DAVID HENDERSON HOUSE
Click here for photo
gallery of the David Henderson house.
This report was written on March 5, 1986
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
David Henderson House is located at 1510 Russell Avenue, Charlotte, North
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner of the
The owner of the property is:
Matthew Brown & Wife, Lillie Mae
c/o James Jose Brown
1510 Russell Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28216
Telephone: (704) 333-3933
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.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3547, page
265. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is: 075-061-04.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. William H.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by Mr.
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 of terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the David Henderson House does possess special significance in
terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
following considerations: 1) the David Henderson House (c.1830) is one of
the few antebellum plantation houses which survive within the David
Henderson House current boundaries of the city of Charlotte; 2) David
Henderson (1805-1879), the original owner and occupant, was a prominent
cotton planter of the nineteenth century, who also participated in the
economic life of Charlotte; and 3) the house is a locally significant
example of a Federal style plantation house, especially when one considers
its location so near to the center of the largest city in North Carolina.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description included in this report demonstrates that the property known
as the David Henderson House meets this criterion. Admittedly, the house
has lost its context, and several alterations and additions have been made
over the years. However, on balance, the Commission believes that the
David Henderson House possesses individual architectural significance,
especially when one takes into account how little of the antebellum built
environment survives in Charlotte, in any form.
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 appraised value of the improvements is
$20,530. The current appraised value of the land is $6,500. The total
appraised value of the property is $27,030. The property is zoned R6.
Date of Preparation of this report: March 5, 1986
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St.
Charlotte, NC 28203
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
Dr. William H. Huffman
The Henderson House, a tall, white antebellum farmhouse with a commanding
view of Charlotte's central business district some two miles away, is a
surprise to find in the middle of a street mostly lined with modern brick
ranch homes. It is located on Russell Avenue, not too far from Beatties Ford
Road, and appears to have been built by David Henderson in the late 1820s or
early 1830s. To find such an intact house of this age so close to the city
center is a rare occurrence.
David Henderson was born July 20,1805, in North Carolina and possibly in
Mecklenburg County, and died November 24,1879.2 For most of his
life he farmed his plantation of about 240 acres just two miles north of
town, and prospered well (with the likely exception of during the Civil
War). On February 7, 1827, he married Minty S. Wallace of Mecklenburg
County, who unfortunately died in 1833.3 Three years later, on
November 15, 1836, he wed another Mecklenburg County woman, Harriet C.
Henderson (28 September 1815 - 26 March 1883), to whom he may have been
related.4 By 1850, the Hendersons had five children and personal
property worth $3000, and by 1860, they had doubled the number of children
and quintupled their net worth: their land was worth $6000, and their
personal property was valued at $14,900.5
For reasons that are not clear from the records, ownership of the
Henderson home place seems to have passed about the time of the Civil War to
James Henderson, perhaps a brother, who was a nearby farmer five years
younger than David Henderson.6 The latter continued to own
plantation land in the area which he devised to his wife and sons Charles,
Miranda, Thomas Edwin and Isaac, as well as various lots and houses in
Charlotte, one of them being on Tryon Street. The real estate in town was
devised to daughters Laura Henderson Ahrens, Susan Henderson, and Lilly
Henderson Neal, except the Tryon Street house, which went to son Thomas
Edwin. In his will Henderson also left stock in the
Merchants and Farmers National Bank and the Traders National Bank of
Thus it is clear that whatever losses were incurred during the war did
not prevent David Henderson from enjoying a good measure of the prosperity
he had built up over the years. It is also apparent that much of his success
was due to the fact that Charlotte and Mecklenburg County began to mushroom
in economic growth after the early 1850s. When the first railroads were put
in, which eventually gave Charlotte easy access to the port of Charleston,
through Columbia, and direct connections with the markets of the Northeast
through Norfolk, VA.8 Another notable fact is that he was typical
of wealthy planters of the area in that he invested in real estate and
banking in Charlotte. This showed his confidence in the town's future growth
and as has been shown, it was fully justified. At the same time, his
investments and those of others like him, provided the capital for the
In 1868, a neighbor, F. W. Ahrens, who also owned real estate in
Charlotte, bought the plantation, and the following year Ahrens sold off 174
acres, (of the original 240) to another landowner, John S. Means.9
In his will of 1877, Means left a diminished tract of 117 acres of "the
Henderson place" to his daughter, M. L. Creighton (wife of Hiram L.
