Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

Survey & Research Reports

Davidson Cotton Mill











  1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the Davidson Cotton Mill is located 209 Delburg Street, Davidson, North Carolina.
  2. Names and addresses of the present owners of the property:

Davidson Cotton Mill LLC

PO Box 2270

Davidson, NC 28036


Duke Power Company

Tax Department PB05B

422 South Church Street

Charlotte, NC 28242-0001


  1. Representative photographs of the property: This report contains representative photographs of the property.
  2. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report contains a map depicting the location of the property.
  3. UTM coordinate: 17 513713E 3928945N
  4. Current deed book and tax parcel information for the property:

The Tax Parcel Number for the Davidson Cotton Mill Milling Building  is 00326108.  The most recent reference to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg Deed Book 08463 – 650.

The Tax Parcel Number for the  Transformer House associated with the Davidson Cotton Mill is 00326219.  The most recent reference to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg Deed Book 02248-305.

  1. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property.
  2. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a brief architectural description of the property.
  3. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets criteria for designation set forth in N. C. G. S. 160A-400.5:
  4. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as the Davidson Cotton Mill does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

1)      The Delburg Cotton Mill, the forerunner to the Davidson Cotton Mill, represented a new era of industrial development in Davidson that occurred concurrently with similar development within Mecklenburg County as a whole.

2)      The Delburg Cotton Mill formed part of the newly-diversified economic base in turn of the 19th-20th century Mecklenburg County. The new diversified economy rested on agriculture, manufacturing and processing, marketing and distribution, and banking; pillars that accelerated the growth that made Mecklenburg County the booming financial center of the Carolina Piedmont.

3)      The Delburg Cotton Mill and the the Davidson Cotton Mill, like other industrial and manufacturing endeavors in Davidson, encouraged rural to urban migration, increasing the town’s population and offered an alternative to cash crop farming in the area

4)      The Davidson Cotton Mill Milling Building is among the best preserved cotton mill buildings in Mecklenburg County, and is significant as a well-preserved example of the mill buildings associated with the small towns in Mecklenburg County.

6)    The Southern Power Company Transformer House appears to be one of the few surviving examples of an early 20th century power transmission buildings in Mecklenburg County.

5)      The Davidson Cotton Mill Milling Building demonstrates the innovations in terms of architecture, power, and transportation that evolved in cotton mill design in first half of the 20th century.

  1. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical and architectural description which is included in this report demonstrates that the Davidson Cotton Mill Milling Building meets this criterion.
  2. 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 Milling Building: The current total appraised value of the improvements is $3,682,300. The current appraised value of the lot is $405,100. The current total value is $4,087,400

The Transformer House:  The current total appraised value of the improvements is $11,000. The current appraised value of the lot is $17,100. The current total value is $28,100.

Date of preparation of this report: February, 2004

Prepared by: Stewart Gray and Dr. Paula M. Stathakis  

Historical Overview

Contextual Statement: The Development of the Cotton Manufacturing Industry in Mecklenburg County.

In the ante-bellum period, Mecklenburg County possessed a variety of underdeveloped natural resources that ultimately formed the building blocks for the county’s economic maturity. Cotton agriculture, infrastructure improvement through railroads and bridges, inexpensive labor, and proximity to the waterpower of the Catawba River laid the foundation that supported the county’s transition into the economic hub of the Carolina Piedmont. However, the potential of these resources were not fully realized until the late nineteenth century. Historians of Mecklenburg County agree that that its location in the Piedmont region was a principal aspect in its transformation from a small hinterland courthouse town to the primary industrial center of the region.[1]

Cotton processing and manufacturing concerns were rare in the county in the ante-bellum period. Industrial development was largely hindered by a lack of capital and subscribers, and was overridden by the region’s focus on agriculture. Only a few textile mills existed in the area before the Civil War. The first textile mill built in Mecklenburg in 1848 by William Henry Neel along the Catawba. The Rock Island Manufacturing Company was also organized in 1848, but both mills closed before the Civil War.[2]

In 1856, geologist Ebenezer Emmons recommended that entrepreneurs and industrialists consider the section of the main trunk of Catawba River between the Tuckasegee Ford and the great Horse-Shoe bend for the great potential of water power. At this location, a high island divides the river. The fall at Mountain Island was twenty-two feet, “sufficient to secure the most important advantages to such manufacturing establishments as its favorable position may demand.” Emmons recommended improvements such as locks and dams up river from the Horse-Shoe bend to enlarge the possibilities for river trade and water power for manufacturing sites located along this stretch of the water.[3]

In spite of this endorsement, industry was slow to develop in Mecklenburg County and in the Piedmont region as a whole, because the wealthy were not inclined to invest it in manufacturing; they preferred to put it in agriculture and export trade.[4] In the decades after the Civil War, economic recovery was slow and painful, and it was not until the 1880s that local investors and entrepreneurs began to capitalize on the county’s natural attributes and resources.

This change in the county’s economic fortune occurred slowly; and even at the height of its manufacturing output, the county remained largely agricultural and rural in character. Although Charlotte made significant advances in the post-Civil War period, it did not develop to the extent as much as other southern cities. In 1870 there were no major manufacturing concerns in Charlotte even though two major railroad lines converged in the city.[5] In a general report about the state’s economic prospects, Vice-Consul H.E. Heide wrote, “The majority of the cotton and woolen manufacturing manufacturies are situated in the central portion of the State, where numerous rivers and water courses furnish almost unlimited water power. Nearly all the industries of the state are in a very backward condition owing to the want of capital to develop its great natural resources. The greater part of the available capital the State possessed was lost in the late civil war.”[6]

This economic languor would soon give way in the wake of an outpouring of entrepreneurial and manufacturing initiatives that were based in agriculture, the primary pillar of the county’s economic base. Cotton was the core from which most of Charlotte’s new economic enterprises of the late nineteenth century developed. Cotton would be stored, marketed, and processed in and around Charlotte.  Textile engineering and machinery firms with legions of blue and white-collar workers would find jobs in Charlotte. Railroads transported cotton products out of the area; and some of the profits from all of these activities would be seen in the development of the downtown area, of new streetcar suburbs, in the increase of the retail and service sectors, and in the growth of new industrial zones on the margins of the city.

By the late nineteenth century, Mecklenburg farmers, like most Piedmont farmers, devoted a substantial part of their crop to cotton — a marked shift in agricultural patterns from the ante-bellum period during which most small farmers practiced subsistence agriculture. By 1896, over one-half of the cotton produced in North Carolina was grown in 28 counties, and most of it was grown in and around Mecklenburg.[7] In addition to the proximity of a healthy cotton crop, Charlotte began to develop the other essential components that would support the new economic reality that was apparent by the late 1870s. Railroad lines destroyed during the war were restored; and two new lines were added to the network that served the county by 1873, making six operational lines by mid-decade.[8] By this time Charlotte already had five banks, making it a regional financial center.[9] By the early 1880s, Charlotte mayor Col. William Johnston introduced a program to pave, or macadamize city streets. Concurrent with this program, county agencies began a similar plan to improve county highways. New taxes paid for most of these programs, and convict labor was used for the construction.[10]

Thanks in part to improvements in agriculture, banking, and infrastructure, Charlotte began to assemble its manufacturing base. By 1873, the city had 36 manufacturing establishments, and the number of these increased to 66 as early as 1877. However, city leaders lamented that in spite of this progress, Charlotte still had no textile mill. In an attempt to encourage the addition of textile mills to the city’s industrial landscape the Board of Aldermen passed an order in 1873 stating any cotton or woolen mill built in Charlotte would be tax exempt.[11] The Aldermen got their wish in 1880 when R.M. and D.W. Oates established the Charlotte Cotton Mills. In contrast to the earlier cotton mills in Mecklenburg, Charlotte Cotton Mills was a subtantial factory with 6240 spindles. The Daily Charlotte Observer hailed it as a “new departure” from the factory style usually seen in Charlotte and predicted that it would not only contribute to the city’s fortunes, but that it was a harbinger of things to come.[12]

By the early 1880s, industrial growth in Charlotte became more assertive, and this expansion was inspired and directed largely by entrepreneurs who were not Charlotte natives, but who became synonymous with Charlotte in its new identity as a New South City. The new movers and shakers in town were educated entrepreneurs who understood how to capture Charlotte’s potential, and more importantly, how to finance it.

Notable among this new breed of civic leaders were Edward Dilworth Latta and Daniel Augustus Tompkins. Both Latta and Tompkins redirected Charlotte’s disorganized enthusiasm for change, growth, and progress. They understood the necessity of breaking the region’s reliance on farming, especially on an agricultural system that operated largely through crop liens and tenancy. Instead they emphasized industrialization, urbanization, and scientific agriculture as the viable alternatives of a prosperous future.[13]

Tompkins opened a branch of the Westinghouse Machine Company of Pittsburgh in Charlotte in 1883, and by 1884 opened the D.A. Tompkins Company, a premier manufacturer of textile machinery, and a principal supplier of textile equipment to southern textile mills.[14]Tompkins wore many hats in Charlotte; he was an engineer and a businessman; he owned three newspapers; and he wrote extensively on the topic of cotton, cotton processing, the construction and management of textile mills, and how to raise the capital to build new factories. In his how-to manual for aspiring mill investors, Tompkins contended that the “average Southern town underestimates its ability to raise capital to build a cotton factory. Cotton mill property like all other property is cumulative. No town could raise the money at once to pay for all the property in it. When the author first went into business in Charlotte, N.C., in 1884 there was but little cotton manufacturing in the South, and in Charlotte but one mill. The author at once formulated a plan for enabling small towns to raise capital for manufacturing.” [15]

By the early twentieth century Mecklenburg County had grown in prominence as a major marketing, manufacturing, and distribution center of regional significance. In 1924, the number of spindles in Mecklenburg cotton mills ranked third behind Gaston and Cabarrus Counties.[16] Mecklenburg County entered the twentieth century with a much stronger and more diversified economic base than it had in 1870, and clearly change had come rapidly and perhaps dramatically to the region. Certainly by the turn of the century one sees fewer complaints of war related impoverishment and more interest in the hustle of the new pace of life that was first evident in town by the 1890s. The hum of the mills became part of the rhythm of life in Charlotte and in the smaller surrounding towns and villages of Davidson, Cornelius, and Pineville. Mecklenburg never had as many mills as some neighboring counties, such as Gaston and Cabarrus, but the cotton and textile industry were an essential component of the county’s and the city’s economy.

Cotton Manufacture in the town of Davidson and the Delburg/Davidson Cotton Mill.

