Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

Uncategorized

 

Fiscal Year — July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018

Approved Budget For Survey And Research Reports:  $20,000

Spent to Date:  $7000

Survey and Research Report on Parkwood A. R. P. Church:  $1500
Survey and Research Report on Historic Fire Equipment:  $1500
Survey and Research Report on Former Charlotte Fire Station 8:  $2000
Survey and Research Report on Rudisill Hill Gold Mine: $2000
Survey and Research Report on Highland Park Mill No. 1: $0.00 (Owner paid)

Encumbered Funds:  $3000

Survey and Research Report on Former Wilmore Elementary School:  $3000

Funds Spent Or Encumbered To Date:  $10,000

Remaining Funds:  $10,000

Recommended Survey And Research Reports:  $5800

Survey and Research Report on Charlotte Fire Station No. 8:  $2000
Survey and Research Report on the Berry-Caldwell Farm:  $2000
Survey and Research Report on the Ames Street House:  $0 Matthews will pay for the study.
Survey and Research Report on the Dr. Bonnie E. Cone House:  $1800

Tentative Survey and Research Reports:  $6000

Survey and Research Report on the Alexander Farm:  $2000
Survey and Research Report on the Cornelius Agricultural Building $2000
Survey and Research Report on the Derita Gymnasium:  $2000

 

 



Carter Hall


1. Name and location of the property: The property known as Carter Hall is located on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University at 100 Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte, NC 28216.

2. Name, addresses, and telephone of the present owners and occupants of the property:
The present owner and occupant of the property is:

Johnson C. Smith University, Inc.
100 Beatties Ford Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28216

Telephone: 372-2370

3. Representative photographs of the property: Representative photographs of the structure are included in his report.

4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report contains two maps. A tax line map depicts the location of the campus of Johnson C. Smith University. The second map depicts the location of Carter Hall on the campus.


 

5. Current Deed Book Reference of the property: The land which comprises the campus of Johnson C. Smith University is listed in the Mecklenburg County Registry Deed Book 208, page 201.

6. A brief historical sketch of the property:

The history of Carter Hall is intimately bound up with the history of Johnson C. Smith University. Johnson C. Smith University was founded by two white ministers (Rev. S. C. Alexander and Rev. W. L. Miller) under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church. It was known as the Henry J. Biddle Memorial Institute in honor of Major Henry J. Biddle, a Union soldier who was killed in action during the Civil War. During its formative years Mrs. Mary D. Biddle, the wife of Major Biddle, gave considerable financial support to the institution.

The school was originally housed in a small church located near the present location of Fourth and Davidson Streets. A few years after its feeble beginning, the institution purchased the old Confederate Navy Building located on East Trade St., below where the Civic Center now stands. This building was to be moved to another location on Seventh Street, somewhere between College and Caldwell Streets. Colonel William R. Myers discouraged the ministers about moving to that site and offered them property where the school now stands. The gift of eight acres by this outstanding Charlotte citizen was the nucleus of the present site.

In 1883 the name of the institution was changed to Biddle University. In 1921 because of the many generous gifts which she had made to the institution in honor of her husband, Mrs. Jane M. Smith was notified by the Board of Trustees that the name of the institution had been changed to Johnson C. Smith University.

The first president of the institution was Rev. Stephen Mattoon. For nearly two and a half decades the presidents and most of the faculty members were white. In 1891 the institution had its first black president, Rev. Daniel J. Sanders. Since that time all of its presidents and the majority of the faculty have been black.

Carter Hall was constructed in 1895. It is the oldest dormitory on the campus. Situated on the northeastern corner of the University Quadrangle, Carter Hall possesses an overall Gothic Revival flavor, especially highlighted by circular pavilions at each corner. Also noteworthy is the structure’s wooden cupola. Much of the labor for this 15, 758 square foot building was done by students under the supervision of the Industrial Department of the University. The exterior of the building, except for a modern protrusion on the eastern facade, is original. The interior, however, is completely unoriginal. The original interior was torn out, and an entirely new building was constructed within the old walls.

7. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria set forth in N.C.G.S 160A-399.4:

 

a. Historical and cultural significance: The Survey and Committee of the Commission has examined this structure and has judged to be of architectural significance. The Survey Committee stated that Carter Hall has the following significant details:

 

  • 1. Brick jack arch with header course above arch and corbeled drip edges.
  • 2. Nine over nine wood sash windows.
  • 3. Wood cornice at eaves.
  • 4. Circular pavilions at each corner with slate roof.
  • 5. Wooden cupolaThe fact that the structure has been judged to be of architectural significance, coupled with the fact that it is the oldest dormitory on the campus of the only black institution of higher education in Mecklenburg County, suggests that Carter Hall meets this criterion.b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The building is in excellent repair. As stated above, it is currently a dormitory for Johnson C. Smith University. The building is therefore highly suited for preservation.c. Educational value: The educational value of the building is somewhat substantial. It is the oldest structure in the city and county which possesses a cupola and circular pavilions. Certainly, its educational value would be enhanced if the original interior had not been destroyed. One should remember, however, that Carter Hall is a symbol of the rich heritage of Johnson C. Smith University and of the local black community.