Creighton).10 In 1910, the same property was bought by a J. J.
Wisenheimer, who a number of years later, sold portion to Adele L. Hendrix
and Ervin Construction Company for development.11 Mrs. Hendrix
had a development map first drawn up for that part of Russell Avenue, in
what was known as Biddle Heights Annex, in 1945.12 It encompassed
thirty-three acres on both sides of Russell Avenue, and extended about four
and a half blocks. As that development progressed to meet the demand for
housing during that period, the Henderson place became surrounded by modern,
post-war houses, and its identity forgotten. Since 1948, it has changed
hands four time, but was bought twice by the current owners.13
The Henderson House is a relatively rare piece of Charlotte and
Mecklenburg's history that serves as a rich reminder of the connection
between the two. The movement from prosperous antebellum plantation life to
living and investing in an up and coming commercial rail crossroads is
embodied in the career of David Henderson, and the simple plantation house
he started in two miles north of town is a striking monument to how far the
city and county have come in such a relatively short time.
1 Since Henderson was period in 1827 and 1836, it is probable
that the house was built during that period.
2 Cemetery listing of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, Third
3 Ibid., Second Cemetery; NC Marriage Bonds, Grooms.
5 1850 US Census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, p. ff; l860 US. Census,
Mecklenburg Co., NC, p. 94. In the census of 1830, Henderson owned two
female slaves (p. 376); by 1840, he owned seven, three women and four men
6 Mecklenburg Co. Deed Book 5, p. 690, 29 June 1868. Since he
was then in his sixties, it may he that had retired from farming, but I have
been unable to locate him in the 1870 census.
7 Mecklenburg Co. Will Book K, p. 354, dated 30 January 1879,
probated 3 November 1879.
8 Thomas Hanchett, "Charlotte Neighborhood Survey," Charlotte
Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1983.
9 Mecklenburg Co. Deed Book 5, p.690, 29 June 1868; Ibid. Book
5, p. 708, 1 February 1869.
10 Mecklenburg Co. Will Book K, p. 256, probated 23 Day 1877.
11 Mecklenburg Co. Deed Books 1332,p.205, 30 November 1948,
and 1885, p. 45, 17 January 1957.
12 Mecklenburg Co. Map Book 5, p. 3.
13 See note 11; Mecklenburg Co. Deed Books 2107, p. 370,11
February 1960; 2816. p.603, 6 December 1966; 3547. p.265, 16 March 1975.
The Henderson House is one of the oldest surviving structures within the
Charlotte city limits. This simply executed building was constructed in the
late 1820s or early 1830s by David Henderson (1805-1879) and originally
served as the seat of his two hundred and forty acre plantation. The Federal
style house is simply executed, typical of the homes of fairly substantial
Piedmont farmers during the early nineteenth century. The symmetrical
massing and balanced arrangement of fenestration are indicative of the
long-standing tradition of classically inspired building patterns. Although
the house has received subsequent alterations and additions, a significant
amount of original detailing survives.
The single pile main block rises two and a half stories to a
gabled roof. The overall appearance is representative of the popular
I-house. The main block is of mortise and tenon construction and extends
three bays in width and two bays in depth. The original weatherboard
sheathing remains on the side elevations. Front and rear elevations are
covered in German siding, which may have been installed during the early
part of the twentieth century; German siding enjoyed a great period of
popularity beginning in the 1910s and 1920s. A two-story porch, which
shelters the main facade, also appears to be a later addition and may date
from the early twentieth century when Mount Vernon style porches were widely
incorporated onto new and existing dwellings. The wooden porch piers rise to
shed roof which covers a boxed roofline cornice. The main entrance is
set within a Victorian fluted surround with decorative corner blocks; this
door frame was removed from another structure and installed on the Henderson
House approximately thirty years ago by the father of the present owner,
James Brown.2 Six/six sash is the primary glazing material. Plain
surrounds frame the
sash windows. The house originally rested upon random blocks of
fieldstone and was later underpinned with brick.