The small town of Davidson, a rural hamlet and home to Davidson College (established 1837), was incorporated on February 11, 1879 under the name of Davidson College.  In 1891, the town shortened its name to Davidson. Davidson is situated in the northern part of Mecklenburg County and at the turn of the twentieth century was separated from Charlotte by 22 miles of railroad track or by 20 miles of county road. The gulf between the two towns was filled with farms and long stretches of empty road.[17]

Like much of the rest of Mecklenburg, the town economy of Davidson was initially based on agriculture and shop keeping. Davidson College also supplied a number of professional and service jobs for the town. In the late nineteenth century, the small town branched into industrial production with the establishment of the Linden Cotton Factory in 1890 (later operating under the name of the Linden Manufacturing Company and the Carolina Asbestos Company). [18]

The success of the Linden Mill was an inspiration. During this period in the South, the construction of any industrial or manufacturing complex was a visible and tangible sign of progress. Townspeople typically responded to the addition of such buildings to the landscape with approval. According to the Davidson College Magazine, local businessmen were pleased with the prospects of this mill and were immediately anxious to build another.[19] Within a year, the magazine reported happily in an article titled “Our Village is on a Boom” that the new cotton mill had been built by the depot, and had necessitated widening the streets. The subsequent opportunities for employment meant that there was not a vacant house to be found in the town.[20] This enthusiasm was reaffirmed in the next month’s issue, in which the magazine asserted in an article titled “Our Cotton Mills are Still Booming” that the town had 2008 spindles and more on the way.[21] By 1893, the magazine reported that the Linden Mills were working to capacity and that a new cotton gin would be built on Concord Avenue.[22]

The town’s desire for industrial expansion was satisfied, although slowly. The Southern Cotton Seed Oil Company opened its doors in 1899.[23] By 1900, Davidson could boast of a handful of manufacturing and processing businesses. The Linden Manufacturing Company was in full operation with 7000 spindles and 70 employees. In addition to the Southern Cotton Oil Mill, the Davidson Milling Company (a flour mill) formed part of the town’s new economic landscape.[24] 

Two thousand bales of cotton were sold at Davidson annually in the first years of the twentieth century.[25] As the Linden Mill operated successfully, investors soon organized to build another mill. The Delburg Cotton Mill Company filed a Certificate of Incorporation on July 8, 1907. The mill was organized to buy and sell cotton, wool, and other raw materials and to manufacture these into yarns for clothing and other fabrics. The corporation was also authorized to develop water, steam, and other types of power and to develop pole lines for the transmission of electric power and to utilize and sell power. The capital stock of the corporation was $100,000.00 and was divided into 1000 shares. The corporation could organize and begin business when $11,000.00 of shares had been subscribed. This was accounted for by the sale of 55 shares to J.P. Munroe, 50 shares to W.R. Greg, and 5 shares to A.B. Young. The corporation was limited to 30 years.[26]

The Davidson College Magazine anticipated the completion of the new cotton mill (the Delburg, later known as the Davidson Cotton Mill), which was under construction near the depot at the intersection of Delburg and Watson Streets and would open its doors in January 1908.[27] The Charlotte Daily Observer noted in January 1908 that the mill was still under construction and when completed the mill would be a modern facility with the most up-to-date equipment, using electric power, automatic fire extinguishers and water hydrants outside the mill. The mill also had a 140,000-gallon water tank that it would share with the Linden Mill.[28] The mill was initially serviced entirely by rail, and early Sanborn Maps show no roads leading to the mill. Loading docks were oriented toward the rail lines.

In the previous month, the magazine had published an article titled “Cotton Mills and the South.” This article weighed the merits of the recent spate of industrial development in Davidson and in the region as a whole and questioned the long-term value of increased emphasis on cotton manufacturing. “We feel the Southland is awakening from her long sleep…” and that two dangers lurked in the midst of progress. The first is that too many mills were being built too quickly, or faster than the acreage of cotton, or the “demand for cotton goods will justify.” Secondly, the promises inherent in rapid industrialization would result in a flight from the fields to the mills, making “…farms deprived of hands and at the same time the children who would grow up in the country are brought to the cotton mill to the almost utter destruction of theirs hopes for the future.”[29] 

In Davidson, as in mill communities across the South, the Linden and the Delburg filled with many workers seeking a change from the hardscrabble farm life. The majority of small farmers in the region were hostage to the whim of global cotton market prices and were tethered to the land by the cycle of debts they owed to local merchants, bankers, and factors. Many farm laborers left the fields for the factories in hopes that regular hours and cash wages would improve their standard of living. Life in any mill was always hard. Hours were as long as work on the farm. Mills were hot in the summer and cold in the winter; the air was always full of lint; and the din of machinery was incessant. Unlike farm labor, which varied according to the season, the pace and pattern of mill labor was monotonous and the mill hand’s day was governed by the clock and the whistle. Although mill workers were usually paid in cash and mill companies often provided housing, a laborer’s wages rarely covered the bare necessities of living expenses.                                     

Mill life proved to be as difficult as farm life, but mill workers formed communities that were the source of their religious and cultural worlds as well as their working world. Mill hands lived in company housing and often had their own gardens in the summer. Some kept cows, hogs, and chickens. Baseball was a major summer pastime for mill workers, and they met for games on Saturday afternoons at a ball field near the present Sadler Square. Many were loyal Davidson College sports fans.[30] 

The Delburg Mill expanded with the construction of an addition in 1914.[31] An amendment filed in 1920 shows that the Board of Directors adopted a resolution on June 10, 1920, to increase the authorized capital to $1,000,000.00 to be divided into 10,000 shares worth $100.00 each. The thirty-year limit to the corporation was changed to an unlimited period.[32] Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show the mill had doubled in size by at least two additions by 1925.  

By 1923, the Linden Mill and the Delburg Mill merged, creating the Delburg- Linden Company. As of 1923, the capital stock of the company was $240,000.00, and the company operated as the spinners of high-grade knitting and tire fabric yarns.[33]  In July 1923, J.P. Munroe, president of Delburg-Linden Mills, sent a letter to the stockholders informing them he was negotiating with Martin Cannon with reference to selling him the mill. Munroe did not think that he would be able to sell the mill for what the property was worth, but he believed that it was worth it to sell the mill at any price owing to “…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.”[34]

The post World War I economic boom of the 1920s was deceptive. In the years immediately following the war, the transition to a peacetime economy resulted in a chaotic period during which soaring inflation undermined the stability of the early twenties. By 1922, the general economy appeared to be in recovery if not in an unprecedented boom. However, looming beneath the surface of the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties were several “sick industries” among them, agriculture and textiles. These so-called sick industries never recovered during the boom years of the 1920s and were harbingers of the Depression years before the economic catastrophe occurred.

Stockholders of the Delburg –Linden Mill were notified of a special meeting to be held on August 23, 1923 to determine if the company should be sold to Martin Cannon.  The arrangement was for Cannon to purchase the mill for $242,500.00 of which $42,000.00 to be paid in cash and the remainder in preferred stock of the prospective corporation. Cannon and associates would pay $100,000.00 into the prospective corporation.[35]

After Cannon purchased the mill, the name was changed to The Davidson Cotton Mill. The mill’s officers were Martin L. Cannon; president, J.F. Connor; vice-president, E. Sanvam; secretary; J.G. Barnhardt; buyer, and D.W. McLemore; superintendent.  The old Linden Mill facility was closed and used as a cotton warehouse. Davidson Cotton Mill was incorporated in 1923 and by 1924 had 14,688 spindles and 39 cards, and capitalized stock of $325,000.00.[36]

The Davidson Cotton Mill struggled through the Great Depression and into the 1940s. A letter from the company secretary and treasurer, C.W. Byrd, to former Davidson College professor Dr. Henry Louis Smith illustrates a measure of the mill’s problems. Dr. Smith, a stockholder, had written to the mill inquiring when dividends would be paid. Byrd answered that in 1936, the company had a deficit of $125,000.00 and according to North Carolina law; no dividends could be paid until the deficit was wiped out. By 1941, the company had a surplus of $26,753.00, but did not anticipate paying dividends because of projected heavy taxes.[37]

The mill enjoyed a run of post World War II prosperity and was owned by some local businessmen including a Mr. Potts.  But the mill closed in 1950. The building lay idle until Bridgeport Fabrics, a Connecticut company, purchased it around 1954. Bridgeport Fabrics operated in the old milling building until around 1962 and produced webbing and zipper backing. When Bridgeport Fabrics closed operations in the old milling building, the company began producing other products in a new facility that incorporated parts of the cotton mill’s warehouse/dye house across the Delburg Street.[38]

The mill building was quiet for many years, serving mostly as a warehouse. Davidson College purchased the property in the 1970s and used it for storage.[39] In 1996, an investment group, Davidson Cotton Mill, LLC purchased the property. The milling building has been renovated for high-end shops, offices, and restaurants. A condominium complex has been built adjacent to the project.[40]


Architectural Description

The Davidson Cotton Mill consists of several brick industrial buildings located on Delburg Street north of the historic center of the Town of Davidson.  The mill is located between Watson Street and the Norfolk Southern Railroad line that runs north-and-south through the town from Charlotte to Statesville. The mill began as the Delburg Mill, and was built in 1907 adjacent to the rail line.   The site slopes away from the rail line to the south and the west.  A neighborhood of frame houses associated with the mill is located along Watson and Delburg Streets to the north and west of the mill.  

The Delburg Mill was originally composed of two principal buildings.  The larger of the buildings was the proper mill, and to the north was a smaller warehouse building. The milling building is generally intact and has been incorporated into the larger mill building associated with the Davidson Cotton Mill.  The one-story masonry mill building is tall despite having a very low-pitched roof, and its brickwork is laid in American Bond with five rows of stretchers for each row of headers.   The building is six bays wide and was originally twenty-two bays deep.  The gabled façade is symmetrical and consists of six large segmental-arch windows.  The milling building was divided into two sections with a shallow “picker house” room at the front of the building, and a large open floor in the rear that contained the machinery for winding, reeling, and carding.  The picker house and the rest of the building are separated by a brick firewall that projects in steps above the roof.  On the north elevation extensive corbelling was required to extend the firewall past the eaves.  The original entrances to the mill are located in the first and fourth bays of the north elevation.  The entrance in the first bay opened into the picker house, and the second entrance opened into the milling area.  Both entrances are distinguished by round-arch openings with decorative corbelling.  The roof is supported by large timber rafters, set about six feet apart, with rounded ends that extended past the exterior walls to support the eaves.  Two rows of chamfered wood posts run the length of the building, supporting the roof framing.  This heavy type of timber framing came to be known as “slow burn” construction.  During a fire massive timber framing tended to char but retain much of its strength, whereas iron framing would more easily fail in a hot building fire. Slow burn construction was promoted by the New England Mutual Fire Insurance Companies and was popularized in North Carolina by the influential mill builder and designer D.A. Tompkins.  Timber purlins connect the rafters and support beaded plank roof decking.  In the front picker house, purlins project past the façade to support the front eave.  A small room is attached to the center of the buildings south façade that may have contained toilets. 

 North Elevation Detail Original Entrances on the North Elevation


 Corbelled Firewall

Access between the picker house and the rest of the building is limited to a single doorway originally equipped with iron doors on a tilted tracks, designed to seal-off either section of the building in case of a fire.  One of these doors remains in place.  It appears that the interior walls were coated with stucco.