    d. Cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance, or repair: The Commission has no intention of acquiring this property. The cost of acquisition would be high. The building is in excellent repair. The maintenance costs are currently carried by Johnson C. Smith University.

    e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property: This structure is suited only for housing a substantial number of people. The Commission assumes that the University will continue to use as a dormitory.

    f. Appraised value: Attached to this report is a real estate appraisal card which reveals that the land and property itself is appraised at $201,520.00. Again, the Commission has no intention of acquiring this property. And the University is not required to pay taxes on this property.

    g. The administrative and financial responsibility of any person or organization willing to underwrite all or a portion of such costs: It is assumed that Johnson C. Smith University shall continue to operate the property.

8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria established for inclusion in the National Register: The Commission believes that Carter Hall, because of its association with Johnson C. Smith University, does qualify for the National Register on the grounds of Criterion A – properties “that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.”

9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property is of historical importance to Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County: Carter Hall is significant to what was accomplished by a newly-liberated people in an atmosphere that has been described as “hostile.” This structure was built under trying circumstances and by people who had very meager financial resources. It is the oldest dormitory of the first and only private institution of higher learning open to black people in the immediate and surrounding communities. The exterior of the structure possesses considerable architectural significance for the local community.


Wilson House and Farm

SURVEY AND RESEARCH REPORT

WILSON HOUSE AND FARM

tomwilsonfront

This report was written on 25 May 1992

1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the Tomlinson-Wilson House and Farm is located at 11400 Old Statesville Road, Huntersville, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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

Thomas A. Davis and wife Charlotte B. Davis
11400 Old Statesville Road
Huntersville, North Carolina 28078

Telephone: (704) 875-6947

Tax Parcel Number: 019-131-02

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

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

wilson-hse-farm-map

5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent deed to Tax Parcel Number 019-131-02 is listed in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 2561 on page 161.

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

7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by Ms. Nora M. Black.

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 Tomlinson-Wilson House and Farm does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations: 1) the Tomlinson-Wilson Farm, once a part of a much larger tract of land, is a good example of the agricultural environment that was predominant in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina; 2) the Tomlinson-Wilson House is believed to have been constructed by the Tomlinson family in the 1840’s; 3) as the only surviving early house on the agricultural tract, the Tomlinson-Wilson House is a good example of a mid-19th century vernacular farmhouse with some Adam details; 4) the Tomlinson-Wilson House is architecturally significant as an I-house plan in the Tidewater South, Folk House tradition; 5) the Tomlinson-Wilson House has many exterior features, such as the one-story shed-roofed porch and the front door surround, that are intact and in very good condition; 6) the Tomlinson-Wilson House has many interior appointments, such as the fireplace surrounds and the curved balustrade, that are intact and in very good condition; and 7) the Tomlinson-Wilson House and Farm can provide valuable insight into the life of Mecklenburg County’s early yeoman farmers.

b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials feeling, and /or association: The Commission contends that the architectural description by Ms. Nora M. Black included in this report demonstrates that the Tomlinson-Wilson House meets this criterion.

9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 505 of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes a designated Historic landmark.” The current appraised value of the improvement is $59,140. The current appraised value of the 26.32 acres of Tax Parcel 019-131-02 is $131,600. The total appraised value of the property is $190,740. The property is zoned R3.

Date of Preparation of this Report: 25 May 1992

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

Telephone: 704/376-9115
Historical Overview

tomdoor

Ms. Paula M. Stathakis

The Tomlinson-Wilson House was once part of a large farm that consisted of at least 186 acres. Although there are no extant documents that authenticate the date of the house, the accepted local history about the house is that it was built in the early 1840s. Deeds for the property cannot be traced beyond 1891; it is therefore not possible to verify this assumption through legal records.

According to an initial report made by M. B. Gatza, the earliest name that can be associated with this house is Tomlinson, the family who probably built it in the 1840s. The Wilson family subsequently purchased the property. According to the earliest deed that can be identified with this property, J. F. Wilson is the first member of the Wilson family that can be documented as an owner of the land. 1 J.F. Wilson was a son of Cyrus Wilson who was probably the Wilson who purchased the property. Cyrus Wilson was killed by a fall from a swing in the backyard of this house.