Side elevations rise to a flush gable, a common vernacular motif of the
Federal style. Single step shoulder chimneys are centrally placed within the
gables. Each chimney is constructed of handmade brick arranged in
Flemish bond. The step brick bases rest upon fieldstone; freestanding
stacks rise to a corbeled cap. On the east chimney, a portion of the stack
and cap have been rebuilt using manufactured brick. Four pane casement
lights, set in two-part surrounds, are placed in the attic and frame the
A boxed cornice runs across the rear of the main block. On the second
story, the center bay, which opens into the hall, is placed on a higher
level than the flanking window openings. A rear shed, which runs across the
first story, appears to have been constructed in two stages. The smaller
west section is believed to be original to the house; weatherboards continue
across the west side of the main block to the shed. The use of German siding
and the appearance of brick underpinning on the east section indicates a
later, possibly early twentieth century construction date.
The interior has been altered although some original detailing remains
including two mantles, the pine flooring and the plain surrounds which frame
window and door openings. Walls and ceilings were likely sheathed originally
in flush horizontal board. Interior spaces have been plastered; rooms are
encircled by a molded baseboard and cornice. Original doors have been
replaced with two panel doors which appear to date from the early twentieth
century. The main block presents a two room plan on the first floor and a
center hall plan on the upper floor. The first floor may have originally
followed a center hall plan, the partition wall having been removed at a
later date. In the nineteenth century, a center hall represented gentility
and respectability; it is quite possible that David Henderson would have
preferred a center hall to separate entrance and living spaces and to
provide an appropriate atmosphere in which to greet visitors.
The main entrance leads into a parlor, the largest room within the house.
A Neoclassical mantle, with
Doric columns, a bracketed shelf and a beveled overmantle mirror, was
removed from another dwelling and installed in the Henderson House
approximately thirty years ago. It replaced an earlier mantle which was
removed at that time.3 A straight run open string staircase rises
from the parlor; the simply detailed
stair displays rectangular
balusters, two per stair
tread, and rectangular
newel posts which support a molded handrail. Several of the balusters
have been replaced.
An adjacent sitting room, to the east of the entrance, contains a notably
wide classically-inspired mantle. Paired fluted piers rest upon a
rectangular base and rise to a molded capital. The plain frieze is set
betwasn a molded architrave and cornice, the latter supporting a projecting
shelf. The mantle appears original to the house; a decorative cast iron
grate is believed to date from the turn of the century.
On the second floor, a narrow center hall separates the two bedrooms. To
allow for the addition of a bathroom at its rear, the east bedroom was
reduced in size. The west bedroom contains the floor's only mantle. Federal
detailing is evident in this noticeably wide mantle. Single fluted piers
rest upon rectangular bases and rise to molded capitals. The mantle's
entablature, consisting of a molded architrave, plain frieze and a molded
cornice, is similar to that of the mantle found in the first floor's sitting
room. A molded shelf rests atop the entablature.
The roof framing is evident within the unfinished attic. The original
semi-circular pegged logs are interspersed with more recent two by four
The house sits on a slight rise and occupies a standard size city lot.
None of the original outbuildings survive but the remains of a well stand
adjacent to the house's west side. Adjacent to the well is a two car garage.
This weatherboarded structure rises to a gabled roof with exposed rafters.
The garage doors are sheathed in vertical tongue and groove ceiling, boast
wrought iron hinges and display angled corners.
1 Based upon information in the North Carolina State
University publication Carolina Dwelling and the researcher's own experience
in this region's rural dwellings, the typical early to mid-nineteenth
century farmhouse usually displayed a one-story porch, either shed or hip
roofed, which either covered the front three bays or ran across the entire
2 Interview with James Brown, present owner of the David
Henderson House, August 28, 1985. Mr. Brown's father had previously owned