ADVENT CHRISTIAN CHURCH
This report was written November 2, 1987.
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Old Advent Christian Church is located at 101 North McDowell St. in
Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
W. Thomas Ray
P. 0. Box 23487
Charlotte, N.C., 28212
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map which depicts the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
reference to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg Deed Book 5428, Page
48. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is: 080-098-14.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill,
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by Ms.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the Old Advent Christian Church does possess special significance
in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on
the following considerations: 1) the Old Advent Christian Church, erected
in 1919-1920, was built according to plans which had been prepared by
Louis H. Asbury (1877-1975), an architect of local and regional
significance, for the King's Daughters Chapel at the Stonewall Jackson
Training School near Concord; consequently, the Old Advent Christian
Church affords a unique opportunity to examine the corpus of Asbury's
work; 2) the Old Advent Christian Church is the only church building which
survives on McDowell Street, which once had many churches, some white and
some black, along its route in First Ward and Second Ward; and 3) the Old
Advent Christian Church contributes significantly to the retention of some
historical feeling to the North McDowell St. streetscape.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description by Ms. Ruth Little which is included in this report
demonstrates that the Old Advent Christian Church 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
"historic property." The current appraised value of the improvement is
$163,930. The current appraised value of the .119 acres of land is $54,500.
The total appraised value of the property is $218,430. The property is zoned
Date of Preparation of this Report: November 2, 1987
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St. Box D
Charlotte, N.C., 28203
The historical essay and the architectural description included in this
report were prepared in September, 1978, when the Old Advent Christian
Church was first considered for prospective historic property designation.
Since then, the building has experienced considerable change. First, it no
longer stands alone. It has now been incorporated into an office condominium
project. Also, the frame addition to the rear of the building has been
demolished; the floor in the sanctuary has had a new level floor placed over
it; the tracery has been removed from the windows; the stained glass infill
paper has been removed; new windows have been placed in the building; the
cupola at the front has been removed; the rear wall of the sanctuary now has
a large opening which leads to a major new building behind; and new offices
have been placed within the sanctuary. It is important to note, however,
that these new offices have been done in a manner which allows the most
distinctive interior features to remain -- the high
wainscoting and the truss system.
Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Ph.D.
Construction of the sanctuary of the Advent Christian Church commenced in
August 1919 and terminated in October 1920. 1 The building was
the first permanent home in Charlotte, N.C. of a congregation of this
religious sect. 2 The Advent Christians are one of several
denominations which emphasize the millennial and eschatological aspects of
Christianity and which have their roots in the teachings of William Miller,
a nineteenth-century resident of Dresden, NY. In 1831, Miller predicted that
the Second Coming of Christ would occur in 1843-1844. He attracted converts
from several Christian groups, who held pre-millennium conferences and sold
their property in anticipation of the termination of the present world order
and their entry into a resurrected life in heaven. Despite the inaccuracy of
Miller's forecast, the group persisted, later dividing into two major sects,
the Seventh Day Adventists and the Advent Christians. The latter sect was
established in 1861. 3
The initial congregation of Advent Christians in Charlotte began somewhat
inauspiciously c. 1914, when six individuals inaugurated the holding of
worship services. 4 The group subsequently purchased a structure
on Parkwood Avenue in Villa Heights, a local suburb, as a temporary church.
5 On August 19, 1919, The Charlotte News reported that
construction had begun "on the auditorium of a building that is to be
erected for the congregation of the Advent Christian Church, at McDowell and
East Trade streets. The auditorium is to be of granite," the newspaper
continued, "with dimensions of 30 feet by 50 feet, and to cost from $10,000
to $20,000." 6 Dedicatory services were held in the
newly-completed edifice on October 3, 1920, at 3 PM, "to which friends of
city and county" were invited. 7 The sermon was delivered by a
guest preacher, Rev. R. L. Isbell of Lenoir, NC, who took his text from
Hagai 8:9, "And in this house will I give peace." 8 The pastor of
the church was Rev. J. A. Downs, who conducted a two-week series of
evangelistic meetings which also began on October 3, 1920. 9
A building permit issued on August 18, 1919, by the City of Charlotte
reveals that the architect of the Advent Christian Church was Louis H.
