Survey and Research Report
and location of the property: The property known as
the Stratton House is located at 911 West Fourth Street Extension,
Charlotte, North Carolina.
Name and address of the current owner of the property:
VSW Properties West Fourth Street LLC
638 Hempstead Place
Charlotte North Carolina 28207
Representative photographs of the property: This
report contains representative photographs of the property
map depicting the location of the property:
Current Deed Book Reference To The Property: The most recent deed to
this property is found in Mecklenburg County Deed Book
25671-620, 07115-457, and 07115-452 . The tax parcel numbers for the property is
07321326, 07321327, and 07321325.
A Brief Historical Essay On The Property: This
report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by
A Brief Physical Description Of The Property: This report contains a
brief physical description of the property prepared by Stewart Gray.
Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the 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 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
judges that the Stratton House possesses special significance in
terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
1) The Stratton House helps to maintain the historic
residential character of Charlotte's Third Ward.
2) Designed by William Peeps, the Stratton House
represents the apex of center city, middle class, residential construction
in the early twentieth century and the Stratton House may be the last true
middle class home to be built in the Woodlawn Neighborhood.
The Stratton House is the only Peeps designed residential structure still extant
in the center city.
Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
association: The Commission judges that the physical description
included in this report demonstrates that the property known as the Stratton
meets this criterion.
Valorem Tax Appraisal:
The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for
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
appraised value $314,900. The property is zoned UR-1.
This report finds that the interior, exterior, and land associated with The
should be included in any landmark designation of the property.
of preparation of this report:
January 15, 2012
by: William Jeffers and Stewart Gray
The Stratton House
Until the middle of the twentieth century Charlotte’s urban core was a
mix of residential and commercial structures. In the early part of the
twentieth century the most influential of the
city’s population clustered along the two main thoroughfares of Trade and
Tryon Streets while businesses and commercial structures were interspersed
between them. This pattern had been the norm, more or less, since the
town’s founding. However, as the twentieth century dawned, Charlotte began
to undergo a transformation from a quiet courthouse and cotton mill town to a burgeoning
metropolitan city. As a result, the residential patterns of the urban core
began to change in ways that would redefine the built landscape of the
Initially divided into four numerically named wards,
Charlotte had a sizable collection of residential housing. As the twentieth
century progressed this collection of residential dwellings began to take a
backseat to the industrial and commercial development that overtook the
core. Development of streetcar suburbs like Dilworth and the mill village
of North Charlotte is typical of this phenomenon. These new neighborhoods
began to draw residents away from the core and out towards the periphery of
the city. While this transformation was not instantaneous, each ward was
affected differently by it. Fourth Ward retained a strong residential
pattern, still evident today. However, First and Second Ward (the latter
comprising the African American neighborhood of Brooklyn), lost most of
their historical integrity due to Urban Renewal. This was most painfully
evident in Second Ward, where virtually all of the residential housing was destroyed.
Third Ward Contextual History
Third Ward, like the other wards around it, also
contained a combination of residential and commercial structures. Dr.
Thomas Hanchett points out that what is now generally considered Third Ward
is made up of two very separate areas.
The original section of Third Ward was an area that was bordered by,
Morehead Street, South Graham Street, and West Trade and South Tryon Streets.
This section of Third Ward followed residential patterns similar to First
Ward with a mixture of residential and commercial uses with fewer black
The existence of Southern Railway tracks and the arrival of the Piedmont and Northern Railroad in the
early twentieth century precipitated a shift in land use in
this ward, so much so that Hanchett argues, “the area became the least
residential of the four wards, with warehousing and commercial uses as its
heart and industry on Graham Street along the Southern Railway tracks.”
In addition, like the other wards, Third Ward’s commercial development was
contained along Trade and Tryon Streets. An extant example is seen in the
United States Post Office Building on West Trade Street. The earlier
portion of this
structure, with its signature limestone columns, was built in 1915.
Third Ward also had several notable commercial and
industrial structures within it. Most notably are the now demolished Good
Samaritan Hospital (Bank of America Stadium currently resides on the
property) and the demolished Piedmont and Northern Railroad freight depot
and its passenger terminal. James B.
