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SURVEY AND RESEARCH REPORT

On

Park Avenue, Pineville

1. Name and location of the property: The property is known as Park Avenue and is located at 408 – 427 Park Avenue, Pineville, North Carolina.

2. Name and address of the present owners of the property:

Thomas E. White

408 Park Avenue

Pineville, N.C. 28134

 

Haley Wilson Hobbs

409 Park Avenue

Pineville, N.C. 28134

 

Vivian Vick Moore

10862 Rise Ln.

Fort Mill, SC 29715

 (410 Park Avenue)

 

LLC PMC of Charlotte

P.O. Box 12461

Charlotte, N.C. 28220

 (411 Park Avenue)

 

Charles Bradford Smith

3913 Lakeside Drive

Charlotte, NC 28270

 ( 412 Park Avenue)

 

Betty B. Kimbrell

C/O Linda Bass

870 Spring Garden Road

Conway, S.C. 29527

 (413 Park Avenue)

 

Joseph Gerald Landry

414 Park Avenue

Pineville, NC 28134

 

William E. Smith

13909 Woody Point Road

Charlotte, NC 2827

 (415 Park Avenue)

 

Gary F. Workman, Rebecca B. Workman, and Mark A. Dymock

2428 Quail Lake Drive

Charlotte, NC 28210

 (416 Park Avenue)

 

Ricky and Maria Clark

417 Park Avenue

Pineville, NC 28134

 

William E. Smith

13909 Woody Point Road

Charlotte, NC 28278

 (420 Park Avenue)

 

Nina O. Earnhart

C/O William Earnhart

P.O. Box 192

Pineville, NC 28134

 (421 Park Avenue)

 

Robert E. Smith

3475 Pikeview Road

Fort Mill, S.C. 29715

 (422 Park Avenue)

 

George L. Beyer and Jessica M. Arce

423 Park Avenue

Pineville, N.C. 28134

 

Dorothy B. Adams

424 Park Avenue

Pineville, N.C. 28134

 

Ronald and Sylvia Moore

1400 Nettleton Drive

Desoto, TX 75115

 (425 Park Avenue)

 

Michael Keigh McCoy

426 Park Avenue

Pineville, NC 28134-8514

 

Charles Morris and Dolly Howard

P.O. Box 548

Pineville, N.C. 28134

 (427 Park Avenue)

 

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

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

5. Current deed book reference to the property: The tax parcel numbers associated with the property are:  22107109, 22107110, 22107111, 22107112, 22107113, 22107114, 22107115, 22107116, 22107117, 22107201, 22107202, 22107203, 22107204, 22107205, 22107206, 22107207, 22107208, 22107209

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 Park Avenue does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:

1. Park Avenue is a well defined and intact element of the Pineville Mill Village.

2. Park Avenue's wide divided street is the most significant element of the landscape plan developed for the village by noted Charlotte planner Earle Sumner Draper

3. Park Avenue's one-story, frame T-plan mill houses have retained, in aggregate,  a high degree of integrity, and the one-story, frame hip-roofed mill cottages with front and rear gable-roofed wings are unique in terms of the mill villages in Mecklenburg County.

4.  In consideration of its intact houses and significant landscape features, Park Avenue possesses special significance as the most distinctive surviving element of the Pineville mill village.

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 Park Avenue meets this criterion.

 

9. Ad Valorem tax appraisal: The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes a designated "historic landmark."  

 

10. Portion of property recommended for designation: The exterior of the houses, the road and median, and the land delineated in the above map are recommended for historic designation.

 

Date of preparation of this report: January 10, 2011

 

Prepared by: Stewart Gray 
 

 

Narrative Description

Rick Mattson and Francis Alexander, edited by Stewart Gray

 

Park Avenue  is a well preserved block of eighteen mill houses situated along a wide street divided by a grass median.  Park Avenue is a component of the Pineville Mill Village, in Pineville, NC.  The mill village was developed in two phases.  Park Avenue was developed during the first phase which occurred with the opening of Dover Yarn Mills in 1894.  The village is located south of Pineville's Main Street, and encompasses most of the south side of this small, Mecklenburg County railroad town as it existed into the mid-twentieth century.  Park Avenue is roughly centered in the village.   Immediately to the west of Park Avenue is the expansive, red-brick textile mill. 

