1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Helms-Bell House is located at 2021 Euclid Avenue in Charlotte, North
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the property:
The present owner of the property is:
Mr. Allen L. Brooks
2021 Euclid Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 333 7004
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative black and white photographs of the property. Color
slides are available at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
4. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report
contains two maps depicting the location of the property.
5. Current deed book reference to the property: The most recent
deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 9611 on
page 974. The tax parcel number of the property is #121-068-25.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets criteria for
designation set forth in N. C. G. S. 160A-400.5:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the Helms-Bell House does possess special significance in terms
of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
1) The Helms-Bell House, erected in 1899, is a rare survivor of the
earliest phase of development in Dilworth, Charlotte's first streetcar
2) The Helms-Bell House is a significant reminder of the late-nineteenth
century solution to housing the burgeoning population of middle-class
professionals who were drawn here by Charlotte's expansion and growing
reputation as an economic center of the New South.
3) The Helms-Bell House is a very good example of a Queen Anne Victorian
house with good integrity and in excellent condition. It has a unusual
recessed balcony, which is attributed to C. C. Hook, one of Charlotte's
first professional architects.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical and
architectural description which is included in this report demonstrates
that the Helms-Bell House meets this criteria.
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
a designated "historic landmark." The 2000 total appraised value of the
improvements is $ 261,150. The 2000 total appraised value of the lot is $
55,000. The 2000 total value is $ 316,150. The property is zoned R-5.
10. Portion of the Property Recommended for Designation: The
interior and exterior of the 1899 Helms-Bell House and its lot at 2021
Euclid Avenue are currently being considered for designation. The
pre-existing 1949 house on Euclid Avenue and the 1998 structure joining the
two buildings are not being considered for designation at this time.
The Helms-Bell House, erected in 1899, is a very good example of a
Queen Anne-style house built during the earliest phase of development in
Dilworth neighborhood. Dilworth, which opened in 1891, has great
significance as Charlotte's first
streetcar suburb, and serves as a case study in the history of both
architecture and development patterns in Charlotte. The neighborhood was
developed in three phases (1891, 1912 and 1920), and contains buildings from
the 1890s through the 1940s and later. A range of academic and
nationally-popular architectural styles are represented in the
neighborhood--especially the Queen Anne,
Tudor Revival, Foursquare and Craftsman. The Helms-Bell House was
originally located at the intersection of S. Caldwell Street and Lexington
Avenue, and is the only survivor of the many turn-of-the-century residences
which lined the streets around that intersection. During its early years,
the Helms-Bell House served as the residence for a succession of different
families. Research shows that these families were headed by men who were
drawn to Charlotte from outside the area and took professional positions in
industries that were fueled by Charlotte's expansion and growing reputation
as an economic center of the New South. The Helms-Bell House is a
significant reminder of the late-nineteenth century solution to housing
Charlotte's growing population of professionals. Architecturally, the
Helms-Bell House is a well-designed Queen Anne Victorian-style house with
good integrity and in excellent condition. The predominant feature is a
recessed balcony in the front gable, which is unusual in Charlotte. This
treatment strongly suggests that the house was designed by an architect
(rather than built from a stock plan). The design is attributed to
Charles Christian Hook (1870-1938), one of Charlotte's first
professional architects. Hook is known to have designed other houses in
Dilworth around the same time, including the 1895
(400 E. Kingston Ave.) and the 1901
Robert J. Walker House (329 E. Park Ave.). The recessed balcony is
similar to three others known to have been designed around the turn of the
century by his firm, Hook and Sawyer. None of the other examples are still
Nineteenth-century Charlotte was a pedestrian-scale city--the scope of
urban development was restricted by the unmechanized transportation systems
of the day. The 1890 population of slightly over 11,500 people all lived
within an area roughly bounded by today's John Belk and Brookshire Freeways
Edward Dilworth Latta (1851-1925) had a vision for a new suburb--it was
to be located beyond the boundaries of the "walking city" and reached by
streetcar. Latta banded together with five other men (M. A. Bland, J. L.
Chambers, E. K. P. Osborne, Eli Springs and F. B. McDowell) in 1890 and
formed the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company. The Charlotte
Consolidated Construction Company (nicknamed the "Four C's") bought the
existing horse-drawn streetcar system in Charlotte, then expanded and
electrified it. They purchased 442 acres of farmland, laid out 1635 lots in
a regular, intersecting grid pattern, and proceeded with improvements
(graded streets, water, sewer, gas and electricity). Their grand plan for
the new suburb called Dilworth included the trolley line, a professionally
landscaped park, and a grand boulevard. The elaborate ninety-acre Latta Park
included walking paths, a pavilion, a boating lake, and a racetrack with
grandstand. The grand opening was held on May 20, 1891, and attracted
newspaper reporters from around the region. Festivities included fireworks,
a baseball tournament, a comic opera performance, and, most importantly, an
auction of building lots. Seventy-eight lots were sold on the development's
opening day of May 20, 1891, with prices ranging from about $350 to $500 ($7
to $10 per foot of frontage).