The history of this house is obscure, but the legal records suggest that the Wilson family encountered financial difficulties prior to the 1890s and lost the house. C. W. (Clarence Wesley) Wilson, son of Cyrus Wilson, lost the property because he defaulted on a loan. No records exist to explain to whom he was indebted or for what purpose. The property was auctioned at the courthouse and purchased by J. F. Wilson. 3 By January of 1892, C. W. Wilson owned 98.25 of the original 186 acre tract and J. F. Wilson owned the remaining 87.75 acres. It is not clear if C.W. Wilson purchased the land or if it was given to him by J.F. Wilson. 4

This property is located in the Mallard Creek Township, a rural area populated almost exclusively in the late nineteenth century by small farmers who grew corn and other grains, cotton, and raised livestock. Farmers in this area appeared to be more dependent on cotton as a cash crop towards the latter part of the nineteenth century, as did farmers in other parts of Mecklenburg County. Unfortunately, the Wilsons do not appear in the existing agricultural censuses for the nineteenth century in Mecklenburg County, so there is no way to document their agricultural activity on this land. There is, however, no reason to suspect that they behaved any differently than their neighbors regarding agriculture. 5

J.F. Wilson sold his land in 1896 to P.T. Christenbury. 6 Christenbury deeded the land to his daughter Margaret in 1933. 7 Margaret Christenbury Dellinger and her husband C. M. Dellinger sold part of the property in 1946 to N. S. and Eva Tomlinson. 8 N.S. Tomlinson was the last owner to farm this land. The Tomlinsons sold the property that same year to Charles and Helen Bruce. 9 When the Bruces bought the property, they found bales of cotton piled on the porch of the house. Charles Bruce was employed as a salesman for Howard and Shelton in Charlotte. In 1975, Helen Bruce sold the house to the current owners, Thomas and Charlotte Davis, her daughter and son-in-law. 10
Notes

1 Deed 81-490, 11-25-1891 mentions that J.F. Wilson was the son of Cyrus Wilson who was the previous owner of the property. Indices of deeds in the nineteenth century do not list a Cyrus Wilson as a landowner of any property in Mecklenburg County.

2 Charles William Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Church, Charlotte, N.C.: Observer Printing House, 1939, p. 198. Survey report by M.B. Gatza.

3 Deed 82-59, 8-3-1891, Mecklenburg County Courthouse. In a confusing array of deeds, this property appears to have passed back and forth between J. F. Wilson and E. M. and N. W. Puckett in 1891 and 1892. J. F. Wilson ended up as sole owner of the property in 1892.

4 Deed 82-592, 1-7-1892. Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

5 According to the 1880 Agriculture Census for Mecklenburg County, one of the owners of the property, E. M. Puckett grew fifteen acres of cotton, ten acres of corn, and ten acres of oats. Puckett probably did not grow these crops on the Tomlinson-Wilson land, but these crops were typical for the area and the region.

6 Deed 112-625, 11-18-1896. Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

7 Deed 846-126, 11-16-1933. Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

8 Deed 1188-10, 2-11-1946. Mecklenburg County Courthouse. This deed conveyed 49.75 acres, slightly more than half of the tract that the Dellingers owned.

9 Deed 1222-65, 10-17-1946. Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

10 Deed 2561-161, 1-1-1975. Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
Architectural Description

tomstair

Ms. Nora M. Black

The Tomlinson-Wilson House and Farm is located on the east side of Old Statesville Road (Highway 115 running from Charlotte to Huntersville). The house is north of Alexanderana Road but south of Hambright Road. The house is approached by a long unpaved driveway crossing the Southern Railroad tracks (formerly the Atlantic, Tennessee & Ohio tracks) that parallel Old Statesville Road. The front or west facade of the house faces Old Statesville Road; the rear or east facade overlooks a grassy field and woodlands. The house is located on a roughly rectangular-shaped parcel of 26.32 acres owned by Thomas A. Davis and his wife, Charlotte B. Davis. Large trees and tall shrubbery make the house difficult to see from the Old Statesville Road.

The Tomlinson-Wilson House is a Pre-railroad Folk House built in the Tidewater South tradition. The house is a subtype of the Tidewater South tradition called the extended I-house type.) 1 Pre-railroad folk houses built before ca.1850 to 1890 (and locally as late as ca.1920), reflect the difficulty and expense of transporting bulky building materials such as lumber and brick over long distances. Inland regions, far from the coast or navigable rivers, depended on transportation provided by horse-drawn wagons. For that reason, the average citizen was limited to construction that used materials found on site or very close at hand. The forests covering the eastern half of the United States provided a huge supply of timber and established wooden folk building as the tradition.  2

The linear-plan of the extended I-house type reflects the milder winters of the Southern United States. The plan is exemplified by a center passage running from the front entry to the back door with a single room on either side of the center passage. In two-story plans, the stairway is constructed in the center passage. The plan generally had a one-story shed extension along the rear of the house. Although the New England tradition (massed plan that was two-rooms deep) provided more interior space, builders in the South used the linear one-room deep plan because less time was spent indoors and for cross-ventilation to cool the house.

The Tomlinson-Wilson House was constructed during a period of great change in North Carolina. It is important to note that “[f]or many Carolinians, the 1830s were years of economic decline and outmigration; the decade was also a time of greater economic stratification, as planter families continued to consolidate property and the plantation system expanded into the Piedmont.” 3 The North Carolina State Railroad between Charlotte and Raleigh would not be completed until 1854. The tracks of the Atlantic, Tennessee & Ohio, just west of the Tomlinson-Wilson House, would not be constructed until 1860 and then relaid in 1874. The American architectural profession, in its infancy in the 1830s, influenced the work of local builders much less than plan books and carpenters’ handbooks.

