The Berryhill House
This report was written on May 5, 1976
1. Name and location of the Property: The property knom as the
Berryhill House is located at 324 W. Ninth St., Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, addresses, and telephone numbers of the present owners and
occupants of the property:
The present owner of the property is: Berryhill Preservation, Inc.
c/o Mr. Gibson L. Smith
2500 Jefferson First Union Plaza
Charlotte, N.C. 28282
The present occupant of the property is: Mr. David Roy Seymour
324 W. Ninth St.
3. Representative photographs of the property: Representative
photographs of the property are included in this report.
4. A map 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
reference to this property is found in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3822 at
Page 462. The Parcel Number of the property is: 07803103. This report
contains a Chain of Title from 1870 to the Present.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
The Berryhill House was erected in 1884 by John H. Newcomb. He and his
brother, George E. Newcomb. had come to Charlotte in 1879. Brought from
White Plains, NY, by Brown and Weddington, Inc., to establish a bellows
factory, the Newcomb brothers supervised the construction of the plant on
East Ninth St. along the western side of the railroad tracks just east of
College St. From here blacksmith bellows were shipped by rail throughout the
region. John Newcomb lived with his wife and two children in a house at the
intersection of East Fifth and North Caldwell Sts. His wife, the daughter of
Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Moseman of Now York City, was Annie Augusta Newcomb.
Commonly known as "Gussie" she had given birth to two children before coming
to Charlotte. A son, George H. Newcomb, was born in 1869; and a daughter,
Gussie Newcomb was born in 1871. They had no other children.
The Newcombs prospered in Charlotte. By 1884 John and his brother had
acquired sole ownership of the bellows factory and had greatly expanded the
scope of its operations. Now known as Newcomb Bros., it manufactured windows
and sashes. Moreover, the brothers had entered the building construction
business. Gussie Newcomb and her sister-law, Susie A. Newcomb, were also
active in the local business community. One afternoon in 1881 they entered
Miss Gray's Millinery Store at 24 W. Trade St. to learn that Miss Gray, who
was from Baltimore Md., had to leave the city immediately because of a death
in her family. Consequently she wanted to sell the business, A sale was
negotiated that very day and Gussie and Susie opened S. and G. Newcomb's
Millinery Store the next morning. It is reasonable to assume that the two
ladies must have rushed to E. Ninth St. to obtain funds for the purchase. If
so, John and George were wise to respond affirmatively. Gussie and Susie
catered to the wealthier ladies of the community. Gussie would travel to New
York City to acquire the finest material and ribbons. The making of the
elaborate hats of that era, resplendent with ornamental trimming was done in
the store by several milliners. To say that your hat came from Newcomb's was
enough said. The store was a resounding success.
On February 16, 1884, Gussie and Susie Newcomb jointly purchased two
vacant lots to the northeast of the intersection of N. Pine and W. Ninth
Sts. The price was $1400. This was expensive land for that day. No doubt the
Newcomb families were ready to build homes which would reflect the status of
their financial position in the community. The site was probably selected
because it stood approximately midway between the manufacturing plant on E.
Ninth St., and the millinery store on W. Trade St. On May 1, 1884, the
families secured a loan of $3600 for purposes of building the two houses.
John's house stood on the corner lot. Both were occupied in the second half
The early years of occupancy were for the most part uneventful. The
routine of daily life proceeded normally. John and George were busy at
Newcomb Bros. Gussie and Susie operated the store. From time to time Gussie
would travel to New York City on buying trips. John and his family were
active in St. Peter's Episcopal Church. John was a mason and a member of the
Royal Arcanum, a benevolent association in the town which met on the first
and third Tuesdays of each month at City Hall. John celebrated his fortieth
birthday on January 30, 1885. Gussie turned forty on September 13, 1890. The
loan for constructing the houses was paid off on August 20, 1889.
