1. Name and location of the property: The property known as
Hopewell Presbyterian Church is located on Beatties Ford Rd. in the northern
section of Mecklenburg County.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property:The present owner and occupant of the property
Hopewell Presbyterian Church
3. Representative photographs of the property: Representative
photographs of the property are included in this report.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map depicting the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The computerized
records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office do not contain the most recent
deed book reference to this property. However, the original indenture which
provided property for purposes of religious activities on this site dates
from March 31, 1777. Current information can be acquired by reference to the
parcel number of the property (01517109).
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
Hopewell Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest Christian congregations
in Mecklenburg County. Indeed, religious services began as early as the
1750s, when itinerate ministers from the Presbyterian Synods of Philadelphia
and New York, as well as an occasional evangelist from the back country,
preached to the Scotch-Irish settlers. Attracted to the region by the
fertile bottom land along the Catawba River, the farmers of Hopewell
developed a cotton economy of considerable size and vigor. Coming to
Hopewell to worship in its first century were such leaders of the local
gentry as John McKnitt Alexander, Major John Davidson and Alexander
Caldwell. The burial ground at Hopewell contains the graves of four signers
of what according to local tradition was the Mecklenburg Declaration of
Sometime before 1760 the Hopewell congregation erected its first meeting
house a simple log structure. During the Revolutionary War (c. 1777) the log
structure gave way to a frame building, which served as the meeting house
until the 1830's. In 1833 or shortly thereafter Rev. John Thomson (the first
pastor installed at Hopewell had been Samuel Craighead Caldwell in 1792)
guided the church through the rigors of build a brick meeting house which
according to one estimate was to cost $3000. That the congregation selected
the Federal Style for its new house of worship is not surprising. After all,
this was the style which the plantation owners of Hopewell had selected for
In the late 1850's the brick meeting house was altered. The brick floor
was removed; a vestibule and gallery were constructed. The people of
Hopewell Presbyterian Church added a pulpit. Additional modifications to the
structure have occurred since the Civil War. Nonetheless, enough of the
original fabric remains to convey the sense of history and love of heritage
which is associated with the congregation today.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description prepared by Jack O. Boyte, A. I. A.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N.C.G.S, 160A-399.4:
a. Historical and cultural significance: Hopewell Presbyterian
Church is historically and culturally significant for two reasons. First,
the meeting house has architectural significance as one of the oldest and
finest Federal Style churches in Mecklenburg County. Second, the church is
one of the oldest and most respected Presbyterian congregations in
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The
architecture is in good repair and certainly can he preserved in its
current configuration. Restoration of the structure would also be
e. Educational value: The property has educational value because
of its association with events and personalities important in the history
of Mecklenburg County. Its architectural importance adds to its
d. Cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance or repair: At
present the Commission has no intention of purchasing this property.
Indeed, it is unaware of any intention on the part of the present owners
to sell. It assumes that all costs associated with renovating and
maintaining the structure will be paid by the owner or subsequent owner of
e. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property:
The Commission believes that the structure and property should continue as
a place of religious worship.
f. Appraised value: The current tax appraisal value of all
implements on the property is $335,180. The current tax appraisal value of
the 19.16 acres is $38,320. The Commission is aware that designation would
allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the rate upon
which Ad Valorem taxes on the property are calculated.
9. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for inclusion in the National Register of Historic
Places: The Commission judges that the property known as Hopewell
Presbyterian Church does meet the criteria of the National Register of
Historic Places. Basic to the Commission's judgment is its knowledge that
the National Register of Historic Places expanded the federal government's
recognition of historic properties to include properties of local and state
historic significance. Because of its association with events and
personalities important in the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County,
Hopewell Presbyterian has local and regional historic significance and is
therefore eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic
10. Documentation of why and in what ways the property is of
historical importance to Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County: Hopewell
Presbyterian Church is historically significant to Charlotte and Mecklenburg
County for two reasons. First, it is one of the oldest and finest Federal
Style churches in Mecklenburg County. Second, it is associated with people
and events important in the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
An Inventory of Older Buildings in Mecklenburg County and Charlotte
for the Historic Properties Commission.