In the midst of the changes in both the state and the country, the Tomlinson-Wilson House was constructed. The house is roughly contemporary with Cedar Grove (1831-33), another rural house in northern Mecklenburg County. Comparing the two houses gives a good example of the economic stratification in the area. Cedar Grove, the larger of the two, was built by a merchant-planter able to afford the expense of constructing brick kilns and importing hardware and manufactured goods from New York and Philadelphia. In contrast, the owners of the Tomlinson-Wilson House, being yeoman farmers, had to use less expensive materials available locally. Unlike the Greek Revival style of Cedar Grove, the Tomlinson-Wilson House is constructed in a Folk House tradition.

The ground plan of the Tomlinson-Wilson House is that of a typical extended I-house plan in the Tidewater South Folk House tradition. Plan variations include a one-story, rear-facing ell and a later extension of the ell on the northeast corner of the principal mass. A one-story addition on the southeast corner provides an infill between the ell and the shed extension of the principal mass. The house presents a symmetrical, two-story elevation to Old Statesville Road. The Tomlinson-Wilson House has a one-story, full-width,  shed-roofed front porch typical of the extended I-house plan. By the late 18th century, this became a common feature in southern folk houses to provide a cool shelter from both the summer’s heat and frequent thunderstorms. The side-gabled roof is a common roof type found in this style.

Exterior

The Tomlinson-Wilson Houses has two types of siding: horizontal lapped board siding and flush horizontal siding. The flush horizontal siding is under the protection of the front porch; that type of siding indicates the porch was considered an exterior room. Wide boards trim the corners of the house. The exterior, including the trim, is painted white. The house is set on rectangular piers of granite; the current owner placed concrete block infill between the granite piers.

The side-gabled roof has a moderate slope. It encloses an attic that provides storage space for the house. The roof is supported by common rafters with tie beams; the roof sheathing is tongue-and-groove boards. The charcoal gray composition shingles are laid in a simple, coursed pattern. The boxed eaves support charcoal gray gutters which carry roof runoff to the white downspouts. The gable ends have a moderate overhang. An exterior chimney is centered on each gable end. Wooden louvered vents flank each chimney at the attic level. Gray stucco covers the stone base and brick of each chimney.

Many of the windows in the Tomlinson-Wilson House contain the original leaded glass. Additionally, the original wooden sash has the deep and narrow muntins (wooden moldings holding the individual panes in place) of the Adam style. Except for those in the addition on the southeast corner, all  windows are double hung wooden sash. First floor windows in the gable end section are tall 9/9 windows placed singly but in symmetrical rows. Second floor windows in the gable end section are shorter 6/6 windows also placed singly and symmetrically. Windows in the ell section are pairs of 6/6 and 2/2 windows. The addition on the southeast corner has three pairs of casement windows on the east facade and two fixed  sash stained glass windows on the south facade.

The symmetrical front elevation is three units wide with the front entry forming the center unit. The one-story shed-roofed porch extends across the front of the house. The roof of the porch is supported by square Tuscan-style columns; the porch railing is a simple wooden balustrade. Most of the balustrade is original; however, a couple of sections, milled to match the original, have replaced deteriorated sections. Both the floor and the ceiling of the porch are tongue-and-groove boards. Five brick steps lead to the porch. A single light fixture is centered at the front entrance.

The front entry, located on the west elevation, is the most decorative element of the exterior. It appears to have changed little over the years. It consists of a wooden enframement surrounding the paired doors with five sidelights on either side. The white enframement has simple decorative moldings. The  sidelights do not run the full height of the door but end at knee height. Beneath the sidelights are white wooden panels. A pair of screen doors opens to a pair of narrow two panel wooden doors. The narrow vertical panels emphasize the height of the white doors.

The Tomlinson-Wilson House has no porch on the back or east facade of the house at this time. The back door, which is located in the southeast corner addition, is approximately at ground level.

Interior

Much of the interior of the Tomlinson-Wilson House has not been modernized. Most of the historic fabric is not only intact but visible. Most rooms have original painted moldings and original hardware for the two-panel wooden doors. In the two-story section, the interior walls are boards laid horizontally. This section also has board ceilings. The ell and the southeast corner addition have walls of various materials including antique bricks, boards and sheetrock. The ceilings are approximately 9′ high throughout the house. Wide pine boards were used for flooring in most rooms. Flooring in the entry hall and the parlor were replaced due to deterioration. The current owner salvaged similar pine flooring from the Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church for those two rooms. The southeast corner addition has a floor of oversized brick.

The front doors open to the center passage hall. The unbroken run of the open staircase begins at the left (north) of the door. A closet is enclosed beneath the stairwell. A sheetrock wall closes off the east end of the hall; it could be removed if an owner wished to restore the center passage to the back of the house. The square newel on the first floor has a simple square cap while another square newel on the second floor has a round pillbox cap. The balustrade, composed of narrow strips of wood, supports a gracefully curved and carved handrail.