In 1891 the stability which the Newcombs had known began to end. George
and John sold the manufacturing plant. On August 8, 1891, common ownership
of the two lots was terminated. Gussie now owned the corner lot; Susie owned
the lot next door. Soon thereafter George and his family sold the house and
lot next door and moved to Richmond, Va. John erected a bellows factory
immediately behind his home. He was returning to the trade that he knew
best. His son, George E. Newcomb, assisted his father in this new
enterprise. But the greatest transformation in the life of the Newcombs came
on July 27, 1892. John H. Newcomb died at the age of 47. The newspaper
account of his funeral reveals that he had gained the respect and affection
of his fellow citizens. "the funeral services over the remains of Mr. J. H.
Newcomb," the Charlotte Observer reported, "were held last evening at
6 o' clock at his late residence by Rev. P. C. Reed. The house and yard were
thronged with friends of the deceased, seldom there been a larger funeral in
Charlotte. After reading several passages from scripture, Rev. Reed made a
short talk, full of comfort to the bereaved, and of admonition to the living
to 'be ye also ready.'" Gussie Newcomb carried on with the millinery store
until 1898, when failing health forced her to sell it to Miss Minnie Shuart
of Baltimore, Md.
Happiness was not unknown to the Newcomb in the 1890s. Gussie's son
George E. Newcomb, operated the bellows factory to the rear of the house. In
1897 he married Mary E. Kendrick of Charlotte and established his residence
on W. Fourth St. Shortly after her father's death, Gussie Newcomb married
Earnest Wiley Berryhill, whose parents had resided for many years in the 300
block of N. Poplar St. In 1894 Gussie gave birth to her only child, J.
Newcomb Berryhill. In 1898 Mr. Berryhill purchased the grocery store at 401
W. Ninth St., and moved his family into the house with his mother-in-law.
Only then did the name "Berryhill" become directly associated with the
In 1899 misfortune struck the Newcombs once more. An infant child was
born dead to George H. Newcomb and his wife. In 1905 George's wife died at
the age of 34. In 1906 George lost one of his three sons, James K. Newcomb,
to death at the age of 9. Not surprisingly, Mr. Newcomb's ability to cope
with life was lessened by the events. He returned to live with his mother
and his sister's family on W. Ninth St. He had to call upon his
brother-in-law, S. W. Berryhill, to assist with the bellows factory. But
life was never the same for George E. Newcomb. The bellows factory closed
and was torn down in 1914. Shortly thereafter George left Charlotte. He died
in 1925. He was survived by two sons, John and George, who resided in
Earnest Wiley Berryhill lived in the house until his death on February 7,
1931. For all these years he operated the store at 401 W. Ninth St. His
wife, mother-in-law, and son had enormous respect for Mr. Berryhill. An
honest and compassionate man, Mr. Berryhill had a heart of gold. His
delivery wagon carried many a basket of groceries to the needy from whom he
expected no money. He knew how to make friends and keep them. The most
compelling illustration of Mr. Berryhill's character and personality appears
in an article by Mrs. Sam Presson in the Charlotte Observer of March
The writer grow up with Mr. Berryhill, and shall never forget when as
children we attended a Sunday school picnic at the Catawba River. I had
the misfortune to slip and fall into the river where the water was over my
head. When I came to the top, I yelled, "Save me! Save me!" Mr. Berryhill
helped pull me out and after that I never saw him that he didn't throw up
his hands and with a twinkle in his eye, say: "Save me! Save me!"
Mr. Berryhill's son, J. Newcomb Berryhill, worked along side his father
in the grocery store. He married Miss Helenora Lanier on December 20, 1920.
He moved out of the homeplace and established his residence on what is now
N. Graham St. Amzi Rosman, a black man, also assisted Mr. Berryhill.
On February 9, 1931, the Berryhill House gave shelter to its second
funeral. Earnest Wiley Berryhill had died two days before after an extended
illness. Rev. W. W Peele, pastor of the First Methodist Church where Mr.
Berryhill had been an active member, conducted the ceremonies. Mr. Berryhill
had made his mark upon this community. In addition to the grocery business,
he had served as a founder and director of the Citizens Savings Bank, an
institution which specialized in loans to the so-called common man.
Annie Augusta Newcomb outlived her son-in-law. She had lived in the house
for over 45 years. She had witnessed the death of her husband, her son, a
daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. Her brother-in-law, Henry L.
