Research Report on the Armour-Adams House
- Name and location of the property: The
Armour-Adams House is located at 626 North Main Street in Davidson,
- Name, address, and telephone number of the
present owner of the property:
The present owners of the Armour-Adams House are
David Sitton and Camilia
626 North Main Street
- Representative photographs of the property:
This report contains
representative photographs of the property.
- A map depicting the location of the property:
The following is a map of the location of the property. The UTM
coordinates for the property are 17 514069E 3929184N.
- Current deed book
references to the property:
most recent deed to this property is recorded in the Mecklenburg County
Deed Book 15850, page 177-179. The tax parcel number of the property is
- A brief historical
sketch of the property:
This report contains a brief
historical sketch of the property.
- A brief architectural
description of the property:
This report contains a brief
architectural description of the property by Stewart Gray.
- Documentation of why
and in what ways the property meets the criteria set forth in NCGS
A. Special significance in terms of historical, architectural, and/or
Commission judges that the property known as the Armour-Adams House does
possess special historic significance for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The
Commission bases its judgment on the following criteria:
The Armour-Adams House is
representative of the evolution of the built environment of Davidson in
terms of the emergence of the town’s merchant class.
The Armour-Adams house is a
locally distinctive example of the Folk Victorian style of architecture that
was made possible by innovations in technology and transportation, and
retains a high degree of integrity.
The Armour-Adams House was the long-time home of Margaret H.
Adams, a beloved first grade teacher for decades at the Davidson Elementary
Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
The Commission judges that
the architectural description included in this report demonstrates that the
property known as the Armour-Adams House meets this criterion.
- Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The current
assessed value of the property is $321,000 ($156,300 building;
$162,500 land). The property is zoned residential.
This report was prepared by Jane Starnes and revised by
Dr. Dan Morrill and Jennifer Payne.
Date of Report: 24 April, 2006
A Brief Historical Sketch of the Property
The Armour-Adams House, built circa
1900 by Davidson merchant Holt Armour, can best be understood within the
context of the evolution of the built environment of Davidson, North
Carolina. The two-story, Folk Victorian style dwelling, which faces west on
North Main Street, is representative of the shift in Northern Mecklenburg
County during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from an
agrarian tradition to a way of life that was increasingly rooted in commerce
and industry. In Davidson, this change was facilitated by the establishment
of Davidson College, and was strengthened by the reactivation of the
railroad in 1874. One of the many results of these forces was the emergence
of a diverse commercial class in Davidson, of which Holt Armour was a
member. In addition, Davidson is a community that has been historically
committed to education, and the Armour-Adams house served as the home of a
long-time Davidson teacher who was a part of the movement to bring quality
education to the children of Davidson.
Prior to the foundation of Davidson College
in 1835, the area surrounding Davidson was rural, fertile farmland.
Farmers such as Robert Armour lived and worked on large swaths of land. The
Armours, whose association with the region dates to as early as the 1820s,
acquired holdings that stretched “along North Main Street as far south as
the cemetery” and “extended westward beyond the railroad and eastward over
the area where Davidson College dormitories and Patterson Court now stand.”
The traditional, agricultural life that
families like the Armours lived for generations began to be altered in 1835,
when a group of Presbyterians chose the spot as the location of their second
attempt at providing higher education imbued with Presbyterian values to the
youth of the region. The result of this decision was Davidson College,
envisioned as a manual labor institution, and named for William Davidson,
who died at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford in the Revolutionary War.
The construction of the first College buildings followed; and when Davidson
College opened its doors in 1837, several edifices had been constructed for
the purposes of housing, educating, and supporting student life. Twelve
buildings had been erected on campus by the close of the antebellum period,
including the Chapel, five dormitory rows (of which
Elm Row and Oak Row alone still stand), Tammany Hall ( a faculty
residence destroyed in 1906), the Old Chambers Building (destroyed by fire
in 1921), and the President’s House.
The College drew new residents to the town,
some from the surrounding rural environs and some who were associated with
the faculty and student populations of the school. The re-activation of the
railroad in 1874 quickened the pace of the town’s growth, and established
the community as the commercial center of northern Mecklenburg County.