Duke, president of both Duke Power and the P&N railroad, first utilized the
freight depot site
for the headquarters of the Piedmont and Northern. Eventually, he expanded
the structure, building the “headquarters for Duke Power at the front of the
lot in 1928.”
Other examples include the extant Virginia Paper Company building on West
Third Street and the now-demolished Charlotte Supply Building. The
Virginia Paper Company building on West Third Street, constructed in 1937,
serves as a largely unaltered example of industrial architecture from the
1930’s and also underscores the ward's transition from residential/commercial
to an industrial area.
Woodlawn Neighborhood Contextual History
The Woodlawn neighborhood is located in the second
section of Third Ward, which is the residential area between the Southern
Railway tracks and Interstate 77/Irwin Creek. This area remained
undeveloped during much of the city’s early history.
The first structure built in this section was the Victor Cotton Mill (no
longer extant). Constructed in 1884, the mill was located “near the
intersection of Clarkson Street and Westbrook Drive.” Around 1907 the
Victor Cotton Mill, then known as the Continental Manufacturing Company
began, through a subsidiary known as the Woodlawn Realty Company, to develop
the surplus land it owned in Third Ward into the neighborhood of Woodlawn.
A second residential neighborhood, McNinchville, was plotted to the south of
Woodlawn and bordered Morehead Street. However, the residential stability
of that neighborhood was soon challenged by cheap land, no zoning
restrictions, and easy access to the railroad lines. Eventually,
McNinchville became more of an industrial area, while Woodlawn was able to
retain its original residential character.
As Stewart Gray highlights in his essay on the Woodlawn
Avenue Duplex, “The Development of the Woodlawn Neighborhood was part of the
phenomenal growth that Charlotte experienced in the early years of the
twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1910, the city’s population grew 82%,
from 18,091 to 34, 014.”
As a result, the physical boundaries of the city began to expand out from what
was considered to be the original four wards. In order to accommodate these
new citizens, real estate developers such as F.C. Abbott, George Stephens,
and B.D. Heath built neighborhoods that were linked to the city by the
expanding streetcar systems.
The Woodlawn Neighborhood was one of these new streetcar
suburbs. While located inside one of the city’s original four wards, the
neighborhood was advertised as a suburb, perhaps due to the developing
success of Charlotte’s first true streetcar suburb, Dilworth.
With streetcar lines radiating outward from the center of town, new
neighborhoods began to develop along the lines. Woodlawn was one such
neighborhood, and it was served by the West Trade Street streetcar line.
The fact that the neighborhood was situated so close to downtown may have
been a marketing tool for local developers. An advertisement in the
October, 10, 1911 Charlotte Observer proclaimed that “Woodlawn is the
nearest suburb to the business part of the city, yet NONE is prettier.”
Many of the original parcels of land in Woodlawn were bought by J.W.
McClung, a realtor whose office was located at 25 South Tryon Street
and who also lived in the neighborhood on Woodlawn Avenue.
The parcels were then sold to prospective homeowners.
Woodlawn, as a neighborhood, never grew past its original
layout. It was built as a white middle class community. Early deeds
confirm as much, stipulating that all lots “shall be used for resident
purposes and by people of the white race only (a common stipulation in the
Jim Crow South); and that no dwelling shall be erected thereon which shall
cost less than $1000.00.”
Plotted initially along four streets, the neighborhood began to lose its original identity
soon after it was built.
Sanborn Maps show the neighborhood initially listed under the name Woodlawn.
Virginia Woolard, who was born in 1935, and grew up in the neighborhood,
never heard her neighborhood referred to as "Woodlawn." Generally, people would refer to the street on
which they lived as a geographic reference rather than using a neighborhood
As she stated, “when I was growing up I was not aware of the word
‘Woodlawn.’ I didn’t have any concept about any name where we lived.”
