THE HEATH AND REID GENERAL STORE
This report was written on November 5, 1980
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Heath and Reid General Store is located at 196 N. Trade St. in Matthews, NC.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property: The present owner of the property is:
John Harrison Biggers & Rachel T. Biggers
c/o Biggers Furniture Co.
196 N. Trade St.
Matthews, NC 28105
Telephone: (704) 847-9848
The present occupant of the property is:
Biggers Furniture Co. (see above)
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 3676 at
Page 70. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is 215-013-01.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
General stores were the economic and social centerplaces of rural
communities throughout Mecklenburg County in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. On February 20, 1888, Everard Jefferson Heath
(1851-1912) and Edward Solomon Reid (1864-1934) on this site, which was
situated next to the tracks of the Carolina Central Railroad.2 On
December 15, 1874, the Carolina Central Railroad had completed a line which
ran from Wilmington, NC, via Charlotte to Rutherfordton, NC.3
This event had transformed the economy of eastern Mecklenburg County,
especially at those points where railroad depots were erected. The Town of
Matthews, named for Mr. Watson Matthews, a member of the Board of Directors
of the Carolina Central, had been established in 1879 by Jeremiah Solomon
Reid (1831-1906), the father of Edward Solomon Reid.4
The 1889 Charlotte City Directory contains a drawing of the Heath and
Reid General Store in Matthews. For its day, the building was an impressive
ediface. The signs on the structure attest to the spectrum of activities in
which E.J. Heath and E.S. Reid were engaged. The were bankers, cotton buyers
and wholesale and retail merchants.5 After E.J. Reid moved to
Charlotte, where he became a member of Second Presbyterian Church and became
a partner in a highly successful cotton and yarn brokerage firm, E.J. Heath
took on his eldest son as his partner and, accordingly, changed the name of
the business to E.J. Heath & Son.6
Everard Jefferson Heath was a skillful and adroit businessman. In the
opinion of the Charlotte Observer, he was "one of the most prominent
men in the county," and, the newspaper continued, he elevated his mercantile
enterprises "to commanding proportions."7 The Charlotte News
was also expansive in its assessment of E.J. Heath's abilities as an
entrepreneur. "He conducted a large store...and managed to so successfully
that he thereby laid the foundation of a fortune." The newspaper contended
that Mr. Heath "had the Midas touch."8
Mrs. Sanford L. Forbis, a resident of Matthews, remembers visiting the
store in the early years of this century. It was a beehive of activity.
Groceries were sold in the rear section of the building. In the front,
ladies could buy a rich assortment of items and notions, including cloth,
ribbons, hats, pins, needles, zippers, buttons, and thimbles. But farm
supplies were the mainstay of Mr. Heath's operations. Farmers would come to
Matthews on Saturdays to purchase fertilizer, seed, flour, sugar, etc. E.J.
Heath also derived a substantial amount of income from loaning supplies to
sharecroppers in the spring and exacting payment in the form of crops in the
fall. Mr. Heath was known to drive a hard bargain.9
Evarard Jefferson Heath died on March 4, 1912. A native of Lancaster
County, SC, he had moved to Monroe, NC as a young man and had settled on a
farm near Matthews in the mid-1880's. He bequeathed his property to his
wife, Annie M. Heath, by whom he had eight children.10 On October
30, 1919, she sold the building to J.B. Hemby and W.L. Hemby, who continued
to operate a store there.11 In 1926, John McCamey Caldwell, a
prominent farmer in the nearby Providence Community, purchased the building
and rented it to John Paxton, who operated a grocery store there for many
years.12 On December 18, 1959, T.A. Biggers bought the building.13
His son, John Harrison Biggers, acquired the property in 1974 and continues
to operate the Biggers Furniture Company there.14 Happily,
therefore, this structure, which is the oldest commercial edifice in
Matthews, persists as a useful component of the town.
1 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 60, p. 76. Gravestone of E.J.
Heath at Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, NC. Mary Louise Phillips, Margaret
Phillips and Mrs. L.E. Funderburk, "Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Matthews, NC" (a
manuscript in the Carolina Room at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public
2 Charlotte City Directory (1889), p. 207.
3 "Charlotte. Railroads Seaboard." (a folder in the vertical
files in the Carolina Room of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library).
4 The Southeast News (November 10, 1975), pp. 1-24.
Charlotte City Directory (1889), p. 207. Dellmann O. Hood, The Tunis Hood
Family: Its Lineage and Tradition (Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon,
1960), pp. 346-347. For the obituary article on Jeremiah Solomon Reid, see
the Charlotte Observer (March 12, 1906), p. 6 and the Charlotte
News (March 12, 1906), p. 3.
5 Charlotte City Directory (1889), p. 207.
6 Charlotte News (March 4, 1912), p. For the obituary
article on Edward Solomon Reid, see the Charlotte Observer (September
11, 1934) Sec. 2, p. 1 and the Charlotte Observer (September 11,
1934), p.14. His death notice is recorded in Mecklenburg County Death Book
44, p. 213.
7 Charlotte Observer (March 5, 1912), p. 7.
8 Charlotte News (March 4, 1912), p. 9.
9 Interview of Mrs. Sanford L. Forbis by Dr. Dan L. Morrill
(October 23, 1980).
10 Gravestone of E.J. Heath at Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, NC
Charlotte News, p. 3.
11 Interview of Mrs. Sanford L. Forbis by Dr. Dan L. Morrill
(October 23, 1980).
12 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 640, p. 438. Interview of Mr.
Irving Caldwell by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (October 23, 1980).
13 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 2061, p. 172.