To the right (south side of the house) when standing at the front entry is the room presumed to have been the original parlor. The focal point of this room is the fire surround on the south wall. The fire surround has simple engaged pilasters, set on unadorned plinth blocks, on each side of the fireplace; the pilasters support a high shelf. Beneath the shelf, the wood is paneled in a three-part design with a raised center tablet. Above the shelf, a wooden panel is cut into a pair of quarter circles. The brick hearth is flush with the floor. A fireplace insert makes the chimney more efficient.

The dining room is to the left (north side of the house) when standing at the front entry. The fireplace occupies the north wall of the room. The fire surround has the appearance of a pedimented door surround. Engaged pilasters support a frieze board, cornice and shelf. Above the shelf, the triangular piece of wood resembles a pediment. This fireplace has a raised brick hearth.

The dining room has a doorway on the east wall leading to the kitchen. The kitchen has modern conveniences. The oak flooring in the kitchen, although not original, came from the site. A storm in 1980 felled a white oak tree in the back yard and a red oak tree in the front yard. State officials measured the fallen white oak tree and determined it to be the fourth largest in North Carolina. It was also believed to be the tree that held the swing from which Cyrus Wilson fell to his death. The current owners had the trees taken to a sawmill and have used some of the lumber in the house. 4

The kitchen, laundry room and small sitting room form three narrow rooms within the original one-story shed extension on the rear (east) side of the house. The ell on the northeast corner of the house contains a crafts workroom, a bathroom and a bedroom laid out in linear fashion. The easternmost section of the ell had to be rebuilt after a tree fell on it. The stone foundation for the original kitchen chimney is still under the rebuilt section. At the extreme southeast corner of the house is a family room added by the current owners in 1980. The brick floor was salvaged from the Glen Alpine textile mill. Two stained glass windows flank a large fireplace set in a wall of old brick.

The second floor is also laid out in the center hall passage plan. A bath has been constructed in the west end of the center passage. The original stair to the attic is located in that bath. At the east end of the hallway, a half-door conceals a storage area tucked under the shed roof of the rear extension.

There are bedrooms located on the north and south sides of the second floor hallway. The south bedroom has a fireplace on the south wall with a fire surround similar to the one in the dining room. A cupboard, originally built-in on the first floor, has been moved to the south bedroom. It serves as closet since the house, as originally constructed, had no closets. The fireplace in the north bedroom was closed when an early oil furnace was used; however, the current owner may reopen it since he has a new heating system.

A natural gas pac system provides heat and air conditioning for the residents of the Tomlinson-Wilson House. The whole house was rewired in 1953 to provide better lighting, but the work was done in a sensitive manner. The house contains 2,893 square feet according to Mecklenburg County tax records.

Conclusion

The Tomlinson-Wilson House and Farm is a mostly intact example of a typical farm with a house built in the extended I-house plan in the Tidewater South Folk House tradition. finishes and decorative details of the Tomlinson-Wilson House suggest that the house was built by a skilled local craftsman who had access to the pattern books of his day. The house and farm can provide valuable insight into the settlement and land use patterns of this area during the Antebellum period.
Notes

1 Virginia & Lee McAlester,A Field Guide to American Houses (New York, 1986), 74-75, 80-82.

2 Ibid, 75.

3 Catherine W. Bishir, with photography by Tim Buchman,  North Carolina Architecture (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1990),195.

4 Interview with Thomas and Charlotte Davis, current owners; 23 May 1992.


image1491. Name and location of the property: The property known as the W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar is located at 4108 Airport Drive in Charlotte, N.C.

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

City of Charlotte
600 E. 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202-2816

Telephone: 704-336-2241

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

4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report contains a map depicting the location of the property. The UTM coordinates are 17.506000.3905000.

wpa-map

5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The writer of this report was unable to find the most recent deeds to this property. The tax-parcel ID is 11522102a-005.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Ryan L. Sumner.

7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report contains a brief physical description of the property prepared by Ryan L. Sumner.

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

a. Special significance in terms of its historical, prehistorical, architectural, or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as the W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

1.) The Hangar, erected in 1936—1937 by the Works Progress Administration, was intimately tied to a federal work program that preserved Charlotteans’ skills and self-respect during a period of massive unemployment.

2.) This airport was the W.P.A.’s largest project, in allotment of funds, at the time in North Carolina.

3.) Of the original five structures built by the W.P.A. at the airport, only the hangar is extant.

4.) The establishment of the airport contributed greatly to physical and economic development of the city, ever expanding to supply comprehensive and convenient air transport to Charlotte.

b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical description by Ryan L. Sumner, which is included in this report, demonstrates that the essential form of the W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar meets this criterion.

9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property that becomes a “historic landmark.” The current appraised value of the 502.52 acres of land is $32,834,660. There are multiple improvements on this parcel—the current appraised value of the Hangar is $82,090, while the total improvements are valued at $147,437,660. The total current appraised value is $180,272,320. The property is zoned I-1and I-2.

10. Portion of the Property Recommended For Designation: The interior and exterior of the building and a sufficient amount of land to protect its immediate setting.

