1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Sidney and Ethel Grier House is located at 4647 McKee Road in Charlotte, North
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The present owner of the property is:
Nancy Grier Miller & Florence Simpson Grier
933 Hemlock Dr NE
Lenoir, NC 28645
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 most recent deed
to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 02380 on page
382. The tax parcel number of the property is 231-045-03.
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:
Special significance in terms of its history, architecture, and/or
cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known
as the Sidney and Ethel Grier House does possess special significance in terms
of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
1) The Grier family farms were economically and socially integral
to the Providence community of southern Mecklenburg County. As large landowners,
members of the Grier family
were able to produce cotton and other crops as well as to function as
creditors for the poor farmers of the community -- practices that
place the Grier family farms firmly within the agricultural trends
prevalent in the post Civil War South as a whole as well as in
Mecklenburg County. Also, members of the Grier family established
the first building in Mecklenburg County that was exclusively
devoted to the spinning of cotton.
2) As part of the Providence Township the Sidney
and Ethel Grier House
retains the qualities of a rural farmhouse. Such places are becoming
increasingly rare in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and serve as valuable
reminders of the agricultural history of Mecklenburg County
3) The Sidney and Ethel Grier House is a well-preserved, pyramidal hipped
roofed farmhouse of which there are relatively few examples in rural
4) The Sidney and Ethel Grier House features elements of the Craftsman and
Queen Anne Styles, illustrating how popular styles could co-exist in
the vernacular architecture of early 20th century
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical and
architectural description which is included in this report demonstrates
that the Sidney and Ethel Grier 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 50% of the Ad
Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes a
designated "historic landmark." The current total appraised value of the
improvements is $99,760. The current total appraised value of the lot is
$1,022,080. The current total value is $1,121,840. The property is zoned R-3
and O-15 (CD). The Commission is aware that only a two-acre tract will
surround the Sidney and Ethel Grier House when the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Landmarks Commission buys it.
10. Portion of property recommended for designation: The exterior and
interior of the Sidney and Ethel Grier House, the outbuildings that form the farm
complex, and a two-acre tract surrounding the house are recommended for
Date of preparation of this report: April 2002.
Prepared by: Stewart Gray and Dr. Paula M. Stathakis, assisted by Dr.
Dan L. Morrill
The Sidney and Ethel Grier House was built in 1916 by Sidney
the youngest son of Julius Solomon Grier (1851-1910) and the grandson of Eli
Clinton Grier (1820-1885). The Sidney and Ethel Grier House is intimately bound up
with the history of the Grier family, a prominent farming clan in the
Providence community and, even more significantly, the founders of the first
building in Mecklenburg County devoted exclusively to the spinning of cotton.
Founded by Eli Clinton Grier, the mill was located about half way
between Matthews, N.C., and Providence Presbyterian Church in southern
Mecklenburg County. It contained 350 spindles and produced bale yarn. It was
established in 1874 and operated for approximately eighteen months. The
building was demolished in 1899.1 The
Sidney and Ethel Grier House is one of the few
remaining residences associated with this locally successful agrarian
and early industrial family. It therefore stands as a symbol of a rural way of life that once was
predominant in what is now a rapidly developing suburban district of
southern Mecklenburg County.
