The Newcombe - McElwee House
This report was written on September 9, 1997
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Newcombe - McElwee House is located at 2817 Belvedere Avenue in the
neighborhood of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, North
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner is:
Dr. and Mrs. Thomas B. McElwee
2817 Belvedere Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28205
Telephone Number: (704) 375 - 5873
3. Representative Photographs of the property: This report
contains interior and exterior photographs of the property.
4. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map depicting the location of the property.
5. Current deed book references to the property: The most recent
deed to the Newcombe - McElwee House is listed in Mecklenburg County Deed
Book 6891 at Pages 783 - 785. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is
6. A brief historical description of the property: This report
contains a historical sketch of the property prepared by Sherry J. Joines.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Sherry J.
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 history, architecture, and
cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property known as
the Newcombe - McElwee House does possess special significance in terms of
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The Commission bases its judgment on the
following considerations: 1) the house is significant as the work of an
important North Carolina architect, 2) it has architectural significance
as an unusually fine example of the Tudor Revival style, 3)it is an
important part of the development of the Charlotte Country Club area and
"Club Acres" during the 1930s, and 4) it has associations with prominent
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling,
and association: The Commission contends that the architectural
description by Sherry J. Joines included in this report demonstrates that
the Newcombe - McElwee House meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The current Ad Valorem appraised
value of the 2.77 acres of land is $200,000. The current Ad Valorem
appraised value of the house is $326,500. The total Ad Valorem appraised
value is $526,500. The property is zoned R-3.
Date of Preparation of this Report: September 9, 1997
Prepared by: Sherry J. Joines
Charlotte - Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
2100 Randolph Road
Charlotte, N.C. 28207
Sherry J. Joines
The Newcombe - McElwee house is situated at 2817 Belvedere Avenue in
Charlotte, N.C. Part of the Plaza - Midwood neighborhood, this area was
developed as Club Acres in association with the Charlotte Country Club
beginning in the 1910s, with most construction occurring in the 1930s. The
lot is on the northern side of Belvedere Avenue with the front facade of the
house facing south.
Landscape and Other Structures
The house sits atop a small hill and is picturesquely viewed as one
rounds a bend in Belvedere Avenue. The lawn of the house, heavily dotted
with large trees, rolls down to Belvedere Avenue creating a luxurious
expanse. In the rear, this expansive lawn continues up the hill. The narrow
drive takes the visitor to the top of the rise where one enters through a
pair of brick entrance gate pillars. These pillars are about five feet tall
and are capped by pineapple finials. The gate pillars finish the opening in
a brick wall that runs from the side of the house to the next property line
and divides the front of the house from the rear.
After passing through the entrance pillars, one may park around a
circular drive. To the west, is the two story garage / guesthouse.
Hipped roof wall
casement windows pierce the guesthouse's high, hipped roof. On ground
level, two garage doors are located beside an entrance door at the southern
corner of the front facade. To the rear of the garage is a one-story frame
addition with a shed roof. Beyond the addition is a small brick courtyard
enclosed by a brick wall. Matching the main house, the garage has a frieze
at the cornice created by three courses of brick being corbeled outward with
a repetitive pattern of protruding and areas that give the effect of
Mrs. McElwee replaced much of the plant material in the landscape after
she and her husband acquired the house in 1992. She recalls that the yard
and plants were seriously unkempt and overgrown. Several large shade trees
still exist, however, as do a few large holly bushes. One particularly huge
tree dominates the back yard. She did not change the basic form or layout of
the planting beds. The overall effect of the landscaping, house design, and
situation is akin to the rambling "Country Place Era" estates popular among
the wealthy during the 1930s.
Tudor Revival style is one of several picturesque revival styles common
during the 1920s and 1930s. Others include Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial
Revival, and Spanish Revival. As the name implies the style took its
inspiration from late medieval and early Renaissance English architecture.
Historical accuracy in a revival style is not as important as evoking the
feeling of a past romantic age, such as that of the infamous Tudor, King
Henry VIII. The Tudor Revival was especially popular with the Anglophilic
upper middle class. It was further encouraged by the trend in landscaping
towards the picturesque "English Cottage" genre inspired by the work of
The Newcombe - McElwee house is an excellent example of the Tudor Revival
Style. Common elements of this mode are half-timbering,
Tudor (flattened Gothic) arches, heavy doors simulating Medieval
construction techniques, dark woodwork, diamond leaded windows, asymmetry,
and picturesque detailing. Of these, the Newcombe - McElwee house displays
all but the half-timbering. Instead, the walls of the house are
running bond brick veneer and rest upon concrete foundation walls.
Currently, the walls are painted white, which, with the silvery tones of
the roof, make the house reminiscent of French Renaissance architecture.
