REPRESENTATIVE SHOTGUN HOUSES
Shotgun house en route to its new location
Shotgun houses at their new location behind the Old Little Rock AME
Click here for a 1986 article on the
This report was written on May 8, 1985
1. Name and location of the property: Three houses constitute
the property known as the Representative Shotgun Houses. The houses are
located at 153 West Bland Street, 155 West Bland Street, and 810 East
Ninth Street, in Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of all three houses is:
City of Charlotte
600 E. Trade St.
Charlotte, N.C., 28202
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 two maps that depict the locations of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most
recent deed to the houses at 153 and 155 W. Bland St. is recorded in
Deed Book 4114, Page 111. The Tax Parcel Number for these houses is
073-091-01. The most recent deed to the house at 810 E. Ninth St. is
recorded in Deed Book 3802, Page 649. The Tax Parcel Number for this
house is 080-102-01.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report
contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr.
William H. Huffman.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This
report contains a brief architectural description of the property
prepared by Mr. Thomas W. Hanchett.
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 Commission judges that the
property known as the Representative Shotgun Houses does possess
special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission
bases its judgment on the following considerations: 1) the three
shotgun houses are the best-preserved examples in or near the center
city of a type of house style which was once common in Charlotte; 2)
the so-called "shotgun" house is an important component of
Afro-American culture, both in Charlotte and throughout the Southern
United States; and 3) the so-called "shotgun house" is a building form
which occupies an important place in the architectural history of
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials,
feeling, and/or association: The Commission contends that the
architectural description included in this report demonstrates that
the property known as the Representative Shotgun Houses meets this
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 3.90
acre tract, of which the house at 810 East Ninth St. is a small part, is
$219,570. The current appraised value of the house itself is $4,610. The
land is zoned B2. The current appraised value of the 3.89 acre tract, of
which the houses at 153 and 155 W. Bland St., are a small part, is
$151,430. The current appraised value of the houses is $2,302. The land
is zoned I2.
Date of Preparation of this Report: May 8, 1985
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St.
Charlotte, N.C., 28203
By Thomas W. Hanchett
Too often our view of architecture is focused solely on the
unique monumental structures designed in large part to display the
wealth and power of the elite ... while the greatest part of the built
environment --the houses that most people live in -- goes unnoticed.
John Michael Vlach
During the first half of the twentieth century, the "shotgun" house
was the most common type found in the black neighborhoods of Charlotte,
North Carolina. Rows and rows of these narrow dwellings could be found
squeezed together along the sidestreets and alleys of such black areas
as Brooklyn, Dulstown,
First Ward, and
Third Ward. Most were low and moderate income units rented by the
week by absentee landlords. A handful were also found in white
working-class neighborhoods, for instance along Belmont Avenue in
Belmont-Villa Heights, or on Thirty-fourth Street in the
North Charlotte mill village.
In the Urban Renewal era of the 1960s and 1970s, destruction of
Charlotte's shotgun housing was seen as a proud goal. Today fewer than
three dozen are left scattered throughout the city. It is important to
save examples of this once-common housetype for posterity. Not only will
it demonstrate the environment in which many of today's black leaders
were raised, but it will also serve as a reminder of an important part
of this region's folk heritage. Much as the log cabin is a link to our
European roots, the shotgun housetype represents a link to America's
For decades Americans have casually speculated on the reasons for the
shotgun house's unusual form. It is a long, narrow one-story dwelling
with a front porch, and the end of its
gable roof faces the street. Its most important characteristic is
its hall-less plan; rooms are lined up one-behind-the-other inside, so
that the visitor must move through each room in turn to arrive at the
last. It is said that the name "shotgun" comes from the fact that one
could open the front door and shoot a gun through all the rooms and out
the back door without hitting a wall, but in reality this is seldom
true, for interior doorways usually do not line up. Most casual
observers have guessed that the house was developed to fit narrow urban
lots, but the same form is also commonly found on rural tenant farms.
In the 1970s, folklorist and social historian John Michael Vlach
undertook the first serious study of the shotgun housetype. He found it
was seldom found outside the South, and that the greatest concentration
and earliest examples were in the vicinity of the port city of New
Orleans. From there he traced the form back to Haiti, where he believes
it had originated during the 1700s. The porch and gable-end door came
from native Haitian Indian tradition, and the wood construction was
borrowed from French colonists. But the basic hall-less plan, square
rooms, and rectangular exterior came from western African slaves,
specifically Yoruba tribesmen. In fact, the very name "shotgun" may well
be a corruption of the Yoruba word "to-gun," meaning "place of
assembly." Today Haitian blacks still build thatched-roofed "cailles,"
which, except for their primitive building materials, look exactly like
urban American shotgun houses.