Landridge, who had come to Charlotte with his wife to live in the Berryhill
House had died in 1930. George and Susie Newcomb had died in Richmond, Va.,
some years earlier. One can imagine the serenity with which Mrs. Newcomb
contemplated her own death. Ironically, she died on her 83rd birthday,
September 13, 1933, Again, the funeral was hold in the house. At 4 o'clock
on the afternoon of September 15, 1933, the ceremonies began. Rev. Edgar
A.Dillard of the Tenth Ave. Presbyterian Church officiated.
Mrs. Newcomb's sister, Mary M. Landridge, died in 1934, leaving Gussie
Newcomb Berryhill alone in the house. J. Newcomb Berryhill continued to run
the grocery store across the street however. In 1940 Gussie suffered a
stroke. Her son was forced to place his mother in a nursing home. Her
departure marked the end of occupancy of the house by members of the family.
It was now transformed into a four unit apartment house. Having sold the
grocery business but not the building itself, Mr. Berryhill devoted the
majority of his time to managing the apartment house in the old homeplace.
In the early 1950s he occupied the house to the immediate rear of the
grocery store as his residence. Gussie Newcomb Berryhill died on September
7, 1956, at the age of 84. The grocery store on W. Ninth St. closed the same
year. J. Newcomb Berryhill and his wife moved from N. Pine St. to Mamolake
Dr. in 1958. The Berryhill House, continuing to serve as a four-unit
apartment, could not escape the overall decline experienced by Fourth Ward
in the 1960s. Its eventual destruction seemed certain. But on October 28,
1975, the Junior League of Charlotte purchased the house and made plans to
renovate the structure. At this writing the renovation of the house is
The Berryhill House promises to become a viable dwelling once more. But
no future activity will overshadow the past events associated with the
structure. Indeed, Elmwood Cemetery contains a number of graves which will
stand as reminders of the joy and suffering of the family that built and
occupied the Berryhill House.
John H. Newcomb (1845-1892)
Mary S. Newcomb (1871-1905)
James K. Newcomb (1897-1906)
George H. Newcomb (1869-1925)
Henry L. Landridge (1851-1930)
Earnest W. Berryhill (1865-1931)
Gussie A. Newcomb (1850-1933)
Mary M. Landridge (1855-1934)
Gussie N. Berryhill (1872-1956)
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description prepared by Jack O. Boyte, A.I.A.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria forth in N.C.G.S. 160A -399.4:
a. Historical and cultural significance: The historical and
cultural significance of the property known as the Berryhill House rests
upon three factors. First, it is one of the few structures which forms the
domestic architecture of late nineteenth Charlotte that has not been
destroyed. Admittedly, if Charlotte possessed a large number of Victorian
structures, the Berryhill House would probably not be of outstanding
architectural significance. Within the existing local context, however,
the Berryhill House stands as a indispensable link in the architectural
evolution of this community. Second, the Berryhill House possesses
substantial cultural significance as a basic element in the overall
ambiance of Fourth Ward. Third, the structure has associative value in
that it reflects the lifestyle and values of a middle class Charlotte
family of the late 1800's.
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The Berryhill
House is currently being renovated. While not being returned to its
original condition, the structure will become a viable dwelling once more.
c. Educational value: The Berryhill House will become one of the
best known houses in Charlotte. It will have enormous educational value,
both as an example of historic preservation and as reminder of the early
appearance of Fourth Ward.
d. Cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance or repair: The
Commission has no intention of purchasing this property. It assumes that
all costs associated with renovating and maintaining the structure will be
paid by the owner or subsequent owners of the property.
e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property:
The Commission concurs with the present owner's intention to sell the
property for use as a residence.
f. Appraised values: The current tax appraisal value of the
structure is $720.00. The tax appraisal value of the land is $12,770.00
The Commission is aware that designation of the property would allow the
owner to apply for a special tax classification.
g. the administrative and financial responsibility of any person or
organization willing to underwrite all or a portion of such costs: As
indicated earlier, the Commission has no intention of purchasing this
property. Furthermore, the Commission assumes that all costs associated
with the structure will be met by whatever party now owns or will
subsequently own the property. Clearly, the present owner has demonstrated
the capacity to meet the expenses associated with renovating the
9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for inclusion in the National Register of Historic
Places: The Commission Judges that the property known as the Berryhill
House does meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
Fundamental to the Commission's position is the following explanation of the
nature of those criteria which has been provided by Dr. Larry Tise, State
Historic Preservation Officer.