The Griers owned and farmed large tracts of land in the
Providence community of southern Mecklenburg County both before and after
the Civil War. They grew cotton and corn, and raised swine and some dairy
cattle. E. C. Grier actively dealt in slaves from 1848-1859, and in land
during most of his life. Transactions recorded at the Mecklenburg County
Court House show ten slave purchases, and a number of real estate
transactions through which he acquired over 875 acres in the Four Mile
Creek, Six Mile Creek, and Twelve Mile Creek areas, as well as in Matthews,
Clear Creek, and along the Catawba River.2 By 1870, the fifty-year-old father
of eight had a personal estate valued at $2000 and real estate worth
After the Civil War, the Griers employed tenant farm
labor and operated as local creditors for small farmers. E. C. Grier owned a
480-acre farm in the Providence community, of which 150 acres were under
cultivation.4 As did many of his neighbors, he grew corn, oats, and cotton,
sweet and Irish potatoes. He raised swine and a few head of dairy cattle,
and raised enough fodder to keep three horses and five mules. Tenant labor
was necessary to maintain agricultural operations on this scale, and records
show that E. C. Grier paid $2600 in annual wages to his tenants in 1870.5
E. C. Grier’s circumstances were also stable enough for him to enter into
crop liens and chattel mortgages, either as an individual creditor, or
through various business combinations, such as the E. C. Grier and Robert
Grier and Company [active 1856], and E.C. Grier and Sons [active 1880].6 E. C.
Grier still ran a prosperous farm in the Providence community in 1880, just
five years before his death. On his 560 acre farm, valued at $13,650, 110
acres were cultivated to grow 600 bushels of corn and 68 bales of cotton, as
well as 6 bushels of Irish potatoes and 25 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 50
bushels of apples. He kept 2 horses, 4 mules, 1 cow and 4 hogs. He also
employed 47 black tenant farm laborers, and paid $965.00 in annual wages.7
Julius Solomon Grier, the eldest son of E. C. Grier, was
also intensely active in land acquisition and as a local creditor in the
Providence community. There are nearly 50 recorded transactions involving J.
S. Grier at the Mecklenburg County Court House; nearly all of them are crop
liens. He purchased 50 acres from his parents in 1876 for $2600.8
bought an additional 98 acres in the Providence community in 1888; and
between 1898 and 1903, he purchased over 213 acres at public auctions.9 His
resources as a landed farmer with a vested interest in the land impelled J.
S. Grier to enter into numerous crop liens contracts with area farmers.
These agreements usually specified that he provide money for fertilizer, and
other advances, but there were no other conditions in the contracts that
required the farmers to grow specific crops. The farmer’s land was offered
as security, and it was always stipulated that if the debt were not paid on
time, the land would be seized and sold at public auction, sometimes with 8%
interest charged on the principal..10
Crop liens became the preferred method of credit for
small farmers with little or no capital and only their good name to start a
crop. The general trend in the post-bellum South was for poor farmers to
draw upon the resources of local merchants and landowners to get a crop in
the ground, since many farmers did not live near towns with banks, and may
not have been able to get credit there if they did. Interestingly, the
public records of Mecklenburg County show an aberration in the pattern of
post-bellum rural credit systems. In many Southern rural areas, small
farmers seeking loans and entering onto crop lien agreements were generally
required to grow cotton or other regionally appropriate cash crops as a
condition of the loan. The majority of crop lien agreements for Mecklenburg
County, including those held by the Griers, do not show that farmers were
obligated to grow cotton, although most of them did. The lien agreements
also show that small farmers in Mecklenburg County relied on banks as well
as on landowners and merchants for credit.11
None of the crop lien agreements
on record for E. C. Grier or by his son J. S. Grier stipulates that cotton
cultivation was a requirement for the loan.
Agricultural trends in Mecklenburg County did correspond
to regional practices of increasing cotton production at the expense of more
diverse crops. Cotton production in Mecklenburg County, for example,
increased from 6112 bales in 1860 to 27, 466 bales in 1910. The increased
yield per acre in the late nineteenth century certainly demonstrates the
effects of improved agricultural techniques, especially the use of
fertilizer, which was often itemized in more detailed crop lien agreements.
