The S. W. & C. S. Davis General Store
This report was written on October 1, 1980
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the S.
W. & C. S. Davis General Store is located on N.C. Highway 115 opposite from
its intersection with Reams Rd. in the Croft community in northern
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property: The present owner of the property is:
S. W. D. Associates
Charlotte, N.C. 28205
Telephone: None listed
The present occupant of the property is:
S. W. & C. S. Davis General Store
N.C. Highway 115
Charlotte, N.C. 28213
Telephone: (704) 596-2021
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.
Click on the map to browse
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
deed on this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3673 at
Page 125. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is 027-201-01.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
General stores were the economic and social centerpieces of rural
communities throughout Mecklenburg County in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. Unquestionably, the best preserved store of this type
in Mecklenburg County is the S. W. & C. S. Davis General Store in Croft, a
small settlement on the railroad between Charlotte and Huntersville. Indeed,
one is justified in calling it a unique element in the local built
environment. Silas Winslow Davis (1873-1925), a native of northern
Mecklenburg, and his brother, Charles Spencer Davis, erected the building in
In keeping with the patterns of life in rural North Carolina in the early
years of this century, Saturday was the busiest day in Croft. Farmers would
bring their cotton for ginning and for shipment on the railroad to markets
near and far away. During the week, a boxcar filled with large bags of items
such as sugar, flour and fertilizer would have arrived on the siding in
front of the Davis Brothers General Store. The farmers would load their
wagons directly from the boxcar. Meanwhile their wives and children would go
inside the store, where they would find a vast array of goods and
merchandise, including fabrics of many sorts, overalls, ribbons, lace, pins
and needles. 2 The post office was also in the store for many
years. 3 The Davis Brothers sold wagons, harnesses, shovels,
rakes, hoes and other general farm supplies. Groceries were available. One
could buy canned fruits and vegetables, chewing tobacco, cigars, snuff and
Until the 1920's, all of the goods in the Davis Brothers General Store
were delivered by rail. 5 Before 1894, when the Southern Railroad
was formed, the track through Craft was owned by the Atlantic, Tennessee &
Ohio Railroad (A. T. & O.).6 The initial railroad in Mecklenburg
County was the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad, which commenced
operations on October 28, 1852, and which connected Charlotte with Columbia,
SC, and Charleston, SC. 7 Even more important to the development
of Mecklenburg County was the construction of the North Carolina Railroad
from Goldsboro via Raleigh, Greensboro and Salisbury to Charlotte, a
distance of 223 miles. 8 The first train traveled the entire
route on January 31, 1856. "We now have a railroad connection with Raleigh,
Petersburg, Richmond, and with all the cities of the North, on to the lines
of Canada," the Western Democrat proclaimed. 9 Also during
the 1850s, the State of North Carolina built the Western North Carolina,
beginning at Salisbury and extending westward through Statesville and
initially terminating at Morganton. 10 It was obvious that a
railroad between Charlotte and Statesville held significant promise for
investors, because it would provide a shorter route for moving goods from
South Carolina to Western North Carolina and back. Accordingly, the citizens
of Charlotte and Statesville approved bonds to finance the construction of
the A. T. & O., which linked the two communities. The Atlantic, Tennessee &
Ohio Railroad reached from Charlotte to Davidson, N.C., in 1861 and to
Statesville in March 1863. Soon thereafter, the tracks were removed to
provide rails for a line erected between Greensboro, N.C., and Danville,
Va., during the Civil War. The A. T. & O. was reconstructed after the Civil
War and re-opened in its entirety in June 1871. 11
The Atlantic, Tennessee & Ohio Railroad became the spine, so to speak,
along which commercial and industrial development occurred in northern
Mecklenburg County during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
For example, communities such as Huntersville and Cornelius grew up around
textile mills that were built beside the A. T. & O. 12 By 1896, a
post office had been established at Croft, where S. W. and C. S. Davis would
build their general store twelve years later. Silas Winslow Davis was an
enterprising and resourceful man. He operated two other stores along the A.
T. & O., one in Huntersville and another between Croft and Charlotte. Only
the building at Croft, however, survives. 13 S. W. Davis died on
January 9, 1925. 14 His son, Silas Washington Davis, took over
management of the general store after the death of C. S. Davis in 1945.
