This report was written on 23 October 1992
1. Name and location of property: The property known as the Morgan
School in the
Cherry community is located at 500 South Torrence Street in Charlotte,
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner. The owner
of the property is:
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
Education Center, 701 East Second Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
Telephone: (704) 379-7000
Morgan School Tax Parcel Number: 125-225-02
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 maps which depict the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
deed to the Morgan School, Tax Parcel Number 125-225-02 is listed in
Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1590 on page 347.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Frances P. Alexander.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared by
Frances P. Alexander.
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
culture importance: The Commission judges that the property known as
the Morgan School does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte
and Mecklenburg County. The Commission bases its judgment on the following
considerations: 1) Morgan School was constructed in 1925 and opened in
1927; 2) the school is an important institutional landmark in the
African-American community of Cherry and is one of the few such historical
landmarks to remain in the neighborhood; 3) the school is associated with
the history of education for African-Americans; and 4) Morgan School is
the work of an important regional architect, Louis H. Asbury, one of the
first professional architects in Charlotte and a founding member of the
North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description by Frances P. Alexander included in this report demonstrates
that the Morgan School meet 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
a designated historic landmark. However, this building is tax-exempt. The
current appraised value of Morgan School is $359,650 (improvement only). The
Morgan School property is zoned R22MF.
Date of Preparation of this Report: 23 October 1992
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill & Frances P. Alexander
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
East Trade Street
Charlotte, North Carolina
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
The Morgan School was constructed in 1925 to serve as an elementary
school for the African-American community of Cherry. Located in the center
of the neighborhood, the school is sited on a corner lot across from Morgan
Park, around which the commercial and institutional activities of the
community are oriented. Morgan School serves as an architectural and
institutional focal point of this model planned community.
The Cherry neighborhood was created by local planter, John Springs Myers,
on a portion of his 1,000 acre cotton plantation, then located southeast of
Charlotte. The Myers plantation later formed the nucleus of the white
streetcar suburb of
Myers Park. Predating the affluent, neighboring subdivision by twenty
years, the Cherry community was platted in 1891 as a separate town outside
the city limits of Charlotte. Myers's motivation in establishing Cherry was,
at least in part, benevolent, and his family had long been instrumental in
local philanthropy for blacks. The inclusion of institutional, recreational,
and commercial facilities as well as landscaping in the plan for Cherry
reflected then current ideas of proper community development, but such
features were rarely found in working class, black neighborhoods. One of the
most unusual aspects of this planned community was the provision of
relatively inexpensive lots for sale in addition to rental property. By the
time Morgan School was constructed in the mid-1920s, more than 60% of the
Cherry residents owned their homes.1 This degree of home
ownership is particularly noteworthy considering that the occupational
composition of Cherry typified the urban working class.2 The
inhabitants of Cherry were largely unskilled or semi-skilled urban workers,
and few, if any, could have been classified as middle class. Cherry thus
offered the working class an alternative to the small, crowded alley
dwellings of the center city.
Along with the construction of rental housing and the platting of lots
for sale, the Myers family planned churches, schools, a neighborhood park,
and tree-lined streets for Cherry. It is not known when the park was
created, but Morgan Park was one of five parks administered by the City
Parks and Recreation Commission at its establishment in 1927, and Morgan
Park was the first city park to serve an African-American neighborhoods. By
World War I, the street system of Cherry had been fully developed with
Luther, Baxter, and Main streets extending east to Providence Road, and
after the war, the Myers family provided land for the construction of a
school near the center of the community as well as another tract for a
playground adjacent to the park. John Springs Myers died in 1925, the year
the contract was let for Morgan School, and the administration of the
community passed to Myers's children. Myers' son, Rawlinson Myers,
apparently supervised much of the early development of the area.4
From circa 1914 to the 1950s, the only alteration to the neighborhood
boundaries occurred when Queens Road was constructed on the east side of the
community. Otherwise, there were no additional streets or amenities added
under the administration of the Myers children.
