Survey and Research
Report on the
Thrift Depot of the
Piedmont and Northern Railroad Company
Name and location of the property: The property known as the Thrift Depot of
the Piedmont and Northern Railroad Company is located at 8030 Old Mt. Holly
Road, in the western section of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner of the property:
Real Property, Inc.
West Bay Street, Suite 800
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Representative photographs of the property:
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A PHOTO
GALLERY ON THE DEPOT STATION
map depicting the location of the property:
Tax Map - Aerial View
Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent deed to this
property is listed in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1065 at page 467. The Tax
Parcel Number of the property is: 055-021-02.
brief architectural description of the property: This report contains an
architectural description of the property prepared by Thomas W. Hanchett,
brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief
historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. William H. Huffman, Ph.D.
Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria set
forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or cultural
importance: The Historic Properties Commission judges that the property
known as the Thrift Depot of the Piedmont and Northern Railroad Company does
possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The
Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations: (1) the
Thrift Depot is the only P&N station that survives in Mecklenburg County;
(2) Hook and Rogers, an architectural firm of seminal influence in the
history of the built environment of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, designed the
structure; (3) James B. Duke, president of the Southern Power Company,
played an important part in the establishment of the Piedmont and Northern
Railroad Company; and (4) the Piedmont and Northern Railroad contributed
significantly to the industrial development of Mecklenburg County and
neighboring Gaston County.
Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and/or
association: The Commission contends that the attached statement of
architectural significance prepared by Thomas W. Hanchett, architectural
historian, demonstrates that the Thrift Depot of the Piedmont and Northern
Railroad Station meets this criterion.
Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that designation would allow
the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes
on all or any portion of the property which becomes "historic property." The
current tax value of the 3.91 acres of land is $255,500.
of preparation of this report: October 5, 1982. (Revised October, 2009)
Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
2100 Randolph Road
Charlotte, N.C. 28207
Thomas W. Hanchett
Piedmont and Northern Railway Station just outside Charlotte, North
Carolina, at Thrift is a well preserved example of an early twentieth
century train station.
Charles Christian Hook,
a leading Charlotte architect, designed it and its sister stations along the
line. The structure at Thrift is the last remaining P & N station in
1911 design combines simple forms with careful detailing to give the Thrift
station a look of functionalism and dignity. Like many small American
stations in the period, it is a long, narrow building parallel to the
railroad track with the large freight room at one end and the smaller
passenger waiting area at the other. In between is the stationmaster's
office, its brick bay window jutting out to give a view up and down the
Hook topped this customary form with a red "Spanish" tile roof whose wide
eaves are carried on heavy wooden paired brackets, a motif borrowed from the
Spanish Colonial style which was popular when the station was built. Three
cross-gabled attic vents are perched on the ridgeline of the roof.
Detail of the red "Spanish" tiled roof.
Spanish Colonial style wooden paired brackets
(Note the cross-gabled attic vent)
brick walls of the building are almost devoid of decoration, as are the tall
with their simple concrete sills and lintels. Instead of applied ornament,
the architect used the materials themselves to give visual interest to the
structure. The main body of the walls is of yellow brick laid in an unusual
the joints of one course not centered under the middle of the bricks above.
Below the window sills, the brick changes to red and the walls thicken to
give the building an added feeling of solidity. These red brick are rounded
at the openings and the corners of the building to provide further interest.
Another indication of Hook's thoughtful detailing is a cast concrete bench
built into the east end of the station along Old Mount Holly Road, designed
for passengers meeting trains when the waiting room was closed or crowded.
used the design motifs and materials seen in the Thrift station in all his P
& N buildings, including the large freight station that stood until 1980 in
downtown Charlotte. In each case the natural colors of the building
materials, red roof tile, brown wood, yellow brick, and red brick, gave the
structures their color. The architect used carefully functional forms for
the structures, but gave them a quiet elegance through attention to detail.
P&N Depot, located in Piedmont, S.C.
the Thrift station is much as the architect designed it. The previous
tenant's cluster of asphalt storage tanks at the west end of the structure
appears to have been installed with little modification to the building
Because of the Thrift station's high quality of architectural design,
because it is the work of an important local architect, C.C. Hook, and
because it is the last structure associated with the Piedmont and Northern
railroad surviving in Mecklenburg County, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Landmarks Commission recommends that the Piedmont and Northern station at
Thrift be designated a local historic property.
William H. Huffman
Piedmont and Northern Railway was first proposed in 1909 by William States
Lee, vice-president of Southern Power and Utilities Co., as an "electrically
powered interurban railway system linking the major cities of the Piedmont
Carolinas."1 Southern's president, James B. Duke, ultimately
accepted the proposal, and, two years later, in 1911, the first issue of P.
& N. stock quietly sold out, and grading for the line began in Charlotte in
April of that year.2 Since Southern already had the power
monopoly and owned the Charlotte Electric Railway (which ran the city's
streetcar system) as well as the streetcar lines in other cities to be
served, the P. & N. was seen as a natural outgrowth of their existing
business. It would also serve to promote growth in the Piedmont, which was a
major goal of James "Buck" Duke.
1930 portrait of William States Lee, by artist Douglas Chandor
James B. Duke
plan called for two lines in the initial stage: a twenty-one-mile route
linking Charlotte and Gastonia, and one in South Carolina connecting
Greenwood to Spartanburg, a distance of ninety-eight miles. The final link
(which was never completed because of a successful challenge brought before
the ICC by the Southern Railway) was to join Gastonia and Spartanburg, thus
completing the network.3 The system was to be anchored in
Charlotte by a freight depot on the west side of Mint Street between 2nd and
3rd, and a passenger station on the same street between 3rd and 4th. The
freight depot was completed by February, 1912, at a cost of about $30,000.