810 EAST NINTH STREET:
Due to demolition of most Charlotte examples, it is hard to estimate
when the first shotgun houses appeared in Charlotte. Today's earliest
surviving specimens are thought to date from the last years of the
nineteenth century, some three-quarters of a century after Vlach
believes the type was introduced in New Orleans and began to work its
The house at 810 East Ninth Street dates from the 1890s. This block
between North Myers and North McDowell streets was then at the very edge
of Charlotte's built-up area, the traditional place for low-income
residents in those days. The block is part of First Ward, which for many
years had white residents near its East Trade Street and North Tryon
Street borders, and a cluster of black residents in its interior blocks.
In the late 1800s, a
streetcar began running along Myers Street, and some of the city's
wealthiest blacks built handsome two-story residences facing the tracks,
as well as the imposing
Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church. By the 1980s virtually all of the
upper-class black dwellings had been demolished or moved, and the brick
church and this humble shotgun were all that remained in place from the
black neighborhood's early days.
The house is a basic two-room shotgun with a gable roof that extends
at the front to form a front porch. At the rear a small wing, either
original or an addition, contains a kitchen, bath and tiny corner porch.
The dwelling rests on separate red-brick foundation piers, as almost all
Charlotte houses did before building-codes required completely enclosed
foundations. According to a survey made for the City of Charlotte
Community Development office, the dwelling is 14.0 feet wide and 38.5
The exterior is sheathed in weatherboards with chamfered cornerboards
and extremely simple boxed eaves. There are two brick chimneys, a large
one on the ridgeline between the two main rooms, and a smaller and
older-looking exterior stack at the rear of the kitchen wing. The tall,
narrow window and door openings have wide, plain surrounds. There is a
hip roof over the front porch, which is supported by simple square
columns. The front door has a six-pane window above three horizontal
panels, and may date from the early decades of the twentieth century
when such motifs were common in Charlotte.
Inside, the house is carefully finished: this was no shack. The front
room is roughly square. It is lit by four windows -- two unusually
narrow units on either side of the front door, and one in each side
wall. The windows are four-over-four-pane double-hung sash units with
wide surrounds that feature an extra band of sill molding at the
bottoms. A baseboard with a molded top runs around the room, and is
matched by a shallow molded cornice, both of wood. Carefully fitted to
the room and covered with decades of paint, these trim pieces appear to
have been part of the house for most, if not all, of its existence.
Changes have been made to the room over the years, however. An electric
light fixture may be seen in the center of the ceiling. The original
plaster of the walls and ceiling has been replaced in recent times by
wall-board. And the large mantel which dominated the rear wall has been
removed by vandals since the house has been vacant.
To the right of the fireplace is the door to the second room. Moving
through it, one passes the large chimney stack on the left. This
fireplace still has its handsome original mantel. It consists of molded
base blocks, beaded and chamfered uprights and a matching cross-piece at
the top, with a wide shelf built up of molding. The niche to the right
of the chimney stack -- as one faces the mantel -- is enclosed to form a
small closet. Its two-panel door is a narrower version of that which
connects the first and second rooms. Like the front room, this second
room also has a window in each side wall, and a molded baseboard.
Plaster has been replaced by wall-board, and there is an electric light
fixture in the center of the ceiling.
The rear of the second room is pierced by two doorways into the rear
wing. The narrow right-hand doorway opens onto the compact bath: sink
and commode only, with no bath tub. The larger central door leads to the
kitchen. This square space originally had a sink next to the window
along its left wall, and a free-standing stove vented by a stovepipe in
its rear wall. All fixtures are now gone. At the right rear corner of
the room is the door to the small rear corner porch.
153 AND 155 WEST BLAND STREET:
The earliest map of the outlying areas of Charlotte, Butler and
Spratt's Map of Charlotte Township ... 1892, shows a cluster of
small houses labeled "Blandville" just off South Tryon Street outside
the city limits. This area was one of several black villages that grew
up in the nineteenth century around the edges of the city. Like First
Ward, it became an Urban Renewal target in the 1960s and 1970s, destined
to be replaced by warehouses, offices, and industrial buildings. By
1985, 153 and 155 Bland Street were all that remained of the old black
neighborhood, and their survival was due largely to the persistence of
long-time owner and resident Lula McCullough and her son James. Both
shotgun houses date back to the late 1890s.