Shifting demographics in the 1960’s caused Woodlawn to
transition from a solidly white community to a predominately
African-American community. Seemingly forgotten by the city after this
transition, the neighborhood suffered a period of decline. This decline,
however, was resisted by residents of the neighborhood, particularly Dr.
Mildred Baxter Davis who helped to create the Committee to Restore and
Preserve Third Ward. Her organization, with NationsBank (today
Bank of America) Community Development Corporation, helped create a
renaissance in Third Ward. Housing
rehabilitation, as well as improvements to streets, sidewalks, and
landscaping helped pave the way, and an industrial scrapyard, long seen as
an eyesore, was removed. These improvements laid the foundation for
new residential development along Cedar and Clarkson Streets.
The Stratton House
One example of the strong middle class presence in
Woodlawn is found in the residence of George and Mary Stratton. This
structure was designed by William H. Peeps for George and Mary Stratton.
This structure was designed by William H. Peeps for George and Mary
Stratton. Peeps made his mark as an architect in Charlotte designing homes in the
English Tudor style, one of his more prominent examples being his design for
the home of F.D. Lethco on Roswell Avenue. While the Stratton’s home was
not a traditional Tudor style residence, elements of this popular style were
incorporated into its design. The Stratton’s were the owners of the
Armature Winding Company, which was founded by Louis F. Stratton in 1907.
As Ryan Sumner highlights in his historical essay, the Armature Winding
Company, repaired electric components for use in looms and textile
equipment, essential to the operations of textile mills in the Piedmont
sections of the two Carolinas. Sumner adds that the company also “repaired
transformers for Duke Power, manufactured transformer-cooling fans, and
distributed electric motors for General Electric Company, along with a
variety of other electrical items. Without the support of firms like the
Armature Winding Company, cotton mills could not have proliferated in the
Piedmont sections of the two Carolinas in the early twentieth century.”
Armature Winding was originally located on West Fifth Street, but as business
increased it found reason to relocate to the McNinchville community of Third
Ward. By the 1920s, this area was very attractive to industry due to the
lack of zoning codes, cheap land and access to railroads. The company
purchased three lots in McNinchville in 1923.
The Stratton’s commissioned local architect Fred L. Bonfoey to design the
new Armature Winding Company Building,
which the Thies-Smith Realty Company constructed between 1924, and 1925.
The brothers timed their expansion well, because as the Charlotte
Observer noted in 1925: "Charlotte has come to be known in the sales
organizations of national manufacturers throughout America as the best point
in the Southeast for the distribution of products and for the location of
As business continued to improve and the company expanded
operations further in the 1930s, the Stratton’s bought land in the adjacent
Woodlawn neighborhood. Virginia Woolard recalled that originally the plan
was to erect two residences; one for her family, and the other for Wilson
Stratton, George’s brother and partner in the firm. However, Wilson Stratton
moved his family to Dilworth (in a residence that was also designed by
William Peeps). As a result only one house was constructed. George
Stratton situated his home on the upper half of the lot, “right beside the
alleyway” as Virginia Woolard states.
In addition to locating his residence close to his place of business,
Stratton also wanted to be closer to his mother, who also lived in the
The home that Peeps designed for the Strattons
incorporated a faux Tudor façade made popular by his previous residential
renderings. From certain angles the house looks rather large, but this is
mostly an illusion, for as Virginia Woolard states, “it looks big because
it’s on a hill.”
Since Wilson Stratton opted to live in Dilworth the second half of the lot
remained vacant and became something of a makeshift park for the youth of
the Woodlawn neighborhood. Virginia Woolard recalled playing football and
basketball with neighborhood children in this impromptu sports field.
Ms. Woolard also spoke of the strong sense of community
within the neighborhood. In fact, she states that the residents “all knew
Possibly one reason why this occurred was due to the abundance of homes with
front porches in the neighborhood, a practice, she insists that was not lost
in Woodlawn. Porches gave people a place to sit and
talk to their neighbors, a practice, she insists, that was not lost in
Woodlawn. Another reason for this sense of community stems from the fact
that the neighborhood was pedestrian friendly. West Trade Street was
the only main
thoroughfare in the neighborhood. Many of the other streets ended at
Irwin Creek and were devoid of heavy traffic. As a result people moved around the
neighborhood freely. As Virginia Woolard related, “I enjoyed visiting, we
would go back and forth between each other’s houses.”