However, the dramatic increases in crop yields corresponded with the steady
decline of cotton prices between 1870 and 1880.12 Once small farmers, most of
whom would had been independent, subsistence farmers in the ante-bellum
period, made the initial commitment to grow cotton and to switch to cash
crop agriculture, it was nearly impossible to extricate themselves from
creditors, debt, and the caprices of the global cotton market to which they
were connected. The subsequent over-production of cotton, biases in lien
laws, and the costs of ginning and transportation kept many small farmers
cotton rich, but cash poor. The Griers benefited from their position as
Julius Solomon Grier was a successful farmer. The 1880
Agricultural Census shows him on a 162 acre farm valued at $4000. He paid
$1200 for 47 black tenants who labored in the production of 3 tons of
hay, 500 bushels of corn, 25 bushels of rye, 25 bushels of Irish potatoes,
75 bushels of sweet potatoes, 20 bushels of apples and 15 bushels of
peaches. He devoted 75 acres to cotton, from which he produced 50 bales. His
general farm output was more diverse than many Mecklenburg farmers, and is
indicative of a prosperous farmer who could afford to devote time and land
to crops other than cotton. His cotton yield, approximately 1.5 bales per
acre, mirrors the average produced in the Providence community. Extracting
more than a bale an acre, especially at a time when pressed bales averaged
450 pounds, from heavily used farm land shows the advantages of fertilizer,
which for him was $152 well spent. His farm also supported 2 horses, 3
mules, 3 cows, 3 hogs, and 30 hens and roosters.13
After J.S. Grier’s death in 1910, some of his land passed to his
youngest son Sidney, who built the Bungalow-style farmhouse with a pyramidal
hipped roof, a full width wrap-around porch, and decorative style elements
from both the Queen Anne and Craftsman periods. Sidney continued the Grier
tradition of farming on
the family land, and was assisted in his later years by his son Michael.
After Michael’s untimely death from an automobile accident on August 25,
son Gerald and his wife Florence moved into a smaller house on the property to
help with the farm. After Sidney’s death in 1944, Gerald and his family
moved into the main house and continued to farm on the property. Gerald
Grier continued to use tenant labor to grow corn wheat, oats, barley, and
some cotton, but in later years shifted his emphasis to truck farming,
growing vegetables, strawberries, cantaloupes, and watermelons. He also
raised calves for a nearby dairy farm. The house has been recently vacated
and the land around remains undeveloped. Rezoning of the property for a
large, multi-family development is pending.
One can fully appreciate the historic significance of the
Sidney and Ethel Grier House only by taking into account its place
within the present built environment of the Providence community of southern
Mecklenburg County. The house and its outbuildings are the only extant
farm structures once owned by the locally prominent Grier family. Even
more importantly, they are the sole reminder of the immediate
neighborhood's agricultural heritage. The closest farm to the east is
the Fincher Farm, over one mile away. No farms exist to the immediate west.
The closest significant farmhouse to the west is the James Blakeney House,
also over a mile distant.
James Blakeney House
Otherwise the neighborhood is characterized by
rapid suburbanization, replete with residential subdivisions, multi-family
complexes, strip shopping centers, convenience stores, and service stations.
Admittedly, the preservation of more than two acres with the house would be
preferable to the arrangement the Historic Landmarks Commission has been
able to work out with the prospective developer. But the two acres
will contain the house and most of the agricultural outbuildings and will
provide a glimpse into the rural heritage of the Providence community.
Photograph of Grier House from
Built in 1916 by a Mr. Fincher, the Sidney and Ethel
Grier House is a well-preserved rural farmhouse.14The hipped-roof,
one-story, Bungalow form, frame house resembles a large pyramidal cottage.
The house is part of a farm complex, typical for Mecklenburg County's more
successful farmers, consisting of numerous small outbuildings as well as a
substantial barn. The house sits at the end of a long drive that is bordered
on both sides by open fields. It faces north and is situated among hardwood
trees that form a small grove around the house. The house is in good
condition, and retains a very high degree of integrity in regards to its
original design and materials.