Asbury. 10 Louis H. Asbury (1877-1975) was the son of S. J. and
Martha Moody Asbury of Charlotte. In addition to being one of the first
carriers of the Charlotte Observer, the young Asbury assisted his
father, who was a builder of houses in Charlotte in the 1890s. 11
He subsequently matriculated at Trinity College, now Duke University, and
graduated from that institution in 1900. Having acquired his professional
training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Asbury returned to
Charlotte and established his architectural practice in 1908.12
In the succeeding decades, Louis H. Asbury assumed a position of prominence
and leadership in the architectural profession. He was the first North
Carolina member of the American Institute of Architects and played a leading
role in organizing the North Carolina Chapter of the A.I.A.13 But
his greatest contribution to the built environment of Charlotte were the
many buildings which he fashioned over the years, beginning with the
residence of R. M. Miller, Jr. on N. Tryon St. (1908).14 Among
his more noteworthy designs were the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, the
First National Bank Building, the Montaldo's Building, the Law Building and
several of the imposing edifices in
Although Asbury recognized the predilection of affluent Charlotteans for
Neoclassical and Neo Colonial motifs, he personally preferred the Gothic
style.16 Consequently, it is not surprising that he selected this
form for his 1928 design of Myers Park Methodist Church, of which he was a
member and in which his funeral was held in March 1975. 17 A
similar propensity existed in his 1915 design of the
Hawthorne Lane Methodist Church. An even earlier manifestation of his
preference for the Gothic style, however, was the chapel which he designed
in 1913 for the Stonewall Jackson Training School near Concord, N.C. 18
An inspection of the structure and especially of its setting explains why
Asbury selected a rock rubble format for the composition of the chapel.
Large stone outcroppings surround the building and form the edge of a deep
gorge which borders the chapel on the rear or eastern side. The stone walls
serve to reinforce the drama and power of these natural phenomena.
Louis H. Asbury frequently donated designs to Christian congregations19.
On June 6, 1919, the Advent Christians in Charlotte received from Asbury the
plans for the chapel which he had fashioned for the Stonewall Jackson
Training School six years before, and these plans were followed in erecting
the Advent Christian Church on N. McDowell St. 20 Although the
design was less suited for an urban setting, it provided the fledgling
congregation with a building of essential integrity and architectural
purity. Unfortunately, the Advent Christians erected a somewhat insensitive
addition to the rear of the structure sometime during the 1920s. It is
important to remember, however, that this was not a wealthy congregation.
22 Indeed, the members lost their physical plant during the
Depression of the 1930s. On February 10, 1930, the Advent Christian Church
was acquired by the First National Bank of Charlotte, which in turn went
bankrupt in August 1935. 23
The Advent Christians vacated the building in 1932. 24 The
Church of God, another fundamentalist sect, occupied the structure in 1933,
to be followed by the Central Church of Nazarene in 1934 and the First
Pentecostal Church in 1935-6. 25 The building was vacant from
1937 through 1939. 26 On October 9, 1941, the Gospel Baptist
Church purchased the church from the Loraine Corporation, the owner of the
property since July 12, 1937. 27 The Gospel Baptist Church
occupied the structure from 1940 until October 1947. 28 Among the
religious leaders who conducted services there during the early and
mid-1940's was Billy Graham, who later would become a world-famous
evangelist.29 Although Billy Graham appeared in other Charlotte
churches during these years, 30 his presence in the Gospel
Baptist Church occurred when he was less than thirty years of age and
therefore, constitutes a compelling illustration of the extent of his
ministry at that time. 31
On October 30, 1947, the Gospel Baptist Church sold the church on N.
McDowell St. to the Redemptorist Fathers, a Roman Catholic order which had
been established by St. Alphonsus Maria di Liguori at Scala, ltaly, in 1732
to conduct mission work among the poor. 32 The Charlotte
Observer reported that this transaction represented a "very material
expansion of the work of the Catholic church among Negroes in Charlotte."
The article went on to relate that new equipment would be installed in the
building and that a "minor remodeling program" would be executed. 33
The Redemptorist Fathers fashioned an atmosphere which was more in keeping
with the forms and rituals of Roman Catholicism. A cupola was placed on the
roof of the building, and the windows in the sanctuary were given the
appearance of stained glass. A second entrance was provided into the
basement, and a one story building was erected to the right of the addition
which had been constructed during the 1920s. 34 Rev. Timothy
Sullivan and Rev. James Murphy, pastor and assistant pastor respectively of
the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Oaklawn Ave., assumed the
responsibility of directing the activities of the now Catholic chapel on N.
