This report was written on January 4, 1988
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Lyles-Sims House is located at 523 North Poplar Street, Charlotte, NC.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
Jane R. Lesser
523 North Poplar Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Telephone: (704) 334-1485
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 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 5547, page
161. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is: 078-036-14.
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 Dr.
Dan L. Morrill, Ph.D.
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 in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the Lyles-Sims House does possess special significance in terms
of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
following considerations: 1) the Lyles-Sims House, erected between 1867
and 1869 and substantially enlarged and modified sometime between 1870 and
1887, is a rare survivor of nineteenth century domestic architecture in
Charlotte and exhibits the impact which growing prosperity had upon the
built environment of Charlotte; and 2) the Lyles-Sims House is among the
few older houses in Fourth Ward that occupy their original sites.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description by Dr. Dan L. Morrill which is included in this report
demonstrates that the Lyles-Sims House 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 appraised value of the improvement is
$95,600. The current appraised value of the .190 acres of land is $66,250.
The total appraised value of the property is $161,850. The most recent tax
bill on the property was $1,995.29. The property is zoned UR1.
Date of Preparation of this Report: January 4, 1988
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 Lyles-Sims House is one of the few original houses in Charlotte's
Fourth Ward, and incorporates the distinctive "Charlotte Gable" in its
architecture. Originally built between 1867 and 1869 by Eli Washington Lyles
(1829-1914), the second owners, James Monroe Sims (1840-1922) and his wife
Frances (Fannie) E. Moody Sims (1845-1912) improved the house into its
present form between 1870 and 1887.
Eli W. Lyles was a prosperous strawberry farmer who was the first to
raise them in the county. Born in Anson County, he settled on a plantation
four miles northeast of Charlotte (near Sugar Creek Church) in 1858, and was
married three times, to: Elizabeth Ann Williams of Union County; Jane
Elizabeth Moore (1832-1885), also of Union County, and Elizabeth Douglas of
Mecklenburg.1 As was common in those days, Lyles bought and sold
real estate in the city and county for investments, and also apparently
built himself a town house. In 1863, he bought about an acre fronting on
what is now Poplar Street for $700.00, but due to the Civil War, the deed
was not recorded until 1867.2 Two years later, a mortgage deed on
half the land mentions that it "adjoins the fractions of lots on which E. W.
Lyles and J. E. Lyles (his wife) now live.3 The following year,
1870, Lyles sold the subdivided tract as two 1/2 acre lots: the vacant one
went for $300.00, and the house lot was sold to J. M. Sims for $1500.00.5
J. M. Sims was a native of Cabarrus County, the son of James A. and
Isabella Deweese Sims. He came to Charlotte as a young man, and began his
grocery merchant career as a clerk in M. D. L. Moody's store, which was
located opposite the First Presbyterian Church on Trade Street. When the War
Between The States broke out, he enlisted and left with the Charlotte "Greys,"
and served in Company A, 11th North Carolina Regiment, where he became
quartermaster. Wounded in the first days fighting at Gettysburg, Sims also
fought alongside Henry Wyatt, the first soldier to be killed in the war. At
war's end, he returned to work in Moody's store.
On February 15, 1869, he was married to Frances E. Moody of Lenoir. The
daughter of William and Martha Barber Moody of Lenoir, at the time of her
marriage she was living with her uncle, M. D. L. Moody, J. M. Sims'
employer. The Simses raised four daughters to adulthood; one son died at the
age of four months.7
In the spirit of Horatio Alger, a hard-working, determined person should
make good, and so it was with J. M. Sims. A few years after returning from
the war, he went into the grocery business with Henry McGinn and a Mr.