It is absolutely true that the National Register has undergone a
significant change from its inception in 1966 to reflect a much broader
preservationist philosophy. As long as there is an evolution of the
meaning and use of the National Register criteria, there is likely to be a
discussion of the merits of a broad or a restrictive approach to historic
With regard to the specific question of what meets National Register
criteria, it is absolutely true that many properties meet the criteria
today that would have been rejected in 1969 or even 1973. The criteria
seem to operate much like the national Constitution in that different
courts and different judges in different ages see different applications
of the criteria.
(Letter of Dr. Larry E. Tise to Mr. James A. Stenhouse, May 3, 1976).
Also basic to the Commission's judgment is its knowledge of the fact that
the National Register of Historic places functions to identify property of
local and State historic significance. The Commission believes that the
property known as the Berryhill House is of local historic significance and
thereby meets the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
10. Documentation of why and in what ways the property is of
histroical significance to Charlotte-Mecklenburg: As noted earlier, the
property known as the Berryhill House is of local historic importance for
three essential reasons. First, it is architecturally significant as one of
the few remaining examples of Victorian architecture in the City of
Charlotte. "This building," Mr. Boyte writes, "is significant locally
because it is very nearly alone in illustrating the once widespread Eclectic
Victorian residential design in Charlotte." Second, it is significant to the
overall ambiance of Fourth Ward. Mr. Boyte contends that "the work of
various groups and individuals on the development of an environment of
significance in Fourth Ward is greatly enhanced by the preservation of such
structures as the Berryhill (or Newcomb) House" Third, it has associative
value in that it reflects the middle class values and lifestyle of late
nineteenth century Charlotte.
An Inventory of Older Buildings In Mecklenburg County And Charlotte
For The Historic Properties Commission.
Interview with Mr. J. Newcomb Berryhill (April 1976).
Charlotte City Directory (1879, 1882, 1889, 1893-94, 1896-97, 1897-98,
1899-1900, 1902, 1903, 1907, 1910, 1914).
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Sanborn Insurance Maps (1885, 1896, 1900, 1905, 1911, 1929).
Charlotte Observer (February 8, 1931).
Charlotte Observer (September 15, 1933).
Charlotte Observer (May 5, 1935).
Charlotte Observer (March 31, 1940).
Charlotte Observer (September 8. 1956).
Daily Charlotte Observer (July 27, 1892).
Date of Preparation of this report: May 5, 1976
Prepared by: Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
139 Middleton Dr.
Charlotte, N.C. 28207
Chain of Title: 1870 to the Present
1. September 28, 1870 (Book 6, page 999).
Grantor: Robert F. Davidson & wife, Eliza B. Davidson
Grantee: Miss M. S. Alexander & Miss A. L. Alexander
2. February 16, 1884 (Book 36, Page 418).
Grantor: Mary Sophia Alexander & Alice L. Alexander
Grantee: Annie A. Newcomb & Susie A. Newcomb
3. May 1, 1884 (Book 37, Page 414).
Grantor: George E. Newcomb & wife, Susie A. Newcomb John H. Newcomb &
wife, Annie A. Newcomb
Grantee: T. R, Robertson & the Mechanics Perpetual Building & Loan
4. August 8, 1891 (Book 81, Page 37).
Grantor: George S. Newcomb & wife, Susie A. Newcomb
Grantee: Mrs. Gussie Newcomb (wife of John H. Newcomb)
5. July 2, 1913 (Book 314, Page 180).
Grantor: Mrs. Gussie Newcomb (widow)
Grantee: Mrs. Gussie Newcomb, wife of B. W. Berryhill
6. June 29, 1923 (Book 498, Page 283).
Grantor: Mrs. Gussie Newcomb
Grantee: Mrs. Gussie N. Berryhill
7. March 24, 1949 (Book 1366, Page 327).
Grantor: Mrs. Gussie N. Berryhill (widow of E. W. Berryhill)
Grantee: J. N. Berryhill
8. March 22, 1961 (Book 222, Page 353).
Grantor: J. N. Berryhill
Grantee: J. N. Berryhill & wife, Leonora L. Berryhill)
9. October 28, 1975 (Book 2796, Page 798).
Grantor: J. N. Berryhill & wife, Lenora L. Berryhill
Grantee: The Junior League of Charlotte, Inc.
