The Chairman Blake House
This report was written on July 3, 1979
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Chairman Blake House is located at 127 S. Main St. in Davidson, N.C.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property: The present owner of the property is:
Davidson, N.C. 28036
The present occupant of the property is:
Dr. Anthony S. Abbott
127 S. Main St.
Davidson, NC. 28036
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 depicting the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The earliest deed
which sets forth the boundaries of Davidson College is recorded in
Mecklenburg County Deed Book 4 at Page 420, The Tax Parcel Number of the
property is 007-013-13.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
Local tradition holds that the structure was built shortly after John Rennie
Blake joined the faculty of Davidson College in 1861 and that he was its
initial occupant. 1 Born in 1825 in Greenwood, S.C., he received
his academic training at the University of Georgia and taught at several
institutions before coming to Davidson as Professor of Astronomy and
Philosophy. 2 Blake remained at Davidson until 1885, when he
retired and returned to his home in Greenwood, S.C. 3 During
these difficult years of military defeat and Federal occupation of the
South, Professor Blake contributed greatly to the survival of the
institution which he served. At the end of the Civil War, not a few
individuals argued that Davidson College should be closed. Only eleven
students graduated in 1866, while the class of 1860 had had forty-six
members. 4 Blake was among those who urged that the college press
on, so to speak. 5 And his commitment to this proposition was
more than verbal. As Bursar or chief financial officer of Davidson in the
late 1860's and early 1870's, he undertook a variety of tasks, even to the
extent of repairing college facilities himself. 6
John Rennie Blake
The most important of Professor Blake's contributions to Davidson College
occurred in the 1870's. On June 27, 1871, President G. Wilson McPhail died.
7 The Board of Trustees, meeting on October 24, 1871, voted to
institute a new system of governance at Davidson. No President was elected.
The Board instead vested executive power in the Chairman of the Faculty, an
official elected by the Faculty itself. 8 D. H. Hill, a member of
the Board, reported that the plan was adopted "in deference to the wishes of
the Faculty." 9 Apparently, the teachers at Davidson were
influenced by the fact that the Chairmanship system was in vogue at other
academic institutions at that time, including the University of Virginia.
10 Shortly after the October meeting, John Rennie Blake was
elected Chairman of the Faculty. 11 He continued in that capacity
until June 1877, when the Board of Trustees voted to re-establish the office
of President and elected Rev. A. D. Hepburn to that position. 12
An official of the college has characterized Blake's Chairmanship as
"unique in its character and remarkable in its history," It was a "period of
unsurpassed energy and enterprise," the writer went on to explain. Among the
major accomplishments of these years (1871-77) were: 1) substantial
increases in faculty salaries through increased tuition, 2) enforcement of
stringent entrance examinations, 3) expansion of membership of the Board of
Trustees beyond the Presbyteries of North Carolina, 4) inauguration of major
fund raising campaign, and 5) enrichment of curriculum. 13
Following Professor Blake's retirement, the house was occupied by
Professor William Daniel Vinson of the Mathematics Department. 14
Vinson, a native of Sumter County, S.C., and graduate of Washington and Lee
University, had joined the Faculty in 1883. He resided in the house until
his death in 1897. 15 Throughout the ensuing decades, the house
has served as the residence of a series of individuals who have been
associated with Davidson College. 16
1 Chalmers Gaston Davidson, The Plantation World Around
Davidson (Mecklenburg Historical Association, 2nd. edition, 1973) pp.
16-17. Hereafter cited as Davidson.
2 The Semi-Centennial Catalogue Of Davidson College
1837-1887 (E. M. Uzzell, Raleigh, N.C., 1891) p. 18. United States
Census of 1870 for Mecklenburg County, p. 144.
3 The Semi-Centennial Catalogue Of Davidson College
1837-1887 (E. M. Uzzell, Raleigh, N.C., 1891) p. 18.