Dilworth developed steadily after Latta's 1893 "buy a house with your
rent money" building and loan plan to finance individual home ownership. In
the 1890s, Charlotte's first professionally-trained architect, C. C. Hook,
arrived and contracted with Latta to design thirty-five houses in Dilworth.
He was proficient in the Queen Anne style, and designed the 1895 Malonee-Jones
House at 400 East Kingston Ave. (a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark).
Hook is also credited with introducing the Colonial Revival style to
Charlotte through private commissions in Dilworth (such as the 1900
Villalonga-Alexander House at 301 Park Ave. and the 1902
Walter Brem House at 211 East Boulevard).
In 1907, Dilworth was annexed by the city of Charlotte. Soon thereafter,
in 1911, Latta hired the renowned
Olmsted Brothers firm of landscape architects to design an expansion.
The new plan followed the precepts of the "City Beautiful" movement which
had swept the nation around the turn of the century, and featured curved
streets, mature landscaping, and irregular lot shapes. It was a departure
from the original Dilworth arrangement of straight streets intersecting at
regular intervals. The southern part of this plan was implemented in 1912,
resulting in the section that centers around Dilworth Road East and Dilworth
Road West. In 1920, Latta proceeded with developing the northern portion of
his expansion, though the Olmsted Brothers plan was not followed as closely
The Helms-Bell House was built by Bessie Herring in 1899. In 1918 it was
sold to the T. Edward Helms family, who lived there until 1943. From 1943
through the mid-1990s, it was the home of Miss Ethel Bell.
Bessie Herring (1867-1908) was born Bessie McReary in Vermont in 1867.
She had married and was widowed from Jasper DeLaughter by the time she first
appeared in the Charlotte city directories in 1897/98. With DeLaughter, she
had two children: Ralph, who was born in 1887 in Georgia, and Lillian, who
was born in 1890 in Alabama. In 1897/98, Bessie DeLaughter and her two
children were living in Charlotte at 611 N. Brevard Street. On April 6,
1898, Bessie married fifty-three year old Marcus D. Herring (b. 1843), who
was a traveling salesman. They stayed at her home on N. Brevard Street for
On September 2, 1899, Bessie Herring purchased an empty lot in
Charlotte's new suburb of Dilworth for the sum of $625.00. The lot fronted
forty-eight feet on South Caldwell Street and ran down Oak Street (now
Lexington Avenue) to a depth of 150 feet.
The Herring's built a house on this lot right away. In October, a
newspaper item noted that "Mr. J. C. Herring is building a house on the
corner of Oak [ now Lexington Avenue] and Caldwell Streets for Mr. M. D.
Herring." Bessie, M. D., and Bessie's two children were all living at this
address when the census was tallied in June 1900. The Herrings left the
house around 1904 and moved to nearby East Boulevard. At some point, the
children left home. Ralph went to St. Louis, and Lillian moved to South
Carolina. Bessie was visiting her son Ralph in St. Louis when she wrote her
will on November 7, 1908. She died in Missouri thirty-three days later on
December 10, 1908. Since her domicile was still Mecklenburg County, the will
was probated here. In it she bequeathed a house on Davidson Street to her
husband, this house on South Caldwell Street to her daughter, and nothing to
her son. Lillian D. Hawkins sold the South Caldwell Street house in 1918.
According to city directories, the house was never vacant. There was a
succession of residents, all of whom were tenants of Bessie Herring or
Lillian Hawkins. The first tenants were Roswell Lawrence Wommack (1867-1940)
and his wife Anna. R. L. Wommack came to Charlotte from Winston-Salem, via
Savannah, in 1904, and lived in the Herring house for at least a year or
two. He was employed by the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company
("the Four C's") and was superintendent of their street railway shops until
1908. Wommack transferred over to Duke Power Company in 1911, and served for
many years as superintendent of the street railway and bus lines in
Charlotte. He had a professional reputation throughout the southeast and was
known in the business as the "street railway king."
Frederick Lee Riggsbee (1870-1948) and his wife Adelaide (Addie) lived in
the Helms-Bell House from around 1905 through 1909. Riggsbee was from Chapel
Hill, and came to Charlotte in 1904 to manage King's Business College. He
held that position until he retired nearly four decades later.