The street facades of the two dwellings are virtually identical. The
front porches of the houses feature balustrades and elegant turned
columns. It is probable that both houses were originally identical
two-room shotgun houses, lit by kerosene lamps and serviced by outhouse
privies in the rear yards. The McCullough family modified both
structures as finances permitted, with the major work being done in
l947-l948 by a local lumber company, according to Mrs. McCoullough.
Today 153 Bland Street has a rear kitchen-bath wing. It has not been
possible to gain access to this structure. 155 Bland Street also has a
rear wing, plus a side wing that holds a kitchen and bath. The
foundations of both houses originally consisted of brick piers, but are
One enters 155 West Bland Street through a front door that is not
centered, as with the East Ninth Street house, but rather is off center.
Like the Ninth Street dwelling, this house has a molded baseboard in the
two front rooms, but there is no cornice molding. Walls are of rough
plaster that Mrs. McCullough recalls dates from the 1940s remodeling.
The mantel of the front parlor room is an extremely simple composition
of dark-stained varnished wood.
Just as in the Ninth Street shotgun, one moves from the parlor to the
bedroom of this house through a door located to the right of the
fireplace. There is a similarly massive chimney-stack, and a similar
closet in the second room. Doors are composed of six horizontal panels.
Two doors in the rear wall of the second room open onto the rear
wing. The right door leads to a screened porch which is included within
the mass of the wing, rather than added on to it. The left door leads to
the plainly-trimmed rear dining room. Mrs. McCullough indicates that
this space was originally used as the kitchen, until construction of the
new kitchen-bath wing.
The kitchen-bath wing is appended to the left side of the house,
beginning at about the middle of the second room and running all the way
to the rear of the dwelling. Inside it is clear that it is an addition,
because doorways are not as tall as in the remainder of the structure,
and because door and window surrounds are trimmed with narrow molding
rather than being left plain. The bath is entered from the bedroom. It
has room for a bathtub, commode, and sink, and it trimmed with a wooden
chair-rail. The kitchen is entered from the dining room. It is finished
on the walls and ceiling in tongue-and-groove siding. It has a single
nine-over-nine-pane window, a sink, a work-table, and a gas stove. One
can still see the stove-pipe hole that served the original wood stove.
The door from kitchen to dining room was likely salvaged from an earlier
structure, because it is a five-panel mortise-and-tenon unit that
appears to date from the nineteenth century, and is unlike any other in
Beyond the purely structural aspects of this shotgun house, there are
other things that add to the visitor's impression of it as the long-time
home of the McCullough family. Furniture is crowded together in the
rooms, and much of it is quite old and handsome, the reminders of a long
life. Floors are covered with layers of colorfully-patterned linoleum.
At the rear of the house a peach tree bears fruit, and Mrs. McCullough
is proud that she still plants a vegetable garden each year, a practice
she learned from her mother and father. And she still has the kerosene
lantern that she used before electricity.
City policy dictates that the sites of these three houses be cleared.
It would be exciting if these three houses could be moved to a new site
and become part of an exhibit on Charlotte's black history. They might
be arranged in a row, as most shotguns in Charlotte were, and left with
their various alterations intact to show how residents adapted this
once-common form to their own needs. Such an effort would be an
important step in celebrating the region's African-American heritage,
and in illustrating the history of the common people.
Dr. William H. Huffman
The shotgun houses at 153 and 155 W. Bland Street were probably built
in the late 1890s. They were typical of many of the shotgun-style
residences built in parts of the city from the 1890s to the early 1920s.
In the early part of the century, one could find them in Charlotte's
First, Second and Third Wards, as well as in the northwest suburbs of
the city. as a rule, they were built as rental housing for many black
residents of the city, but a number of them later became owner-occupied.
