THE GARIBALDI & BRUNS BUILDING
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gallery of the Garibaldi & Bruns Building
This report was written on June 5, 1985
Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Old Garibaldi & Bruns Building is located at 104-106 South Tryon Street,
Charlotte, North Carolina.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
City of Charlotte
600 East Trade Street
Charlotte, N.C., 28202
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 to this property is recorded in Deed Book 4578, Page 001.
The Tax Parcel Number of the property is 073-011-12.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report
contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr.
William H. Huffman, Ph.D.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This
report contains a brief architectural description of the property by Mr.
Thomas W. Hanchett.
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 Old Garibaldi & Bruns Building does possess
special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission
bases its judgment on the following considerations: 1) the Old
Garibaldi & Bruns Building, incorporating elements of Granite Row, an
1850-51 commercial complex in Charlotte and probably the only
antebellum commercial structure which survives in Charlotte, draws its
principal physical significance from its association with Louis
Asbury, an architect of local and regional importance; 2) the 1909
Garibaldi and Bruns facade is the earliest known example of a
commercial store front in Charlotte designed by Louis Asbury, who
began his practice in 1908; 3) the founders of the company, Joseph
Garibaldi, William L. Bruns, and Harry W. Dixon, were important
businessmen in Charlotte, and their firm survives in Charlotte as a
leading jewelry store; and 4) the Old Garibaldi & Bruns Building is
one of the two remaining small-scale business structures on the first
block of South Tryon Street and, therefore, is an important link with
Charlotte's commercial history.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials,
feeling, and/or association: The Commission contends that the
attached architectural description by Mr. Thomas W. Hanchett
demonstrates that the property known as the Old Garibaldi & Bruns
Building 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." It should be noted that the Old Garibaldi &
Bruns Building comprises only a portion of the overall parcel. The
current appraised value of the .204 acres of land is $1,064,760. The
current appraised value of the improvements is $105,020. The current
appraised value is $1,169,780. The property is presently exempted from
the payment of Ad Valorem taxes. The property is zoned I3lUD.
Date of Preparation of this Report: June 5, 1985
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St. Box D
Charlotte, N.C. 28203
Dr. William H. Huffman
The Garibaldi and Bruns building, located just off the Square on
South Tryon Street, is a critically important historical asset of the
city of Charlotte. Its significance goes beyond the local community to
both the state and national levels. The handsome, three-story facade of
the building, designed by Charlotte architect Louis Asbury in 1909,
covers two storefronts of a five-store row built in 1850-51 known as
"Granite Row." Along with its companion one door to the south, the
Thomas Trotter Building (which was recently placed on the National
Register of Historic Places), these surviving buildings of Granite Row
are the only antebellum commercial structures remaining in the city, and
some of the few left in the State of North Carolina. They are also the
only small-scale retail buildings still standing on the first block of
South Tryon Street in the heart of the city.
The original development of Granite Row was done in anticipation of
the coming of the railroad to Charlotte (service started in 1852), which
gave it vital links to the sea through Columbia and Charleston, and
direct access to the markets of the Northeast. 1 The rail
connections started the city on the path to grow from a village of just
over one thousand in 1850 to the largest city in the Carolinas by 1930.