Chalmers Gaston Davidson, The Plantation World Around Davidson
(1973), pp. 50-56.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Date of Preparation of this report: January 5, 1977
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
139 Middleton Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28207
by Jack O. Boyte
Encouraged by Gabriel Johnson, Governor of the North Carolina colony
during the second quarter of the eighteenth century, Scotch emigrants spread
rapidly through the North Carolina wilderness west of the Yadkin. Into the
Piedmont plateau came hundreds of these freedom loving Presbyterians to
settle. Nourished by the fertile and relatively secure Mecklenburg forests
and savannas, these people established organized churches even before there
were Presbyterian congregations in the earlier frontier towns of Salisbury
and Fayetteville. At Hopewell the growing Scotch-Irish community established
one of the most important Presbyterian churches in the North Carolina Synod.
Joining its sister eighteenth century congregations at Centre and Poplar
Tent in north Mecklenburg, Sugaw Creek nearer the village of Charlottetown,
Providence to the south near the Waxhaw Indian lands, Rocky River to the
east and Steele Creek beside the Catawba River to the west, Hopewell
provided social and educational occasions for its members as well as
Early shelter has been described as "a crude log structure," likely a
brush tent similar to that said to have been used at Providence. Within a
few years the congregation likely built a substantial building resembling
the typical skillfully crafted log plantation houses still in evidence in
north Mecklenburg. In the issue of Monday, November 22, 1830, the Miners
and Farmers Journal carried this advertisement:
"Proposals will be received on Thursday, the 6th day of January next at
Hopewell church "Mecklenburg County) for building and finishing of a
church at said place. The walls to be of brick on stone foundation 43 by
65 feet 20 feet high. The roof to be covered with tin. Arched ceiling. It
is contemplated at present to have four doors, 12 windows, 14 by 16 glass
and 18 lights each. Door and window sills to be rock, etc."
From this extraordinary document came a late federal building which forms
the core section of the present Hopewell Church sanctuary building. Much of
this original structure remains, though the church has been slightly
modified from time to time. In the 1860's the prospering congregation
embarked on a major expansion and renovation program. One change which was
made is recorded in the session minutes as a matter of great controversy --
sloping the nave floor. Whatever the debate, the ayes won the argument, for
to this day the auditorium floor exhibits a gently sloping surface -- one
which is quite unusual for churches erected in those years. Though now
remodeled with modern narrow oak strips, tradition has it that the original
floor was square brick with chamfered edges.
Today's Hopewell edifice exhibits characteristics typical of the
mid-nineteenth century meeting house architecture and favored by other
Mecklenburg Presbyterian congregations of the time. It is likely that the
original building of 1830 lacked many of these features and they were added
during the expansion of the 1860s.
To the original church, which was one tall rectangular room, a wide
narthex was added. Around the sides of the twenty foot high nave a balcony
was installed. On the east side high granite steps lead to an exterior door
set in a panelled recessed alcove. From here one enters a narrow stairway
which rises steeply to one side of the balcony. Benches were here for slaves
to attend services. On the opposite side, and probably separated by a simple
wood rail, were seats for the congregational overflow. This part of the
balcony was reached by way of a second set of stairs rising at the west side
of the narthex. Details in both stairways are severely simple. Treads and
risers, as well as some wall surfaces, are hand planed boards with no
elaboration. Hand rails are simple rounded members. There is no molded trim
here and very little in the balcony. Outside brick walls are covered with
plaster, applied irregularly.
The outside walls of the original structure are locally made brick laid
Flemish bond with glazed headers. These walls begin on a low
random ashlar stone foundation, then rise twenty or more feet to a broad
smooth stucco frieze. Above this is an overhang more than two feet wide hand
planed from one piece of material and resting on a heavy cyma bed mold. This
overhang soffit and bed mold are continuous through the entire length of
each side and show no joints, as would likely have occurred had the original
building included these architectural features. This wide overhang continues
up the gable rake at the front.
Toward the front on each side one can see straight joints in the brick
courses where the original corners were. Rising five or six feet above the
ground, these joints even show queen closers typical of nineteenth century
brick work. Of course the later walls erected in 1860 match this early work
closely, including queen closers at the corners.