 

Park Avenue is comprised of one-story, frame T-plan mill houses, and one-story, frame hip-roofed mill cottages with front and rear gable-roofed wings.  Although the original house designs have been modified by later sidings, and replacement window sash and porch posts, the original forms remain remarkably unchanged, with only minor additions that are primarily to the rear.   Most new construction consists of backyard storage sheds and garages that do not detract from the integrity of the houses.  The roughly quarter-acre house lots are original and were laid out to accommodate gardens and sheds.  Mature trees shade the streets and houses.  Many were probably planted during the 1920s expansion and renovation of the mill village, when Chadwick-Hoskins commissioned planner Earle Sumner Draper to update the village.   Others were planted over time by the residents. 

 

With its small variety of evenly distributed and intact house types, Park Ave well represents the distinctive architectural rhythm that sets the mill village apart from the rest of the town.  The street runs east-west and is broader than the other streets in the village and features a unique, tree-lined median that was part of Draper’s plan.   The mill houses along Park Avenue are some of the earliest dwellings in the village, and stand in contrast to the 1920s side-gable and hip-roofed bungalows in much of the rest of the village.  

 

Statement of Significance

Park Avenue possesses special significance as a well defined and intact element of the Pineville Mill Village.  The block's wide divided street is a distinct element of the landscape plan developed for the village by noted Charlotte planner Earle Sumner Draper.  Park Avenue's one-story, frame T-plan mill houses have retained, in aggregate,  a high degree of integrity, and the one-story, frame hip-roofed mill cottages with front and rear gable-roofed wings are unique in terms of the mill villages in Mecklenburg County.

 

Portion of Earl Sumner Draper's plan for the "Village Development, Chadwick Hoskins Co."
Parks Avenue as shown on survey of the mill propety, 1946

Historical Background

 

Located eleven miles south of Charlotte near Little Sugar Creek, Pineville has its roots in a small community established here in the early nineteenth century  The settlement was named Morrow’s Turnout for one of the area’s early white families.  In 1869, the Charlotte, Columbia, and Augusta Railroad--created from the merger of the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad and the Columbia and Augusta Railroad--established  a passenger and freight station at Morrow’s Turnout.  In 1873 the community was incorporated as Pineville, according to local lore named for a nearby stand of pine trees.   In 1894, the railroad became part of the vast Southern Railway system that integrated Pineville, Mecklenburg County, and the Piedmont into a national network of rail lines.  This new connectivity would ultimately link Pineville to far-flung markets, and draw industries—especially cotton mills—to the town and the region (Blythe and Brockman 1961:  259-262, 417-422; Charlotte Observer 21 May 1967).

 

Pineville was part of a great network of small railroad towns that emerged throughout region after the Civil War.  Between the Civil War and 1900, new rail lines spurred the growth of over 200 towns in North Carolina.   The majority of these rail towns were in the Piedmont, which by the early twentieth century was becoming the center of the nation’s textile industry.  In Mecklenburg County, the towns of Pineville, Matthews, Huntersville, and Cornelius were founded along railroad lines in this period. (Tullos 1989:  135-140; Glass 1992:  57-58).

 

In Mecklenburg County and throughout the Piedmont, railways tied the towns not just to each other and southern ports, but to northern markets and greater sources of building materials and finished goods.   Railroads and advances in steam and electrical power transformed the industrial geography of the region.  They liberated factories from traditional sites beside rivers and created surging industrial districts along railways near cities and towns.  Trains opened the Appalachian coal fields and hauled into the Piedmont the fuel necessary for operating massive steam engines.  By the 1900s, James Buchanan Duke’s Southern Power Company (now Duke Energy) was constructing a series of hydroelectric power plants along the Catawba River to supply nearby industries with inexpensive electricity.  By 1900, six railroads were routed through the city of Charlotte, located near the center of Mecklenburg County.  Charlotte enjoyed more rail connections than any other place between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, and became the hub of the Piedmont textile belt (Goldfield 1982:  86-90; Bishir 1990:  434-435).    

 

To many southerners, railroads promised industrialization.  Civic leaders in Charlotte and other southern cities envisioned a new order based on textile production and urban growth to replace the agrarian society of the past.  These proponents of the “New South” campaigned for the construction of cotton mills, which by World War I numbered over 300 within a 100-mile radius of Charlotte.  By the 1920s, the Carolina Piedmont had surpassed New England as the leading textile producer in the world  (Hanchett 1998:  2, 48, 65-66; Glass 1992:  57-58).