At the beginning of that period, in 1850, a group of Charlotte
merchants bought what was known as the "Davidson Corner," (it had been
owned by the family of Thomas Davidson from 1794 to 1842), and divided
it into five separate store lots. 3 In place of the wood
buildings which were there, they built five storefronts of brick, each
having three stories and a common facade of granite or granite-like
stone. Thus they identified themselves in their advertisements as being
located in numbers 1 through 5 Granite Row, respectively, and retained
that name for the next fifty years. 4 In addition to its
other unique features, Granite Row, or, as they first called it, Granite
Range, may have been the first brick commercial buildings built in the
city. Construction of the stores began in July, 1850, and they were
first occupied in September, 1851, when several merchants advertised in
the papers that they had "removed to the Granite Range." 5
When the new stores opened in 1851, Granite Row was occupied as
follows: # 1, Brem & Alexander, dry goods; #2, Elias & Cohen, dry goods;
#3, John F. Irwin, dry goods; #4, J. Sloan & Co., dry goods; #5, Thomas
Trotter, jewelry. 6 During the remainder of the century, #3
and #4 Granite Row, the present Garibaldi and Bruns building, was
occupied by a succession of different businesses, which included the
Southern Express Co., a telegraph office; business offices; a bookstore;
and a tailor. 7
In 1896, a new jewelry firm, Garibaldi and Bruns, was started by
Joseph Garibaldi (1864-1939), William L. Bruns (1876-1937), and Harry W.
Dixon (1872-1916). The oldest member of the three, Joseph ("Uncle Joe")
Garibaldi, was widely known as a business and civic leader of the
community. Born in Mecklenburg County,0 the son of natives of Italy,
John and Louise Garibaldi, he was also a descendent of Giuseppe
Garibaldi, the Italian patriot known as the liberator of Italy. The
Belmont area was developed by his grandfather, and the rail stop there
was originally known as Garibaldi Station. Beginning his career as an
apprentice in the jewelry store of P. Lasne on West Trade Street
opposite the First Presbyterian Church at the age of twelve, he worked
for several different jewelry concerns until 1896, when he formed his
partnership with Bruns. His civic service included being mayor pro tem
of the city council, and being twice elected to the State Legislature.
William L. Bruns was a Columbia, S.C. native who came to Charlotte as
a young man and trained in the jewelry business before going in
partnership with Garibaldi in 1896. When the new business was formed,
the two founders took on a young man of twenty-four, Harry W. Dixon, as
bookkeeper. Born in the Hopewell area of Mecklenburg County, Dixon was
educated at the old Alexandriana School there, following which he
trained in the jewelry business with several Charlotte firms. In 1901,
he was made a full partner, and, until his untimely death in 1916, the
name of the company was changed to Garibaldi, Bruns and Dixon. 9
When Garibaldi and Bruns was formed in 1896, they leased #5 Granite
Row, where Thomas Trotter, a noted North Carolina silversmith and
jeweler, had his business from 1851 to 1865. 10 Good fortune
was on the side of any well-run business started during those years, for
Charlotte experienced sustained rapid growth from the 1880s to the end
of the 1920s based on its being a hub of New South industrialization in
the Piedmont Carolinas. Thus in 1904, the prospering Garibaldi and Bruns,
as individuals, bought the building at #3 Granite Row. Five years later,
in 1909, they also bought #4 Granite Row, and planned for a new facade
to cover both buildings. 11 To design their new stores, they
hired Louis Asbury (1877- 1975), the city's first professionally-trained
architect, in December, 1909. 12 Asbury was a Charlotte
native who used to help his father build houses in the city as a youth
in the 1890s. The son of S.J. and Martha Moody Asbury, he attended
Trinity College (now Duke University), and completed his architecture
studies at MIT. After gaining practical experience with some
architectural firms in New York City, Asbury returned to Charlotte in
1908 to begin his nearly fifty-year career in the city. Among the
outstanding designs of the over one thousand in the area from his studio
are the old County Courthouse (1926), the C.P. Moody house on Providence
Road (1913), Myers Park Methodist Church (1928), the Law Building
(1926), and the
Hawthorne Lane Methodist Church (1915). 13
Garibaldi and Bruns opened their newly remodeled building about 1910,
and were soon flanked by two other new Louis Asbury facades: the
Southern Real Estate, Loan and Trust Co. to the north (1913), and the
Thomas Trotter building to the south (1911). 14 Over the next
seven decades, many businesses came and went around them, but the
familiar jewelry store remained in the same location until 1977. About
1934, Joe Garibaldi retired from the business, and was succeeded by his
son, Joe, Jr. A year later, the partners sold their interest in the real
estate to James Parks Grey (1860-1942), a wealthy hosiery manufacturer
and benefactor of Davidson College, from whose heirs the City of
Charlotte acquired the property in 1981 for a park site. 15
Not only is the Garibaldi and Bruns building important because of its
uniqueness as one of the last remaining antebellum commercial buildings
in the state, it is also distinguished by being one of the two remaining
small-scale business structures on the first block of South Tryon
Street; by its association with a longtime Charlotte business; and by
its facade, which was designed by one of Charlotte's best pioneer
architects. This building is a significant link with Charlotte's past,
and it would serve it well if it were carried into the future.