4 Thomas Wilson Ling, ed., Alumni Catalogue of Davidson
College, Davidson, NC: 1837-1924 (The Presbyterian Standard Publishing
Company, 1924), pp. 74-76., p. 86. Hereafter cited as Ling.
5 The Semi-Centennial Addresses of Davidson College (E.
M. Uzzell, Raleigh, N.C., 1888), pp. 147-155. Hereafter cited As
6 Minutes Of The Meetings Of The Board Of Trustees of Davidson
College (unpublished manuscript in the archives of Davidson College) vol. 2,
p. 539. Hereafter cited as Board. Addresses, pp- 147-155.
7 The Southern Home (July 4, 1871), p. 3.
8 Board, pp. 513-514.
9 The Southern Home (October 31, 1871), p. 3.
l0 The Charlotte Democrat (October 31, 1871), p. 2.
11 Board, p. 546.
12 Charlotte Observer (June 28, 1877), p. 4.
13 Addresses, pp. 147-155.
14 Davidson, pp. 16-17.
15 Ling, p. 27.
16 Davidson, pp. 16-17. An early photograph of the
house is on page 4 of the 1895 catalogue of Davidson College.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Laura A.
W. Phillips, architectural historian.
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 Chairman Blake House does possess special historic
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg . The Commission bases its
judgment on the following considerations: 1) it is one of the older houses
which has had a continuous association with Davidson College, 2) its
initial occupant, John Rennie Blake, was an individual of great importance
in the early development of Davidson College, and 3) it is one of the
finer examples of a Greek Revival style cottage extant in Mecklenburg
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission judges that the architectural
description included herein demonstrates that the property known as the
Chairman Blake House meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply annually for an automatic
deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the
property which becomes "historic property." The current tax appraisal of the
land is $18,700. The current tax appraisal of the structure is $32,950.
Chalmers Gaston Davidson, The Plantation World and Davidson
(Mecklenburg Historical Association, 2nd. edition, 1973).
Thomas Wilson Ling, ed., Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College
1837-1924 (The Presbyterian Standard Publishing Co., 1924).
Minutes Of The Meetings Of The Board Of Trustees of Davidson College
(unpublished manuscript in the archives of Davidson College) vol. 2.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Lucy Phillips Russell, A Rare Pattern (The University of North
Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C. ).
The Semi-Centennial Addresses of Davidson College (E. M. Uzzell,
Raleigh, N.C., 1888).
The Semi-Centennial Catalogue of Davidson College (E. M. Uzzell,
Raleigh, N.C., 1891).
The Southern Home.
United States Census of 1870 for Mecklenburg County.
Date of Preparation of this Report: July 3, 1979.
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
139 Middleton Dr.
Charlotte, N.C, 28207
Telephone: (704) 332-2726
The Chairman Blake House, located at 127 S. Main Street, Davidson, is a
one and a half story frame cottage in the
Greek Revival style which appears to date from ca. 1890. The house is
situated on the rear of a spacious lot and is surrounded by trees.
The one and a half story portion of the house is five bays wide and four
bays deep, with one story ell on the left rear. The house has a steep gable
roof with the boxed cornice forming a triangular pediment on the gable
ends, the tympanum of which is covered with weatherboarding. Underneath the
cornice line a wide frieze board encircles the house. The first story
windows are 6/6 sash with plain surrounds. All but those on the rear of
the house have exterior louvered shutters. The house has three interior
brick chimneys. The one on the north side has been rebuilt, while those on
the south side and rear ell are matching with molded caps and may be
original. The house is set on a brick pier foundation, the piers of which
have been covered with stucco, scored to resemble stone. The interstices
between the piers have been in-filled with modern brick.