By the 1950s, Cherry was no longer isolated on the edge of the city, but
rather had become one of the center city neighborhoods. Development
pressures increased, particularly after road construction projects began to
infringe on the boundaries of Cherry, and the opening of Charlottetown Mall
in 1958 created commercial development pressure. Built in the 1940s,
Independence Boulevard, the first expressway in the city, cut through the
northern edge of Cherry, and Kings Drive, built along the western border,
served as a link between Myers Park and the new expressway. Brevard Myers
and John Dwelle, grandsons of J.S. Myers, began to consolidate their
holdings in Cherry during the 1950s, and home ownership dropped to 17% by
the 1970.5 By the postwar period, many residents were elderly,
and a number of their children and grandchildren had migrated to northern
cities. Although Myers and Dwelle had plans for at least partial
redevelopment of Cherry, Myers successfully campaigned against the wholesale
clearance of the community under urban renewal plans which eliminated the
neighborhoods of Greenville, Brooklyn, and First and Third Wards. Spared
because its housing was some of the least substandard in the city, Cherry
was one of the few black neighborhoods to remain after the urban renewal
era. By the late 1960s, Cherry residents began to organize to assume more
control over their neighborhood. The Cherry Community Organization was
formed and bought out the holdings of J.S. Myers's grandsons, Brevard Myers
and John Dwelle. The organization continues to buy properties from the city
for rehabilitation and collects rents on the remaining city-owned
properties. In 1985, the first new construction in Cherry was begun since
Brevard Myers stopped building rental property in 1960. Although surrounding
redevelopment and construction has compromised the margins of Cherry, the
historic core of the community where the Morgan School is located remains
The Morgan School, named after a member of the Myers family, serves as
one of the institutional landmarks of this unique African-American
neighborhood. The two story, red brick building was one of six schools built
in the Charlotte area in 1925 and 1926 in consultation with Columbia
University professors, Dr. Strayer and Dr. Engelhardt. Engelhardt and
Strayer served as consultants in the planning stage of the project,
apparently determining the functional requirements of the new facility.6
There is clear evidence, however, that local architect, Louis H. Asbury,
Sr., was directly responsible for design of the school although the school
system has no architectural plans for the facility.7 Entry Number
604 in the job book of Asbury's firm dated March 14, 1925, notes a contract
to construct a grammar school, the "Cherrytown School"8. In
addition, Asbury designed other Charlotte schools during the interwar
period, including Wilmore Elementary and probably the Plaza-Midwood School.9
A Charlotte native, Louis H. Asbury (1877-1975), received his
professional training in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology after graduating from Trinity College (now Duke University) in
1900. Before establishing his Charlotte practice in 1908, Asbury was
associated with the nationally known firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, in
either its New York or Boston office. Asbury, who was later joined by his
son, Louis H. Asbury, Jr., had an extensive local and regional practice
until his retirement in 1956. A founding member of the North Carolina
Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Asbury, along with other
early professional architects in the state, introduced a degree of
sophistication and professionalism to Charlotte buildings. Favoring the
Neoclassical and Gothic Revival styles popular both nationally and among
his conservative clientele, Asbury's designs covered a range of residential,
commercial, and institutional buildings, including Myers Park Methodist
Church, the former Mecklenburg County Courthouse, the Mayfair Hotel (now the
Dunhill Hotel), and the Doctors' Building. His work illustrates a new
urbanity in the architecture of Charlotte, corresponding with the new
importance of the city as a regional center for the textile and banking
industries. His practice spanned two important periods of economic
prosperity for the city during the post-World War I and post-World War II
eras, and his buildings serve as reminders of these periods of urban
development when Charlotte emerged as the largest city in the Carolinas.
Morgan School may have replaced an earlier wooden frame school, and the
school may have been built as part of the statewide school construction
campaigns which occurred during the 1920s as a result of grade separation
and school consolidation. Measuring 180 feet x 120 feet, the lot on which
the Morgan School was built was purchased from Mr. John Myers with funds
from the bond election of 1924. The new school had ten classrooms, a
principal's office, and a nurse's office. The cost of construction was
$36,309.00. The first principal of Morgan was Mrs. E.R. Anderson, who was
transferred from Biddleville School to the new facility in Cherry.11
From its opening in 1927 until its closing in 1968, Morgan School was one of
the smallest elementary schools in the city. Children who lived closer to
the Myers Street School in Brooklyn were assigned to Morgan in order to fill
classrooms 12. The school was closed because of its limited
space, but since the late 1960s, the facility has served several specialized
services within the public school system. Currently, the school serves
emotionally and behaviorally handicapped students.
1 "Cherry's Struggle Creates Uproar," Charlotte Observer,
22 July 1990, 10A.
2 It has been assumed that many Cherry inhabitants served as
household staff to the affluent neighboring Myers Park. While this
arrangement may have evolved over time to some degree, domestic service was
never the predominant occupation of Cherry residents. In addition, Cherry
predates Myers Park by twenty years and the creation of a neighborhood of
servants was not a motivation of the Myers family in establishing Cherry.
Thomas Hanchett, Charlotte and Its Neighborhoods: The Growth of a New
South City, 1850-1930 (Charlotte: Urban Institute of the University of
North Carolina at Charlotte, 1986), 11-13.