1 Le Gette Blythe and Charles Brockman, Hornet's Nest:
The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (Charlotte: Public
Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1961), pp. 259-261.
2 William H. Huffman, "Charlotte, N.C.; From Cotton to
Commerce," Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission,1984.
3 Unrecorded deed dated 6 July 1850; Deed Book 3, pp.
243-245, 11 Dec. 1850.
4 Cf. note 11.
5 The Charlotte Journal. July 31, 1850, p.2; Ibid.,
Oct 8, 1851, p. 2.
7 Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1885, p. 5, and 1900, p. 10;
Beer's Map of Charlotte, 1877.
8 Charlotte Observer. Dec. 29, 1939, p. 1; Ibid.,
Feb. 13, 1916, p. 4.
9 Charlotte News. Sept. 29, 1916, p. 1.
10 William H. Huffman, "A Historical Sketch of the Thomas
Trotter Building," 1984.
11 Deed Book 190, p. 307,22 Sept. 1904; Ibid., Book 248,
p. 128, 21 June 1909.
12 Southern Historical Collection, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. Louis Asbury Papers. Architectural Job List,
#37, 10 Dec. 1909.
15 See note 8; Deed Book 871, pp. 191 and 192,20 Sept.
Thomas W. Hanchett
The Garibaldi & Bruns Building is a handsome three-story commercial
building adjacent to the Square at the heart of downtown Charlotte. The
side and rear walls of the structure contain portions of an 1850-51
building known as Granite Row. These remnants are of minor importance,
for they consist only of brick wall segments: all original window
openings, cornice trim, and parapets are gone. The appearance of the
building in 1985 dates largely from a 1909 remodeling by Louis Asbury,
the city's first professionally-trained architect and a designer of
regional significance in the Carolinas. Above the first-story level,
both the interior and front facade of the building remain very much as
Asbury designed them.
The opening of Granite Row about 1851 marked the beginning of
Charlotte's transformation from a back-country farm town to a railroad
center. The Row looked down the hill toward the East Trade Street
station of the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad, western North
Carolina's first rail line when it began operation a few months later.
The Row was actually five matching three-story brick loft structures.
Between each unit was a shared brick wall that extended above the
roof-line to form a stepped parapet.
Gable roofs, molded brick cornices, and granite shop fronts gave the
Greek Revival architectural flavor calculated to impress visitors as
they walked up to the Square from the train.
By the end of the century Charlotte was in the midst of another
transformation, from railroad town to textile manufacturing center.
Owners of the five buildings in the Row gave their structures elaborate
new Victorian facades to keep up with the times. Around 1909 several of
the buildings were remodeled again, this time in the
Neoclassical style. Prosperity continued, and by 1985 units one and
two had been demolished for a planned park, and unit five was hidden by
a smooth stucco covering. Numbers three and four Granite Row still
retained their handsome 1909 Neoclassical facades, created by Louis
Asbury for the posh Garibaldi & Bruns jewelry firm.
Asbury did such a thorough remodeling of the two Granite Row-units
that neither a passerby on Tryon Street nor even a visitor inside the
building would guess it incorporated earlier work. The architect removed
the entire front wall of the two units. He also seems to have removed
most of the brick wall between them and replaced it with metal columns
to support the floor joists. He gave the combined structure a unified
three-bay front and a hidden sloping roof in place of its old gables.