Residents like the Armour family, who had lived and worked on the land for
generations, were drawn to the thriving town in search of new forms of
employment in the fledgling merchant class that provided goods and services
to the growing population of the town, but whose fortunes were not directly
linked to the everyday operations of the College.
The earliest of the Davidson’s
merchants was Thomas Sparrow, who operated the first in a long tradition of
boarding houses in Davidson.
The Helper Hotel, or Carolina Inn, as it is alternatively known, was
established in the 1850s by Lewis Dinkins as a store that provided goods to
the College population, and was expanded and reestablished as a hotel in the
1860s by Hanson Helper.
The commercial sector of Davidson was augmented in 1890, with the
construction of the Delburg Cotton Mill, followed in 1908 by the addition of
the Linden Cotton Mill. By 1910, Davidson, once a relatively isolated
college town, had grown into a thriving commercial and industrial center.
Holt Armour took advantage of these circumstances in 1912, when he
established Armour Brothers and Thompson, a general retail store that
operated out of the brick structure that still stands on the north corner of
Armour Brothers and Thompson was one of several local retail and service
firms that operated on the North Main Street commercial corridor, and which
also included Goodrum and Company, the White Drug Store, the Jetton Drug
Store, and the general merchandise firm of Knox and Brown.
The commercial district that was established by 1920, and which included the
Armour Brothers and Thompson store, retains much of the same character that
is evident on North Main Street today, because it was hemmed in to the east
by the College, to the north and south by residential development, and to
the west by the railroad.
The distinctive Armour-Adams
House was erected on a lot that Holt Armour received from his father, Robert
Armour, in 1899.
Constructed in the popular Folk Victorian style, the Armour Adams House
stands as a testament to the innovations in transportation and technology
that made the style possible. The movement stemmed from the Victorian-era
architectural forms, such as Queen Anne, that were popular in the last
decades of the nineteenth century, in combination with the simple and
widespread National or vernacular styles that brought more highly stylized
dwellings into the reach of the middle class.
The advent of the railroads made lumber and machinery more accessible;
the use of manufactured nails replaced the hewn joints which required
skilled labor. The mechanical jigsaw and lathe were two of the most
important innovations which aided the growth of this style, and Queen
Anne-like scrollwork and brackets, as well as turned porch supports, which
were previously only accessible to a few, were now within the realm of
possibility for the masses.
In 1919, Holt Armour purchased
from his sister, Margaret Armour, the lot adjoining 626 North Main Street to
the north. He sold the original home to J. Hope Adams, who moved with his
two adult children to Davidson from York, South Carolina. The Adams family
became longtime residents of the town, and J. Hope’ son, Albert, served as
mayor from 1931 to 1933.
J. Hope’s daughter, Margaret
Adams, was a part of the movement in the town to provide a quality education
to the town’s children. Just as the Presbyterians were responsible for
bringing higher education to Davidson, they were also the force behind the
primary education movement for some of the town’s children. Public
instruction in Davidson from 1835 until the 1890s was initially reliant upon
individual citizens who operated schools out of their homes or buildings
provided by the community for the purpose of education. However, by the
turn of the century, a movement was well under way to provide a consistent
public education to the white children of the town. The cause of public
education was spearheaded by the trustees of Davidson College, who in 1892
established the Davidson Academy, which was initially located in the Masonic
Hall near the intersection of South Street and South Main Street. The new
schoolhouse, which stood on the site of the present Davidson IB Middle
School, was completed in 1893 and expanded in 1924.
Unfortunately, in a pattern that was familiar to the older residents of
Davidson, the expanded school was destroyed by fire in 1946, and classes
were held in the gymnasium and in the basement of the Presbyterian Church.
Its replacement, which serves today as the Davidson IB Middle School, was
completed in 1948.
Margaret Adams was a part of the early growth of Davidson education in the
twentieth century. She taught generations of first grade students in
Davidson from 1930 until her retirement, and is remembered in town as a
“diminutive and greatly loved teacher.”
The Armour-Adams House is an
illustration of the evolution of the Town of Davidson from the turn of the
twentieth century until the present day. Its earliest inhabitant, Holt
Armour, was a part of the shift from an agrarian tradition to a town life
that was centered on commerce and industry and that was facilitated by the
establishment of Davidson College and by the reactivation of the railroad.