Date of Preparation of this Report: May 15, 2002

Prepared by: Ryan L. Sumner
Assistant Curator
Levine Museum of the New South
200 E 7TH St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Telephone: 70.333.1887 x226

Historical Background Statement

Ryan L. Sumner
April 25, 2002

Summary Paragraph:

The W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar (“the hangar”), erected in 1936—1937 by the Works Progress Administration, was tied to a federal work program that preserved Charlotteans’ skills and self-respect during the Great Depression. Of the original structures built by the W.P.A. at the airport, only the hangar is extant. During the Second World War, when the airport was dominated by Morris Field, the hangar serviced and stored planes for the civilian flights in and out of Charlotte. As the economy grew in the post-war years, so did the airport, which built bigger and more modern repair facilities. The hangar was leased to small chartered flight organizations until the mid-1980s when it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. The building of the airport contributed greatly to physical development of the city, expanding throughout its history to serve the air transport needs of the city.

Context and Historical Background Statement

Prior to the building of Douglas Airport, flights in and out of Charlotte were rare. The Queen City’s only airfield was Charlotte Airport (later known a Cannon airport), a small private venture operated by Johnny Crowell, a famed Charlotte aviator. Although this landing strip was christened amid much fanfare as an airmail stop on April 1, 1930,1 with passenger service from Eastern Air Transport (later Eastern Airlines) following a few months later, the field was only open on weekends, for air shows, and war-pilot training.
For Charlotte Mayor Ben E. Douglas, this inadequate air operation did not fit his vision for Charlotte, which could not grow “without water and transportation.”2 In an era when commercial flight was relatively new, Douglas continually pushed for a major municipal airport to serve the area.3 Douglas convinced prominent Charlotteans of the necessity of an airport, gradually building up a base of support. In the summer of 1935, the Chamber of Commerce appealed to the City Council to provide adequate passenger and airmail service to and from the city.4
On September 3, 1935, Mayor Douglas led the Charlotte City Council in authorizing the City Manager to file an application with the Works Progress Administration for funding to build an airport.5 The application was approved and on November 13, 1935, the council voted to divert funds in order to facilitate the purchase of land for the airport site and to repay the transfers upon the sale of airport bonds.6 The bonds were sold on March 1, 1936.7
The Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, is considered the most important New Deal work-relief agency. The W.P.A. developed programs to create work during the massive national unemployment and economic devastation created by the Depression. From 1935 to 1943, the W.P.A. provided approximately eight million jobs at a cost of more than eleven billion dollars and funded the construction of hundreds of thousands of public buildings and facilities. By the end of 1939, 125,000 North Carolinians who were “caught between the grindstones of a maladjusted economy” had sought gainful employment from the state’s 3984 Works Progress Administration projects.8

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FDR visiting Charlotte, September 1936

From the National Archives and Records Administration

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Groundbreaking, 1935

From Charlotte / Douglas International Airport Archives

Construction began in December 1935 under the direction of N.C. W.P.A. director George Coan and John Grice, Charlotte Regional W.P.A. Director.9 Hundreds of unemployed men, bundled in overcoats, stood in line for the first W.P.A. jobs, which consisted of clearing the site of trees and underbrush. One hundred and fifty of those men found work on the airport the first day.10 Many of those present had no means of transportation and walked six or more miles to the airport site.11 The Charlotte airport project grew into the W.P.A.’s largest project, in allotted funds, until that point; W.P.A. funds accounted for $323,889.47, which were combined with an investment by the City of Charlotte $57,703.28. Of this money, $143,334.96 was paid in salary to the workers on the site.
When W.P.A. construction ceased in June 1937, the new Charlotte Municipal Airport boasted an administration/terminal building, a single hangar, beacon tower, and three runways—two 3000 feet-long landing strips and one 2,500 strip, each 150 feet wide.12 The following year, the U.S. Department of Commerce added a “Visual-type Airway Radio-beam” system and a control building, which allowed pilots to engage in blind flying and blind landing.13 Of these structures, only the Hangar remains.
The City Council wasted no time putting the new airport to use. They appointed an airport commission, chaired by William States Lee, Jr. to operate the new facility. Eastern Airlines flew the first plane into the new airport on May 17. Six daily flights took off from Charlotte Municipal Airport in its first year of operation; by 1938, the number of flights increased to eight. In 1940, the city officially dedicated the site, “Douglas Municipal,” in honor of the mayor who spearheaded the movement to built the airport.

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The Recently Completed Municipal Airport

Collection of the Levine Museum of the New South

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North Carolina Aviator, 1935
Collection of Piedmont Airlines Historical Society

Douglas Airport saw significant expansion by the federal government beginning in 1941, when the City of Charlotte leased the airport to the War Department for an indefinite period for a nominal fee.14 Between January and April of that year, the Army Air Corps oversaw the construction of Charlotte Air Base, a military installation built to the south of the Douglas Municipal site, adjoining the runways. The military acquired additional land for the project, lengthened and widened the runways; they built a huge hangar-repair facility, a hospital, reservoir, shops, barracks, and over ninety other structures.15 The air base was renamed Morris Field, shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In May 1946, the War Assets Corporation conveyed the property back to the City of Charlotte, after investing more than five million dollars in the site.