A small brick wing extends from the milling building’s south elevation, setback one bay from the façade.  The wing housed a machine shop, and at one time an office. Because of the sloping topography of the site, a basement room could be constructed under the office housing the heating plant. A firewall separates the machine shop from the rest of the wing, and again the firewall forms a parapet that extends past the eaves on the wing’s east and west elevations.  Unlike earlier mills, the Delburg Mill was designed as an electric powered mill, and required a relative small boiler for heating.  The furnace chimney (demolished) was located on the wing’s west elevation.  A wooden platform (demolished) extended from the Machine Shop to the railroad tracks.

The cotton warehouse to the north of the milling building has been greatly modified.  A 1915 Sanborn Map Company map shows a simple rectangular building with a small “opener room” attached to the building’s east elevation.  A single parapet wall on the west side of the present building may be the only vestige of the original building.  A smaller cotton waste building  (demolished) was located to the south of the milling building.

Cotton Warehouse (Altered)

To the north of the warehouse sits the only other original building from the era of the Delburg Mill, a two-story power transformer building.  The 1915 Sanborn Map lists the building as the “Southern Power Company Transformer House.”   This tower-like Romanesque Revival Style building features two tall segmental arched openings on the south elevation, with three smaller round-arched window opening perched above and highlighted with corbelled brick work.  The east elevation faces the railroad tracks and is pierced with three low segmental arched openings, a doorway centered between two windows, at ground level, and five round vents near the eave.  The building is sheltered by a hipped roof, topped with a metal ventilator. 

Transformer House

The Delburg Mill was expanded greatly between 1907 and 1924, when it was sold and renamed the Davison Cotton Mill.  The first addition appears to have been an extension of the milling floor with the construction of eight additional bays extending from the mill’s west elevation.  The construction and materials of this first addition appear to be nearly identical to those used for the original building.  Again, large timber rafters extend past the brick walls, which are regularly pierced by segmental-arch window openings.  But whereas the original mill building was constructed over a crawlspace, the sloping topography of the site allowed for a full basement level under the first addition.   The only variance from the original design of the mill building was the addition of a large monitor roof to both the addition and the original building.  The four-foot tall twelve-light windows of the monitor were mechanically operated and probably did much to illuminate the interior of the mill and ventilate the space.  The lack of furring strips along the top of the rafters in the addition, and their presence on the rafters in the original section, would indicate that the monitor roof was installed when the addition was added. 

North Elevation Detail of Different Window Opening Types

A second larger expansion, probably completed before 1924, added another eighteen bays to the west elevation of the milling building.  A full basement level was constructed under this addition, nearly doubling the size of the mill.  The basic construction method of thick solid masonry walls laid in American Bond continued, and again the same large-timber roof system was employed.  However, gone were the segmental-arched window openings, replaced by openings that ended at the roof deck on the side elevation, and flat-topped openings that relied on metal lintels in the west elevation and the basement level. It is likely that the windows from the original building and the first addition were replaced during the second expansion.  The windowsills on the older sections of the building appear to have been raised to the level of the newer windows.  Steel framed twenty-four light windows with operable vent-sections may have replaced the original wooden double or triple hung windows.  In contrast to the low-gabled east elevation, the new six-bay-wide west elevation is a full two stories with a step-parapet wall.  More toilets and an elevator shaft protrude as a tower from the south elevation of the new section.  By 1925 a conveyer belt connecting the picker house to the cotton warehouse had been added.  Change had also occurred around the machine shop.  The earlier chimney had been demolished on the west elevation, and a new chimney (since demolished) had been constructed on the east elevation.  A large flue, perhaps for a forge, was also added.  The office by this time had been moved to its own building, since destroyed, north of the mill building.  A second warehouse (demolished after 1996) was erected to the south of the milling building.  The new warehouse was of frame construction, covered with metal siding, and topped with a hipped roof.

Detail of South Elevation
West Elevation

Sanborn maps indicate that by 1925 a loading dock was located on the west elevation.  This would have indicated a change in the nature of transportation associated with the mill.   While the original Delburg Mill may have depended solely on the railroad for the transportation of manufactured goods, it is likely that by 1925 some of the product of the mill was being carried by trucks.

While the milling building underwent modifications throughout the 20th century, by 1925 the building had generally been developed into its present form.  Change, however, did continue at the Davidson Cotton Mill with a radical alteration of the cotton warehouse  between 1925 and 1937.  The warehouse was expanded to the north, and was divided to create a “dye house” that shared the space.  The office building shown on 1925 Sanborn Maps had been demolished and replaced by a new frame construction office building to the west of the original site.[41]  The only change to the milling building itself was the addition of a now-demolished one-story shed addition to the south elevation adjacent to the elevator and toilets.  Sometime after 1937 a low shed-roofed brick addition was added to the south elevation of the machine shop wing. 

By the 1950’s the complex was no longer operating as a cotton mill.  Around 1954 Bridgeport Fabric began using the milling building to produce webbing and the fabric backing used in zippers.  At this time the lower section of the milling building was used for shipping, receiving, and as a warehouse.  All materials and products entered and left the building through the loading dock on Watson Street via trucks.  Production of these materials ended around 1962.  Bridgeport Fabrics continued other operations across Delburg Street at a new facility that incorporated parts of the old cotton warehouse/dye house.[42]  The only extant early 20th century features of the cotton warehouse/dye house are parapeted fire walls that rise out of the sprawling mix of later additions.  

The milling building was used as a warehouse until 1996 when the building was purchased and the process of rehabilitation began.  The machine shop wing, the picker house, and part of the main floor were converted to a restaurant.  During this process the deteriorated floor of the picker house was replaced with concrete.  The remainder of the milling building was converted to offices on the main and basement levels.  Office partitions have been built in such a way that the timber frame of the building is exposed and highlighted.  The floors in the rest of the mill building were also in a deteriorated state and have been skimmed with a light-weight concrete.  At the time the building was purchased in 1996, all of the windows had been covered in plywood.  The metal-framed windows installed sometime before 1925 were removed and replaced with insulated divided-light windows that replicated the configuration of the lights in the ca. 1925 windows.  No original exterior doors survived.  Before the renovation several industrial door openings had been cut into the brickwork.  One of these openings was glazed and used as an entrance to the restaurant area.  Other openings were restored back to the original fenestration.  A mid-20th century loading dock on the south elevation adjacent to the machine shop has been replaced with stairs; and a wheelchair ramp, and an exterior stair tower has been attached to the building’s south elevation between the elevator tower and the southwest corner of the building.

Architectural Significance

The milling building associated with the Davidson Cotton Mill is significant as one of the best preserved early-20th century cotton mill buildings in the small towns of Mecklenburg County.  The only other cotton mill in Davidson is the Linden Cotton Mill, which has been significantly altered.  Other mills, such as the Chadwick-Hoskins Mill No. 5 in Pineville, have been so altered that they can no longer be easily interpreted as an early 20th century cotton mills, while other mills such as the Cornelius Cotton Mill have been altogether lost.  The Anchor Mill in Huntersville is perhaps equally significant in terms of the development of the county’s small towns; however at this time the Anchor mill is in a deteriorated state.

As the Delburg Mill, the mill was among the earliest in the county to be designed as an electric powered mill.   Highland Park #3, built in Charlotte a few years earlier, was touted to be the first in the area to be designed to be powered by electricity and not coal fired steam.  While retaining much of the historic material associated with its early incarnation as the Delburg Mill, the milling building demonstrates the development and expansion of cotton milling in the first half of the 20th century.   The Davidson Cotton Mill also demonstrates the evolution of industrial transportation in this county.  Built specifically in 1907 to be service by the rail lines, the factory had by 1925 been modified to accommodate the new mode of industrial transportation, trucking. 


[1] See, for example, Thomas W. Hanchett, Charlotte’s Textile Heritage, available on line at; Hanchett, Sorting Out the New South City, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998; Dan L. Morrill, Cotton Mills in New South Charlotte, available on line at; Morrill, A History of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, available on line at

[2] Hanchett, Charlotte’s Textile Hertiage.

[3] Ebenezer Emmons, Geological Report for the Midland Counties of North Carolina. North Carolina Geological Survey, (New York: George P. Putnam and Co., Raleigh: Henry D. Turner, 1856), pp. 7-9. North Carolina Collection, available on line at

[4] Hanchett, Charlotte’s Textile Heritage.

[5] Carolyn F. Hoffman, The Development of Town and Country: Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, 1850-1880, (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Maryland, 1988), p. 201.

[6] R.E. Heide, Report of Vice-Consul Heide,on the Resources, Trade and Commerce of North Carolina, (Wilmington, N.C., 1875), pp. 9-10. North Carolina Collection.

[7] North Carolina Board of Agriculture, North Carolina and Its Resources, (Winston: M.I. and J.C. Stewart, Public Printers and Binders, 1896), p. 158. North Carolina Collection.

[8] Morrill, A History of Charlotte and Mecklenburg, Chapter 7.

[9] Hanchett, Sorting Out the New South City, p. 24.

[10] Daniel Augustus Tompkins, Cotton Mill. Commercial Features. A Text-book for the Use of Textile Schools and Investors. With Tables Showing Cost of Machinery and Equipments for Mills Making Cotton Yarns and Plain Cotton Cloths, (Charlotte, N.C. Published by the Author, 18990, p. 144

[11] Hoffman, The Development of Town and Country, pp. 202-203. According to Dan Morrill, A Survey of Cotton Mills in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, July 1997.,  cotton mills were built in the county in the Steel Creek township in the 1850s, and in the Providence township in 1874; the first textile mill in Charlotte was not built until 1880-81.

[12] Morrill, Survey of Cotton Mills, p, 2.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., p. 3.

[15] Tompkins advocated selling shares in an installment plan, a scheme that he had worked out in his days as a machinist at the Bethlehem Iron Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He published this plan in several manufacturers’ periodicals, such as the Manufacturers’ Record, and was able to demonstrate that several southern cotton mills were established through this system.

[16] Edgar Thompson, Agricultural Mecklenburg and Industrial Charlotte. Social And Economic. (Charlotte: Queen City Press, 1926), p. 137.

[17] Daniel Augustus Tompkins, A History of Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte. From 1740-1903, vol. II, (Charlotte: Observer Printing House, 1903), p. 195.

[18] Mary Beaty, Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835-1937. Contracting part of the words Iredell and Mecklenburg created the name Delburg.

[19] Davidson College Magazine, March 1890, vol. V no. 7, p. 41.

[20] Ibid., October 1891, vol. VII, no. 1, p. 28.

[21] Ibid., November 1891, vol. VII, no. 2, p. 61.

[22] Ibid., October 1893, vol. IX no. 1, p. 33.

[23] Beaty, Davidson.

[24] Tompkins, A History of Mecklenburg , p. 196.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Record of Corporations Book 2 Page 256.

[27] Davidson College Magazine, December 1907, p. 202.

[28] Charlotte Daily Observer, January 13, 1908.