It measured 60' x 240', with two stories and a basement at one end, which
housed the department heads, dispatcher and other operating personnel.4
April, 1911, construction began on the first leg of the northern section of
the system, stretching from Charlotte to Mr. Holly.5 About that
same time, the contract for the architectural designs for the stations was
given to the firm of Hook and Rogers. In an interview for the Charlotte
Observer's "Interurban Section" of July 25, 1911, the principal
architect, C. C. Hook, observed that construction in Charlotte was booming
to the extent that few contractors had requested his plans to use for
bidding, a sure sign of prosperity, since so many of them were busy with
other jobs.6 Charles Christian Hook (1870-1938), the prime
architect of the stations, was an architect of seminal influence in the
evolution of Charlotte's built environment. He designed a number of houses
for the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, as well as many
important structures in the area, which included, not incidentally, James B.
Duke's mansion and the old
Charlotte City Hall.7
were seven stations along the eleven-mile run from Charlotte to Mt. Holly,
which were styled "embryo metropolises of the later part of this century, if
you please," by the enthusiastic Charlotte Observer in 1912. They
were located in order from Charlotte to Mt. Holly, as follows: Lakewood,
Hoskins (near the amusement park), Pinoca (a corrupted acronym for Piedmont
& Northern Co. - primarily a rail yard and connecting point with the
Seaboard Air Line Railway), Toddville, Paw Creek (later Thrift), Rhyne,
Beattie, and Mt. Holly.8 All were designed by Hook and Rogers to
be similar in style, with the only variation being the size according to the
importance or the stop. They had a base of red brick, upon which were the
yellow brick walls topped by roofs of red tile. The smaller depots,
including the one at Thrift, combined the freight and passenger stations
under one roof.9
September, 1911, the contract for the first stations to be built was awarded
to J. A. Jones, whose bid was the best of several submitted.10 On
April 3rd of the following year, the P. & N. began service on the Charlotte
- Mt. Holly run with eight trains each way daily, which took about 35
minutes one way. Tickets were available from Blake's Drug Store on the
Square or the Mint Street depot for 20 cents per one-way. On the first trip
from Charlotte to Mt. Holly on the single standard interurban electric train
car were fifty some dignitaries and invited guests, which included William
S. Lee, the "father" of the road and later president of the P. & N.; Zebulon
V. Taylor, president of the Charlotte Electric Railway; and representatives
of the Charlotte newspapers.11
Former Piedmont and
Northern Station, S. Mint Street, Charlotte, N.C.
railroad prospered because the interurban was designed to interchange
freight cars with steam railroads; area industrial investors in the company
shipped on the line as often as possible; and the industrial development
program established by Duke in the sales department added to the profitable
freight business.12 Through World War I, the Twenties, the Great
Depression and World War II, the Piedmont and Northern remained profitable,
primarily due to the carrying of freight. With the widespread ownership of
automobiles, starting in the 1920's, passenger business began to fall; this
was a decline which continued (except during the Depression when fares were
drastically reduced to encourage ridership) until it ceased altogether in
1951.13 A year earlier, along with dropping the passenger
service, the P. & N. board also decided to convert to diesel locomotion,
since it was no longer economically feasible to keep up or replace the
electric lines. The conversion was completed over the next several years.14
In 1969, the P. & N. merged with the Seaboard Coast Line, and thus the
company formally ended business on July 1st, sixty years after
its conception.15 In December, 1969, about six months after
merging with the P. & N.; Seaboard discontinued use of the Thrift depot as a
railroad station, no doubt in part due to the prior closing of the Kendall
Mill close by.16
station at Thrift, which is still basically intact, helped serve the nearby
Thrift, later Kendall Textile Mill, and the Paw Creek community. After
passenger service was discontinued in 1951, part of the station and property
to the east of it were leased to the Emulsified Asphalt Refining Co., who
used the depot as a storage and shipping facility. A few years later, the Koppers Company took over Emulsified, which in turn relinquished the
facility to Koch Asphalt Co. about 1976 under a long-term lease from Seaboard Coast Lines.
The property is currently not being used and is overgrown.
reminder of an earlier prosperous era in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's
transportation history, the P. & N. Railroad station at Thrift deserves
REPORT ON NORTH CAROLINA THRIFT DEPOT STATIONS
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION ON THE P&N RAILROAD
POSITIVE COMMENT LETTER (dated 1982) FROM THE NC DEPARTMENT OF
1982 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER ARTICLE ON P&N TERMINALS
Thomas T. Fetters and Peter W. Swanson, Jr., Piedmont and Northern: The
Great Electric System of the South (San Marina, Calif.: Golden West
Books, 1974), p. 11.
Ibid., pp. 14-15.
Ibid., p. 12.
Charlotte Observer, Feb. 20, 1912, p. 8.
Fetters and Swanson, p. 15.
Charlotte Observer, July 25, 1911, Interurban Section.
Survey and Research Report on the Seaboard Air Line Terminal, Charlotte
Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, undated.
Charlotte Observer, April 3, 1912, p. 6.
Charlotte Evening Chronicle, Aug. 14, 1911, p. 5.
Charlotte Evening Chronicle, Sept. 21, 1911, p. 6.
Charlotte Observer, April 3, 1912, p. 6.
Fetters and Swanson, p. 27.
Ibid., pp. 34ff; and p. 127.
Ibid., pp. 127-130.
Ibid., p. 145.
Interviews with Benjamin Franklin Bowen, Seaboard Coast Lines, the last
station agent at Thrift, 28 Aug. 1981; Tom Lynch, Assistant Vice President
and & Sales Manager, Seaboard Coast Lines, 27 August 1981; Dennis Helms,
Koch Asphalt Co., 26 August 1981.