 

By the turn of the twentieth century, cotton mill investors had established  seventeen mills along railroad corridors in Mecklenburg County.  By 1915, the county contained twenty-two mills, including fourteen in Charlotte.  In the railway towns north of Charlotte, Anchor Cotton Mills (1898) opened in Huntersville; Cornelius Cotton Mills (1888) and Gem Yarn Mills (1907) began in Cornelius; and Linden Cotton Factory (1890) and Delburg Cotton Mills (1908) opened in Davidson.   Reflecting the common trend of this period, each of these mills included adjoining streets of housing for employees (Blythe and Brockman 1961:  421-422; Thompson 1926:  139-140; Tompkins 1903:  196, 198-199). 

 

In Charlotte, groups of cotton mills and large districts of essentially contiguous mill villages appeared at the northern and western outskirts.  The largest such district developed in North Charlotte (National Register 1990), around the Southern Railway.  By the 1910s, North Charlotte included three mills, adjoining blocks of mill houses, and a small commercial zone.  The largest of the mills, Highland Park Mill No. 3, was among the first in North Carolina designed for electric power when it opened in 1904.  The mill employed 800 workers.  By contrast,  smaller enclaves of worker houses took shape around individual mills in the small towns.   These mill villages varied slightly in size according to the scale of the mill, though by World War I, none contained more than some 200 workers or fewer than 150.  The Anchor Cotton Mills village in Huntersville was demolished in 2005, and original blocks of mill housing in Cornelius and Davidson have dwindled in size and been absorbed into the growing towns in recent decades.  The Pineville mill community remains the best preserved and most clearly defined of the county’s small town mill villages (Tompkins 1903:  198;  Carolina Department of Labor and Printing 1915, 1918; Mattson and Pickens 1990). 

 

In Pineville, a coterie of Charlotte stockholders formed Dover Yarn Mills in 1894.  Principal among them was H. S. Chadwick, who also was a major investor in Charlotte cotton mills, including the Louise, the Chadwick, and the Hoskins mills.  By 1902, Dover Yarn Mills included a new weaving department and employed some 150 workers operating 9,000 spindles and 400 looms.  In 1908, the mill was acquired by the Chadwick-Hoskins Company of Charlotte.  Operating  98,000 spindles, the entire Chadwick-Hoskins chain employed over 1,000 operatives and became the largest textile corporation in North Carolina.  The company controlled  an expansive district of mills and mill villages along the Seaboard Air Line tracks northwest of downtown Charlotte.   The mill in Pineville was the only Chadwick-Hoskins plant outside Charlotte, and was known as Mill No. 5.  In 1915, Mill No. 5 at Pineville was manufacturing white cotton sheeting with a workforce of 130, evenly divided between men and women (Hanchett 1985:  1-3; Mattson 1991: 7-10; North Carolina Department of Labor and Printing 1915; Tompkins 1903: 198; Thompson 1926:  139-140).

 

Oriented to the north-south Southern Railway tracks, Pineville’s cotton mill and mill village physically dominated the town.  The mill was the town’s primary employer and builder, creating a distinctive landscape that included the large brick mill and scores of worker houses.  Pineville in 1910 contained a population of approximately 600, one quarter of which worked in the mill.   Main Street to the north of the mill comprised roughly one block of contiguous brick commercial buildings, while the houses of merchants, professionals, and larger landowners occupied lots along Main Street as well as several adjacent blocks.  The North Carolina Year Book for 1910 recorded two drugstores, a grocery, and ten general stores in Pineville.  As with other small railroad towns in the Piedmont, local farmers ginned and marketed their cotton in Pineville, and purchased supplies, building materials, and finished goods.  But Pineville was primarily a mill town.   The expansive, one-story, red brick textile plant and the adjacent mill village stood on the on the east side of the Southern Railway tracks.  Although no plan or maps exist of the original Pineville mill village, it probably included approximately forty small, one-story, frame houses lining three straight streets, including Park Avenue.  Mill supervisors’ houses--larger, one-story dwellings with stylish Queen Anne designs--were constructed on Dover Street, the principal artery into the village.  At this strategic location, the supervisors could keep a close watch on the comings and goings of mill hands (Tompkins 1903:  198; North Carolina Year Book 1910).

 

Pineville’s mill village reflected hundreds of such communities constructed by mill owners throughout the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The development of such communities was as much a social movement as an industrial one, with thousands of white, southern families leaving farms for the factories.  Between 1900 and 1930, the number of textile workers in North Carolina soared from 32,000 to 125,000.  To draw the labor force, mill owners provided subsidized housing and a range of other services that varied from mill to mill.   Southern textile companies adapted the traditions of New England (especially Rhode Island) textile mills, and typically built villages of small, free-standing wooden dwellings that reflected rural, regional forms and patterns (Hall et al. 1987:  44-50; 52-58; 66-85; Bishir 1990:  432-435; Glass 1992:  18-19; Glass 1978:  138-149). 