[29] Ibid., November 1907, pp. 113-114.

[30] Bill Brannon, Mecklenburg Gazette, “The Way It Was,” nd.

[31] Thompson, Agricultural Mecklenburg, p. 144.

[32] Record of Corporations Book 6 Page 187.

[33] Special Collections, Davidson College Library, Folder: Linden Manufacturing Company, Davidson N.C.

[34] Ibid., Letter, July 31, 1923 from president J.P.Munroe to stockholders.

[35] Ibid., Notice of Special Meeting of Stockholders of the Delburg-Linden Company, August 23, 1923.

[36] Thompson, Agricultural Mecklenburg, p. 144.

[37] Special Collections, Davidson College Library, Folder: Davidson Cotton Mills, 1933-1943. Letter from C.W. Byrd to Dr. Henry Louis Smith, October 21, 1941.

[38] Interview, Stewart Gray with former mill employees John Fisher and Ruben McIntosh, February, 2004.

[39] Amy Ledbetter, Mecklenburg Gazette, “Mill to Get a Facelift,” February 19, 1997.

[40] Doug Smith, Charlotte Observer, “Historic Davidson Cotton Mill to be Offices, Shops, Condos,” March 2, 1996, p. 2D.

[41] Interview with John Fisher who worked at the mill  in the 1950’s, 2-29-04.

[42] Interview with Rubin McIntosh who worked at the mill in the late 1950’s, 2-29-04.














  1. Name and location of the property: Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins School, located at 212 Gamble Street, Davidson, North Carolina
  2. Name and address of the present owner of the property:  The present owner of the property is:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

701 East Second Street  Charlotte, North Carolina 28204

  1. Representative photographs of the property: This report contains representative photographs of the property.
  2. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report contains a map depicting the location of the property.
  3. Current deed book reference to the property: The most recent deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1514 on page 74 and Deed Book 930 on page 43.  The tax parcel number of the property is 00323325.
  4. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property.
  5. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a brief architectural description of the property.
  6. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets criteria for designation set forth in N. C. G. S. 160A-400.5:

Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance:  The property known as the Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins School does possess special significance in terms of the Town of Davidson and Mecklenburg County.  Judgment is based in the following considerations:

1)  The Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins School is a rare and well preserved example of a substantial African-American school building that dates from the era of Jim Crow in Mecklenburg County.

2)  In terms of Mecklenburg County, the Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins School is a rare early 20th century school building which is in good condition, and has retained a high degree of integrity.

3)  The Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins School is the oldest public school building in Davidson.

4)  The Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins School is an important landmark in Davidson, representing the strength and resourcefulness of the town’s African American community during the era of racial segregation.

5)  Built during the Great Depression, the Davidson Colored School in an important artifact representing the work of the Public Works Administration in Mecklenburg County.


  1. Ad Valorem tax appraisal: The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes a designated “historic landmark.”  The current appraised value of the lot, which is 4.35 acres, is $125,200.  The appraised value of the buildings and other improvements is $1,512,100.  The current total tax value is $1,639,000.
  2. Portions of property recommended for designation:  The exterior and interior of the 1937 Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins School building and acreage to assure the protection of its setting.

Date of preparation of this report:  December 2006

Prepared by:  Stewart Gray


Statement of Historical Significance


The Davidson Colored School, later the Ada Jenkins School, is the largest and most prominent historic element of the built environment of Davidson’s traditionally African-American Westside neighborhood. The building, which originally served as a segregated school, helps document segregation and the Jim Crow era in Davidson and in Mecklenburg County. It is a reflection of the black community’s commitment to improving the education of its young people. It is also an artifact of an unusual time, a time when Mecklenburg County was facing huge economic challenges and yet found the resources to greatly improve the infrastructure for public education.

In the 1890s frame pubic schools buildings begin to appear in rural Mecklenburg County. Surviving examples include the Croft Schoolhouse, which was built for white students, and the Bethesda School, which was built for blacks.



Croft Schoolhouse,1890


Croft Community, Mecklenburg County



Bethesda Schoolhouse , ca. 1899

Croft Community, Mecklenburg County

With the advent of the graded-school movement in the early years of the 20thCentury, more substantial brick school buildings were built for the county’s rural white students, including the brick 1915 Cornelius High School (demolished). However, no substantial brick school buildings were built for the county’s rural black children. Instead the African-American community relied on outside help in the form of the Rosenwald Schools program. In Mecklenburg County there were twenty-six Rosenwald Schools built. [1]



Newell Rosenwald School, Torrence Grove Church Road, Charlotte


In Davidson, an effort to educate the town’s white children began in 1892, and in 1893 a substantial two-story brick school building was completed. The graded school was supported by local taxes, and by 1911 had an enrollment of nearly two hundred students, all white. [2]

1923 Davidson Academy

No such effort was made to educate the rest of the town’s children. Black children were educated in small frame buildings located in the African-American Westside neighborhood. By the 1930s, two frame school buildings were needed in the neighborhood to hold all the children. One building was described as a “one teacher school,” and the other as a “three-teacher school.” [3]   In the memories of the alumni, these frame buildings were not adequate. Talmadge Connor, who attended the schools, recalls “it wasn’t nothing but a straight three-room school. It had a big long front porch on it, and it was heated by coal or wood.       So everybody was glad to see it go…this other old shack (the one-teacher school) you didn’t even want to be seen with it.” [4]    In 1937 a new brick six-classroom school, Davidson Colored School, opened to serve the black community. Alumni recall that it was a vast improvement. “Everything was better” remembers Connor [5] . Staff included three teachers from the earlier schools in Davidson. One of these was Mrs. Ada Jenkins.

The Davidson Colored School is a physical reminder of a counter-intuitive phenomenon that happened in Mecklenburg County in the 1930s.   During the Great Depression, when the number of building permits in the county plummeted, when factory workers in nearby Gaston County were nearly starving, and when farm families faced the triple threat of cotton dependency, low cotton prices, and the boll weevil, the infrastructure for rural Mecklenburg County education improved greatly.   The Davidson Colored School was not the only school building erected for blacks in these otherwise desperate years. In nearby Huntersville, the Torrence-Lytle High School opened in 1937, as did the Sterling School (now demolished) in Pineville in the south of the county. [6]    It was not only black students who benefited. The Huntersville and Long Creek high schools, both segregated white schools, received rectilinear agricultural buildings in 1938. Long Creek and the (white) Davidson School received new gymnasiums in 1936, [7] and Cornelius High School received a new auditorium (demolished). It was the confluence of two major trends that led to such building activity during the 1930s: The first was a continuing drive to improve education during the first half of the 20th century; the second was the unprecedented involvement of the Federal government through the New Deal programs.

Torrence-Lytle School 1937

In 1935 the Mecklenburg County Board of Education submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Administration (P.W.A.).  The Board requested funds for “school improvements of a permanent nature.”  Part of the funding was for $18,000 for one “negro school.” [8]

At the School Board’s June 25, 1937 meeting, building contracts for the Davidson Colored School were approved, and by the October 5th meeting, the school was under construction. Meeting minutes indicate that the original plans for the school included an auditorium/gymnasium.  However, approval was only given to build a six-classroom building.  Minutes also indicate that the existing “one teacher” schoolhouse was no longer needed and was sold. [9]

County Board of Education minutes do not tell the story of the community’s involvement in bringing the school into existence nor the vital support the community played once the six-classroom brick building was completed. According to community members, Teacher Ada Jenkins and P.T.A. President Logan Houston led the effort to build the school, and the black community raised money for the construction of the school. According to Mrs. Frances Beale, Houston organized fundraisers, selling locally made ice cream. [10] Even after the school building was completed, community support remained critical. “Common ground” meetings and other fundraisers were held to help buy supplies such as firewood.

It is not clear what day the school opened, but reports indicate that it began serving the community during the 1937-1938 school year. When the school opened, Talmadge Connor entered the school as an eighth grader.       The old schools had educated students through the 8th grade; so in 1937, when the new brick school opened, it expanded the educational opportunities of Conner and all the black children in Davidson. Each year thereafter, the school added an additional grade until the 1939-40 school year when an 11th grade was added. The 11th grade was the final grade for high school students in Mecklenburg County before WWII.

In 1937  there were 25 students in the 8th and 9th grades, levels considered by the State to be “high school” grades at that time. A report filed with the State in 1938 on the “high school” tells us very little about the primary school. It does however indicate that the school featured six classrooms, only one of which was used for the high school. In 1937-1938 the school had no lunchroom or auditorium but did have an office for the principal and a teachers’ restroom. The school day began at 8:40. Both the high school teachers were men. Mr. Lorezo Poe, who was also the principal, made $689.90 a year, and a Mr. Gorden made $522.   Mr. Poe taught General Science, Biology, English, Arithmetic, Algebra, Literature, and Civics. According to the report, Mr. Gorden only taught History. Perhaps he had other responsibilities with the other grades.

The 1938-1939 annual state report describes a library that measured 36’ x 22’. In the high school grades, girls outnumbered boys 25 to 8. By the fall of 1939, sixty-two high school students were enrolled. By 1941 the library contained 262 books and subscribed to five magazines and one daily newspaper. No state reports appear to have survived from the war years; however, by the 1945-1946 school year, the report indicates that the school had expanded to eight classrooms.

Ken Norton experienced the Davidson Colored School as both a primary and a high school student. He began attending the school the year it opened as a fourth grader. He remembers that even with a substantial new building, the school still lacked some resources. The Davidson Colored School had a place for a boiler, but no boiler had been installed. The school was instead heated with coal-burning pot-bellied stoves. Norton attended the school until he graduated. The only sports team he recalls was a basketball team that played other black high schools. The list includes many institutions that are no longer in existence: Dunbar, Torrence-Lytle, Sterling, Clear Creek, Plato Price, Second Ward, West Charlotte, and Kannapolis High Schools. With no gym, the Davidson Colored School team practiced on a sand lot. Norton recalls that the community was very active in the school. “We had nothing else other than churches and schools.”

In addition to helping bring about the 1937 Davidson Colored School, Ms. Ada Jenkins was a strong presence in the running of the school and in the lives of the students. Very interested in music, she taught and played the piano and organ, and led the glee club. Talmadge Connor recalls that Jenkins was also very strict, saying “she used real hickories.” While the school’s principals were men, Ken Norton believes that Jenkins was actually in charge of the school.   Jenkins died in 1944. [11] The school’s name was changed to the Ada Jenkins School in 1955. [12]

The school became exclusively an elementary school in the 1946-7 school year, educating students in the first through eighth grades. Brenda Tapia attended the Ada Jenkins School from 1956 to 1963. She remembers May Poles were a big event and that the girls’ dresses matched the colors in the pole. She also remembers sock hops and Halloween parties held in the gym that was added to the school in 1958. Extracurricular activities were robust, with the school offering 4-H, band, glee club, and piano lessons. Tapia remembers a portrait of Ada Jenkins in the building and recalls that kids were afraid of her ghost. [13] In addition to the gymnasium, a classroom wing and a freestanding cafeteria were added around 1958. [14] In 1966 the school closed when the Mecklenburg County schools became racially integrated. [15]

Architectural Description

The Davidson Colored School is a one-story brick school building built in 1937.  The building features a “T” plan, with the front of the building facing south.  The school property slopes down toward the northwest, allowing for a windowless basement level under the rear wing.  The lower level houses the furnace and other mechanicals.  The walls are laid in a modified common bond.  Five rows of stretchers were laid between bonding layers that were composed of two stretchers alternating with a single header.  The foundation/basement level is delineated by a belt course of soldier brick that stops short of the building’s corners.  The façade is seven bays wide, with a front-gabled central entrance bay that projects approximately 1’.  The center bay contains replacement double doors that open onto brick and concrete steps that have been altered to accommodate a ramp.  Above the doors is a half-round brick arch with stone springers and keystone.  An original fanlight has been covered with panel signage.