The W. Bland Street houses were built by Charles E. McClure, who
bought the property in 1896, and very likely had the shotgun houses
constructed not too long afterwards. 1 McClure and his wife
Rosa lived next door to the west in a large one-story house at the
corner of W. Bland and what was Church Street (Church Street has been
relocated and the McClure house is no longer extant.) 2 At
the time he bought the property, Charles McClure was an engineer with
the Charlotte Oil and Fertilizer Co., a cotton oil processing plant,
which was located on South Boulevard near Bland Street. 3 By
the 1920s, there were numerous shotgun houses built in that part of
Third Ward, particularly along the west side of Church Street and along
Winnifred Street (runs parallel with Church).4
Charles McClure died about 1911, and his widow continued to rent the
houses for ten more years. 5 During the Twenties, the houses
were sold three times (J. E. and Emma Wilson, 1921; S. B., Jr. and
Mildred Tanner, 1925; and J. C. and Mamie Batten, 1927). 6 As
happened with so many other Charlotte properties during the Depression,
the site was acquired by the Mechanics Perpetual Building and Loan in a
mortgage foreclosure in 1934.7 Six years later, Mechanics
sold it to the Thomas F. Kerr Co., which rented the houses for forty
years, from 1940 to 1980, when the property was acquired by the City of
A longtime resident of 155 W. Bland Street, Lula McCullough, recalls
that when she and her husband, C. Henry McCullough (d. 1968), first
moved there (about the mid-1930s), the house was "only a hull." The
toilet was an outdoor privy in the back, and the only source of water
was from a single spigot, also out back. After dark, light was provided
by kerosene lamps. Mrs. McCullough said that she and her husband had
much of the house repaired to make it livable, and over the years indoor
plumbing and electricity were put in. 9
The shotgun house at 810 E. 9th Street in First Ward, was also built
in the 1890s, sometime between 1891 and 1897. Robert Gibbon, a physician
with offices on N. Tryon Street, bought a large plot of ground fronting
E. 9th in 1891, and when he sold a portion of the then subdivided land
six years later, the legal description is followed by: "whereon is
situate two tenants houses." (Now 808 and 810 E. 9th Street). 10
Both houses were on a single plot, and they went through a series of
owners. From 1912 to 1925, they were owned by George and Emma Clement,
and in the latter year were bought by Belle Cathey, who owned them until
her death in 1947.11 They passed by inheritance to her
sister, Zenobia Hoagland, who rented the property to others from 1951 to
1960, when she herself moved into the smaller of the two houses, the
shotgun at 810 E. 9th. Her children, Gordon and Otelia Hoagland moved
into the house in 1968 after Zenobia's death, and acquired an undivided
title to it from their brother, Sandy Hoagland, in 1975. The City of
Charlotte acquired the property in 1982.12
Unlike the houses on Bland Street and in other places in the city,
the shotgun house at 810 E. 9th was not part of a row of similar houses.
With its companion at 808 E. 9th, which is a larger bungalow-style
house, it stood alone in a block that was otherwise filled out, in that
entire square, with much larger one and two-story middle-class
dwellings. 13 It first appears in the Charlotte City
Directory in 1897/98 as the residence of Jasper Tate, who was the only
black resident listed on 9th Street. Later directories confirm that in
First Ward, black and white residents were intermingled until about the
last four decades and that for a number of years, the two houses on E.
9th were the only ones with black residents on that street. 14
Thus this shotgun house was unusual because of its singular character.
The few remaining shotgun houses in the city are historically
important because of both the unique character of their design and the
distinct role they have played in the lives of many black residents of
Charlotte. Not only did many leading citizens of the city and elsewhere
spend part or all of their early lives in a shotgun house, they were the
homes of some three or four generations of black Charlotteans, and
thereby became a significant part of the city's history.
1Deed Book 116, p. 15, 18 Nov. 1896.
2 Charlotte City Directories, various dates.
3 Ibid., 1896/7, p. 236; 1900, p. 382.
4 Sanborn Insurance Map, 1929, p. 53.
5 Mecklenburg County Estates, Record of Accounts, Book 14,
p. 277; Charlotte City Directories, 1911-1921; Deed Book 450, p. 75, 1
6 Deed Books 585, p. 385, 15 May 1925; 657, p. 236, 1 Aug.
7 Deed Book 853, p. 132, 14 Aug. 1934.
8 Deed Books 995, p. 269, 15 Apr. 1940; 4281, p. 663, 20
9 Interview with Lula McCullough, Charlotte, NC, 23 April
10 Deed Books 81, p. 326, 27 Oct. 1891; 121, p. 128, 24
11 Deed Books 352, p. 312, 29 Feb. 1916; 598, p. 23, 1
Aug. 1925; Meck. Co. Estates, Special Proceedings, File No. 75-SP-1408,
12 Special Proceedings, cited above; Deed Book 4524, p.
578, 6 April 1982.
13 Sanborn Insurance Map, 1911, p. 55.
14 Charlotte City Directory, 1897/98, p. 99, and