Cochran; eventually, in the late 1870s, opened a store of his own on the
west side of N. Tryon Street, three doors north of Trade.8 Sims
was fortunate in being in a good place at the right time. Charlotte was just
coming out of the effects of the war and Reconstruction and was about to
enter an era of unprecedented, sustained prosperity. New South
industrialization, based on cotton mills and related production, transformed
Charlotte from one of many small towns in the state in 1880 to a regional
banking, distribution and mill center of the Piedmont and the largest city
of the Carolinas by 1930.9 It was during much of this time, from
the late 1870s to about 1912, when he retired, that J. M. Sims operated his
grocery business in the city.10
Indeed, his prosperity could be seen by the fact that by 1883, he bought
a 198 foot square tract of land at the southwest corner of Eighth and Poplar
for $1375 at public auction, and in 1887 sold the former Lyles house (for
$2200.00) and built a bigger residence on the new property. About twenty
years later, the Simses moved out to
Dilworth, the city's first
streetcar suburb (opened in 1891), and put up another house on South
Boulevard.12 Before the turn of the century and the advent of
streetcar suburbs, however, Charlotte's Fourth Ward was a popular place for
the town's middle-class business and professional people to live (the
wealthier citizens lived in grand houses along Trade and Tryon Streets).
The Lyles-Sims house was sold in 1887 to another grocer, Willis I.
Henderson, whose store was around the corner from Sims at 32 East Trade
Street.13 In 1896, Samuel W. Brooks, the manager of William J.
Matheson Co., a dyestuffs and chemical company located at 12 North College
Street, purchased the house,14 and in turn sold it to A. Earle
McCausland and his wife, Ella T. McCausland, in 1902.15 The
McCauslands lived in the house for forty-seven years.16
In the thirty-one years after Mrs. McCausland s death in 1949, the house
went through a series of related owners, and was part of a neighborhood that
declined rapidly and became, as was common in post-war American cities, an
inner-city slum area that seemed beyond saving.17 But in the
1970s, the energy and foresight of some dedicated individuals and groups,
most notably the Junior League, Berryhill Preservation, Inc., and the
Historic Properties Commission, resulted in the complete transformation of
the neighborhood by preserving some of the original houses that remained,
moving others in from various areas of the city undergoing development, and
infill construction of modern condominiums. Its establishment as a historic
district completed the recognition that it is one of the most important
areas of the city's early history. As one of the few original houses to be
preserved in Fourth Ward, the Lyles-Sims house, with its distinctive
"Charlotte gable," also deserves recognition as being historically
1 Charlotte Observer. June 5,1914, p. 6; ibid., March
12, 1885, p. 3.
2 Deed Book 5, p.158, 28 February 1863.
3 Deed Book 6, p. 131, 26 June 1869.
4 Deed Book 6, p.658, 10 February 1870.
5 Deed Book 6, p.618, 1 February 1870.
6 Charlotte Observer. July 16, 1922, p.4.
7 Ibid., August 5, 1912, p.2.
8 Ibid. July 16, 1922, p. 4; Charlotte City Directory.
1879/80, p.89, et seq.
9 Thomas Hanchett, "Charlotte Neighborhood Survey," Charlotte
Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1983.
10 See note 8.
11 Deed Book 33, p. 138, 15 February 1883; ibid., Book 57,
p.60, 9 November 1887.
12 Charlotte City Directory. 1907. p.180, et seq.
13 Deed Book 57, p.60, 9 November 1887; Charlotte City
Directory, 1889, p. 9,, et seq.
14 Deed Book 108, p. 469, 24 January 1896 (price; $3300.00);
Charlotte City Directory, 1902, p.211.
15 Deed Book 170, p.418, 12 September 1902.
16 Will Book 7, p. 324 (1949).
17 Deed Book 141d, p.567; 1758. p.381; 2885, p.22; 1263, p.
18 In 1980 it was purchased by Jane and Philip Lesser. Ms.
Lesser presently operates a bed and breakfast in the Poplar Street home;
Deed Book 4323, p. 13.
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Statement of Significance
Unquestionably, the Lyles-Sims House has experienced major alterations
over the years. The historical significance of its architecture, however,
must be judged in terms of the local context. Specifically, Fourth Ward is
the only pre-streetcar Charlotte neighborhood that retains even a hint of
its original streetscapes. Years ago, the Commission secured the historic
designation of most of the other Victorian era houses in Fourth Ward that
are situated at their original locations. This is probably the last
potential historic property in Fourth Ward, and it is a rare survivor of the
nineteenth century domestic architecture of Charlotte, the largest urban
center in the two Carolinas.