George W. M. Aitken (1871-1919) and Barbara Aitken (1873-1964) resided in
the Helms-Bell House from 1911 through 1916. They were both natives of
Scotland. They were married there in 1903, though George is known to have
moved to the United States around 1890. Mr. Aitken was a superintendent for
the Queen City Granite and Marble Works.
On February 18, 1918, Lillian D. Hawkins sold the house she had inherited
from her mother to J. D. Short. Short turned around and sold it the next day
to Taylor Edward Helms (1885-1971) and his wife, Ray Elizabeth Helms
(1891-1979). T. Edward Helms was the son of Sudie Marze and Henry Jackson
Helms of Mecklenburg County. He was an optician, and worked for the
Pruett-Southerland Company and Charlotte Optical Company before founding the
Southerland-Helms Optical Company in the 1920s. He died on July 28, 1971 of
Mrs. Helms, the former Ray Elizabeth Brown, was from a local family. Her
parents were Genevive Johnson and Joseph Ross Brown. T. Edward and Ray were
married in Mecklenburg County on April 14, 1913. Together they had two sons,
Edward Jr. (1915-1977), Julian W. (1916-1989), and a daughter (b. 1918). The
Helms children were raised in the house; the family resided there until
Miss Ethel Bell
Miss Ethel Bell (b. 1919) purchased the Helms-Bell House from the Helms'
in September 1943. She was an accountant by profession, and lived in the
house with her mother, Addie V. Bell (1901-1966). Addie and her husband,
James O. Bell, were both from South Carolina families. For the 1920 census,
they and their one-month old daughter, Ethel, were tallied with Addie's
family in Chester County, S. C. James O. Bell died sometime prior to 1944,
when Addie appears in Charlotte with her daughter, Ethel. Miss Ethel Bell
lived in the house until the mid-1990s--over fifty years.
By 1997, The Helms-Bell House on South Caldwell Street had become
surrounded by late-twentieth century commercial development, and was thereby
isolated from the residential character of its original setting. It was sold
to the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, who intended to demolish the house and use
the lot for parking. To save the house, it had to be moved. The current
owner rescued the house and moved it about a mile away, to Euclid Avenue.
The Euclid Avenue lot was specifically chosen because it is similar to the
original location in terms of character, setting, and general environment.
Both lots have approximately the same frontage and the same physical
characteristics (terrain, landscaping, etc.).
The Helms-Bell House is located today on the southeast side of the 2000
block of Euclid Avenue, which was included in the original 1891 plan for the
Dilworth neighborhood. The streets in this section are laid out in a regular
grid pattern with rectangular lots approximately fifty feet wide by 200 feet
deep. The landscaping consists of mature trees and shrubbery, sidewalks and
curbs. The entire block is residential, and the neighboring houses date from
the early- to mid-twentieth century. The Helms-Bell House is consistent with
the other houses on Euclid Avenue with regard to scale, materials,
workmanship, feeling and association. Care was taken so that the setback and
orientation at the new site are consistent with both the original setting
and with the other houses on Euclid Avenue. The Euclid Avenue lot is
included in this nomination for historic landmark status.
Queen Anne Victorian was in vogue across the nation in the last years of
the nineteenth century, and the Helms-Bell House was designed true to the
style. Characteristic features of the idiom that are found on this house
cross-gabled roof, full-width front porch, and
two-over-two sash windows. The form and massing are consistent with the
style. The woodwork, both interior and exterior, exhibits Queen Anne
The Helms-Bell House is a one and one-half story frame dwelling with a
cross-gabled roof and irregular footprint (photo #1). The front porch runs
the width of the facade and is engaged, meaning that it is contained beneath
the roof of the main body of the house (as opposed to having a separate roof
of its own). The roof over the porch is supported by five Tuscan columns,
which illustrate the turn-of-the-century practice of blending certain
classical elements with the Queen Anne style. A frieze consisting of short
vertical boards and
half-diamond shingles spans the junction between the porch and the
gable. Walls are covered with German siding on the first story, and with
wood shingle in the gable ends. The front entrance is in the right (west)
end bay of the facade. Two-over-two sash windows are found throughout the
house. There are two brick interior chimneys.
The predominant feature of the Helms-Bell House is the recessed balcony
centered in the front cross gable (photo #1). The opening is delineated by
thick turned pilasters supporting a perfect half-round arch. Beyond the
arch, a double-hung sliding-sash walk-through window provides ingress to the
house. This type of balcony is unusual and rare in Charlotte.