3 Hanchett, Charlotte and Its Neighborhoods, 11-15.
4 Hanchett, Charlotte and Its Neighborhoods, 11-17.
5 Hanchett, Charlotte and Its Neighborhoods, 11-20.
6 Interview by Marcia Hart with Thomas Hanchett, 21 October
7 The school system apparently does not have information on
the school dating prior to 1971 (Marcia Hart interview with Oweeta Shands,
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, 30 September 1992).
8 Job Book of Louis H. Asbury, Sr., from an interview with
Marcia Hart, and the 1925 date of the log entry corresponds with the known
construction period for Morgan School.
9 Interview with Marcia Hart, 20 October 1992.
10 "Louis Asbury: Builder of a City," Charlotte Observer,
24 March 1975, 16; Julie Farnsworth, "Reflections of an Architect and His
Work," Fayetteville Observer, 21 February 1982, C-1.
11 Interview with Marcia Hart, 20 October 1992.
12 Hanchett, Charlotte and Its Neighborhoods, 11-15,
Footnote No. 8.
The Morgan School is located within the Cherry neighborhood, which is
bounded roughly by Kings Drive to the west, a branch of Sugar Creek to the
south, Queens Road to the east, and Independence Boulevard to the north.
Facing east, the school is situated on a corner lot, measuring 180 feet x
200 feet, in the center of Cherry. Across the street from the school is
Morgan Park, which occupies an entire city block. The school is surrounded
by a grass yard on all sides, and directly to the rear is the Myers Chapel
A.M.E. Zion Church. A service drive is located on the north side of the
The school is a two story, red brick (laid in stretcher bond) building,
with a rectangular plan, and a later cafeteria addition projecting from the
northwest corner of the original building. The main building has a
symmetrical facade, consisting of a central block flanked by projecting
pavilions. The central entrance has a slight
ogee arch with restrained, stepped, decorative, stone surrounds. The
recessed, wooden, double doors are replacements, and the arched transom has
been infilled. There are three concrete steps leading to the main entrance.
The building has a molded stone cornice which delineates the stepped
parapets of the three masses. Decorative concrete panels are located within
the parapets. Molded terra cotta coping caps the parapets. A belt course of
brick soldiers and headers forms a water table above the brick foundation.
There are a variety of single, paired, and triple
windows although no windows are located on the projecting pavilions.
Decorative panels formed of brick headers, soldiers, and stretchers with
concrete corner blocks visually break the solid walls of the pavilions. Most
windows are nine-over-nine light, double hung, wooden
sash. The window openings have brick flat arches, and the sills are also
There are brick round-arched entrances located on the first floors of the
side elevations (north and south). On the south elevation, this entrance
leads to a recessed porch from which the stairwell rises. On the north, the
round-arch entrance and door is flush with the exterior wall, but leads to a
matching porch and stairwell. The doors on both elevations are modern
replacements, and the transoms have been infilled with wooden panels. These
openings are constructed of brick arches with concrete corner blocks and
keystones. Concrete steps flanked by brick and concrete retaining walls lead
to the concrete porches at these side entrances. On the south side, there is
a small brick and concrete retaining wall, approximately 2 feet tall, which
extends from the steps along the walkway to the sidewalk. Above these side
entrances, are square opening to the stairwell. These openings have brick
flat arches and concrete sills. Decorative brick and concrete panels,
identical to those on the facade, are found on the side elevations. A single
service door leading to the basement is located at the west corner of the
south elevation, reached by a short concrete staircase. A brick retaining
wall, capped by concrete, runs from this corner of the building to the
sidewalk. The rear (west) elevation of the main building contains a series
of symmetrically placed single and double windows, and because of the slope
of the land, the basement level accommodates full-size, nine-over-nine
light, double hung sash windows below the brick water table. At either end
of this elevation, there are windows which break the alignment of the
classroom windows. One set of these flanking windows opens to the boys' and
girls' restrooms. These windows are eight-over-twelve light, double hung
sash with brick flat arches. The other set of single windows provides light
to the stairwell landing between the first and second floors. These windows
are twelve-over-twelve light, double hung sash capped by a multiple-light
fanlight. A concrete keystone and concrete corner blocks delineate the
A one story, brick (laid in American bond) cafeteria building, with
rectangular plan, has been added at the northwest corner of the main school
building. A short, projecting, brick corridor connects the cafeteria with
the main building. The door to the corridor from the main building appears
original and may have led outside prior to this addition. Double doors on
the east elevation of the projecting corridor lead from the outside allows
direct access to the cafeteria. The doors have fixed lights in the upper
halves as well as a fixed light transom. The corridor also has a single,
steel sash window south of the exterior door. The cafeteria addition has a
flat roof with parapet delineated by a brick stringcourse. The parapet is
lined with concrete coping. There are banks of large, steel sash, factory
windows, with brick sills, on all elevations of the addition. On the south
elevation of the cafeteria building, there two double doors reached by
concrete steps. One of the paired doors leads to the cafeteria dining room,
and the other allows access to the kitchen. Iron pipe railings line the
steps. Each door has six fixed lights in the upper half as well as a fixed
light transom. The rear (west) elevation of the cafeteria addition has a
brick and concrete loading dock, roughly three feet above grade. The dock is
covered by a flat, composition roof supported by slender iron posts and
railing. On the north side of this service dock is a screened storage area.