14 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3676, p.70.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Professor
Mary Alice Hinton, 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 Heath and Reid General Store in Matthews, NC, does possess
special historic significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The
Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations. First, it
is the oldest commercial building which survives in Matthews, NC, the
major community which emerged along the railroad in eastern Mecklenburg
County in the nineteenth century. Second, except for the first-floor level
of the front facade, the building retains its essential integrity. Third,
E.J. Heath was a merchant of great significance in the early history of
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
Heath and Reid Store 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." The current Ad Valorem appraisal on the Heath and Reid
General Store is $12,600. The current Ad Valorem appraisal on the .086 acres
of land is $5,640. The most recent Ad Valorem tax bill for the structure and
land was $153.22.
Charlotte City Directory
"Charlotte. Railroads Seaboard." (a folder in the vertical files in the
Carolina Room of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library).
Gravestone of E.J. Heath at Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, NC.
Dellmann O. Hood, The Tunis Hood Family: Its Lineage and Traditions
(Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon, 1960).
Interview of Mr. Irving Caldwell by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (October 23,
Interview of Mrs. Sanford L. Forbis by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (October 23,
Mary Louise Phillips, Margaret Phillips and Mrs., L.E. Funderburk,
"Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Matthews, NC" (a manuscript in the Carolina Room at
the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library).
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
The Southeast News
Vital Statistics of Mecklenburg County.
Date of Preparation of this Report: November 5, 1980
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
3500 Shamrock Dr.
Telephone: (704) 332-2726
The Heath and Reid General Store (now Biggers Furniture Company) is the
oldest extant commercial structure in the town of Matthews. The store
anchors a critical corner of the town's main street, North Trade, and
suggests the pedestrian scale which once unified the business district. The
store is a two-and-a-half story brick box. The store is three bays wide and
eight bays deep and stands on a cellar which runs the length of the
building. The brick is laid in
common bond. The store is a well-preserved example of the genre of
vernacular brick commercial buildings which were prevalent throughout the
Piedmont in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The flat roof steps
up to North Trade Street by means of four shallow gradations. The main
(north) facade is capped by a corbeled cornice. A strip of headers set as a
dentil cornice underlines the rows of corbeling. Corbeled endblocks close
the cornice at each corner. Three small, segmentally-arched vents, evenly
spaced along the attic level, hold cast iron grilles.
Four star-shaped earthquake bolts, their metal rods sunk into the body of
the structure, are regularly placed at the second story level. Immediately
beneath them runs a stringcourse which repeats the three segmental arches
into which six-over-six
sash windows are set. Each window is framed by a pair of wooden louvered
shutters. Between the ground and the second stories runs another string
The elevation of the ground story, with its broad expanse of glass,
functions as both a shop-front and a show-room. A heavily bracketed cornice
calls attention to the entrance and to the merchandise shows windows
flanking it. This wooden cornice is a permanent, if abbreviated, awning. The
cornice surmounts a ten-light
transom which stretches like a ribbon window across the store facade,
lighting the interior and lightening the lines of the elevation. Only one of
the two original recessed entrance survives. Although the show windows which
flank the surviving entrance have been remodeled, thus altering the
proportions of the panes, the general character of the alterations is not
dissonant with the details of the facade. The south (rear) and west
elevation are largely blank.
The west elevation contains a small door and more than two dozen star
rods. The east elevation, running along West Chamber Street and facing the
railroad tracks, serves as a secondary facade. It carries accordingly, more
ornament and more openings. In addition to the corbeled cornice, which wraps
around the entire length of the east elevation. Beneath this is a long,
narrow recessed panel which originally bore six-over-six sash, capped by
segmentally-arched corbeled hoods. On the ground story a two-over-two sash
punctuates the fourth bay; a double-leaf wooden door, the fifth bay; and a
double-leaf glass-paneled door beneath a two-light transom stands at the
eighth and final bay. The latter door sports an ornate cast iron lock whose
surface is enlivened by a Greek fret encircling a foliate quatrefoil. There
are two ventilator shaft openings at the basement level of the east
The store interior is, one each floor, a single large open space. The
plan is clearly a utilitarian one. The main floor is bisected by a row of
five wooden posts. The posts are at irregular intervals along the central
axis of the room. Each post is chamfered into base, shaft, and molded
capital. The posts are space-defining elements, not load-bearing ones. The
walls are plaster over brick. The floors are heart pine, and inch-and-a-half
thick and aged to a dark, warm brown. The floor joists are fifty feet long
and the sills are thirteen inches by three inches. A
staircase ( a quarter-turn-with-landing recently enclosed by a
balustrade for safety) rises east-to-east along the rear wall. The second
story, spartan in design, is covered by thin beaded ceiling boards. An open
straight run leads from the ground floor to the cellar. It begins at the
sixth bay and descends south-to-north, parallel to the east elevation.
Between the stair and the wall is a James Bates freight elevator, patented
in 1871. The cage track runs from the cellar to the second story. This
elevator is an excellent example of those platform lifts which played an
essential role in the development of commercial architecture.
In the cellar, to either side of the elevator foundations, are large
ventilator shafts. The brick bearing walls of the cellar are exposed and
concrete covers the original dirt floor. Four floor-to-ceiling brick piers,
each four inches by sixteen inches wide, are built along the center axis.
Three of the piers are reinforced by roughhewn cedar posts from which shreds
of bark still hang. Each post measures roughly one foot in diameter and
provide an instructive lesson in vernacular guilding techniques. Like the
earthquake rods in the brick walls above, this coupling of posts with piers
reveals the builders' intense concern with structural stability.
The Heath and Reid General Store played an important part in the
commercial history of Matthews. The building pedestrian oriented scale and
detail recall the nineteenth century street fabric in which the general
store, an architectural type now largely vanished, flourished.