McDowell St. as well. 35
By the early 1970's, Second Ward or Brooklyn had lost its residential
component, thereby depriving the chapel of a substantial number of its
parishioners. Moreover, First Ward had also been selected as a major urban
renewal project. On April 1, 1973, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte,
N.C., rented the structure to the proprietors of the McDonald Art Gallery,
who operated their business therein until May 1, 1978. 36 The
City of Charlotte acquired the chapel on December 14, 1974. 37
The structure is currently unoccupied.
1 Charlotte News (August l9, 1919) p. 16. Charlotte
Observer (October 3, 1920), Sec. A., p. 5.
2 Charlotte Observer (October 4. 1920) p. 15.
3 F. L. Cross & E. A. Livingtson, eds., The Oxford
Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press, London, New
York, Toronto, 1974), p. 20, 1034, 1165. James Hastings, ed. ,
Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (Charles Scribner's & Sons, Now
York, n.d.), vol. 2., p. 286.
4 Charlotte News (August 19, 1919), p. 16.
5 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 390, p. 524.
6 Charlotte News (August 19, 1919) p. 16.
7 Charlotte Observer (October 3, 1920), Sec. A., p. 5.
8 Charlotte Observer (October 4, 1920), p. 15.
9 Charlotte Observer (October 3. 1920), Sec. A., p. 5.
10 Records of the Charlotte Building Inspection Departments.
11 Charlotte Observer (July 18, 1896), p. 4.
Charlotte Observer (June 16, 1893), p.4.
12 Interview of Louis H. Asbury, Jr., by Dr. Dan L. Morrill
(August 24, 1978). Hereafter cited as Interview.
13 Charlotte Observer (March 20, 1975) p. 8A.
15 Charlotte Observer (March 20, 1975), p. 8A.
17 Charlotte Observer (March 20, 1975), p. 8A.
18 Records of Louis H. Asbury in the Office of Louis H. Asbury
20 Records of Louis H. Asbury in the Office of Louis H.
21 For a photograph of the Advent Christian Church c. 1927 see
Charlotte North Carolina: Diversified Industrial And Commercial Center
(The Observer Printing House, Inc., July 1927). A copy of this photograph is
included in this report.
22 The 1929 Sanborn Insurance Map of Charlotte, N.C. reveals
that the addition was in place at this time.
23 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 761, p. 268. Mecklenburg
County Deed Book 869, p. 334.
24 Charlotte City Directory (1932), p. 654.
25 Charlotte City Directory (1933) p. 665. Charlotte City
Directory (1933-1934) p. 672. Charlotte City Directory (1935) p. 721.
Charlotte City Directory (1936) p. 812.
26 Charlotte City Directory (1937) p. 860. Charlotte City
Directory (1938) p. 831. Charlotte City Directory (1939) p. 805.
27 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 925, p. 22. Mecklenburg County
Deed Book 1061, p. 7.
28 Charlotte City Directory (1940), p. 843. Mecklenburg County
Deed Book 1281, p. 29.
29 Letter from T. W. Wilson, associate of Billy Graham, to Dr.
Dan L. Morrill (August 3, 1978).
30 Charlotte Observer (March 2, 1946), Sec. 1, p. 8.
31 The earliest articles in the vertical files on Dr. Graham
in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library date from 1950. Also worth
noting is the fact that Dr. Graham did not conduct a major crusade until
32 Cross & Livingston, The Oxford Dictionary of the
Christian Church, p. 1165.
33 Charlotte Observer (October 31, 1947), p. 10B.
34 It is possible that the second entrance to the basement and
the addition were erected by the Gospel Baptist Church. An aerial survey
reveals that both wore in place in 1949.
35 Charlotte News (October 31, 1947), p. 10A.
36 Interview of Mr. McDonald by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (August 25,
37 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3729, p. 146.
by Ruth Little-Stokes
July 22, 1978
Advent Church, located at the northwest corner of East Trade and McDowell
Streets in uptown Charlotte is a small, simple Gothic Revival church built
in 1919-1920. The rough granite walls, steep slate roof, tiny gabled
entrance porch and the rustic humility of the architectural design create a
distinctive accent in the predominant commercial fabric of the area.