The service dock is connected to the kitchen by a double door with the same
fixed lights in the upper halves.
The first floor interior has a truncated T-shaped plan. A short hall
leads from the main entrance to a long (north-south) hall along which the
four classrooms are located. Restrooms, located at either end of the hall
next to the side exits, serve the entire building. A principal's office and
nurse's (now secretary's) office flank the short entrance hall. A storage
room and a staff bathroom are located along the east wall of the long hall.
The first floor halls have the original hardwood floors (carpet was recently
removed), plaster walls, and simple molded, wooden door surrounds,
baseboards, and wall moldings. The hall doors to the offices and classrooms
are original and have six-light windows in the upper halves and panelled
lower halves. Within the rooms, there are solid, three-panelled doors, all
with original three-light transoms. Some of the transoms are still operable.
Steam radiators also remain intact. A dropped acoustical tile ceiling, with
inset lighting, has been added in the halls. In both the secretary's and
principal's office, the original plaster walls, wooden moldings, and three-panelled
closet doors are intact. The only notable alteration is these two offices is
the carpet, which apparently covered the hall floors until its recent
removal. It is thus assumed that the original hardwood floors in these
offices remain. A small staff bathroom is located between the secretary's
office and the hall and can be reached by either side. The bathroom has its
original porcelain sink and toilet, marble baseboard, and three-panelled
On the first floor, the classroom which has undergone the most
modification is located in the southeast corner. The room has been
subdivided by drywall partition walls into a conference room from which five
small staff offices are reached. The floors are linoleum, and the doors to
the offices are of recent vintage. A dropped acoustical tile ceiling with
inset lighting has also been added. In the conference room, there is an
inset cupboard, with panelled doors and molded surrounds, remaining on the
north wall. The original windows are intact within the various offices. The
student restrooms are located on the west side at either end of the hall.
The walls and floors are ceramic tile, which appears to be post-World War
II. The metal partitions between units may be original, and the posts of the
partitions are capped with decorative elements. Also along the west side of
the building are two classrooms. The southwestern room has been remodeled
somewhat, with the partitioning of three rooms along the north wall, and the
addition of a linoleum floor and acoustical tile ceiling. Modern wooden
doors provide access to these three rooms. The interior room nearest the
window, however, incorporates the former cloak room, and the shelves and
hooks are extant. In addition, the original moldings, plaster walls, inset
cupboards, and windows remain intact on the west, south, and east walls of
the room. The other first floor classrooms, located in the northeast and
northwest corners, have had some alteration, but the original character of
the rooms is retained. In both rooms, the wooden moldings, plaster walls,
large windows, built-in bulletin boards and blackboards, and cloak rooms
remain. As in all first floor classrooms, both have had linoleum floors
added, and in the northeast classroom, the two three-panelled doors to the
cloak rooms have been replaced. In this room, a sink and counter unit has
also been added along the west wall although the unit appears largely
freestanding and probably would have required little destruction to physical
fabric. In the northwestern room, there has been little alteration except
for the acoustical tile ceiling and the linoleum floors.
Replacement double doors at either end lead to the recessed entrance
porches and stairwells. On the west side of these porches, replacement
double doors lead to the enclosed stairwells. The round-arch transoms above
the stairwell doors have all been infilled with brick. The stairwells have
concrete floors and stairs, brick walls, and solid, concrete-encased stair
railings. At the landing between floors, the stairwells also contain single,
twelve-over-twelve light, wooden sash windows.