By far the most notable architectural feature of the house is its
wrap-around engaged porch. The porch is supported by eight Craftsman Style
tapered half-posts, sitting on tall brick piers. The posts are crowned with
molding, and molded trim also decorates the porch beams. The porch is now
screened, but originally it was bounded by a handrail with square pickets.15
Below the level of the wooden porch floor, the brick piers have been infilled with masonry blocks. The front elevation is three bays wide, with
the original front door centered between 3/2 double-hung sash windows. These
3/2 windows are also found on the east and west elevations and appear to be
a merger of the 3/1 style window that might have been typical on a Craftsman
Style Bungalow, with a 2/2 or 1/1 window typical for the Queen Anne Style.
The front door contains a single large plate-glass light, stylish for a
farmhouse and typical of the Queen Anne Style. The front door’s architrave
trim is fluted, with decorative starter blocks and rosettes; this same door
trim is used in the interior of the house. Window trim is limited to a
decorative drip edge crowning the head trim. Other architectural elements of
the front porch include a beaded-board ceiling, decorative crown trim, and
molded corner boards.
The east and west sections of the wrap-around porch originally terminated
in two additional door openings, set back from the front of the house,
giving the house a total width of five bays. On the east side, part of the
porch has been enclosed for storage. On the west side the original
fenestration is intact. The door here has the same architrave trim found
around the front door and features dental trim under a single plate-glass
light. In keeping with its less prominent position, the glass in this door
is smaller than the glass in the front door.
The principal section of the house is two rooms deep with the porch
surrounding the front rooms. The house’s foundation originally consisted of
brick piers, which have now been infilled with masonry blocks. The house’s
clapboard siding was nailed directly to the studs, without employing any
type of sheathing. On the front section of the house, the hipped roof has a
very short ridgeline parallel to the front elevation. A generous eave
overhang protects the house, which may be partly responsible for the
generally good condition of the Grier house’s woodwork. Supporting the
overhangs are exposed rafter tails that were cut with a decorative cove and
rounded on the ends. The edge of the exposed roof sheathing is capped with
A low but prominent hipped-roof dormer protrudes from the roof, centered
over the engaged porch. Wooden louvered vents flank a long rectangular
window opening, now filled by a piece of painted plywood. Originally, four
small windows, or perhaps a single 4-light sash, sat between the vents,
illuminating the attic.16 Two interior chimneys rise near the very short front
Another significant feature of the house is a shallow three sided
cut-away bay covered by a small gable, located on the west side of the house
adjacent to the west section of the wrap-around porch. The small gable is
decorated with curved-cut bargeboards and small brackets. Though subtle, the
bay disrupts the generally symmetrical layout of the house, and contrasts
with the strictly symmetrical porch and front fenestration.
On the east side of the house, opposite the bay, two 3/2 windows are
paired. Just past these windows, and just beyond the bay on the east side,
the front section of the house ends. Set back slightly from the east and
west elevations, a hipped-roof wing, one room deep, extends from the rear of
Attached to the rear wing is a hipped-roof addition that may incorporate
an earlier rear porch. The many windows on this small rear addition are not
original to the house. On the west elevation it appears that one of the
original and unique 3/2 windows was moved from the rear wing to the rear
addition, and replaced with a much smaller window. The house’s owner
indicates that this was an early change made to accommodate kitchen
cabinets, as the kitchen was up-fitted.
The interior of the house retains a high degree of integrity. The
original plaster walls are intact. The many interior doorways retain their
decorative trim and horizontal panel doors with original hardware. Generous
base and crown trim is still intact. Perhaps the most interesting interior
features are the house’s two elaborate mantles. The elegant painted mantles
each contain a large mirror panel, and both feature small elegant decorative
A front gabled well house sits extremely close to the southwest corner of
the rear addition. This very rustic small building may predate the house.
Cedar tree trunks were used as posts to support a small porch that protects
the wooden well-surround.