10. February 9. 1976 (Book 3822. Page 462).
Grantor: The Junior League of Charlotte, Inc.
Grantee: Berryhill Preservation, Inc.
An Architectural Description
by Jack O. Boyte, A. I. A.
During the decades immediately following the Civil War Charlotte
experienced, along with much of the country, a period of rapid and chaotic
growth. Larger concentration of people and the accelerating growth of
industry involved new conditions and new experiences. This increasing
variety of circumstances found expression in greater diversity of building
than had been known in the American past. A romantic mood lingered over the
entire scene. Mark Twain called this the "Gilded Age". Leading Architects
drew inspiration from many sources for their exuberant new designs. Numerous
new ideas were developed, usually with deference to a dominant theme such as
Greek, Gothic, Tuscan, Egyptian, etc. Often they were combined in a single
eclectic style known vaguely as 'Victorian'. From R. M. Hunt, H. H.
Richardson, A. J. Davis, Stanford White, and other leading architects came
trend setting designs. Their work was published regularly and provided
regional inspiration for widespread use of these new ideas.
In the carefully developed grid street pattern of
Fourth Ward, well-to-do citizens purchased newly available lots, and
built an astonishing variety of 'Victorian' houses. On the corner of West
Ninth and Poplar Streets the brothers John and George Newcomb bought
side-by-side lots and built identical houses in 1883-84. Today the house of
John Newcomb remains on the corner, a well-preserved and remarkable example
of Eclectic Victorian Architecture.
Basically the house is a two story square form with a classic center hall
plan. Drawing strongly from the work of Charles Eastlake, the exterior
ornamentation is highly elaborate and reflects the obvious fact that the
Newcomb brothers operated a planing mill a few blocks from the house where
Ninth Street met the North Carolina Railroad.
Variations in the form are achieved with a wide covered front verandah
wrapping around each side of the house, a projecting front tower with a
peaked roof added to the house in later years, and a low roofed kitchen wing
on the left rear of the house. There are later additions at the rear which
have no historical significance.
The house rests on uniformly spaced high, red brick piers on the exterior
perimeter and at regular intervals under the interior first floor framing.
These interior supporting piers were whitewashed, probably at an early date
since they were exposed to view. Where the interior chimney foundations
occur under the house arched brick alcoves were built into these masses to
minimize their bulk. The foundation wall is now solid, having been bricked
in at a later date.
Starting with a sill band with a molded drip, the exterior surfaces are
horizontal square edged, narrow, lapped, siding rising two stories to a
broad molded frieze. At close intervals on the frieze, heavy carved brackets
form a console supporting a wide overhang and a molded facia which conceals
a built-in gutter. The main roof surface was originally low sloped tin not
visible from the ground. At the front and extending half way down each side,
the covered verandah creates the dominant exterior feature. Set high above
the ground, the verandah has a narrow wood strip floor, beaded ceiling, and
a low tin covered roof supported by extraordinary columns and brackets.
Fabricated of solid eight inch square posts, the columns rest on elaborate
carved pedestals rising to rail height. Above this, chamfered edges have
turned half round members with knob ends applied to each edge. At eye level
there are molded capitals creating imposts for elaborate carved brackets
which flare to the sides and front where they support a moderate overhang.
Centered on the front an offset verandah section emphasizes the main
entrance with even heavier bracketing.