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Female workers repair a plane at Morris Field during WWII

Carolinas Historic Aviation Commission

Contrary to what some Charlotte historians have written, commercial air travel did not cease during the Charlotte Air Base or Morris Field days. Civilian passengers continued to emplane from the municipally operated terminal with little reduction in daily flights.16 The hangar built by the W.P.A. steadfastly serviced and sheltered civilian planes throughout the war.

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New Terminal designed by Walter Hook, dedicated 1954

Collection of Levine Museum of the New South

In the prosperous days following World War II, the airport commission began to work on a new terminal for the epicenter of the “Sun-belt Boom.” Scheduled airline service increased rapidly from eight flights per day in 1939, to thirty flights per day in 1949.17 The new terminal, built from concrete, steel, glass and brick, epitomized the modern movement that was sweeping the country at that time. The original terminal, with its stucco walls and tin roof, didn’t fit this new paradigm; it was torn down about 1968.18
Modern hangars and repair facilities accompanied the airport expansions of the fifties and 1980s, relegating the hangar built by the W.P.A. to second-class status. The airport began to use the hangar for “fixed base operations,” and leased it to small outfits that chartered private planes for flight training and cargo transport. The hangar’s last tenant was Southeast Airmotive, which vacated the building in 1985.

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The Hangar while leased by Southern Airmotive, c. 1980s

From the Charlotte Observer

As a result of neglect and Hurricane Hugo, Charlotte’s last original airport building had fallen into a state of great disrepair by the early 1990s. Nearly all the windows were smashed and the doors damaged. The structure was overgrown with kudzu. The hangar was filled with several years worth of scrap and general aviation junk, while a thirty-foot mound of hurricane-related debris was piled against the outside. The Airport slated the building to be razed.19
Aviation historian Floyd Wilson met with Airport Director Jerry Orr, and convinced him to spare the building and allow it to be turned into a museum. In 1991, Wilson formed the Carolinas Historic Aviation Commission (CHAC) and held several successful fund-raisers to restore the hangar.20 Under Orr’s direction, the airport provided a security fence, replaced the broken glass, sandblasted and repainted the walls, and repaired the doors to working order.21 Today CHAC operates the facility as the Carolinas Aviation Museum, displaying a wide variety of aircraft, plus military and aviation-oriented memorabilia.
The growth of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport and the growth of the Charlotte Region are tied closely together. The airport links Charlotte with markets in the United States and around the world – an important factor in today’s global economy. According to a 1997 report by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, the airport contributes nearly four billion dollars in annual total economic impact to the Charlotte region, providing 71,392 jobs to workers who earn $1.968 billion in wages and salaries.22

Brief Architectural Description

Ryan L. Sumner
April 25, 2002
Location Description:
The W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar is situated in the northeast corner of the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport property in southwest Mecklenburg County. The rear elevation of the structure faces northward and overlooks a steep slope down toward Airport Road and the Norfolk Southern Railroad (formerly Southern Railroad) line, which lies approximately one hundred meters behind the structure. The hangar lies one thousand meters south of Wilkinson Boulevard, the only four-lane highway in the Carolinas at the time of the airport’s construction.23 Charlotte Mayor Ben Douglas chose this site because of its proximity to the rail line, and Wilkinson Boulevard, since in 1936 pilots navigated largely by visual reference to ground landmarks.24
To the west of the hangar, the land is generally flat, grassy, and empty. None of the other structures that stood on the western side of the Hangar is extant. Immediately west of the hangar stood Charlotte Streetcar #85, which was moved to the airport following the close of the trolley line in 1938 and was converted into an office for the Air National Guard; it was removed in the 1940’s.25 Slightly farther west stood the seventy-five feet tall radio beacon tower. The airport’s administration / terminal building sat atop a now leveled slope a few yards east.
The hangar’s front visage faces south over a flat open asphalt apron (approximately twice the size of the hangar) and over the modern runways of Charlotte/ Douglas International Airport. The roar of airplanes taking off and landing in close proximity drown out conversations and fittingly dominate the space
The area east of the hangar is a continuation of the asphalted area that lies in front of the structure and is currently used as a parking lot. A non-extant runway lighting system stood on the east side of the hangar.
Structural Description:
The W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar is a one story, one hundred feet wide by one hundred feet deep, by thirty feet tall, metal structure. It is typical of aviation hangars built by the Works Progress Administration (later known as the Works Projects Administration), which utilized stock plans and worked on 11 airport projects in North Carolina before 1940.26
The exterior structure has a gable roof with rounded cornices composed of prefabricated sheet metal with a pressed corrugated pattern. The exterior roof is covered with weatherproofing tar and painted silver.
The rear north-facing side of the hangar is largely composed of like materials and is punctuated by six bays of window groups. Each window group on the rear consists of a central section of fifteen panes arranged in three horizontal rows of five. On either side of each large section is a smaller group of nine panes arranged in three horizontal rows of three. The higher two-thirds of each small section are hinged at the top and can be pushed outward and propped open for ventilation. “CAROLINAS AVIATION MUSEUM” has been recently painted across the rear wall of the structure, but underneath this new sign, it is possible to read “DOUGLAS AIRPORT CHARLOTTE N.C.”
The front south-facing side is characterized by ten bays of doors that are approximately 22 feet high and ten feet across; each is punctuated with a window grouping of two sets of nine panes arranged three panes wide by three panes high. These ten doors constitute the central entrance and slide left or right along five tracks—closing the hangar completely, or creating a maximum opening of eighty feet. “CAROLINAS AVIATION MUSEUM” has recently been painted across the structure’s front above the door, and an Esso sign has been mounted near the roofline, just below a windsock mounted upon the roof.
The exterior of the hangar retains a very high level of integrity. The east and west walls have no windows and are composed of same material as the roof, but with a tighter corrugation pattern. A small addition to the west side and a larger addition to the east side were constructed sometime after the original construction. The small addition is approximately ten feet high, nine feet wide, and eighteen feet deep; it is composed of cinder blocks and wood, with a shed roof. The large addition on the west side is similarly composed of white cinder block with a shed roof, but is seventeen feet high, twenty feet wide, and one hundred twenty feet deep.
The interior of the hangar is completely open from floor to vaulted ceiling. The roof and walls are totally supported by a steel frame skeleton that consists of six I-beam tented arches, which transverse the structure from east to west. The floor is poured cement, and the interior walls are merely the reverse sides of the sheet metal used for the exterior walls.