15 Locally known as "Wash" Davis, Silas Washington Davis has turned
over the running of the establishment to his son, Silas Washington Davis,
The S. W. & C. S. Davis General Store faces an uncertain future. In 1974,
the store and approximately two hundred and seventeen acres were sold to
S.W.D. Associates, a group of investors. The property is zoned for
industrial use. 16 Moreover, one of the alternate routes for a
proposed connector between Harris Blvd. and Interstate 77 passes through the
property. 17 These threats may become insurmountable. If so, the
citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg will lose an irreplaceable cultural
resource, because nowhere else in this County can one obtain a feeling for
the commercial and social intercourse which surrounded a general store in
rural Mecklenburg in the early 1900s like one can at the S. W. & C. S. Davis
General Store in Croft. A reporter for the Charlotte News spoke to
this point when he visited the store in October 1967. "Go inside," he
proclaimed. "Suddenly, you're standing in the middle of 1908. " 18
His observations are still true.
1 The Charlotte News (January 10, 1925), p. 7. The
Charlotte Observer (January 10, 1925), p. 7. The Mecklenburg Gazette
(August 3, 1977), p. 1.
2 The Mecklenburg Gazette (August 3, 1977), p. 1.
3 Interview of Silas Washington Davis, Jr., by Dr. Dan L.
Morrill (September 1980).
4 The Mecklenburg Gazette (August 3, 1977), p. 1.
6 Homer W. Keever, Iredell: Piedmont County (Published
for the Iredell County Bicentennial Commission by Brady Printing Company,
1976) pp. 220-225. Hereafter cited as Keever. Mary D. Beaty, Davidson: A
History of the Town from 1835 until 1937 (Briarpatch Press, Davidson,
N.C., 1979) p. 20. Hereafter cited as Beaty.
7 North Carolina Whig (November 3, 1852), p. 2.
8 Dr. Lawrence S. Barden, Dr. James W. Clay, Mr. Owen J.
Furuseth, Dr. Dan L. Morrill and Dr. Nelson S. Nunnally, "Socio-Economic
Overview Of The Uwharrie National Forest and Environs." (An Environmental
Impact Statement prepared for the United States Forest Service), p. 21.
9 Western Democrat (February 5, 1856), p. 2.
10 James W. Clay, Douglas M. Orr, Jr., and Alfred W. Stuart,
eds., North Carolina Atlas (The University of North Carolina Press,
Chapel Hill, N.C., 1975) p. 24.
11 Keever. Beaty.
12 Huntersville was chartered in March 1877. Cornelius was
established in 1893.
13 Levi Bronson, ed., North Carolina Business Directory
1896 (Levi Bronson, Office Publisher, Raleigh, N.C., 1896) vol. VIII, p.
14 Interview of Silas Washington Davis, Jr., by Dr. Dan L.
Morrill (September 1980). The Charlotte News (January 10, 1925), p.
7. The Charlotte Observer (January 10, 1925).
15 Interview of Silas Washington Davis, Jr., by Dr. Dan L.
Morrill (September 1980).
16 Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office. Mecklenburg
County Deed Book 3661, Page 123.
17 Road Project 8.2724501, U-609.
18 The Charlotte News (October 7, 1967), Sec. B., p. 1.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Mary Alice
Hinson, architectural historian.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria 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 S. W. & C. S. Davis General Store does possess special
historic significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission
bases its judgment on the fact that the store is the only extant example
of a turn-of-the-century general store in rural Mecklenburg which has
experienced minimal alterations.
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 S.
W. & C. S. Davis General Store 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 Ad Valorem appraisal
on the S. W. & C. S. Davis General Store is $11,225. The building is
included in a tract of 217.36 acres. The current Ad Valorem appraisal on the
land is $127,370. The most recent property tax bill on the entire property
Dr. Lawrence S. Barden, Dr. James W. Clay, Mr. Owen J. Furuseth, Dr. Dan
L. Morrill and Dr. Nelson S. Nunnally, "Socio-Economic Overview Of The
Uwharrie National Forest And Environs." (An Environmental Impact Statement
prepared for the United States Forest Service).
Mary D. Beaty, Davidson: A History Of the Town from 1835 until 1937
(Briarpatch Press, Davidson, N.C., 1979.
Levi Bronson, ed., North Carolina Business Directory 1896 (Levi
Bronson, Office Publisher, Raleigh, N.C., 1896) vol. VIII.
Charlotte Observer. James W. Clay, Douglas M. Orr, Jr. and Alfred W.