The Lyles-Sims House, a two and one-half story modified
Queen Anne style frame dwelling with a complex
hip roof in slate with
cross gables and a gable on the left front, faces east toward Poplar
Street in Fourth Ward, the neighborhood which comprises the northwestern
quadrant of Uptown Charlotte.1 The Lyles-Sims House, unlike many
older homes in Fourth Ward, is on site; and, like the
Overcarsh House at 326 West 8th, its original site; and, like the
Overcarsh House at 326 West 8th St., also in Fourth Ward, it represents a
rare example of the evolution of domestic architecture during the second
half of the nineteenth century in Uptown Charlotte. Specifically, the
Lyles-Sims House was first built as a modest
frame dwelling between 1867 and 1869. Later, sometime between 1870 and
1887, when the
cotton mill campaign began to bring greater prosperity to Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County, the house was enlarged and substantially modified, to
make it more stylish and fashionable, so to speak. As one would expect, the
architectural style which was selected was Queen Anne.
In keeping with the fundamental eclecticism of Queen Anne style
architecture, the Lyles-Sims House is essentially asymmetrical in form and
heterogeneous in ornamentation.2 The most distinctive exterior
details are: 1) a broad, open wraparound porch which is bordered by a
forceful balustrade with turned pickets and large
Doric columns which support a
shed roof in slate; 2) distinguishing gable end treatments, each
consisting of a "checkerboard" panel above supported by brackets and an
embellishment below which resembles half-timbering; and 3) a front entryway,
composed of a
transom with small, geometric lights, broad pilasters with decorative
corner blocks, and a door with a single, rectangular light. The clapboard
sheathing has been covered with aluminum siding. The house has simple boxed
eaves, enclosed gutters, brick piers with brick infill, two offset brick
chimneys, predominantly 1/1
windows, and a deck off the rear of the house. The lot, in keeping with
the walking scale neighborhood in which the Lyles-Sims house is located, is
long and narrow but is otherwise devoid of historical features.
The interior of the house also exhibits the asymmetrical complexity
associated with Queen Anne style architecture. The most impressive space is
the front parlor. One enters directly from the outside into the room itself,
which is dominated by a
stairway on the right with two quarter landings, turned pickets, heavy
newels with bulbous finials, and a pendant.
Wainscoting extends up the stairway and along the walls of a portion of
the front parlor. The front parlor also contains an original single-shelf
mantelpiece. Doorway and window surrounds, in the front parlor and
throughout the Lyles-Sims House, are typically Victorian -- molded with
"bull's-eye" corner blocks. The crown moldings and the base moldings are
quite simple, again throughout the house.
Immediately behind the front parlor is the dining room, entered on the
right by a new hallway and on the left by an enlarged hallway. It has a
mantelpiece, originally located in an upstairs bedroom, with a pair of
attenuated columns supporting a shelf with a mirror above; and wainscoting
extends along the walls of part of the room. Behind the dining room is the
original pantry. Substantial changes have been made in this portion of the
Lyles-Sims House, which is probably part of the original dwelling. The
pantry entrance has been moved from one end of the room to the other; and a
new hallway has been built into a large, modern kitchen, which bears no
resemblance to its historical antecedents. A large bathroom on the right
rear of the first floor with beaded ceiling has been divided into a bathroom
and a laundry room, but the original woodwork, including window surrounds,
has been retained. The final major space on the first floor is a room to the
right of the dining room, which contains an original mantel and woodwork.
The Lyles-Sims House has also undergone major changes on the second
floor, which contains three bedrooms and two baths. The center hallway,
originally extending to the rear of the house, has been shortened to create
closet and storage space. A large bathroom across the back of the house has
been divided into two bathrooms and updated. The two bedrooms off the left
of the hallway have been joined by the creation of a passageway, and an
original doorway from the hallway has been eliminated. Finally, a small room
on the right rear of the second floor has been sacrificed for additional
storage space. The extensiveness of these modifications notwithstanding, the
Lyles-Sims House does retain original woodwork and window surrounds
throughout most of the second floor.
1 For a detailed history of the development of Fourth Ward,
see Thomas W. Hanchett, "Charlotte And Its Neighborhoods: The Growth of a
New South City, 1850-1930", Chapter 4 (an unpublished manuscript in the
offices of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission).
2 For a description of the Queen Anne style, see Marcus
Whiffen, American Architecture Since 1780: Guide to the Styles
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969), pp. 115-122.