Only on the rear wall and in the basement could one see evidence of the
original 1850s brickwork. Asbury set new metal window units inside the
arched rear openings that had been created during the Victorian
remodeling, and he added new brickwork in place of the old cornice above
the window-line, but here and there one could still see patches of early
age-darkened brick. More of the soft old brick remained visible in the
Asbury's 1909 facade is a simple but elegant application of
Neoclassical motifs then popular in commercial and institutional
architecture. The front is constructed of beige brick with large window
areas and trim of wood and stamped sheet metal. Along the top is a brick
parapet, above a stamped-metal cornice with modillions and dentil work.
Asbury carefully chose his cornice line to relate to the adjacent
Southern Real Estate Building and Thomas Trotter Building, both Granite
Row structures which he had remodeled. These remodelings have vanished,
but the cornice continues to relate to the carved stone belt cornice of
One Tryon Center, a Neoclassical bank skyscraper designed later by
Asbury and erected in 1926.
Below the Garibaldi & Bruns cornice is a wide band of brick with
metal letters reading "GARIBALDI - AND - BRUNS," set off by a band of
molding. Beneath this are the three arched window openings. Each is a
full two stories high and surrounded by a corbeled brick course.
Stone-like trim blocks act as springers for each
segmental arch, and each has its own
keystone. Inside each arched opening, a tripartite stamped metal
panel separates the second-story
windows from the third-story ones. These window-units are again
divided into threes: a central fixed pane flanked by a pair of
Asbury's original first-floor shop front consisted of a small cornice
above a wide prism-glass transom, with marble-and-metal-trimmed plate
glass show windows below. By early 1985 all traces of this early design
had been replaced by later remodelings that divided the shop-front into
two separate stores.
Early photos show that Asbury's store interior for Garibaldi & Bruns
was simply detailed. Plain round columns marched down the center of the
space. There was little architectural trim beyond a stamped metal
ceiling. Today the space is cut into two, and the columns are hidden.
Part of the badly-damaged 1909 ceiling is visible above a later tile
ceiling in no. 104.
Upper floors of the building are reached by a pair of narrow
stairways located in a small two-story brick addition thrown up across
the back of the structure. Originally, upper levels were reached by
stairways that opened onto Tryon Street, and it is not clear whether the
present arrangement is Asbury's or part of a later renovation. The
second and third floors are finished with a thoroughness that reflects
both Asbury's professionalism and Garibaldi & Bruns ability to pay. All
spaces have molded mop boards, and
stairs have square
newel posts and heavy molded
handrails. Asbury and his clients did not succumb to the era's
tendency to skimp on upper-floor trim.
The no. 104 half of the second story is divided into a corridor and
three offices by means of wooden partitions. These date from early in
this century, and are constructed of beaded tongue-and-groove boarding
and rippled-glass windows. This area was used most recently as Garibaldi
& Bruns jewelry repair area and there is a large free-standing jewelers'
bench that appears to be many decades old. The no. 106 half of the
second story is almost entirely open. A short section of plaster wall
divides the main area from the rear stair corridor, and there is a small
rear bathroom inside a beaded tongue-and-groove partition. A wide, open
stair rises from near the front of the space along the south wall to the
third floor. The third floor is not divided into two halves, but instead
is a large open space punctuated only by a row of columns, and by a pair
of plaster walled bathrooms at the south rear corner that almost
certainly date from Asbury's 1909 remodeling. Except for the boarding-up
of the huge front windows, these second and third floor spaces remain as
handsome as when they were created early in this century.
The basement of the Garibaldi & Bruns Building still features the
brick center, side, and rear walls of Granite Row. Coal chutes from
Tryon Street have recently been filled with cinder block. Portions of
the early dirt floor remain, but most of the basement has been excavated
an additional foot or so and concreted. Wooden barrels and packing cases
in which Garibaldi & Bruns received silver pieces from far- away
suppliers may still be seen.