This report was written on May 5, 1982
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Charles W. Parker House is located at 901 Central Avenue, Charlotte, North
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property:
The present owner of the property is:
Michael W. and Mediana Normile
834 Central Avenue
Charlotte, North Carolina 28204
Telephone: (704) 372-8824
The present occupant of the property is:
Charlotte Rehabilitation Homes
901 Central Avenue
Charlotte, North Carolina 28204
Telephone: not available
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 listed in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 4331 at page
658. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is: 080-211-07.
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 an architectural description of the property prepared by Thomas W.
Hanchett, architectural historian.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Historic Properties Commission judges
that the property known as the Charles W. Porter House does possess
special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission
bases its judgment on the following considerations: (1) the Charles W.
Parker House was built in 1903-04 and is, therefore, one of the earliest
houses in Piedmont Park, a streetcar suburb which opened in March, 1902,
and which was developed by F. C. Abbott and George Stephens, the latter
being the developer of Myers Park a decade later; (2) the house is one of
the finest local examples of the Four Square style; (3) Charles W. Parker
(1886-1950) was a prominent and resourceful businessman of local and
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The attached architectural description by Mr.
Thomas W. Hanchett demonstrates that the Charles W. Parker House meets
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 appraisal of the Charles W. Parker House is
$360.00. The current appraisal of the .330 acres of land is $28,710.00. The
property is zoned B-2
Date of Preparation of this Report: May 5, 1982
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
3500 Shamrock Drive
Charlotte, North Carolina 28213
Telephone: (704) 332-2726
Thomas W. Hanchett
The C.W. Parker residence at 901 Central Avenue is a good early example
of the Four Square house type. Built in 1904 for a leading Charlotte
merchant, its exterior is today in excellent original condition. The Four
Square house type developed as part of a general movement around the
beginning of the twentieth century toward more simple and sensible,
non-eclectic, rectangular houses --- a reaction against the gaudy, chaotic
Victorian era. When the first Four Squares appeared in architectural
magazines around 1890, their clean surfaces were a sharp contrast to the
heavy detail of the Queen Anne and Colonial designs on surrounding pages. In
the early 1890's several major architects experimented with the type. These
included America's most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, whose later
Prairie School houses may have borrowed their geometric massing, wide eaves,
and non-historic decoration in part from the Four Square. By the end of the
1890's variations on the Four Square were a regular feature of every
magazine dealing with house planning, from Carpentry and Building to
Ladies Home Journal. Thousands of the homes were built all over the
country, until the type's popularity began to wane in the 1920's.
The 1904 construction of the C.W. Parker residence dates it among the
first examples of this new house type in Charlotte. In other parts of the
country the well-to-do were the first to break from the Victorian styles and
build Four Squares, and the Parker house fits this pattern. Charles Parker
was one of the city's leading furniture dealers, and his large new residence
was considered among Charlotte's finest homes when it was photographed in
1905 by the Gravure Illustration Company of Chicago for their handsome
volume Art Work of Charlotte, North Carolina. The primary exterior
characteristics of the Four Square are two-story cube-shaped massing, a
pyramid-shaped "hip" roof, and an off-center front door that indicates a
side-stair interior plan. The hip roof of the Parker house is covered with
rectangular slate shingles and topped by a metal cresting. The roof flairs
out over wide, unornamented eaves. Below, the mass of the building is
basically cubic. On the west side a shed-roofed one-and-one-half story
staircase bay projects slightly, balanced on the east side by a two story
bay marking the dining room. Originally a one story kitchen wing extended
from the rear of the home, a common variation on the Four Square. Some time
after 1905 a second story was added to this wing, projecting out beyond the
wing at the back to form a second story enclosed porch carried on four
columns. With the exception of the clapboard rear addition, exterior walls
are covered with horizontally double-grooved "novelty" siding. Additional
horizontal emphasis is given by a wide band of stucco below the eaves, a
very uncommon detail in Charlotte.
Simple flat molding surrounds the windows and extends horizontally at the
tops and bottoms of the second story windows, dividing the wall surfaces
into rectangular panels. The 1905 photograph shows that the building was
originally painted a dark color with the molding highlighted in a light
color, further emphasizing the home's rectilinear geometry. The windows
continue the geometric theme. Most are large
double-hung sash, with a single pane of glass in the lower sash, and
smaller squares of glass set diamond-fashion in the upper sash. Exceptions
are the dining room windows, which have narrower one-over-one pane
double-hung sash topped by diamond paned
transoms, a large fixed-pane front parlor window, and two big oval
windows in the stair bay believed to have once held stained glass. The front
door has simple rectangular sidelights. A wide one story front porch extends
across the front of the structure and wraps around the east side. Its
hip roof, wide eaves, and horizontal molding echo the main block of the
house. One bay of the porch projects forward to shelter the front steps.