The east gable end of the rectangular three bay wide, four bay deep
structure forms the main facade, facing McDowell Street. Along the facade
frontage is a low retaining walls constructed of the same random laid
granite as the church itself. In the center, low concrete steps with curved
granite side walls lead up to the entrance porch. The center entrance porch
echoes the shape of the main facade, and is constructed of the same stone,
with a gable slate roof with overhanging eaves with exposed rafter and joist
ends. The front wall terminates on either side as a single shouldered
buttress. In the center is a wide rectangular opening with a stone flat arch
and high in each side wall is a rectangular flat-arched opening. The floor
is concrete, the ceiling narrow tongue and groove wood sheathing. An early
electric light fixture, perhaps original is suspended from the soffit of the
apex of the porch roof, just above the entrance. The design, consisting of
four brass spindles hanging from a circular brass canopy, is apparently a
reproduction of an oil burning lamp which would have been used during the
medieval period which inspired the design of the building. The lamp has lost
its globe. A double door, each leaf constructed of narrow tongue and groove
sheathing, with a brass thumb latch and a simple molded wooden surround,
leads into the church.
In the front gable end above the entrance porch is a circular wooden
window with radiating muntins. The window has lost its glazing. Above it is
a narrow rectangular wooden louvered ventilator. Flanking the porch are
narrow rectangular windows with molded wooden surrounds and flat stone
arches. Wooden tracery creates a Gothic pointed arch effect on the single
pane of frosted glass in each window. On the roof ridge just behind the main
facade is a small belfry, a later addition covered with asbestos shingles,
with a wood louvered ventilator. In each face, a
shingle roof and a cross.
The side elevations are articulated by a wide stone water table and
double shouldered buttresses which separate the bays. The gable end walls
extend above the roofline as low parapets. The fine gray slate roof with
exposed rafter ends is a strong visual element. Each bay has a set of three
windows, each window identical to those in the main facade. Each side
elevation also has a rectangular basement window below ground level,
surrounded by a brick well. Several smaller ventilation openings also
service the basement. The original basement entrance, a paneled wooden door
in the south elevation beneath the rear bay, is reached by a flight of
concrete steps. Beneath the window in the eastern bay of the north elevation
is an added gabled basement entrance constructed of concrete block. A tall
granite interior end chimney projects from the northwest corner of the
A hipped frame section, almost as wide as the main blocks abuts the rear
elevation. The section has walls covered with asbestos shingles, (probably
covering the original weatherboard), one-over-one wooden sash with plain
surrounds and molded caps, and a gray slate roof with exposed rafter ends.
This is either original or an early addition, as it is present on the 1929
Sanborn Insurance Map of Charlotte which shows the building in outline.
Abutting this frame section on the north is a gabled addition, probably
constructed in the late 1940s, with concrete block walls, six-over-six
wooden sash, and a composition shingled roof.
The interior of the main block consists of a small vestibule and a
sanctuary. Both areas are finished with narrow tongue-and-groove wooden
floors (now overlaid with linoleum in some areas), a high wainscot of narrow
tongue-and-groove sheathing, molded chair rails, plaster walls, and molded
wooden door and window surrounds. All windows have a simulated stained glass
effect created by thick patterned paper sandwiched between the exterior
frosted glass and interior clear glass panes. The paper is probably not
original. The vestibule has a double raised panel door leading into the
sanctuary. The floor slopes gently to a platform which covers the rear bay
of the church. Three steps, semicircular in plan, lead to the recessed apse,
finished like the other spaces, with a segmentally arched open with a
flat-paneled soffit and jambs. A small door leads from the north apse wall
into the rear section. The only early light fixture remaining on the
interior is an electric wall fixture on the south jamb of the apse arch. In
the rear wall of the sanctuary, flanking the apse, are two doors, each with
horizontal panels like the other interior doors.
The most architecturally significant feature of the interior is the truss
roof. The ceiling has sloping sides and a flat top, and each of the three
roof trusses follows this shape. At the angles between the sides and top are
wooden spandrels, giving each truss a smoothly arched soffit. Each truss has
additional frame cross bracing and is supported by heavy molded wood
corbels. Narrow tongue and-grove wooden sheathing covers the roof.
The rear frame section is divided into two rooms, and has apparently been
altered over the years.