The façade is symmetrical and the remaining six bays contain paired double-hung replacement windows.  All the window openings in the building run to the roofline.  The bricks between the windows act as piers and support either lintels or a continuous beam that supports the roof structure.   The window sills are brick, and the frieze and shallow soffit are wrapped in metal.

Outline of the 1937 Davidson Colored School. The building faces south.

The front section of the building is oddly shaped: It could be described as two shallow wings projecting from the principal central-hallway section of the building, which runs north and south. The eastern part of the front section is shallow, only one room deep. The east elevation is blank and this portion of the building is topped by a hip roof.

West Elevation

The western portion of the front section is deeper. The west elevation is a wide expanse of brick wall pierced by a single door opening. It is possible that the west elevation was designed to accept an addition. Poured concrete steps give access to the doorway, which contains double metal doors. The doorway is framed by a brick border featuring mitered brick at the corners. In contrast to the east elevation the west elevation is gambrelled.

The rear wing features a center hallway with classrooms on each side. The east elevation of the rear wing features eight bays containing tall double- and triple-ganged double-hung windows. On the west side, there are seven bays. The north elevation of the rear wing is blank except for double metal doors that open into a raised breezeway connecting to the second floor of a circa 1960 classroom building and gymnasium. The north elevation features a hipped roof. The hipped roof transitions into the low pitched upper sections of the gambrel roof that covers most of the building.

The interior of the building has retained much of the original woodwork, including interior doors and transoms, baseboards, and window trim. The original chalk and bulletin boards are also in place. Dropped ceilings have been added.

 1958 classroom wing and two-story breezeway  Gymnasium attached to the rear of the 1937 building

A gymnasium, a classroom wing and a freestanding cafeteria were added to around 1958.  The flat roofed gymnasium is attached to the rear of the 1937 building with a two-story breezeway. A two-story classroom wing extends west from the gymnasium.   The one-story cafeteria building is unattached to the other buildings and sits adjacent to the west elevation of the1937 building.


[1] Dan Morrill “Dr. George E. Davis House”

[2] Jennifer Payne “The Evolution of the Built Environment of Davidson, North Carolina”

[3] Ken Norton interview, Brian Campbell, March 23, 1999. Available in the archives of Davidson College.

[4] Talmadge Connor interview, Brian Campbell, March 26, 1999. Available in the archives of Davidson College.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Hope L. Murphy and Stewart Gray “Survey and Research Report on the Torrence-Lytle School,” December, 2005.

[7] Kristin Stakel and Dr. Dan L. Morrill, “Survey and Research Report on the Davidson IB Middle School,” December, 2005.

[8] Minutes, The Country Board of Education of Mecklenburg County 1934-1936 (Volume 8), May 30, 1935.

[9] Minutes, The Country Board of Education of Mecklenburg County 1934-1936 (Volume 8), June 25 and October 5, 1937.

[10] Paula Stathakis and Stewart Gray “Survey of African American Buildings and Sites in Mecklenburg County: The African American Presence in the Mecklenburg County Built Environment, 1850-1950” Thematic survey of Mecklenburg County, 2002.         On file in the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.

[11] Connor

[12] Educational Directory Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Schools 1954-1955.

[13] Brenda Tapia interview, Laura Hajar, April 28, 1999. Available in the archives of Davidson College.

[14] Mecklenburg County tax records

[15] Educational Directory Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Schools, 1965-1967.

E. L. Baxter Davidson House

E.L. Baxter Davidson House in Charlotte, NC
This report was written on March 30, 1998

1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the E. L. Baxter Davidson House is located on the southeast corner of Providence and Colville Roads in Charlotte, North Carolina. The current street address is 1115 Colville Road, though until recently the street address was 1401 Providence Road.

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

Thomas M. and Theresa R. Evans
1115 Colville Road
Charlotte, NC 28207

(704) 375 5992

3. Representative photographs of the property: This report contains representative black and white photographs of the property. Color slides are available at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission office.

4. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report contains a map depicting the location of the property.



5. Current deed book reference to the property: The most recent deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 8173 on page 14. The tax parcel number of the property is # 155-121-02.

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 criteria for designation set forth in N. C. G. S. 160A-400.5:


a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as the E. L. Baxter Davidson House does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

1) The E. L. Baxter Davidson House was sited on an isolated stretch of Providence Road, alone and surrounded by woods, when it was built in 1927. Though it was then located well beyond the outer reaches of urban development, it soon became part of one of Charlotte’s most upscale neighborhoods. As such, it stood as a precursor of the growth and development patterns which would forever alter the landscape of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

2) It is the only building in Mecklenburg County associated with Colonel E. L. Baxter Davidson, who was “a descendant of noteworthy ancestry…[who was]…representative of those qualities of patriotism, strength of character and keen intelligence which have always distinguished the Davidson family.” It was once said that “the Colonel might even be considered a municipal institution in the fine things he does for the city of Charlotte in the way of perpetuating its history and tradition.” It is only fitting for us to honor his memory, just as he honored the memory of his ancestors, who were important figures in Mecklenburg County history.

b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical and architectural description which is included in this report demonstrates that the E. L. Baxter Davidson House meets this criteria.

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 current total appraised value of the improvements is $212,700. The current total appraised value of the lot is $162,000. The current total value is $374,700. The property is zoned R-3.

10. Portion of the property recommended for designation: Only the exterior of the E. L. Baxter Davidson House and its lot are currently being considered for historic designation.

Date of preparation of this report: March 30, 1998

Prepared by: Mary Beth Gatza
P. O. Box 5261
Charlotte, NC 28299

(704) 331 9660


Historical Overview

Land History

Providence Road is one of the oldest routes through southern Mecklenburg County, running from the city of Charlotte to Providence Presbyterian Church (a designated Charlotte- Mecklenburg Historic Landmark) and beyond. Most of the route passed through farmland until well into the twentieth century. In the mid-1920s, the area around the E. L. Baxter Davidson House belonged to Sarah L. Pharr. Miss Pharr realized the value of her property, which was propitiously located at the southern edge of the latest upscale neighborhood, Eastover. In 1926, she had a subdivision plan drawn up by civil engineer Wilbur W. Smith and recorded at the courthouse.

John H. McArn

John H. McArn was one of the early purchasers of lots in Sarah L. Pharr’s subdivision. He bought lot 16 in block 8 on July 1, 1926. This was not, however, the first or only transaction between Miss Pharr and Mr. McArn. A 1925 contract on file at the Register of Deeds office named the county of residence for both of them as Robeson County. One could conclude from this that they were acquainted there before doing business in Mecklenburg. On January 3, 1925, they entered into an agreement regarding a development scheme for 102 acres she owned north of Myers Park. This agreement granted McArn “the right and privilege to develop, handle and sell” the proposed subdivision, and spelled out some significant details of the arrangement. For whatever reason, the contract was canceled on October 1, 1927, in accord with “the mutual desire and agreement of both parties.

The 1920s housing boom was in full swing by 1926, and McArn tried to cash in on it. He established a business presence in Charlotte by 1926, the first year that the McArn Land Company was listed in the city directory. Over the next few years, he obtained many lots from either Miss Pharr or the Lex Marsh Company, a developer. In October and December of 1927, McArn and the Lex Marsh Company filed contracts for the construction of two apartment houses. Like his arrangement with Miss Pharr, these projects also fell through, and the contracts were canceled in July of 1928.

Despite his questionable success in business, McArn managed to leave his mark on the landscape. On July 1, 1926, he obtained the title to the lot at the southeast corner of Providence and Colville Roads, and soon after built a fine brick-veneered house for himself. According to city directories, McArn and his wife Bessie had moved to Charlotte by 1927, and in 1928 were listed as residing at that address. Since it was located outside the Charlotte city limits at the time, no building permit was required. The first mention of the building in the legal records is in the October 1927 contract with Lex Marsh Company. At that time, McArn planned to leverage the “Owner’s equity in his residence known as 2001 Providence Road” as partial payment for construction costs. 2001 Providence Road was the original address of the house, but that changed within a few years to 1401 Providence Road. The current owners have changed the address again to 1115 Colville Road.

At the time it was built, the E. L. Baxter Davidson House was the only house on that stretch of Providence Road. Eastover was just becoming established, and hadn’t yet reached that far south. McArn anticipated the pace and direction of growth when he chose the location for his house. Baxter Davidson’s great-niece remembers when it stood alone, surrounded by woods. It was annexed by the city of Charlotte in 1928, and has been an urban address ever since.

McArn’s foray into the development business was marked by failure, and he ultimately lost his home on Providence Road. On August 7, 1929, he conveyed the property to Lex Marsh Company. Five days later, Lex Marsh enacted a Deed of Trust with the Mechanics Perpetual Building and Loan Association against the property for $16,000. Then on August 30, the property, along with the note, was transferred back to John H. and Bessie M. McArn. One possible explanation for this unusual behavior was that McArn needed to raise cash and couldn’t get a loan on his own. This series of transactions effectively left him with his home and a $16,000 note.

Mechanics Perpetual Building and Loan Association foreclosed on the McArns on May 20, 1930, seven months after the stock market crash of 1929. After that, the McArns dropped out of the public record in Mecklenburg County and the house stood vacant for five years.

Colonel E. L. Baxter Davidson


E. L. Baxter Davidson in his fancy top hat.
Edward Lee Baxter Davidson (1858-1944) was a member of the illustrious Davidson family of Rural Hill plantation in north Mecklenburg County. Their story here began when Major John Davidson (1735-1832) immigrated to Mecklenburg County around 1760, and in 1761 married Violet Wilson (1742-1818). Violet Wilson was said to have descended from English royalty. They settled on a tract of land which remained until recently in the ownership of Davidson descendants. John Davidson was a prominent landowner, planter, slaveowner and businessman. He was quite active politically and militarily and achieved the rank of Major during the American Revolution. In 1788, he built a Georgian-style brick mansion that has been called “the grandest of the Catawba River plantation houses.” Tragically, the house burned in 1886, leaving only ruins and the remains of its massive masonry columns. The site, along with the family burying ground, was declared a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark in 1987.