Whether the house was originally painted is not clear. The slate roof is
almost certainly the original, however. The color of the slates varies from
deep gray to pale green to rich mauve. The hipped form of the main roof has
a long ridgeline extending nearly the entire length of the front facade. Two
low, hipped wall dormers are found over two pairs of casement windows on the
western end of the front facade.
The focus of the front facade is the octagonal entrance tower. The tower
has a high conical roof. Located in the center of the front (southern)
facade, the tower houses a massive Tudor arched doorway trimmed in stone.
The narrow lancet casement windows stagger up the tower in keeping with the
ascent of the curved interior stair. The effect of this is much like a
medieval castle. Beside the entrance tower, on the eastern side is a hip
roofed projection. The projection has a low hipped dormer on the second
floor and a projecting bay window on the first floor. The western end of the
building is dominated by the mass of a chimney. At ground level, small iron
railings are attached to the building at each side of the chimney. Likewise,
the eastern end of the house is fairly unremarkable. The rear (northern)
facade of the building is marked by a hip roofed projection about
three-quarters of the way down the length of the facade from the eastern
corner. The projection has a curved bay window on the first floor. The small
corner made by the projection at the western end of the house is filled by a
one story screened sunroom. The sunroom has an awning and lattice trim at
its corners. Under the awning is a decorative scalloped frieze like that
found above the windows on the first floor of the front facade. A brick path
leads to the entrance of the porch and around the projection to a kitchen
entrance near the eastern corner. This entrance, which may not be original,
has a multi-paned door with
transom. The windows on the entire rear facade are irregularly sized and
spaced. There are also roof dormers, rather than the low wall dormers on the
Much like the exterior front facade, the interior is designed around the
unique circular space in the tower. The interior of the entrance tower is
dominated by the spiral stair to the second floor orchestra balcony. The
balcony is gracefully curved and cantilevered out over the first floor
space. The ceiling of the tower is a shallow dome lit by small lights hidden
behind a cornice molding. The
handrail of the
stair are hardwood while the balustrade is cast iron in a scallop and x
pattern. The x's are embellished with gilded medallions. Entry to the house
is through a heavy, Tudor arched door. The door's small panels, heavy
hardware and false pegs mimic medieval construction methods. Once inside the
entry tower, one steps up to the main level of the house and enters a
vestibule through a doorway. The doorway has an architrave that is curved to
match the curve of the tower wall.
The three major wings of the house radiate from the vestibule. Down two
steps to the west is the long living room. Large, multi-paned windows light
the room on its south wall. On the north wall are pairs of French doors
leading to the sunroom. The top two-thirds of the doors are multi-paned like
the windows, while the bottom has a raised panel. The western wall is the
focus of the space. It is embellished with raised panels, where the bottom
panels are not as tall as the upper panels, only about one-third of the wall
height. This rhythm matches the French doors and windows and is accentuated
by the chair rail installed at this low height. The purpose of the unusual
configuration two-thirds over one-third configuration may have been to
accentuate the height of the room. Centered on the west wall is a carved,
buff marble fireplace. Directly above the fireplace is a wide rectangular
panel flanked by two narrow panels with curved tops reminiscent of the shape
of a Palladian window. This curved top motif is repeated in the upper panels
of doors throughout the house. Directly north of the vestibule is a den. The
walls of this room are paneled with pine, and the north wall is dominated by
a bowed bay of diamond leaded windows. The fireplace on the eastern wall has
scrolled brackets supporting the mantle shelf and is trimmed with molding in
a rope pattern. Dentils finish the crown molding in the room and fluted pine
pilasters flank the fireplace.
The wing to the east of the vestibule contains the dining room. On the
southern end of this room is a bay window with diamond leaded widows. At
either side of the window are niches created in the corners of the room.
With the bay window the effect is that the end of the room is multi-sided or
bayed. The low chair rail is repeated in this room with a paneled
wainscot beneath it. The large, black urns in the niches are said to be
original to the house. The kitchen, pantry, and powder room are located in
the northeastern portion of the eastern wing of the house. The current
owners enlarged the kitchen with the removal of a butler's pantry. Thus, the
kitchen was completely modernized at this time.
In the entrance tower, one ascends the curved staircase, to reach the
orchestra balcony. A large passage at the balcony is framed with heavy
molding, architrave, pilasters and Doric columns. Through the passage to the
west is the master suite. The suite is entered through a small sitting room
with built-in bookcases, which leads into the main bedroom. The hipped roof
of the house creates a tray effect in the ceiling of the bedroom. The
ornamentation on the fireplace, which is located on the bedroom's western
wall, is similar to that of the marble, living room fireplace. The bathroom
door is at the northeastern corner of the room. The dusty blue tiled bath
contains both tub and walk-in shower. A second door in the bath leads back
into the sitting room. North of the orchestra balcony is a wide subsidiary
hall or vestibule with closets and a bathroom. The vestibule leads to a
bedroom. East of this vestibule is a long, narrow hall off of which are more
closets and two more bedrooms, which share a bath. Like the master bath, the
two other baths on the second floor also retain their original tile, one
being a dark green and yellow, the other a bright aqua with black accents.