Endnotes:

1. Charlotte Observer, (April 2, 1930), p1.; Charlotte Observer, (December 11, 1930); Blythe, LeGette and Charles Brockman, Hornet’s Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, (Charlotte, NC: Heritage Printers, 1961), p265-6

2. Carter, Gary, “Ben Douglas, Sr.: Charlotte’s Former Mayor Lives in a Future of His Own Creation,” Clippings Folder, Ben E. Douglas Papers, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

3. Carter, Gary, “Ben Douglas, Sr.: Charlotte’s Former Mayor Lives in a Future of His Own Creation,” Clippings Folder, Ben E. Douglas Papers, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

4. Carter, Gary, “Ben Douglas, Sr.: Charlotte’s Former Mayor Lives in a Future of His Own Creation,” Clippings Folder, Ben E. Douglas Papers, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

5. Charlotte City Clerk, Minutes of the City Council (Special Meeting September 3, 1935).

6. Charlotte City Clerk, Minutes of the City Council (Nov. 13 1935).

7. Douglas, Ben E., “Ledbetter, L. L., City Treasurer to Ben E. Douglas,” (March 11, 1960), Ben E. Douglas Papers /Manuscript 109 , University of North Carolina, J. Murray Atkins Library Special Collections.

8. United States and Works Progress Administration North Carolina, North Carolina W.P.A.: Its Story (Information Service: 1940) .p1

9. Douglas Ben E., History of the Airport Scrapbooks, storage in the Robinson-SpanglerCarolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (labeled photographs)

10. Douglas, Ben E., History of the Airport Scrapbooks, storage in the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (undated unnamed newspaper clipping, circa Dec 1935)

11. Charlotte Observer (April 25, 1982)

12. Charlotte Observer (February 28, 1950)

13. Douglas Ben E., History of the Airport Scrapbooks, storage in the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

14. Charlotte News (April 19, 1941).

15. Charlotte News (April 19, 1941); Charlotte Observer (February 28, 1950)

16. Charlotte City Directory (1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946); Interview with Fred Wilson, President Carolinas Historic Aviation Museum (April 1, 2002)

17. Dedication Program (July 10, 1954), Douglas Airport, Clippings Folder, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

18. Kratt, Mary and Mary Boyer, Remembering Charlotte: Postcards from a New South City, 1905—1950, (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000) p128

19. Interview with Fred Wilson, President Carolinas Historic Aviation Museum (April 1, 2002)

20. Charlotte Observer (October 21, 1992)

21. Charlotte Observer (October 21, 1992)

22. Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, Official Website. Available at: http://www.charlotteairport.com/economic.htm

23. Douglas, Ben E., “Douglas Presents History to Library,” Clippings Folder, Ben E. Douglas Papers /Manuscript 109 , University of North Carolina Charlotte, J. Murray Atkins Library Special Collections.

24. Douglas, Ben E. “‘Dad’ Douglas is on Cloud 9,” Clippings Folder, Ben E. Douglas Papers /Manuscript 109 , University of North Carolina Charlotte, J. Murray Atkins Library Special Collections.

25. Morrill, Dan L., “A Brief History of Streetcars in Charlotte,” Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission Website, available at: www.cmhpf.org/essays/streetcars.html

26. United States and Works Progress Administration North Carolina, North Carolina W.P.A.: Its Story (Information Service: 1940) p46.