 

 In a 1991 interview with principal investigator Richard L. Mattson, Ms. Rhetta May McCoy, a life-long resident of Pineville’s mill village, described daily life in the community between the 1920s and 1940s.  Families rented housing  from Chadwick-Hoskins for one dollar a week, or twenty-five cents per room.   Operatives worked twelve-hour weekdays and four hours on Saturday.  By the 1920s, Ms. McCoy recalled,  a week’s labor earned skilled male workers twenty-eight dollars “cash wage” and unskilled laborers eleven dollars.  Women, who were often hired to work in the spinning room, usually earned less than the men.  In Pineville and other mills, African American men were typically denied textile jobs, and worked primarily outside the factory (in the “yard”) hauling cotton bales and loading rail cars at a survival wage.   Chadwick-Hoskins sold ice, coal, and stove wood to the workers and supplied water at the community pumps along the street.  Chadwick-Hoskins wired houses for electricity, but until the 1930s furnished power only on Thursday afternoons—the period designated for washing and ironing.  Until the late 1940s, when the Cone Mills Corporation purchased the plant and village and extended water and sewer lines through the village, none of the mill housing contained running water or indoor plumbing  (McCoy Interview 1991; Mattson 1991:  57-58; Hall et al. 1987:  66-67).

 

In 1930, sociologist Jennings J. Rhyne described the typical Piedmont mill village this way:

 

The observer approaches what appears in the distance to be a town of considerable size when suddenly around the bend in road or over the hill he comes upon compact rows of small houses of more or less similar architectural design.  They run in rows on either side of a street, then branch out into sideways on hill or level.  He is impressed already with the large brick structure that seems to stand in the center of things.  Standing beside the structure at an elevation of perhaps 100 to 150 feet is a circular steel tank painted black on which is written Southern Cotton Mills (Rhyne 1930:  7).

 

Life in a mill village was a complex mix of paternalism and exploitation; self-reliance and mutual aid.  Textile companies provided steady employment at an hourly cash wage (“public work” it was called) for workers confronting depressed cotton prices and the prospect of lifelong tenancy on farms.   However, rarely during the early twentieth century did the families of  mill hands rise above the minimum standard of living in North Carolina.  Textile companies laid out such communities to provide basic facilities as well as to exercise corporate control over their new labor force.  Organized and funded by the mill, a variety of welfare and recreational programs, from picnics, to baseball games, to domestic science classes for women all extended the influence of the company into the intimate, daily lives of workers.  A 1907-1908 federal investigation stated that, “all the affairs of the village and the conditions of living of all of the people are regulated by the mill company.  Practically speaking, the company owns everything and controls everything, and to a large extent controls everybody in the mill village” (quoted in Hall et al. 1987:  114; Mattson 1991:  7-9).

 

However, despite company controls, a rural bred self sufficiency also permeated mill villages.  Indeed, the rural independence of workers shaped the physical character of the mill villages.  Mill owners, seeking a reliable labor force, incorporated a variety of rural elements into the village landscape.  In village after village, mill companies borrowed house types directly from a small repertoire of familiar, traditional forms.  In Pineville, the early mill houses were look-alike one-story, frame,  T-plan and hip-roofed cottages.  And as with Pineville, the house lots in the typical village were spacious enough for kitchen gardens and small livestock.  Pineville’s mill families cultivated vegetable gardens, planted chinaberry trees for trade, and swept their yards.  They raised chickens in backyards and kept hogs and cows in stalls and pens in a common pasture not far from the mill.  Within this setting, mill hands formed strong bonds with fellow workers.  Starting work in the Pineville mill in the 1920s, Rhetta May McCoy, declared in 1991 she had been “proud to have grown up in the mill.”  This statement expressed not simply a loyalty to the company but a sense of pride in her relationship with the local community of mill workers.  Before World War II, for example, Ms. McCoy remembered that each mill family, independent of the mill owners, contributed twenty-five cents weekly for a medical insurance program with a town physician (McCoy Interview 1991; Mattson 1991:  9, 57-58; Hall et al 1987:  114-173; Glass 1992:  18-19) .