Major John Davidson had ten children, two of whom went on to build nearby plantation houses that endure today as designated Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks. Robert “Robin” Davidson (1769-1853) built Holly Bend (c. 1800) on Neck Road and his brother Benjamin “Independence Ben” Davidson (1798-1829) built Oak Lawn (c. 1820) on McCoy Road. A third son, John “Silver-headed Jacky” Davidson (1779-1870) became the father of Adam Brevard Davidson (1808-1896), who in turn became the father of E. L. Baxter Davidson.

E. L. Baxter Davidson was born at Rural Hill plantation to Mary Laura Springs (1813- 1872) and Adam Brevard Davidson (1808-1896). He was the fourteenth of fifteen children born to the couple. A 1941 newspaper column says this about him: “a descendant of noteworthy ancestry whose brilliance of achievement, loyalty to duty and unselfish courage have been a challenge and an inspiration, Colonel Davidson is representative of those qualities of patriotism, strength of character and keen intelligence, which have always distinguished the Davidson family.” Sometime after the Civil War, when Baxter was still a boy, his father moved the family into the burgeoning town of Charlotte and invested in real estate. Baxter began his working life as a clerk in his brother’s store and would later make his own fortune in real estate. Among Baxter’s investments were several properties in the heart of Charlotte, on the square at the juncture of Trade and Tryon Streets. His biography described him as “remarkably successful,” and of his business acumen, says that “his intelligence and farsightedness, as well as his energy and determination in overcoming obstacles, have had their results in achieving what might have been too hard a task for a more easily daunted man.” At some point, he acquired the moniker “Colonel,” although he never served in the military.

Education was important to Baxter Davidson. He received his earliest schooling locally, and then attended the Finley High School in Lenoir. Davidson College, named after his relative General William Lee Davidson, was his alma mater. He graduated from there in 1881, and left the bulk of his estate to the college when he died.

Proud of his ancestry, Colonel Davidson took an interest in local and family history. His home on Providence Road contained a “family picture gallery.” He was a member of the North Carolina Historical Society and served as a District Vice President of the Sons of the American Revolution. A 1931 newspaper article says of him: “the Colonel might even be considered a municipal institution in the fine things he does for the city of Charlotte in the way of perpetuating its history and tradition…” In 1923, he undertook the project of restoring and landscaping the Davidson family cemetery at Rural Hill. He enclosed the burying ground with an attractive rock wall built from three varieties of native stone found around the property. Later, he had similar walls built along Beattie’s Ford Road in front of Hopewell Presbyterian Church and Williams Memorial Presbyterian Church. Historical markers were constructed and placed along Beattie’s Ford Road at the McIntyre battle site, at Neck Road, near NC 73, and at the Iredell County line. He undertook these projects entirely of his own volition and at his own expense. All three walls and four markers still remain today and could be considered local landmarks.

In April of 1935, at the age of 76, Baxter Davidson married. He wed a 48-year old widow named Sarah Vosburgh. Sarah and Baxter undoubtedly had a courtship period, for they knew each other for more then a year before their marriage. An unsourced newspaper clipping in the archives at Davidson College dated December 2, 1934, reports an automobile accident that Sarah Vosburgh and Baxter Davidson were involved in near Lincolnton. At the time of their wedding, it was noted of Sarah that “she had resided in Charlotte for a number of years and was widely known for her graciousness.”


E. L. Baxter Davidson, Sarah Vosburg Davidson, Dr. Chalmers Davidson at Holly Bend
Sarah and Baxter Davidson purchased the house at 1401 Providence Road (now 1115 Colville Road) in July of 1935, where they remained for the rest of their lives. Baxter reportedly chose the house because it met his one criteria–the ceilings had to be high enough to hold his prized secretary desk. Baxter Davidson died in 1944 at age 86.

Sarah Williams Vosburgh Davidson

Sarah May Williams (1886-1973) was born in 1886 in Essex County, Virginia to William A. and Sarah Watts Williams. She was a descendant of William A. Williams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. She married David Augustus Vosburgh, presumably in Virginia, and together they had a son, David Williams Vosburgh (1921-1957). David A. Vosburgh was a traveling salesman. Perhaps his business brought him through Charlotte, and he liked it well enough to move here. He is listed in the 1925 city directory as residing in the Clayton Hotel. There is no further listing until 1928, when Sarah W. Vosburgh was listed alone and named as his widow. Her profession was mentioned as practical nurse, and she lived in Steele Creek. By 1930, she had moved to N. Long Street and remained at that address until she married Baxter Davidson in 1935.

Sarah W. Vosburgh and E. L. Baxter Davidson both endorsed a prenuptial agreement just four days before their wedding date of April 20, 1935. In this contract, Baxter stipulated that Sarah was to receive $30,000 in bonds (with interest) upon his decease. It further releases any rights, claims and interest he may have in her current or future property. In July of 1935, Sarah was the legal purchaser of the home they bought at 1401 Providence Road (now 1115 Colville Road). Perhaps Baxter had a premonition of things to come, for after his death in 1944, some of his relatives fought bitterly over his estate. In his will, he provided for Sarah, left small bequests to various churches, and set up a small trust fund for his nieces and nephews. But he left the bulk his estate to Davidson College. At the time of his death, Colonel Davidson’s estate was estimated at between $500,000 and $1,000,000. Relatives sued to overturn the will, and the court prepared for what was thought would be “probably the largest contested will case in this county’s history.” Ultimately, a settlement was reached and the heirs received about $108,000 between them. Throughout this ordeal, Sarah Davidson was able to remain in possession of the E. L. Baxter Davidson House. She continued to live there until she died of pneumonia in 1973 at age 87. She lies interred in the Davidson family cemetery at Rural Hill.

David W. Vosburgh

David Williams Vosburgh (1921-1957) was born in Richmond, Virginia to Sarah May Williams and David Augustus Vosburgh on February 19, 1921. When he first came to Charlotte is unknown. Letters written to his mother in 1931 and 1932 indicate that he was living apart from her, in Virginia, probably with relatives. Perhaps the newly-widowed Mrs. Vosburgh felt that others could provide for him better than she could at the time. David W. Vosburgh attended Davidson College, where he participated in various sports and activities and was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. After his graduation in 1942 “although he was offered a more lucrative position,” he chose to serve Davidson College by working on a campaign to raise subscriptions for a new gymnasium. At that time, he was considered “one of the most friendly and likeable chaps in the 1942 class.”

While the United States was in the grips of World War II, Vosburgh entered the army. He served as a staff sergeant in the Medical Department at the 80th General Hospital at Camp White in Oregon. David took a war bride. The 1945/46 Charlotte city directory lists his spouse as Maxine K. Vosburgh. According to county records, they did not marry here, so it is possible that he met her somewhere along his travels with the military. In any event, Maxine was also living in the E. L. Baxter Davidson House in 1945/46. They divorced, and there is no further record of her here. David, however, shows up in the city directory again living at the house in 1951. Since the main listing at that address was in the name of Baxter, and later Sarah Davidson, it is not surprising that David was listed only sporadically.

An accident at home claimed David’s life on March 21, 1957 at age 36. He fell and hit his head on the concrete steps that day, and died of his injuries eight hours later. He was buried with his stepfather’s ancestors in the Davidson family cemetery at Rural Hill.

Later owners

After Sarah Davidson’s death, in accordance with the terms of her will, the E. L. Baxter Davidson house passed out of the family to a friend and caretaker, John W. Gibbs. Dr. Gibbs then sold the property in 1974 to William E. and Lucy D. Christopher. The Christophers lived in the house through the late 1980s, and then rented it out to tenants for several years. The property was conveyed to the current owners in 1995.



Architectural Description


When it was built in 1927, the E. L. Baxter Davidson House was sited on an isolated stretch of Providence Road, alone and surrounded by woods. Though then located well beyond the outer reaches of urban development, it soon became part of one of Charlotte’s most upscale neighborhoods. It is a handsome, two-story brick-veneered house with Craftsman-style features that has seen very few alterations since the date of construction.


The E. L. Baxter Davidson House, together with its matching, free-standing garage, stand on a corner lot 100 by 175 feet. The house faces west toward busy Providence Road. The original driveway leads off of Providence Road sweeps in an arc in front of the house and exits onto Colville Road. This same drive has a leg which runs under the porte-cochere on the south side of the house and leads to the garage. A second, newer, driveway was put in behind the house and accesses only Colville Road. Solid wooden fencing encloses the back and part of the (north) side yard, including the new driveway. The landscaping features mature trees and ornamental shrubbery. Neighboring houses, neatly lined up on same-sized lots, are all of a slightly later vintage than the E. L. Baxter Davidson House.


Wire-cut brick veneer covers the two-story E. L. Baxter Davidson House, which lends the home a very solid appearance. A hipped-roofed front porch shields the right (southern) two- thirds of the facade and extends out to form a porte-cochere over a portion of the old driveway. This automobile shelter has a clever feature–a low wall opposite the porch with a built-in planter box. The hip on the porch is broken by a front-facing cross gable over the center entry. The rooflines are repeated on the main body of the house–a hip pierced by a front-facing cross gable over the left (north) bay. The eaves do not reveal exposed roof rafter ends, as one would expect to see in the Craftsman style, but rather have the deep smooth soffits more commonly associated with the related Prairie style. Both cross gables are adorned with false half-timbering and a stucco finish. This decorative treatment is typical of the Craftsman style. Another Craftsman element is the bold, square brick piers that support the porch roof. The front entry is also of the style, and features a glazed front door with glazed sidelights.

Windows throughout the house are also in keeping with the Craftsman style. There is a single cottage window (a wide, single sash on the bottom with a short upper sash above it) on the first story of the left (north) bay. The dining room window (the center bay of the north elevation) has a tripartite arrangement of a short diamond-paned, fixed window in between two eight-over-one double-hung sash windows. The same eight-over-one double-hung sash windows are found elsewhere throughout the house, either singly or paired. The first floor windows are topped by brick soldier arches.

A small, one-story ell extends out from the first (west) bay of the north elevation. The configuration of this sunroom is original, but a broad exterior chimney was added on to it by previous owners. Great care was taken at the time to blend it in with the style of the house. It is stucco with false half-timbering just like the cross gables on the facade.

The original one-car garage also features the false half-timbering construction motif. The garage is freestanding and built of brick to match the house. It stands at the rear of the lot in the southeast corner.


Only the exterior of the E. L. Baxter Davidson House is being recommended for designation at this time. Therefore, the interior will not be discussed here.


Very few changes have occurred to the exterior of the E. L. Baxter Davidson House. The stucco chimney, mentioned above, is the only significant alteration, and it was coordinated so well that the casual observer would hardly notice that it is not original. Overall, the level of integrity is very good.


The E. L. Baxter Davidson House is a handsome, solid, two-story brick-veneered house with Craftsman styling and a high level of integrity. The setting is uncompromised, and the property includes an original garage that matches the house in materials and style.


