28-48




Click here for an overview of the built environment of Davidson, N.C.