Various buildings, such as a chicken house, tools sheds, garages,
equipment sheds, a corncrib, and perhaps a cotton house, were built near the
rear of the house. A small ca. 1935 side-gabled frame house, covered with
German siding, sits just to the west of the Grier House. This small house
was built by Sidney Grier for one of his children.17 Set back on the edge of a
field behind the Grier House, is a substantial front-gabled early 20th
century barn. The barn features an extremely well ventilated loft. The top
two courses of siding under the eaves were spaced far apart, to allow for
cooler air to be drawn into the hot hayloft. Hot air could exit out simple
vents in the gables, or through a large square cupola.
Significance of the architectural features
The most distinctive architectural feature of the Grier House is the
engaged wrap-around front porch. Its size and degree of finish with
decorative millwork is indicative of the importance placed on that part of a
house before WWII, before the advent of home air conditioning and
television. A porch closely integrated into the design of the house is an
identifying characteristic of both the Bungalow Form and the Craftsman
Style. Other Craftsman/Bungalow elements found on the Grier House include
the tapered half-height posts set on tall brick piers, the exposed rafter
ends, the 3-light upper sashes, and the low but broad dormer.
The Bungalow form emphasized the horizontal and a general symmetry,
unlike the verticality and asymmetrical massing of the Queen Anne Style. And
while the Victorians relied on elaborate scroll-sawn woodwork, the Craftsman
Style often employed simple, understated, sometimes rustic decoration.
According to Catherine Bisher:
"Bungalows suited North Carolina’s needs and habits. They were
cheaply and easily built. They ranged in size and elaboration to
accommodate all economic levels, and they communicated a message of
simplicity, unpretentious coziness, and modernity. Their characteristic
broad eaves and deep porch fit the climate…"18
So it is not surprising that the City of Charlotte contains large numbers
of bungalows in the Dilworth, Third Ward, and Elizabeth Neighborhoods.19
Bungalow Form transcended racial and economic divisions, with examples also
found as mill houses20 and in the historically blue-collar African American
Cherry Neighborhood.21 In the affluent Myers Park Neighborhood, the effects of
the Bungalow Form and the Craftsman Style can be seen in the 1915 George
Stephens House. Perhaps Charlotte’s best known example is the 1914 Van Landingham Estate or Harwood, designed by Architect
C. C. Hook
for Susie Harwood and Ralph Van Landingham in the Plaza-Midwood
collections of bungalows can also be found in the small towns of Mecklenburg
County. In Cornelius the bungalow is the prominent house type found lining
Old Statesville Road as it runs toward Davidson.
In rural Mecklenburg County, however, bungalow farmhouses are not common.
Most of the county’s farmhouses were constructed from 1865 to 1900 during
the post-Civil War cotton boom and before the Bungalow Form and the
Craftsman Style became popular.23 One example of a surviving bungalow
farmhouse is the Jesse Washam House, near Huntersville. In 1910
influential designer Gustav Stickly declared that a bungalow should be "a
house reduced to its simplest form," and indeed the builder of the Washam
House avoided unnecessary decoration.24The Washam House,
with its wide eaves, exposed rafter tails and tapered porch columns, could
be called a "typical" Craftsman bungalow. The Grier House, while sharing all
of those architectural elements, is far from a typical bungalow.
This Bungalow style home is located on Steele Creek
Road in close proximity to the Hayes-Byrum Store. It belongs to
the short list of Bungalows that exist in rural Mecklenburg County.
The only other farmhouse with Bungalow features in the
area near the Grier House is the Fincher House on McKee Road.
As with many vernacular houses, the Grier House is a hybrid. The
influence of the Queen Anne Style can be clearly seen in the decorative
moldings on the front porch, with the very same trim details, (fluted trim,
rosette corner blocks, and decorative starter-blocks,) found on the earlier
1903 Thomas Alexander Farmhouse, located on Sharon Lane in Charlotte,
which is itself a hybrid of the Queen Anne and Neo-classical.25 And while the
Grier House’s form is bungaloid, the three-window bay located on the west
elevation and the slight asymmetry the bay gives the house, are both
elements of the Queen Anne Style.