1 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 628, page 404. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 671, page 565. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 686, page 58.

2Ernest H. Miller, compiler, Charlotte, N. C. City Directory (Asheville, NC: The Miller Press, 1926). Mecklenburg County Deed Book 679, page 316. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 686, page 85.

3Ernest H. Miller, compiler, Charlotte, N. C. City Directory (Asheville, NC: The Miller Press, various years). Mecklenburg County Deed Book 628, page 404. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 679, page 316.

4Mecklenburg County Deed Book 750, page 284. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 743, page 277. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 753, page 63.

5Mecklenburg County Deed Book 754, page 321. Ernest H. Miller, compiler, Charlotte, N. C. City Directory (Asheville, NC: The Miller Press, various years).

6Dr. William H. Huffman, “A Historical Sketch of Rural Hill” in Survey and Research Report on Rural Hill Plantation (Charlotte: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1987). American Biography, A New Cyclopedia, vol. XLVI (NY: American Historical Society, Inc., 1931), pp. 89-90. Charles Wilson Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church (np, 1931), pp. 124-126. “Signer of Mecklenburg Declaration Sleeps at Rural Hill” The Charlotte Observer 8 May 1927.

7American Biography, A New Cyclopedia, vol. XLVI (NY: American Historical Society, Inc., 1931), pp. 89-93. Charles Wilson Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church (np, 1931), pp. 124-130.

8“Interesting Carolina People,” The Charlotte Observer, August 1941. American Biography, A New Cyclopedia, vol. XLVI (NY: American Historical Society, Inc., 1931), p. 94. Interview with Miss Elizabeth Davidson, 29 March 1998.

9“Interesting Carolina People,” The Charlotte Observer, August 1941. American Biography, A New Cyclopedia, vol. XLVI (NY: American Historical Society, Inc., 1931), p. 94.

10American Biography, A New Cyclopedia, vol. XLVI (NY: American Historical Society, Inc., 1931), p. 94. The Charlotte News, 18 May 1932. The Charlotte Observer, 16 August 1931, sec. 3, p. 2. “Interesting Carolina People,” The Charlotte Observer, August 1941. “Baxter Davidson Erected Markers at Historic Sites” The Charlotte Observer, 21 August 1991, Mecklenburg Neighbors sec., p. 1.

11Mecklenburg County Marriage Register, 1935. The Charlotte Observer, 21 April 1935, sec. 2, p. 5. Undated, unsourced newspaper clipping in the Davidson College archives (E. L. Baxter Davidson scrapbook). Mecklenburg County Deed Book 867, p. 78. Interview with Miss Elizabeth Davidson, 29 March 1998. Interview with Miss May Davidson, 29 March 1998. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Department, Death Certificate #955. 1944.

12The Charlotte Observer, 21 April 1935, sec. 2, p. 5. “Interesting Carolina People,” The Charlotte Observer, August 1941. Ernest H. Miller, compiler, Charlotte, N. C. City Directory (Asheville, NC: The Miller Press, various years). The Charlotte News, 26 November 1973, p. 4-B.

13Mecklenburg County Deed Book 862, page 506. Mecklenburg County Deed Book 867, page 78. Mecklenburg County Will Book 4, page 25. The Charlotte News, 14 October 1947. The Charlotte Observer, 15 October 1947, sec. B, p. 1. The Charlotte Observer, 16 October 1947, sec. B, p. 1. The Charlotte Observer, 17 October 1947, sec. B, p. 1. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Department, Death Certificate #2962. 1973. The Charlotte News, 26 November 1973, p. 4-B. The Charlotte Observer, 26 November 1973. The Mecklenburg Gazette, 28 November 1973.

14(Virginia) Bureau of Vital Statistics, Birth Certificate, vol. 1023, #6805. 1921. Personal letters and unsourced article from the Davidson College Alumni File. Davidson College The Quips and Cranks (Davidson, NC: 1942), p. Davidson College Alumni File. Ernest H. Miller, compiler, Charlotte, N. C. City Directory (Asheville, NC: The Miller Press, various years). Interview with Miss Elizabeth Davidson, 29 March 1998.

15Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Department, Death Certificate #466. 1957. The Charlotte News, 22 March 1957, p. 14-A.

Daggy House








Name and location of the property: The property known as the Tom and Mary Lu Daggy House is located at 102 Hillside Drive, Davidson, North Carolina.

  1. Name and address of the present owner of the property: The present owners of the property are: Suzy McKeever and Joan Singer, 3980 S. Jasmine St., Denver, CO 80237
  2. Representative photographs of the property: This report contains representative photographs of the property.
  3. Maps depicting the location of the property:


  1. Current deed book reference to the property: The most recent deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 27622 on page 592. The tax parcel number of the property is 00701311.
  2. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property.
  3. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a brief architectural description of the property.
  4. 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 Tom and Mary Lu Daggy House possesses special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

1) The Tom and Mary Lu Daggy House is a significant artifact of the residential development of Davidson. 

2) The Tom and Mary Lu Daggy House was among the first to be built under a housing plan that addressed a chronic faculty housing shortage and is credited with fundamentally enhancing the college through better faculty retainment and recruiting. 

3) The Tom and Mary Lu Daggy House is also significant as a locally rare and remarkably well preserved example of the Modernist Style in Davidson designed by Charlotte architect Harold Cooler.

  1. Ad Valorem tax appraisal:  The current assessed value of the property is  $393,800. 
  2. Portion of property recommended for designation: The interior and exterior of the house and the approximately .5 acres of land associated with the tax parcel.
  3. Date of Preparation of this Report:  October 15, 2012

Prepared by: Stewart Gray

Statement of Significance

The Tom and Mary Lu Daggy House is a significant artifact of the residential development of Davidson.  The house was among the first to be built under a housing plan that addressed a chronic faculty housing shortage and is credited with fundamentally enhancing the college through better faculty retainment and recruiting.  The Tom and Mary Lu Daggy House is also significant as a locally rare and remarkably well preserved example of the Modernist Style in Davidson designed by Charlotte architect Harold Cooler.

A Brief History of the Daggy House

The need for faculty housing in Davidson greatly shaped the town’s built environment during the twentieth century.  With only seven faculty members in the late nineteenth century, the college could easily accommodate the professors and their families in houses owned by the college.[1] The situation changed in the early years of the twentieth century.  New faculty, hired to meet the demands of a growing curriculum and student body, strained the supply of housing.  Some faculty members built houses along North Main Street.[2]  But this free-market solution was apparently not sufficient to meet the housing demand.  In a pattern that would be repeated several times during the twentieth century, the college began to develop housing for faculty along Concord Road.  Davidson College built a house for Professor Thomas W. Lingle at 400 Concord Road in 1912, and a house for English professor M. G. Fulton at 326 Concord Road in 1914.  The professors did not own the homes; the college did.  Fulton only stayed four years. The Lingles lived in their “college house” eighteen years.  Next to the Lingle House, the college built a home for professor Howard Arbuckle to the professor’s personal specifications, including a stucco finish on the first story, and shingle siding on the second story. [3]


After World War II, Davidson College experienced another growth surge with enrollment peaking at 980 students in 1946.  The student population settled into the 800s during the 1950s and then rose to 920 in 1960.[4] The college endeavored to accommodate this growth. Returning GIs and their families were housed in prefabricated surplus military barracks.  A more permanent response to this growth was an ambitious building program on the campus that included a new gym, science building, dormitory, fraternity buildings, a new church building, and a fine arts building.


However, housing for faculty was again in short supply.  The growing school attracted new young faculty, and several factors conspired to limit their housing options.  As an isolated small town, Davidson afforded limited opportunities for residential development after World War II.  The nature of the tenure process, which discouraged professors from making real estate commitments until they received tenure, required that the college endeavor to maintain a large stock of apartments, duplexes, and rental houses for much of the faculty.  Even if houses were available, the new young professors often did not have the means to buy a home.  Documents from the 1950s, from the files of college treasurer Dr. Grier Martin, demonstrate the “shuffling act” that took place each year as the Housing Committee worked to assign faculty to available housing.  A later report from April 1961 well illustrates the problem.  Assignments were categorized as either: Routine family assignments, Involved family assignments, or Bachelor assignments.  Under “Involved family assignments” the report states:


Jackson – Temporary housing until Lester moves from College Apt.

Frey – Stay at Dupler’s until Kelton house is available (could use

Oetzel apt. temporarily).  Kelton house will be offered first to

Stevens –- if he desires it, then Freys would get Stevens house.


Martin wrote that in the 1950s “there were not enough houses (owned by the college) and many of them were antiquated.  All of them were rented at the same low price, and this caused serious competition among members of the faculty for the few ‘better houses.’”[5]  Yet, the low rents charged by the college discouraged faculty from buying.  In addition, suitable houses and lots were not available in the town, and financing was a problem.  Additionally, the faculty who did own their own homes opposed the college subsidizing additional faculty housing.[6]  This situation was not just an inconvenience.  Martin wrote, “Acquiring new faculty and staff was seriously hindered by the inadequate housing.”[7]

To address the housing shortage and the associated problems the shortage caused for Davidson College, the board of trustees voted in 1955 to embark on an ambitious housing development plan.  The college owned land to the south of Concord Road and to the west of the intersection of Lorimer and Woodlawn roads, rolling land that was not suitable for campus expansion.  Sisters Joan Singer and Suzy McKeever remember that the land had been a pasture where kids took horseback riding lessons.[8] Martin later described the property as a “gully.”   The college divided the land into a twenty-lot subdivision.  Lorimer Road was extended to the west, and Hillside Drive was constructed.  These lots were offered to faculty at a below-market price with the college offering financing at 4½ percent.  The same financing was offered to the faculty even if they wished to build elsewhere.  And many of the college-owned homes were offered to faculty with the same generous financing.  But it was the twenty-lot development along Lorimer Road and Hillside Drive that was the most prominent symbol of the college’s housing program.

The housing plan and the subdivision were successful.  By 1960, eighteen of the twenty lots had been sold, and sixteen houses had been constructed.  Seven houses were built under the housing plan in other locations, and nine former college rental homes were purchased by faculty.   In 1955 only around 40% of the faculty were homeowners.  By 1960 80% of faculty either owned a home or owned a lot upon which they planned to build.[9]   Benefits to the college included better faculty moral and a more appealing prospect to prospective staff and faculty.  The program also freed up rental housing for new non-tenured faculty.

In the 1963 Davidson College publication “Report of the President” an article gives much credit to the housing program in the development and retention of a strong faculty, sighting “little or no” turnover in faculty that built homes under the program.  In a 1969 Charlotte Observer article, Louise Martin (wife of Grier Martin) stated that only one or two faculty had left the college since the housing program had started in 1955.  In the same article, Grier Martin attributes his becoming president of Davidson College in 1958 to the success of the housing program and the good will it generated in the faculty.[10]

On October 12, 1956, Tom and Mary Lu Daggy bought a lot in the new college subdivision at 102 Hillside Drive.  Tom was a biology professor, and Mary Lu was a high school math teacher.  They were both from Indiana, and Tom received his Ph.D from NorthWestern University.  The Daggys moved from Michigan to Davidson in 1947 with their two young daughters Joan and Suzy and resided in a college owned home on North Main Street.  In Davidson the family became Presbyterians and settled into the life of a small college town.  According to Joan, growing up in Davidson was wonderful with the exception of their living situation.  Their college house, which had been turned into a duplex and was shared with another college family, was old, dark, and small. The entire Daggy family shared one bathroom.