Original fixtures remain as well.
Stairs descending to the basement are reached via a door near the first
floor entrance. The only finished area of the basement is paneled with pine
on one wall and has windows and window wells below exterior grade. The room
also has exposed beams and a fireplace. Dr. McElwee remembers this room
being a playroom when he was a child. The numerous classical elements
mentioned in the above description indicate a version of the Classical
Revival style on the interior. This is an interesting combination with the
heavy Tudor Revival exterior. The Classical Revival was another of the
popular revival styles common during the 1930s. It was often associated with
the Colonial Revival because Colonial and Early American architecture (like
the Georgian and Federal styles) had classical inspirations.
The Newcombe - McElwee house retains a remarkable level of integrity due
mainly to the limited number of owners. Moldings, doors, and most room
configurations are original. Although the kitchen was extensively remodeled,
its location at the northeastern corner of the building limits the impact
these changes had on the rest of the house. The house still retains the
elegant, formal feeling in vogue among the newly developing "country club
set" of the 1930s.
Sherry J. Joines
The history of the Newcombe - McElwee house is fairly simple since only
two families have owned it. Elliott Hill and Mary Duke Lyon Newcombe
purchased a portion of Lot 28 from Edward and Mabel Kuhn on October 9, 1934.
The Kuhns had acquired the lot from Mr. and Mrs. O.J. Thies and Mr. and Mrs.
George Stephens totaling 3.93 acres on July 15, 1921. Thies, a Realtor, and
Stephens, founder of Myers Park, both held interests in the several
companies developing the Charlotte Country Club and Club Acres. Stephens had
acquired Lot 28 from one of these companies, the Mecklenburg Realty Company.2
Although only associated with two families, both of these families were
prominent Charlotte citizens. Elliott H. Newcombe was the stepson of C.W.
Johnston, founder of
Johnston Mills. Mr. Newcombe began his career as president - treasurer
of the textile supply company, Southern Specialties. He later headed the
Charlotte division of Old Dominion Paper Box Company, eventually founding
the Atlantic Coast Carton Company. His civic achievements included his work
in founding Charlotte Country Day School and the Squash Hill Hunt Preserve.
Mrs. Newcombe, known as Dukie, was the grandniece of tobacco and utility
tycoon James Buchanan Duke.3
Mrs. Newcombe's uncle, George Watts Carr designed the house, which was
constructed around 1935. Carr was a noted Durham architect who also worked
on the Snow Building in that city.4 The Newcombes had moved into
their new home by 1936. The current owner, who grew up in the house,
remembers the Newcombes and their children as being the centerpiece of the
neighborhood. Mr. Newcombe, he remembers, was a large, mirthful man who
enjoyed smoking and having a cocktail everyday. The Newcombes sold the
property to Ross S. and Doris E. McElwee, Sr. on April 16, 1959, but
continued to live in the neighborhood.5 Mrs. Newcombe passed away
on February 28, 1969, followed by her husband on September 23, 1976.6
Ross S. McElwee, Sr. was a surgeon and his wife a homemaker. The couple had
four children: Ross, Jr., a filmmaker (his work including Sherman's March
and Time Indefinite); Dede, a homemaker; Thomas B., who joined his
father's medical practice; and another son who was killed in a 1965 boating
accident. 7 Mrs. Doris McElwee passed away on April 1, 1973,
preceding Dr. McElwee, Sr. whose death occurred February 6, 1988. Dr. Ross
McElwee had remarried and his widow, Ann T. McElwee, transferred ownership
of the house to Dr. Thomas B. and Sarah Y. McElwee on May 28, 1992.8
Dr. McElwee grew up in the house and fondly remembers playing in the
basement and back yard. He recalls his mother falling in love with the house
because it looked like a French chateau.9 Dr. Thomas McElwee
married Sarah Young on January 5, 1985. Mrs. McElwee is a graduate of
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and attended law school there.
The couple resides in the house with their three children: Tom, John, and
1Catherine Bishir, North Carolina Architecture, Chapel
Hill: UNC Press, 1990, pp. 440 - 443.
2Mecklenburg County Deed Book 277, page 408; 451, page 343;
and 860, page 29 and Hanchett, Dr. Thomas W., "Plaza
- Midwood Neighborhood," for the Charlotte - Mecklenburg Historic
3Hanchett, "Plaza - Midwood."
4Ibid. and Bishir, North Carolina Architecture.
5Hanchett, "Plaza - Midwood," and Charlotte City Directories:
1933 - 1936.
6Mecklenburg County Vital Statistics.
7Interview with Dr. and Mrs. Thomas B. McElwee, November 18,
1996, conducted by Nathan Kellett.
8Vital Statistics and Interview.