The porch railing consists of closely spaced turned balusters-- much like
table legs - capped by a relatively simple rounded hand rail, molded at each
edge. At the center front on Ninth Street a wide stair, originally wood and
now concrete, rises five feet to the extended verandah platform. Above this
platform the verandah roof is raised several feet and forms, at the house
wall, a base for the center projecting tower bay. With four high narrow
windows across the front and a square peaked roof this tower gives the front
a strong Italianate flavor borrowed from Etruscan Villa designs. The tower
roof rises from a pronounced overhang resting on small scroll brackets. The
high tower surfaces are covered with small square edge slate tiles and
terminate in a turned finial at the peak.
Windows are all full length double hung units rising from a sill near
the floor to a height of nearly eight feet. Sash are glazed with two large
lights and one center vertical muntin, conforming to the typical vertical
lines of the period. Exterior window trim features pedimented heads with
simple carved inserts. At the lower edges of the trim slightly flared blocks
add a classical touch. All this is reminiscent of the Second Empire mode.
The main entrance, centered under the tower, consists of nine foot high
double doors of oak, half glazed with oval headed windows, and with lower
molded panels. Two sets of double doors create a shallow entrance vestibule
defined on the exterior by paneled side walls which flare outward. Above the
doors delicately patterned transom windows extend up to the ceiling of the
Inside the entrance a center hall forms a relatively narrow foyer at the
front. The main stair begins at the right center of the hall. This stair was
originally a single run, rising along one wall thirteen or more feet to the
second floor. In recent years the stair was altered and now rises in two
runs in the front section of the hall. At the rear, new bath rooms have been
installed in the original hall areas on both floors. The
stair features an unusually massive turned newell post at the first
floor and two delicate turned
balusters on each
tread. A plain oval
rail completes the balustrade. One might notice in the undisturbed first
run of the stair curious triangular pressed tin dust shields at the juncture
of treads and
risers adjoining the closed strings.
Interior finishing trim is relatively simple and shows little of the rich
decorative characteristics usually found in Victorian houses. The first
floor entrance hall contains a heavy molded chair rail which has been
recently replaced. There are no wood paneled wainscoted areas. Floors are
all wide pine planks. Walls and ceilings are plaster on wood lath. From the
foyer, double divided light doors open to a sitting room on the left. Here
the walls have decorative panel molding applied at a later date over earlier
wall paper. At the ceiling a narrow crown mold shows elaborate leaf carving
said to have gilded originally. In this room an elaborate fireplace mantle
provides the feature of most note. This mantle has classical detailing with
small round Doric columns at each flank and molded trim under the mantle
shelf with egg and dart motif. In the over mantle a fine beveled mirror is
also surrounded with egg and dart molding. To the rear through another pair
of divided light doors one enters the dining room. Here the trim is also
very simple. There is a fireplace with milled mantle trim reflecting no
classical influence. Adjoining the dining room at the back is a one story
kitchen wing, showing little distinction in the finishing trim.
At the front right of the entrance foyer another pair of divided light
doors open to a parlor. Here there was originally another fireplace which
likely had a elaborate mantle and over mantle similar to that in the sitting
room. This feature has been removed, however, and the opening plastered
over. To the rear of this parlor is a smaller library or study trimmed with
the simplest of millwork. In the original plan all first floor rooms opened
to the central hall which extended from front to rear.
On the second floor there are four original bedrooms, and two rooms in a
later addition. In these rooms the detailing is restrained. The four
original bed chambers have small fireplaces finished with simple wood
mantles showing little elaboration. At each fireplace on both floors, the
hearths and fireplace opening surrounds are faced with small glazed
At the front of the second floor hall the tower windows are set out from
the main walls and create a shallow bay. Evidence of original window
construction in the main wall confirms the fact that the tower was added
subsequent to the original construction.
In Fourth Ward as well as in all other early neighborhoods in Charlotte,
the list of remaining historic structures is distressingly limited. And, of
course, the work of various groups and individuals on the development of an
environment of significance in Fourth Ward is greatly enhanced by the
preservation of such structures as. the Berryhill (or Newcomb) House. This
building is significant locally because it is very nearly alone in
illustrating the once widespread Eclectic Victorian residential design in
Charlotte. The present commendable effort of the Junior League toward
refurbishing the house demonstrates a growing community awareness of the
need for saving Charlotte's architectural past. This effort should be
For more information...
Survey & Research Report: Crowell-Berryhill Store