One cannot say why the Grier House is a hybrid. It is possible that the
mixing of the Queen Anne and Craftsman Styles was a result of a slow
diffusion of popular ideas from urban to rural areas. Perhaps in the
countryside, the Victorian aesthetic came late and stayed later, even as
popular new house forms such as the bungalow were adapted. Perhaps personal
taste or even availability of materials played a part. Regardless, the Grier
House provides an important glimpse of how and when these different
architectural styles influenced rural buildings in Mecklenburg County.
1 The first
facility in Mecklenburg County devoted exclusively to the spinning of cotton
fiber was the Glenroy Cotton Mill. See Dan L. Morrill, "A Survey Of Cotton
Mills In Charlotte And Mecklenburg County For The Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmarks Commission," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
Commission, July 1997. The supporting evidence for the establishment
of the Glenroy Cotton mill is found in an article that appeared in the
Charlotte Daily Observer on January 16, 1900. It identifies "G.
S." Grier as a co-founder with his father, E. C. Grier.
This was most likely Julius Solomon Grier.
Leaders of Mecklenburg County were eager to see
a cotton mill established. For articles dealing with this subject, see
Charlotte Daily Observer (February 21, March 4, April 2, July 16, 26,
September 5, October 18, 25, 1874).
For an obituary article on E. C. Grier, see Charlotte Daily Observer
(April 9, 1885). In commenting on the death of E. C. Grier, the
newspaper stated that "in his death our county loses a good man."
2. Slave transactions
were recorded in Deed Book 3, pgs: 26, 565. 569, 662, 751, 824, 868; Book 4,
pgs: 73,328; Book 8-370. Real Estate transactions were recorded in Deed Book
3, pgs: 584, 754, Book 4-74, Book 6, pgs: 10, 289, 371, 323, 370, Book
28-553, and Book 48, pgs: 554, 555,560, 561. Mecklenburg County Court House.
3.U.S. Census of
the Population, 1870. Mecklenburg County. E. C. Grier was the sheriff of
Mecklenburg County from 1854 until 1860 and was a member of the North
Carolina House of Representatives during the Civil War.
4. Nancy Grier Miller,
daughter of Gerald and Florence Grier, states that information about the
genealogy of the family is found in
Dellman O. Hood, The Tunis Hood
Family, Its Lineage and Traditions. Portland Oregon: Metropolitan
John Grier (c.1750-1841), E. C. Grier's grandfather, was the patriarch of
the Mecklenburg line of the Grier family, and was probably a descendant of
James Grier who emigrated to Virginia from Scotland in the early eighteenth
century. The 1790 census of Mecklenburg County lists John Grier as a
resident of District 18. He owned the Grier Mine in Mecklenburg County.
5. U.S. Census.
Agricultural Schedules, 1870. Mecklenburg County.
6. Mecklenburg County
8. Deed Book 14-365.
Mecklenburg County Court House.
10. Deed Book 44 pgs:
29, 31, 32, 33, 26, 39, 43, 118, 119, 160, 161. J.S. Grier sometimes
operated through the auspices of J.S. Grier and Brother, which in April and
May of 1885 issued 11 crop liens, and in1891-1892, J.S. Grier operated
through J.S. Grier and Company, issuing mortgage deeds and crop liens.
According to public record, he conducted most of his credit activities as an
individual, and the loans he extended ranged from $40.00 to $700.00.
11. Carolyn Frances
Hoffman, The Development of Town and Country: Charlotte and Mecklenburg
County, North Carolina, 1850-1880. Ph. D. Dissertation, 1988, pp.
12. ibid., p. 159. In
Mecklenburg County in 1871, cotton sold for 21.5 cents per pound, but by
1880, local cotton buyers paid 11 cents per pound.
Agricultural Schedules, 1880. Mecklenburg County
14. Interview with
Nancy Grier Miller, 3-28-02.
18. Catherine Bishir,
North Carolina Architecture, University of North Carolina Press, 1990, p.