Double doors lead from the stairwell to the second floor porches which
provide access to the second floor hall. Within this space, there is a
large, square opening. The second floor has a single north-south hall from
which classrooms radiate. The classrooms all have their original plaster
walls, plaster walls, wooden baseboards and moldings, and three-panelled
doors leading to cloakrooms. The classroom in the northeastern corner also
has a ceiling of wood-composition tile, which appears to have been added
after World War II. The classroom in the northwest corner has the same
original and altered features, but in addition, the doors to the cloak room
are replacements. The rooms in the center of the west side and the southwest
corner were inaccessible, but it is likely that they retain the same
original features. The room in the southeast corner has the original plaster
walls and wooden moldings and doors found in the other rooms. In addition,
an inset cupboard with panelled wooden doors is located in the northwest
corner of this room, and although not completely visible, it is probably
identical to the one found in the remodeled conference room on the first
floor. A linoleum floor and dropped acoustical tile ceiling are the only
alterations in this room. The middle room on the east side is the library.
This room has a linoleum floor and a wood-composition tile ceiling. In place
of a cloak room, the library has three storage closets, and the door to one
of these has been removed. Beneath and between the windows are original,
The stairwells also lead to a basement floor. There are two adjoining
classrooms in the basement. These classrooms have concrete floors, plaster
walls, and molded wooden door and window surrounds. Dropped acoustical tile
ceilings, with suspended fluorescent lighting, have been added to these
classrooms as well.
There is an exterior entrance on the north elevation to a separate boiler
room and coal storage area, which are inaccessible from the classrooms.
These service areas have brick walls and concrete floors. The coal chute has
been brick-infilled, but the segmental-arched doorway between the two rooms
contains a wooden, slatted frame to regulate the flow of coal to the boiler.
From the stairwell on the north side, an original door leads to a short
hallway to the 1948 cafeteria addition. The door, with its multiple lights
in the upper half and panelled lower half, predates this addition. The hall
has concrete block walls and a concrete floor. The cafeteria has a large,
open dining room divided from the kitchen facilities by a partition wall.
The walls are concrete block, and there is a linoleum floor. The ceiling is
covered in wood-composition tiles. Within the dining area, there is a
slightly raised wooden dais situated along the interior partition wall. On
the south side, there are double doors leading outside. The kitchen
facilities are located along the west side. The kitchen has brick tile
floors, plaster walls, and an acoustical tile ceiling with inset lighting.
The counters and storage units do not appear original. On the north side,
there is a small serving room with a pass-through opening to the dining
room. Along the south wall are several storage closets with two-panelled
doors. A restroom, which appears original, is located in the southwest
corner of the kitchen. On the west wall are double doors leading to the
The design of the Morgan School typifies early twentieth century school
construction. The formality and symmetry of its design reflect Beaux Arts
classicism and the use of restrained Revival detailing around the entrance
was a common decorative feature. The location of the school on a corner lot
in the center of the community also illustrates early twentieth century
ideas of urban planning and model community development. Most original
fabric is intact and in good condition with the exception of exterior door
replacement and transom infill. Interior alterations, such as the addition
of dropped acoustic tile ceilings, would have required little destruction to
historic fabric although the original ceiling is not visible. The plan is
unchanged, and the school continues to serve its original function although
less specifically tied to its immediate community.
"A.S.I.D. Announces Preservation Project," North Carolina Preservation
34, no. 8 (1982): 2.
"Cherry Community," Files of the North Carolina Department of Cultural
Resources, Raleigh, North Carolina.
"Cherry Folks to Buy Out Landlords," Charlotte News, 20 December
1977, B-1. Vertical Files, Carolina Room, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public
"Cherry's Struggle Creates Uproar," Charlotte Observer, 22 July
1990, 10A. Vertical Files, Carolina Room, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public
Farnsworth, Julie. "Reflections of an Architect and His Work,"
Fayetteville Observer, 21 February 1982, C-1.
Hanchett, Thomas W. Charlotte and Its Neighborhoods: The Growth of a
New South City, 1850-1930. Charlotte: Urban Institute of the University
of North Carolina at Charlotte, 1986.
Harding, Harry P. The Charlotte City Schools. Charlotte:
typescript by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, 1966.
Interview with Marcia Hart, 21 October 1992.
Interview with Richard Cansler, Principal, Morgan School, 21 October,
"Louis Asbury: Builder of a City," Charlotte Observer, 24 March
"Louis H. Asbury, Retired Architect," Charlotte News, 19 March
"Louis H. Asbury, Sr., 97 Architect of the Courthouse," Charlotte
Observer, 20 March 1975, 8A.
"Morgan School." Files of the Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh,
"Pressures From Within, Without Threatening Cherry's Survival,"
Charlotte Observer, 28 January 1990, 1, 6. Vertical Files, Carolina
Room, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library.
Randolph, Elizabeth, S., ed. An African-American Album. Charlotte:
Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1992.