The floorplan of the Helms-Bell House is an irregular arrangement, which
is characteristic of Victorian architecture. There is an entry foyer and
living room across the front; a small hall, bedroom and dining room in the
center; the kitchen and a second bedroom are located in the back of the
house. The bathroom was originally located in a small ell off the back of
the house. The ell has been removed and replaced with a full-width addition
containing a new bathroom and closets.
On the interior, the original woodwork remains in place to further
identify this house as a Queen Anne Victorian. The visitor enters through
the front door into an entry hall. In the doorway leading out of this
entryway is an original bracketed, lath and spindlework screen which makes
an immediate impact (photo #5). All doors and windows in the house are
trimmed with molded surrounds, base blocks and bullseye corner blocks. The
cross-panel doors have original pressed steel hardware and black ceramic
knobs. An interesting feature is the turned finial blocks at the baseboard
junctions found in the rooms without wainscotting. Wide-board pine floors
run throughout the house. Vertical beaded-board wainscoting is found in the
entry hall, dining room and kitchen. The brass light fixtures with hanging
globes that are in the living room and entry hall are original to the house.
The dining room has some built-in cabinetry, including a glazed cabinet door
whose treatment echoes door and window trim elsewhere.
There are three fireplaces in the house with original mantels. The
primary fireplace is in the living room (photo #7). It has a shelf, an
overmantel with a beveled mirror, and a classically-influenced surround
consisting of square pilasters with Ionic capitals and a plain architrave.
The fireplace in the first bedroom is in one corner of the room and has a
mantel with applied, turned columns and a high shelf (photo #8). The mantel
in the second bedroom is simpler and has a pair of turned pilasters
supporting a plain shelf. An enclosed stair rises up from the hallway to the
garret (visible in photo #5). The interior space upstairs is characterized
by the sloping ceilings of the cross-gabled roof structure. The recessed
balcony on the front of the house is accessed from this room, by a large
There have been two periods of alteration, and one complete renovation in
the one hundred year lifespan of the Helms-Bell House. At some point during
the 1920s or 1930s, the Helms family updated the living room. They added a
Craftsman-style colonnade with square wood columns to mark a transition
between the entry foyer and the living room (photo #6). They installed the
narrow-board oak flooring which was in vogue at the time on top of the
original wide-board pine floor. The fireplace mantel was replaced with an
Arts and Crafts-inspired brick surround. At this time, they simply moved the
original mantel (with its mirrored overmantel) into the dining room, thereby
keeping it intact. Fortunately, they left the pine flooring untouched
beneath the new finish. Miss Ethel Bell also spruced up the house, probably
in the 1950s. Her renovation was limited to sheathing the exterior with
asbestos shingles. Happily, all of the original German siding was found
intact when the asbestos was removed, and has now been repainted and
returned to its original appearance.
Mr. Allen Brooks, the current owner, renovated the house when it was
moved to Euclid Avenue. The asbestos shingle was removed from the exterior.
Most of the changes made by the Helmses were reversed, including uncovering
the wide flooring in the living room and returning the living room mantel to
its original position. The Craftsman-style Colonnade still remains. In
addition, Mr. Brooks changed the configuration of the stair slightly. The
staircase originally began with winders at the interior corner of the dining
room and ended in the unfinished attic. It accessed the finished room in the
front gable which opens onto the recessed balcony (it may have been a
servant's room without a fireplace). Now it is in the same position, but it
runs straight up from the hallway, and turns at the top to open into the
completely finished home office. The same treads and risers were used--the
winders were simply moved from the bottom to the top.
Some additional changes are planned for the exterior. Sanborn maps from
1911 show an open porch pergola at the right front (now the northwest)
corner. It ran from the front porch to the first floor bedroom window, whose
sill is at floor level. The owner intends to restore that element as well as
recreating a period porch balustrade that resembles the overhead screen in
the front foyer.
When it was moved to Euclid Avenue, the Helms-Bell House was attached to
a small pre-existing house, which dates from 1949. The small house was
pushed to the back of the lot, stripped of its brick veneer, wrapped in
weatherboard siding, and attached to the Helms-Bell House (photo #4). In
full compliance with building codes, the two structures were joined with a
two-story hyphen of new material (photo # 3). The two-story section was
carefully designed to successfully blend the 1899 and the 1949 sections of
the building into one harmonious whole. The hyphen echoes the 1899 house in
materials and scale, and yet the use of smaller, fixed-sash windows clearly
identifies it as being from a later construction period. This approach is in
accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic
Preservation Projects (the federal guideline for restoration procedures).