The neighborhood had an abundant tree canopy, and "One had the sense that you were somewhat isolated”
from the rest of the city because of it.
The neighborhood contained a mixture of middle and working class families,
because, while the Stratton family exemplified the middle class as business
owners, other residents of the neighborhood included painters, salesmen,
secretaries, and county policemen.
As Ms. Woolard recounts, Woodlawn was, “not a fancy place and nobody was
very wealthy. It felt like a very democratic place, everybody respected
William H. Peeps, the architect of 911 West Fourth Street
Extension, was born March 3, 1868 in London England.
Peeps relocated to Grand Rapids Michigan for a brief period before arriving
in Charlotte in 1905 to begin practicing architecture. Jack Boyte, another
local Charlotte architect, remarked that Peeps impact on the built
environment of the city was powerful and that he “eventually endowed our
town with a score of buildings. Scattered about in older Charlotte
neighborhoods, they enrich our environment and add significantly to our
dwindling architectural legacy.”
Peeps designed a myriad of commercial and residential
structures in Charlotte. Some of his most recognized commercial structures
can be found in the Ivey’s Department Store Building, Eckerd's Drugs, the
Latta and Court Arcades, the Radcliffe Florist Shop and the Hovis Mortuary
on Tryon Street. Residentially, Peeps designed the Radcliffe-Otterbourg
House which currently houses the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
Commission as well as many other homes for some of Charlotte’s most
prominent families. Most notable of these are the John Bass Brown House on
Hermitage Road and the Osmond Barringer House on Sherwood Avenue – both of
which are considered some of Charlotte’s finer examples of the Colonial
And while he primarily concerned himself with architecture within Charlotte,
Peeps also designed the residences for E.T. Cannon and W.W. Flowe to the
northeast of Charlotte, in Concord. However, as Boyte highlights, it was
his “English Tudor residence built for the F.D. Lethco family on Roswell
Avenue in 1923 is possibly the most copied house of its style in Charlotte.”
Peeps married Margaret Linehan Berry and lived on
Peeps was not only active as an architect, he was also very active in the
community. A member of the Masonic temple Association, he was also a member
of the “Church of the Holy Comforter, an active member of the men’s club of
the Moravian Little Church on the Lane, the Sharon Hills Club, the Excelsior
Masonic Lodge No. 261 and the Charlotte Commandery Knights Templar.”
Peeps also served for a time as the grand master of the Grand Council of the
North Carolina Royal and Select Masters as well as grand commander of the
Grand Commandery of North Carolina.
Today the Woodlawn Neighborhood is an eclectic mix of
residents encompassing all levels of the socio-economic spectrum. Yet the
neighborhood still retains its historic integrity. The Woodlawn neighborhood
represents the apex of center city, middle class, residential construction
in the early twentieth century, and the George and Mary Stratton House may be
the last true middle class home to be built in the neighborhood because, by
the 1920s, middle class residential building trends had shifted away from
the center city to residences like the Peeps-designed Radcliffe-Otterbourg
house in Colonial Heights. In addition, the Stratton’s home is one of the
only extant residences in Third Ward that was designed by a professional
architect. Furthermore, the George and Mary Stratton Home is the only Peeps-designed residential structure still extant in the center city. With
the near significant loss of historic residential buildings in the
center city it becomes increasingly difficult for the public to understand
the pre-World War II history of Charlotte based on the current built
environment. One simple way to rectify this would be to preserve examples
of this period. The George and Mary Stratton House serves as just such an
example. Not only is the Stratton’s home an excellently preserved example
of a middle class pre-World War II residential structure, it was also
designed by a locally prominent and prolific architect. Preservation of this structure ensures an example of time and place
in the residential development of center city Charlotte and also serves as a
tribute to the man who designed it.