Stuart, eds., North Carolina Atlas (The University of North Carolina
Press, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1975).
Interview of Silas Washington Davis, Jr., by Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Homer W. Keever, Iredell: Piedmont County (Published for the
Iredell County Bicentennial Commission by Brady Printing Company, 1976).
The Mecklenburg Gazette.
North Carolina Whig.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Vital Statistics of Mecklenburg County.
Date of Preparation of this Report: October 1 , 1980.
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
3500 Shamrock Dr.
Charlotte, N.C. 28215
Telephone: (704) 332-2726
Mary Alice Dixon Hinson
29 September 1980
The S. W. & C. S. Davis Company General Store is a remarkably
well-preserved example of the vernacular commercial building style
indigenous to turn-of-the-century Piedmont North Carolina. The store is
built of red brick bearing walls. The-brick, made from local clay dug
specifically for the Davis Store, is laid in one-to-six
common bond in an even, sandy-colored mortar. The store proper is a long
narrow rectangle, three bays wide and two stories high. Its
flat roof steps up in three broad stages to the main (west) facade. A
one-story warehouse wing, one bay wide, runs the length of the south
elevation; the roof of the wing repeats the stepped gradations of the main
The Davis Store stands on a hillside clearing several yards east of a
railroad track. The main facade of the store runs parallel to the tracks.
The side elevations, visible to arriving or departing railroad passengers,
advertise the general merchandise available within. The blank brick side
walls are functional sign boards.
Both the store proper and the side wing rise from brick cellars whose
floors begin about one and a half feet below grade at the rear of the site
and tunnel into the side of the hill beneath the west walls. These adjacent
storage cellars have periodically served as cattle slaughter rooms and as
fatback larders - the cool earth penetrating the porous brick and acting as
a natural refrigerator.
All exterior ornamentation is of bricks corbeled, recessed, arched, or
otherwise decoratively arranged in counterpoint to the prevailing
rectilinearity of the facade. For example, a false pediment, molded into a
segmentally-pointed hood, caps the center of the corbeled sawtooth cornice.
Corbeled end blocks, brick variants of the stone bartizan, visually anchor
the cornice corners and frame the shaped pediment. The upper level of the
facade is pierced by two six-paned plate glass
windows set under splayed-arch hoods which, in turn, rise from corbeled
bases. The ground level is pierced by twin six-over-six
sash, each set into a double course of headers laid as a
segmental arch. A single course of headers is recessed at the string
course line, bisecting the elevation and strengthening the grid-like
geometry against which the curving window surrounds and shaped pediment
play. The central double door, beneath a transom, is faced with diagonal
boards studded with large round-headed rails. The warehouse wing has a
similar single-leaf front entrance as well as a hard-edged corbeled cornice.
The interior is divided into the store proper and the warehouse room. The
store is finished with thin beaded ceiling boards, painted plaster walls,
and smoothly-planed wooden floors, while in the warehouse the brick bearing
walls remain exposed and the floor is laid with roughly finished large
boards. Functional differences between public and storage zones are thus
Floor-to-ceiling shelves line the north and east walls of the store
proper. The shelves, like the doors to the outside and between wings, carry
cornices built of fillet, torus, and scotia moldings. A screen of
rectangular balusters defines the managers office, including mail windows,
in the southeastern corner of the main block.
The upper story is an ell-shaped balcony reached by a single run
staircase rising west-to-east along the south wall. Since the balcony
extends only along the north and east walls, which also have built-in
floor-to-ceiling shelves, a large, airy, and well-lit well opens up in the
front of the store.
The warehouse wing, a long narrow room, was originally used to store seed
and flour. It is entered through a large raised-panel door beside the stairs
to the balcony. Attached to the ceiling and walls are open timber cages for
the hanging and stacking of bulky merchandise like furniture and farm tools.
Quasi-Mission Style chairs still hang from the rafters. Circular saw marks
are visible throughout.
The interior also contains objects of interest in the history of
technology in Mecklenburg County: a 1922 cash register, still operating; an
early Coca-Cola bottle-opener built into the newel post of the stairs;
remnants of a box set into the wall which once contained the first telephone
in the vicinity of Croft; parts of a primitive fire hydrant attached to the
door jamb connecting the store proper with the warehouse; and a fire
extinguisher of yet earlier date - a large wooden water bucket hanging on