On each side of the building are four windows which start at granite
sills some three feet above the nave floor and rise sixteen or more feet to
simple brick heads. Laid in plain Flemish bond on cast iron lintels, these
heads show no jack arch or other decorative treatment, a detail which again
emphasizes the obvious severity of the earliest building. The
windows have triple
sash. Top and lower sash have twelve
lights each, and the center is glazed with twenty lights. These windows
are likely from the 1860 construction period. Details of construction,
muntin thickness, and quality of remaining old glass indicate this date is
the more accurate. Suspended on cast iron pintels at each window are
louvered wood blinds whose mortise and tenon construction and iron hardware
are typical of the mid-nineteenth century.
The 1860 front facade departs strikingly from the primitive simplicity of
the original sides. There are three arched openings. Centered in the front,
a wide opening contains eight foot high four panelled double doors. Above
this entrance are twin windows much like tall
transoms, each glazed with six lights. Over this is a fan light arched
head, and above are brick
soldiers laid on a circle to follow the arch. Surprisingly, these brick
are straight units laid in tapered mortar joints to form the circle. At each
side, starting on granite sills, are tall narrow two sash windows with
curved circular glazing above. Over these windows brick arches are formed
with straight headers laid, again, in tapered mortar joints. Recognizing the
rough finish appearance of this work and the lack of uniformity in the brick
sizes, the builder in 1860 scored each joint with a narrow tool and painted
this grapevine joint with white paint to give the allusion of narrow and
straight mortar joints. There are vestiges of this original paint still
While the original instructions to the builder specified a tin roof, the
present cover is steep pithed slate tile. Rising from a molded cave, with no
original gutter, there are two broad uninterrupted surfaces terminating in a
high ridge connecting gable ends.
From the arched main entrance one enters a simple narthex where smooth
plaster covers all walls. At the left is the balcony stair of hand finished
wood. There is no chair rail. Window and door casing is simple and are edged
painted wood. A simple molded cove occurs at the ceiling. The interior
partition at the nave is the original thick exterior brick wall which has
been plastered to match other interior surfaces. In this wall there are two
door openings centered at the side aisles in the nave. These single leaf
doors are set in recessed panelled alcoves and still retain the original
wood surfaces with bead and quirk panel edges. Doors and cast iron butts are
from the 1860 construction, though the original knobs and latches have been
In the narthex there is one of the original high back pews. Hand
fabricated from wide pine planks which still retain characteristic plane
marks. This bench is a graphic example of the skill of the craftsman who
labored on the church in 1830.
In the meeting room there are many details remaining from the
mid-nineteenth century construction and several from the earlier work.
Supporting the balcony at each side are three equally spaced tapered round
wood columns, obviously hand fabricated, and with simple rounded capitals.
The face of the balcony is finished with hand planed wide planks and simple
molded edges. The balcony railing consist of repeated thin slats with urn
shaped fret work sawn in a regular pattern. Window sills are heavy wooden
boards with ovolo edges. Casing is square edged similar to that in the
narthex. Wall surfaces and the soffit of the balcony show smooth painted
plaster from original construction.
Ceiling and floor surfaces have been refinished, though it is likely that
the original ceiling was smooth wood planks which are probably still in
place. There have been changes made in the chancel end of the nave which
include a new choir alcove, so this portion of the room reflects little of
the original conformation. There are doors at the ends of the side aisles
which are likely where the original openings occurred. The first plan had
four doors, so this appears to conform such a beginning. The early statement
that "12 windows are contemplated" indicates that there were likely tall
windows overreach of the four outside doors in the original building.
Not part of the church building itself but an important historic
architectural element is the delicate hand wrought iron gate still implanted
in granite posts a short distance south of the church front. Obviously part
of the original loose laid stone wall which at one time enclosed the
eighteenth century cemetery, this iron work exhibits extraordinary
craftsmanship, and should be carefully preserved. The gate is strikingly
similar to hand made gates known to be still in place at the old entrances
to the Centre and Providence Cemeteries.
In the history of Mecklenburg County architecture the work of the early
Scotch-Irish Presbyterians must be considered among the most influential. At
Hopewell is a rare and significant building built by these pioneers. This
surviving structure illustrates a number of important architectural features
from the second quarter of the nineteenth century and a delightful example
of meeting house design.