 

During the 1920s, Chadwick-Hoskins expanded and updated its Pineville plant and mill village.   In the decade following the outbreak of World War I textile manufacturing in the region grew vigorously.  This growth was fueled by the soaring demand for cotton products both nationally and worldwide, and by new tax laws that encouraged textile companies to reinvest in factories, equipment, and worker housing.   Textile manufacturers began a “better equipment campaign" to increase efficiency, and hired urban planners to improve living conditions in mill villages.  The North Carolina Bureau of Labor and Printing reported in 1925 that the Pineville textile plant was manufacturing gingham in addition to new lines of assorted “cotton goods” (North Carolina Department of Labor and Printing 1925; Glass 1992:  56-57, 59-60, 62-64).

 

On the eve of the expansion of its product line, Chadwick-Hoskins hired the noted Charlotte-based planner Earle Sumner Draper to redevelop the mill village.  A native New Englander, Draper was a prominent city planner as well as a major designer of Piedmont mill villages.  After graduating from what is now the University of Massachusetts in 1915, he worked with the noted urban planner John C. Nolan.  Nolan employed Draper to supervise  the creation of the prestigious Myers Park neighborhood in Charlotte.   In 1917 Draper launched his own planning firm, which eventually included offices in Charlotte , Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York City.  For nearly a half century, Draper and his associates worked on a wide variety of projects, including city neighborhoods, suburbs, college campuses,  private estates, parks, new industrial towns, and textile mill communities.  Draper shared Nolan’s planning ideals of picturesque landscapes with curvilinear roads and pathways  in sharp contrast to the conventional grid pattern of streets.  As epitomized in his 1920s design for the upscale Eastover subdivision in Charlotte, Draper favored avenues with grand, sweeping curves that conformed to or accentuated the existing topography (Hanchett 1986:  1-3; Glass 1992:  62-64).

 

Draper also devoted much of his early career to the planning of Piedmont mill villages.  Draper’s offices in the Southeast were well positioned to meet the growing market for new or larger mill villages in the years before and after World War I.  Unlike the conventional mill villages that typically consisted of straight streets of simple houses with few conveniences, Draper promoted winding streets, boulevards, sidewalks (to keep workers from tracking dirt into the mills), dwellings equipped with electricity and plumbing.   Between 1917 and 1933 his firm designed nearly 150 textile communities in the Piedmont.  Draper advertised  in Southern Textile Bulletin, the region’s predominant trade magazine, announcing that his firm was qualified in “laying out new villages, improving old mill villages, and beautifying mill grounds. . .” (Mattson 1991:  52; Hanchett 1986: 3; Southern Textile Bulletin, 28 March, 1918).

 

Draper’s 1920 plan for Mill No. 5 adapted the original, semirural village to his latest  planning concepts of tree-shaded, winding streets.  Chadwick-Hoskins did not adopt Draper’s entire layout, but aspects of it were completed and survive today.  Draper envisioned streets shaded by oaks; landscaped green space for parks and a community building; and a boulevard (Park Avenue) anchored by the Baptist church at the north end and a rotary at the south, near the mill.  His plan also incorporated the existing village streets of Dover, Price, Cone, Park, and James, lined with T-plan and hip-roofed dwellings.  Draper’s scheme then expanded the village to the north and east with straight streets  lined with free-standing, frame dwellings with nationally popular bungalow elements.  Draper proposed a second rotary at the intersection of Dover Avenue and Fisher Street, with larger, story-and-a-half bungalows for mill foremen at the four corners.  The rotary was never built, but the foremen’s houses remain.  Finally, the Draper plan included curvilinear drives in the southeast corner of the village encasing a “Reserved Area” (presumably for later development), park, and the “Colored Section.”  This portion of the plan was never developed, though housing for African American mill workers originally stood in Draper’s proposed segregated area for such dwellings.  Today, broad Park Avenue with its median; the scattering of mature willow oaks along the streets; and the blocks of bungalow mill houses on the east side of the village are the clearest expressions of Draper’s original ideas for the village.