The Daggys were among the first faculty families to purchase a lot under Davidson College’s new housing plan.  The Daggys contacted Charlotte architect Harold Cooler after Cooler had designed a traditional home for Dr. Richard Bernard on Lorimer Road, and asked him to design for them a modern house.[11]  Cooler developed a long and fruitful relationship with the Davidson faculty, designing around fifteen of their homes over the next two decades.[12]

1957 Bernard House, Designed by Cooler

Mary Lu Daggy grew up on a farm in Indiana.  But according to her daughters, she was not sentimental about country life.  Mary Lu wanted to live in town, “in the action.”[13] And she did not want her daughters to grow up isolated out in the country.  She “loved everything modern, loved the future, and wanted that in her house.”[14] Mary Lu was well matched with Cooler.  Cooler studied architecture at Clemson; and, while not trained in modernism, he was exposed to the works of the Bauhaus, Gropius, Van der Rohe, and the “Organic Architecture of Wright.[15]  As a young architect, Cooler produced final plans and supervised construction of a Modernist house in Gaston County, sometime before leaving Charley Connelly’s Charlotte firm in 1951.[16]  Cooler and fellow architect Marshall McDowell established their own firm in 1951, and in 1955 Cooler designed the Modrenist style Bruce and Meg Laing House in Charlotte.  Cooler embraced the idea of building a modernist house for the Daggys. While he designed many traditional houses, he found designing a “modern home more challenging,” and a “more enjoyable experience.”[17]

Cooler recalls that he designed the Daggy House for “the girls,” (Mary Lu and her daughters) and that Tom Daggy had virtually no input into the design.[18]   Joan and Suzy recall that their father wanted a “quality house,” but otherwise had no interest in the design.  The split-level layout of the house was the first such design in Davidson.[19]  The house was also the first in Davidson to be heated by a heat pump. This early heat pump application required that three-phase power be fed into the house, which was virtually unheard of in residential construction.  Other modern features included a vacuum tube intercom system, a built-in hi-fi cabinet, a high sloping ceiling in the living room, and a white composite roof.  Joan remembers that the kitchen was strikingly different from anything else in town, with a refrigerator set into the cabinetry, a stainless steel sink, and built-in oven.  Suzy recalls that the neighbors had never seen anything like the direct-glazed glass foyer wall.  [20]

The Daggys hired local builder Floyd Ballard, who built most of the houses in the new development.  The Daggys were happy with the design and the construction.  Suzy recalls her mother saying “this is costing us more than we expected, but we love it.”[21]

When the Daggys moved into their house at 102 Hillside Drive, Suzy Daggy McKeever felt that they had “died and gone to heaven.”   Each daughter had her own bedroom with a large closet, and they shared a pink tiled bath.  The lowest level of the house contained a family room with a ping pong table and a piano.  There was no clutter in the new well planned and designed house. As a teenager, Joan Daggy Singer found the house’s modern design “almost embarrassing,” and believed the community thought the house design was bizarre, but quickly adjusted to the comforts and conveniences of the house.

The house featured a second kitchen in the lower level, where Mary Lu canned vegetables, and prepared for large dinner parties.  Tom and Mary Lu lived in the house for the rest of their lives.  Mary Lu died in 1987, and Tom died in 1996.  The house was rented after Tom death and suffered some neglect. However, nearly all of the house’s significant original architectural elements survived.

Architectural Description of the Daggy House

The Daggy House is located in a residential section of Davidson near the center of the town.  While not far from the commercial and institutional buildings of the town’s core, the Daggy House is surrounded exclusively by other single-family houses.   The topography of the neighborhood is rolling, which is in stark contrast to the relatively flat topography of the town’s prominent older residential development along Concord Road and North Main Street.

Daggy House as it appeared ca. 1960

The Daggy House faces east on a .5 acre lot, and is set back approximately 50’ from the street (there is no street-side sidewalk.)  The front yard is treeless and lot slopes up steeply from the road, giving the Daggy House a distinct prominence in the streetscape.  The front-gabled house is five bays wide.  The house’s split-level layout is evident in the two-story fenestration of the northern section of the façade.  This section of the façade is three bays wide and is symmetrical.  The upper story is clad with vertical Philippine mahogany boards. A narrow replacement double-hung window is centered in this section of the façade and is flanked by wider windows of the same height.  These replacement windows replaced the original three-light aluminum sash windows.   The roof peak is centered over the center window.  This upper story projects approximately one foot over the running bond brick of the lower level.  The three original two-light, aluminum, awning-style windows of the lower story are in alignment with those of the upper story, and are shorter.  The windows of the lower level sit on simple brick sills.

The front door is south of and adjacent to the two story section of the house.  The original slab door is topped by a large direct-glazed transom that extends to the soffit and follows the slope of the roof.  The door is bordered to the north by a large direct-glazed sidelight.  The door is setback from the exterior walls, allowing for a small protected stoop.  The masonry stoop is topped with random-shaped blue stones, and the stone extends under the door and is used as interior flooring in the foyer.  The exterior brick of the lower level wall and the wood siding of the upper level turn the corner at the recessed entrance and also continue into the interior space.


The southern portion of the façade features a single large four-light aluminum window set close to the south side elevation.  Between the large window and the recessed front door is a blank brick wall set in running bond.  The blank section of brick wall is topped with vertical Philippine mahogany siding that runs to the soffit and follows the slope of the roof.  Above the large window, the siding is replaced by a single painted wooden panel.  Boxed beams, now wrapped in metal, extend from the interior and support the soffit.  The original wooden soffit is covered with vinyl.  A wide barge board is topped with moulded trim.


The south elevation features a large simple chimney laid in running bond.  The chimney is capped with a 4” concrete slab resting on four rows of brick, flush with the north and south sides of the chimney and set back from the front and rear of the chimney, giving the impression of shoulders.  The elevation is pierced by a single replacement window near the rear elevation.  The brick veneer is topped with a short course of the vertical wood siding found on the front of the house.  The siding runs from the level of the top of the window to the soffit.  An original screened porch extends to the west, and the roof and soffit of the south elevation run uninterrupted to cover it.


The rear elevation is dominated by the screen porch, which features concrete slab floor and a shed roof extension of the principal roof.  The porch room is framed by widely spaced vertical studs, connected with a chair-rail-height vertical member.  Above the screened framing, Philippine mahogany runs vertically to the soffit.  The porch shelters a ten-light replacement door, a short two-light replacement window, and a pair of original wooden five-light double doors. The three-bay-wide gabled section of the front elevation is nearly mirrored on the rear, with the only variance being a single replacement window adjacent to the screened porch.

The north elevation features a full-width shed-roof carport that originally featured a flat roof.  The roof is supported by square posts resting on a partial-height brick wall, topped with a soldier course.  The rear of the carport is enclosed by full-height brick veneer to form a storage room.  The carport shelters two original two-light doors.  Each door features two tall vertical panels.


The high degree of integrity found on the exterior of the Daggy House is also found in the interior.  The concept of “bringing the outside inside” was incorporated into many Modernist house designs.  In the Daggy House this concept is demonstrated in the design of the foyer.  The bluestone pavers of the stoop and the random-width Philippine mahogany and brick of the exterior walls extend uninterrupted into the into the interior space of the foyer, with the interior and exterior minimally separated by glazing.  The distinction between the interior and exterior spaces is also blurred by design elements.  The foyer ceiling transitions into the exterior soffit at the foyer glazing, and the foyer is separated from the living room by a partial-height wall topped with a built-in copper planter.  The living room is the most architecturally striking of all of the interior spaces.  Walls are sheathed with ash plywood panels that are set above a painted baseboad.  On the east wall, a painted wood soffit projects from the wall and contains recessed lighting.  The high ceiling follows the slope of the roof, and exposed boxed beams span the ceiling and extend to the exterior of the house to support the roof overhang.

The south wall is drywall, and features a simple fireplace with a long, shallow raised hearth.  The firebox is surrounded by oak mantle trim that is mitered at the corners. The flooring is red oak.


Two short flights of stairs lead from the foyer to the upper and lower levels of the two-story section of the house.  A simple wrought iron handrail with simple widely spaced iron balusters curves at the foyer and serves both flights.  Treads are simple red oak boards set on painted risers and stringer-boards.  The upper level contains three bedrooms and an office.  The office features a built-in stereo cabinet.  The bedrooms all feature red oak floors, simple curved-profile moulded trim at the doors and base, and simple wrapped drywall corners at the windows.  Two tiled bathrooms exhibit a high degree of integrity with original tile and fixtures.  The lower level of the two-story section of the house features one large room adjacent to the front (east) wall and a series of smaller rooms along the back (west) wall.  These rooms include a mechanical room, a secondary kitchen, a bathroom, and a small workroom that opens onto the carport.

Lower Level, ca. 1960

The kitchen features the original plywood cabinetry with the original hardware and the original stainless steel exhaust hood.  The original Formica counters have been replaced by stone counter tops.  The kitchen also features the master control for a house-wide intercom system.


[1] Mary D. Beaty, Davidson:  A History of the Town from 1835 to 1937(Davidson, North Carolina: Briarpathc Press, 1979), 37.

[2] Dan Morrill and Jennifer Payne, “The Evolution of the Built Environment of Davidson, North Carolina.”

[3] Beaty,  Davidson:  A History of the Town from 1835 to 1937, 114.

[4] Jan Blodgett and Ralph Levering, One Town, Many Voices, (Davidson, North Carolina: Davidson Historical Society,2012),  151.

[5] Grier Martin, “These Are the Houses the Faculty Built: Davidson College Finds Staffing Problems Much Easier Since it Opened a Subdivision,” College and University Bussiness (January 1960).

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Interviews with Suzy McKeever, 9-30-2012 and Joan Singer, 9-26-2012

[9] Martin, “These Are the Houses.” t

[10] Barbara Ingold, “Home in ‘Grier’s Gulch’ Keeps College Contacts,” Charlotte Observer, 1969.

[11] Harold Cooler, Booster Kuester and Beyond, (Charlotte: Okatie Press, 2009) 137.

[12] Article in Triangle Modernist Homes,

[13] Interview Suzy McKeever.

[14] Interview Joan Singer.

[15] Cooler, Booster, 25.

[16] Cooler,  Booster, 21.

[17] Interview with Harold Cooler, 9-13-2012.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Interviews with Suzy McKeever and Joan Singer.

[20] Ibid

[21] Interview Suzy McKeever.