Porch columns are square with simple vertical fluting. Unlike most homes
surviving from this era, the Parker residence still retains its original
porch balustrade. The square balusters, set at a forty-five degree angle,
contribute to the home's sense of carefully uncluttered detailing. The house
is flanked by a pair of massive brick chimneys. Their elaborate paneling and
corbelled caps are among Charlotte's most exuberant, an unexpectedly
Victorian feature on this otherwise post-Victorian house. The building rests
on a brick foundation which extends to support the porch. At the rear of the
west side of the home the foundation is recessed about three feet.
Glass doors cover the resulting niche between the ground and the first
floor, creating a small enclosure that was probably used as a greenhouse.
The interior of the Parker house has been altered over the years, and
vandals stripped some of its detailing when it stood vacant in the late
1970s, but its distinctive Four Square room arrangement and some details
survive. The basic Four Square had four rooms downstairs: entry hall,
parlor, dining room, and kitchen, four upstairs bedrooms and a bath linked
by a stairway at the side of the house. In the Parker residence the hall and
parlor are combined as one long room across the front. This may represent an
early alteration or may be original; the combination hall and parlor,
forerunner of today's living room, was introduced around 1900 and became
increasingly popular in succeeding decades. The main features of this room
are the hall mantel to the left of the front door, covered by recent tile
veneer except for the dentilled mantel shelf, and a pair of French doors
opening onto the porch at the opposite end of the room.
From the front door one moves counter clockwise through the hall and
parlor space, then slides open a large pocket-door and moves back into the
dining room. In the corner of this room is an elaborate mirrored spindly
mantel recalling earlier Victorian designs. Behind the dining room is the
kitchen, extending all the way across the back of the house except for a
small bathroom. This area, which probably once included a butler's pantry,
has been gutted and fitted outer a modern institutional kitchen. Because the
Parker's kitchen was in this rear wing, there was space in the main block of
the house for another downstairs room next to the dining room, behind the
entry hall. This large chamber may have been used as a library or guest
Having completed a circuit of downstairs rooms one returns to the entry
stairs to the second floor rise from the rear of the hall. The original
balustrades are gone and the
newel posts are probably not original, but a small section of the
original heavily panelled
wainscoting survives. At the top of the two runs of stairs is a small
circulation hall off which three bedrooms and a newly remodeled bath open.
All three bedrooms retain their wooden mantels, each flanked by graceful
turned columns which, like the exterior of the house, carefully avoid
mimicking any historical style. When the rear kitchen wing received its
second story, three more upstairs rooms were created. These are a bathroom
and bedroom flanking a small hall, and a large enclosed porch across the
back of the house which is now the housekeeper's apartment. The new
circulation hall between the new bedroom and bath unexpectedly opens off the
old back bedroom, rather than from the original upstairs circulation hall.
The Parker house is sited on the east side of its large Central Avenue lot.
The west third of the property is now given over to lawn and trees, and
probably once included gardens. An old narrow concrete drive leads down the
west lot line to the site of a now-demolished double garage.
William H. Huffman
Charles Walter Parker, who was the son of Montfort Stokes and Mary
Shankle Parker, was born in New London in Stanley County, NC. As a young man
of twenty in 1886, he came to Charlotte and found employment with the E. M.
Andrews Furniture and Music Company located at 16 West Trade Street.1
Through his industry and good working relationship with owner Edgar Andrews,
Mr. Parker gradually rose to the position of manager and secretary of the
firm.2 In 1892, his brother William Eli (Will) Parker also came
to Charlotte and went to work at the Andrews Co., which left the remaining
brother Fred to tend the 300-acre, eighteenth-century family farm in New
London.3 By 1902, the Parker brothers and a partner, James O.
Gardner, had bought out Mr. Andrews, who opened a smaller furniture business
at 10 N. College St. The following year, the name of the company was changed
to the Parker-Gardner Company, with Charles Parker serving as president,
Will Parker as vice-president, and James Gardner as secretary and treasurer.5
The firm carried fine furniture, carpets, curtains, pianos, organs, and
pianos, which were, according to a 1903 advertisement in the Charlotte City
Directory, "The very best obtainable in all departments at the lowest
possible prices." The prosperity of the business was shown by the same ad
which said they were "The Largest Dealer in the State,"6 and in a
Charlotte Observer ad later that year, where the claim was raised to
" Largest Dealers in the South."7 Indeed, Charles W. Parker's
efforts had been rewarded with a measure of personal prosperity for himself
and his wife, the former Louise Anthony, who was a Virginia native and the
daughter of John and Abigail Everett Anthony of that state.8 Thus
in 1902, when Mr. Parker became president of the E. M. Andrews Co., he
purchased a building lot from Piedmont Realty Co. for a fine new home in one
of Charlotte's new streetcar suburbs, Piedmont Park.9 At the
time, Piedmont Park was envisioned as an exclusive neighborhood of fine
homes, similar to Dilworth, located to the southeast of downtown along
Central Avenue and adjacent streets. Among several deed restrictions was the
requirement that purchasers must spend a minimum of $1500.00 for a "dwelling
house" on the lot, which was twice the cost of the property itself, and
certainly sufficient for a medium-sized multi-story frame house at the time.