In its architectural style, the home is evidence of the effect that changes
in transportation and technology had on middle class citizens and their
ability to build stylized dwellings. Finally, in its connection to Margaret
Adams, the home retains a link to the Presbyterian fervor for quality
education for the town’s citizens.
Mary D. Beaty, Davidson: A History of the town from1835 to 1927
(Davidson: Briarpatch Press, 1979), 3. Information in this report
is taken largely from an initial survey and research report prepared
by by Jane Starnes in December, 2005, and from Jennifer Payne and
Dr. Dan L. Morrill, “ The Evolution of the Built Environment of
Davidson, NC,” available at
Cornelia Rebekah Shaw, Davidson College (New York: Fleming H.
Revell Press, 1923), 7-16.
Beaty, A History of the Town, 181.
Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses
( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), 310.
Kristin Stakel and Dr. Dan L. Morrill, “Survey and Research Report
on the Davidson IB Middle School,” December, 2005; Beaty, 64.
House is a very well preserved example of late Queen Anne Style
architecture. While more restrained in terms of ornamentation than many
earlier Queen Anne Style houses, the Armour-Adams House demonstrates the
asymmetrical massing and machine-made woodwork typical of the style. In
addition, the house is situated in a prominent position on North Main
Street. The house has retained a high degree of integrity in terms of its
appearance and historic building material.
The house sits close
to the sidewalk of North Main Street in Davidson and is setback about 40’
from the street, as are most of the neighboring houses. The house faces
west on a lot that slopes down towards the rear of the lot.
one-and-one-half-story frame house is notable for its asymmetrical massing,
and its various roof profiles. One of the house’s prominent features is the
one-story wrap-around hipped-roof porch. Unlike the typical pier supports
found on many early-twentieth-century house, the porch of the Armour-Adams
House is supported a continuous single-wythe curtain wall. Turned post
support the porch roof, and are decorated with sawn brackets. Low
guardrails connect the posts, and feature turned balusters and a moulded
handrail. The porch follows the contour of the house, and projects out from
a three-sided projecting bay. The porch is accessed by non-original brick
steps. A small gable, featuring a recessed triangular panel, is located over
the porch entrance.
Behind the porch,
the façade is dominated by a projecting gabled bay that contrasts with a
taller hip roof that covers the principal section of the house. The house
is three bays wide. A doorway is centered between the three-sided
projecting bay on the southern side of the façade, and a single window to
the north. The tall windows appear to be original one-over-one double-hung
units, with louvered shutters. The façade has retained its original
three-panel two-light door. In contrast to the turned woodwork, the
fenestration is surrounded with simple trim. All of the exterior walls are
covered with simple weatherboard accented with moulded corner boards.
Above the porch, the
front gable is pierced with a single narrow double-hung window. The gable
is accented with wide and moulded barge and soffit boards, as well as gable
returns. Located over the front entrance is a hipped dormer with two
swing-in single-light casements with screens decorated with sawn-work.
Moulded trim and a wide freeze-board separates the dormer’s siding from the
soffit. With the exception of the porch, the house is covered with metal
shingles decorated with a fish-scale pattern. Two interior chimneys pierce
the roof the northern chimney features a corbelled band, and a corbelled
flared top. The southern chimney is plain and of more recent construction.
The south elevation
of the original house is only two bays deep, with just two windows piercing
the wall. The wrap-around porch extends over only a part of the elevation.
A hipped dormer, like the one on the front of the house, is located on the
south side of the house. Like the south elevation, the north elevation is
simple in comparison with the façade. Just two bays wide with a single
window in the north-facing gable, the north elevation demonstrates the
brick-pier construction of the foundation, the wide water table, and wide
freeze board. An original one-room-deep gabled rear wing is setback
slightly from the north elevation.
The rear elevation
is the most altered part of the largely original house. A single
six-over-six is centered in the rear wall of the rear wing. A similar
window is located in the gable. A shed roof extends from south side of the
rear wing, and may have once been a porch. An enclosed porch extends from
the rear of the hipped-roof principal section of the house. A recent deck is
located on the rear of the house. A narrow hipped dormer with a single
window is roughly centered over the principal section of the house.