In common with other mill communities, the growth of Pineville’s mill village stalled during the Depression and then experienced steady changes in the postwar decades.  By World War II and its aftermath, soaring demands for textiles spurred production and the corporate consolidation of mills.  In 1946 Chadwick-Hoskins was acquired by the expanding Cone Mills Corporation of Greensboro, North Carolina.  Cone Mills installed new machinery to produce cotton jeans, and in the ensuing decades expanded and modernized the Pineville mill.  On Park Avenue and in the rest of the mill village, Cone Mills probably added the asbestos shingle siding that still marks many of the houses, and constructed water and sewer lines.  In the late 1940s Cone also constructed several infill houses for employees in the village, including low-sloped hipped-roof house at 415 Park Avenue, and the side-gabled house at 424 Park Avenue.  In 1950, the Pineville plant employed 500 workers.  While workers continued to occupy company-owned housing in the village, more and more employees bought or rented new dwellings along adjoining blocks or in nearby subdivisions.  Reflecting a broader trend, improved salaries and growing automobile ownership allowed workers to live greater distances from the mill and its planned village.   (Cone Mills Corporation: Pineville Plant 1951:  1-3).

 

During postwar decades textile corporations throughout the region began selling their mill housing, turning over properties in to private owners.  By the late 1950s, Cone began selling open tracts of land around the periphery of the village for private residential development.  In addition, a sampling of deed books show that starting in the 1960s and continuing into the 1970s, Cone Mills began selling its houses within the mill village.  The families of mill workers who lived in the houses were given first choice.  But many were ultimately sold to others for rental properties (Mecklenburg County Deed Books).

 

In 2003 Cone Mills filed for bankruptcy and the Pineville plant was closed as the company’s assets were sold.  The mill complex remains closed and the equipment and portions of the interior woodwork, included the wood flooring, have been stripped and sold.  However, Park Avenue and the greater mill village have remained remarkably well preserved. 

                                                                                                                   

Architecture Context

The worker houses along Park Avenue are typical for most Piedmont mill communities between the 1880s and 1920s.   Although some have been altered with replacement sidings, porch posts, and window sash, they retain their original forms.  Most still have open front porches and few modern additions, which are typically subsidiary rear wings or enclosed rear porches.    Notably, the overall architectural scale and rhythm of Park Avenue remains unchanged.

 

During the late nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, a small variety of frame designs were constructed for Piedmont mill workers, often based on familiar regional forms and plans.  One-story, rectangular forms were commonplace, usually with rear ells.   Another popular early type was the one-story T-plan dwelling.  This single-family, cross-gable design is the predominant design on Park Avenue.  Variations of T-plan worker housing were also built in other mill villages in Mecklenburg County, notably in North Charlotte, where the Mecklenburg Mill (1903-1904) erected rows of such cottages along Warp, Card, and Patterson streets.  Although many of these North Charlotte T-plan houses have been demolished for modern development, a representative group survives.  Near the center city of Charlotte, parallel rows of T-plan cottages were built facing the 1889 Alpha Mill, the 1897 Louise Mill, and the 1892 Highland Park Mill No. 1, but only isolated examples still stand (Bishir and Southern 2003:  524; Glass 1978:  143-144, 148; Mattson and Pickens 1990). 

 

The T-plan dwellings occupying ample lots along Park Avenue are the finest surviving collection in the county.  They were erected by the Dover Yarn Mills between 1894 and the early 1900s, during its early period of operation and expansion. These one-story, frame dwellings retain their original cross-gable forms, with rear gable-roofed or shed-roofed wings and hip-roofed front porches.  Asbestos shingled siding and single-pane, picture windows are found on the great majority of the houses, and were probably added by Cone Mills. 

 

The T-plan house and several other common mill house types were popularized in Daniel Augustus Tompkins’ widely read textbook, Cotton Mill: Commercial Features (1899).  Tompkins was a Charlotte mill engineer and operator, and his publication included standardized plans and specifications for mill housing already in common use in the region.  He described the T-plan type as the “Three-room Gable House, Cost $325.”  Tompkins declared that the simple, vernacular forms depicted in his book offered “attractive and comfortable habitations for cotton operatives. . .”   The author recommended that mill owners built these houses on half-acre parcels with space for gardens and pens, and acknowledged that the work force coming to the mill villages were rural folk, “accustomed to farm life, where there is plenty of room” (Tompkins 1899:  119-121; Glass 1978:  147; Bishir 2005:  436-437).

 

Situated with the T-plan houses on Park Avenue are a group of  hip-roofed mill cottages with front and rear gable-roofed wings (421-427 Park Avenue).  They are located near the junction of Park and Dover Avenues, beside the mill, and may be some of the earliest mill houses that Dover Yarn constructed.  Their basic floor plan may be identical to the T-plan house of Park Avenue, but their hipped-roof form is unusual for mill housing, and no other examples are known to exist in the other mill villages of Mecklenburg County. 

Architectural Description