On November 13 of the year 1903, when he was then president of the
newly-named Parker-Gardner Company, C.W. Parker took out a building loan
from the Mechanics Perpetual Building and Loan Association in the amount of
$2100.00, and shortly thereafter began construction of his new house.10
Thus it was in 1904 when the spacious dwelling on
Central Avenue was
completed and the Parker family moved in. Just next door to the east, with a
vacant lot in between (now the site of an apartment building), Mr. Parker's
partner, James Gardner, also built a house in the same block. The entire
neighborhood carried the air of Victorian orderliness with its neat and tidy
blocks of charming houses of the prosperous middle-class merchant and
professional inhabitants. It was served, by those who did not ride their own
horse and carriage, by the streetcar running down Central Avenue to 7th,
McDowell and Trade Streets to the Square. The expansive house on Central
Avenue provided the place where the three lovely Parker daughters, Miriam
(Hrs. H. P. Conway), Helen (Mrs. Whedon), and Dorothy Gardner (Mrs. E.
Blackburn Moore) were raised and became active in Charlotte society. Charles
Parker was a devoted family man, and was known for his congeniality and
gentleness. He retained his roots in the country by occasionally visiting
the old family farm in New London, and remained a man of strong and simple
principle. His grandson recalls every letter ending with the dictum, "Do not
borrow and do not lend." Louise Parker left her mark as an avid gardener
who, in addition to her roles as wife and mother, measurably added to the
comfort and beauty of the family home.
One by one the daughters married and left home, with the house providing
the setting for one of them, that of Helen Parker Whedon in the
mid-twenties. During that same time, the business had continued to do well.
About 1909, Mr. Gardner left the firm and eventually became president of the
Citizens Savings and Loan Corp.13 The Parker-Gardner Co. supplied
fine furniture for many of Charlotte 's best homes, including that of Gov.
Cameron Morrison. The high point of its furniture sales was reached when the
company received a contract to furnish the state house in Columbia, SC. In
the 'teens, C. W. Parker was elected president of the Merchant's
Association, and he helped establish a local chapter of the Knights of
Pythias . Unfortunately, the general economic dislocations of the Great
Depression of the Thirties also took its toll on the business, and the
furniture lines had to be dropped in favor of concentrating on musical
instruments, sheet music, and records. Will Parker watched over the store on
Trade Street while Charles was out on the road on his frequent selling
During the Depression, Mrs. Parker took in boarders to make ends meet,
which included R. M. (Tex) Hunter, a Charlotte CPA, and John Akers, a
founder of Akers Motor Lines, and their wives. Helen Whedon and her son,
Parker Whedon, also returned to live at the house about 1929. On November
30, 1942, the Central Avenue home was the scene of the celebration of
Charles and Louise Parker's fiftieth wedding anniversary. The following
year, Will Parker moved into the home. Will, whose niece Helen Whedon had
died the year before, had been a widower since the 1920's.14 By
the time of Charles Parker's death in 1950, until which time he had remained
active in civic and business affairs, he had been in business on Trade
Street for over a half century.15 When his brother Will died two
years later, the business passed to two nephews, Fred G. and William J.
Parker, the present owners, who had joined the company in 1946.16
Louise Parker lived on in the Central Avenue house, tending her gardens and
receiving family and friends until a year or two before her death in
January, 1976, at the age of 105.17 The house, which then
descended to Dorothy Parker Moore and Parker Whedon, a Charlotte attorney,
was closed in March, 1975, and subsequently suffered damage from vandalism.18
Its fortunes revived in 1980, however, when it was sold to the present
owner, Michael Normile and his wife, who undertook an extensive renovation
and restored the house to much of its original status as one of Charlotte's
fine turn-of-the-century, houses.19 It is currently being resold
as a halfway house, called the Central House, for mentally ill adults by the
Charlotte Rehabilitation Homes, Inc., a non-profit organization which seeks
to help their clients rejoin the mainstream of society.20
1 Charlotte Observer, Jan. 13, 1950, p. 1; Meck. Co.
Certificate of Death, 1950-95.
2 Charlotte City Directory, 1899/1900, p. 275.
3 Interview with Parker Whedon, 10 March 1982.
4 Charlotte City Directory, 1902, pp. 196 and 393.
5 Ibid., 1903, pp. 275 and 387.
6 Ibid., p. 387.
7 Charlotte Observer, Nov. 15, 1903, p. 3.
8 Meck. Co. Certificate of Death, 1976-93.
9 Deed Book 168, p. 192, 1 May 1902.
10 Interview with Parker Whedon.
12 Ibid. Daughter Dorothy married the son of the operator of
the Selwyn Hotel just town the street from the furniture store. He became
the Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses and an important figure in
that state's politics.
13 Charlotte City Directories, 1909, p. 94; 1916, p. 216.
14 Interview with Parker Whedon.
15 Charlotte Observer, Jan. 13, 1950, p. 1;
Charlotte News, same date, p. IB.
16 Interview with Parker Whedon.
17 Ibid.; Meck. Co. Certificate of Death, 1976-93.
18 Interview with Parker Whedon.
19 Deed Book 4331, p. 658, 9 June 1980.
20 Charlotte News, March 16, 1982, p. 6A.