A three-bay wide porch projects from the front of the house with a cross
gable of slightly lower pitch than the main roof. Like the other gable ends,
the cornice of the porch gable forms a triangular pediment, which is also
covered with weatherboarding. Echoing these larger pediments are the smaller
ones found on the gabled
dormers--two on the front and one on the rear--of the main roof. The
tympanum of each of the dormers is covered with flush siding rather than
with weatherboarding. The front dormers appear somewhat awkward in their
positions on either side of the projecting porch gable. The pediment formed
by the porch cross gable, along with the four square
Doric posts which support it, provides a Greek temple-like feeling, even
to this cottage form. A heavy turned balustrade connects the four posts and
the pilasters set against the front wall of the house. Steps lead up to the
center bay of the porch to the central front door, which is surrounded by
sidelights and transom typical of the Greek Revival period. The door itself
has a later Victorian feeling with four recessed octagonal panels.
The rear ell is three bays deep and has an integral porch on the south
side. The porch is supported by slender Doric posts of the same type as
found on the front porch. The rear door of the central hall of the house
opens onto this porch as does a door from the dining room in the ell. The
porch has been screened-in. With all of its detailing--exterior and
interior--corresponding to the main part of the house, this two-room ell
appears to be original. However, local tradition suggests that it was added
at some later time. If so, great care was taken to duplicate the detailing
of the original part of the house. Projecting from the rear of this ell is a
small one-room addition, which echoes the larger ell with its gable roof and
south side screened porch. It does not, however, have the same exterior or
interior detailing. The rear window of this addition has been enclosed.
The interior of the house is composed of a center hall plan with two
rooms on either side originally (there have been some modifications on the
left side) and with rear ell and addition beyond.
The hallway is divided into two sections--the front, or entrance hall,
and rear, or stair hall. A doorway with four-panel door and molded surround
divides the two sections. This doorway is representative of the original
doorways to be found in the rest of the house. The molded baseboard here as
in the remainder of the house approximates in form the molding of the door
and window surrounds. The front hall serves as a foyer with doorways to the
two front rooms and to the rear hall. The back hall houses the stairway
along its left side. The
stairway rises from the rear of the hall. It has a molded
handrail, plain rectangular
balusters, and a simple, rather bulbous
newel post which is vaguely reminiscent of a Doric column. Halfway up
the stairs is a plain Doric support post which rises to the ceiling above.
At the rear of the back hall is a four-panel door with sidelights which
leads to the ell porch. Doors on either side of the back hall lead to the
rear rooms of the main block of the house.
On the right side of the hall are double parlors, divided by large
sliding doors, with six vertical panels on each door. Each room has a simple
Greek Revival wood mantel on the outside (south) wall. The mantels (like the
others in the house) are composed of a plain Doric pilaster on either side
of the fireplace opening, and a plain, wide frieze and molded shelf above.
The 6/6 windows in the parlors, as in the other rooms downstairs, have a
molded surround with beaded edge along the inside and a recessed-panel apron
To the left of the center hall there were originally two rooms. Although
the front room has remained intact, the rear room has been divided into a
small bedroom/dressing area, a bathroom, and a small hallway. The
arrangement of this side of the house differs somewhat from that of the
parlor side. Here the mantels are set back-to-back on the inside wall
dividing the rooms. A. four-panel door connects the front bedroom with the
The left rear ell houses the dining room and kitchen. The dining room has
the same Greek Revival mantel, four-panel doors and paneled window aprons as
found in the other rooms downstairs. However, unlike the other rooms, the
dining room has a plain chair rail, possibly an addition. The fireplace is
located on the interior dividing wall between the dining room and kitchen.
To the right of the fireplace, a doorway leads to the kitchen. The kitchen
windows have the same paneled apron as in the rest of the house.
Behind the kitchen is a smaller one-room addition which houses the
In the half story upstairs there are three bedrooms and one bathroom. The
southwest room has a Greek Revival mantel on the outside (south) wall, which
has a Victorian arched coal grate firebox. Upstairs the floors are made of
random-width boards, while downstairs the floors are composed of
consistent-width boards three to four inches wide.
According to the current occupant of the house, there had been a brick
ice house/kitchen building behind the house, but it was torn down around