The VanLandingham Estate
Original Report Prepared July 5, 1977
Updated August, 1997
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as
the VanLandingham Estate is located at 2010 The Plaza in Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property:
The present owner of the property is: Mr. And Mrs. Mark Gilleskie
2010 The Plaza
Charlotte, N.C. 28205
Telephone (704) 334-8909
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 depicting the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the Property: The most
recent reference to this property is found in Mecklenburg County Deed
Book 5529 at Page 0824. The Parcel Number of the Property is 095-061-01A
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
Susie Harwood VanLandingham, wife of Ralph VanLandingham, purchased lots
6 - 9, located to the immediate southeast of the intersection of
Belvedere Ave. and The Plaza, from Chatham Eatates, Inc. on March 13,
1913. The VanLandinghams moved to Charlotte, N.C. from Atlanta, Georgia
in 1907. Mr. and Mrs. VanLandingham had initially lived with the
former's parents, John Henry VanLandingham and Mary Oates Spratt
VanLandingham, at 500 East Avenue (or E. Trade Street). Mr.
VanLandingham had returned to Charlotte to join a cotton brokerage firm
headed by his father that would soon move its offices to the eleventh
floor of the Realty Building, later known as the
From 1909 until 1914 Mr. and Mrs. VanLandingham lived in a house at
the intersection of Central Avenue and Piedmont Street. In May 1913,
Mrs.VanLandingham secured a loan of $6000 from the Independence Trust
Co. for purposes of erecting a residence on the lots which she had
purchased from Chatham Estates, Inc. The VanLandinghams completed and
occupied the house, designed by noted Charlotte architect
Charles Christian Hook (1870 - 1938), sometime during 1914.
Ralph VanLandingham, born in Charlotte on November 9, 1875, lived in
the house on The Plaza until his death on August 3, 1959, although he
did spend considerable time at his summer home in Linville, N.C. He
succeeded in establishing himself as an affluent cotton broker and
prominent citizen in the community. He had an extended tenure as senior
warden of St. Peter's Episcopal Church. For several years he was
treasurer of the Charlotte Country Club. Indeed, his civic activities
even extended to Linville, N.C., where he served as treasurer and senior
warden of All Saints Episcopal Church.
Susie Harwood VanLandingham, born in the late 1860's in St. Paul,
Minnesota, was an outstanding human being. In 1881, she moved with her
family to Volusia County, Florida, where her father, Norman B. Harwood,
became a high official with the Florida East Coast Railroad then being
developed by Henry Morrison Flagler. After her father's death in 1885,
she moved with her mother, Susan Drury Deane Harwood, to Atlanta, Ga. It
was here that she would meet Ralph VanLandingham and would become his
wife on September 17, 1901. In the intervening years, however, Susie
demonstrated that she had acquired considerable executive ability. She
was one of the founders of the Atlanta Art Association. She was an
officer of the Atlanta Y.M.C.A. Even more significantly, she headed the
company which built the first fire-proof hotel in the State of Georgia.
Mrs. VanLandingham continued to be active in civic affairs in the
years following her arrival in North Carolina. The Charlotte News
characterized her as "a woman of rare gifts and a person of unmistakable
quality." Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Mrs. Ralph
VanLandingham the newspaper asserted, "was the range and depth of her
interests." She served as regent of the Halifax Convention Chapter,
Daughters of the American Revolution. She was Chairman of the North
Carolina Board of Approved Schools. She was president of the Board of
St. Peter's Hospital, where she financed the building of the
emergency waiting room in honor of her mother. Probably her most notable
contribution, for which she received a personal commendation from
President Woodrow Wilson, was her supervision of the Red Cross Canteen
at Camp Greene during World War I. Finally, Mrs. VanLandingham provided
generous support to the Crossnore Industrial School for Mountain
Children near Linville, N.C. She died at St. Peter's Hospital on
September 26, 1937.
Mr. and Mrs. VanLandingham had two children: Susan Deane
VanLandingham, a nationally known golf star as a young woman, who
married Norman Cordon, Jr., and resided in Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Ralph
VanLandingham, Jr., a prominent stock broker and bachelor who resided at
the house on The Plaza. The children were twins, born in Atlanta, Ga. in
1902. Susan VanLandingham Cordon died in 1964, leaving her interest in
the house in Charlotte, N.C. to her daughter, Susie Harwood Cordon.
Ralph VanLandingham, Jr., died on March 30, 1970. Securing sole
ownership of the property at 2010 The Plaza on December 27, 1966, he
established an arrangement by which the University of North Carolina at
Charlotte would obtain the property upon his death. That Mr.
VanLandingham decided upon this course of action is not surprising. He
had demonstrated his support for UNC-C by establishing the VanLandingham
Glen on the campus. This garden received plantings from the lavish
rhododendron collection which Mr. VanLandingham had developed in honor
of his father on the grounds surrounding the house. Further documenting
Mr. VanLandingham'a commitment to education was the fact that he
provided scholarships for several students who attended colleges and
universities in North Carolina.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This
report contains an architectural description prepared by Jack 0. Boyte,
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-399.4:
a. Historical and cultural significance: The VanLandingham
Estate is historically and culturally significant for four reasons.
First, the structure has architectural significance as a superior
example of affluent domestic architecture of the early twentieth
century. Second, the interior furnishings are largely in place and are
superior in design and form. Third, the grounds contain a magnificent
collection of rhododendron and constitute one of the most noteworthy
gardens in Charlotte, N.C. Fourth, the properly has associative ties
with individuals of local, regional and state-wide importance.
b. Suitability for preservation and restoration: The house
and grounds retain their initial integrity and are therefore highly
suited for preservation.
c. Cost of acquisition and restoration: At present the
Commission has no intention of purchasing this property. It assumes
that all costs associated with preserving and maintaining the property
will be paid by the owner or subsequent owner of the property.
d. Educational value: The property has educational value
because of its historic and cultural significance.
d. Possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the
property: The house and the grounds could be used adaptively for a
variety of purposes.
f. Appraisal value: The current tax appraisal of the house
and outbuilding is $90,460. The current tax appraisal of the land is
$112,790. The total taxable value is $298,800. The Commission is aware
that designation of the property as a historic property would allow
the owner to apply annually for an automatic deferral of 50% of the
rate upon which the Ad Valorem taxes are calculated.
g. The administrative and financial responsibility of any person
or organization willing to underwrite all or a portion of such costs:
As stated earlier, at present the Commission has no intention of
purchasing this property. Furthermore, the Commisson assumes that all
costs associated with the property will be met by whatever party now
owns or will own the property.
9. Documentation of who and in what ways the property meets the
criteria established for listing in the Nationa1 Register of Historic
Places: The Commission believes that the property known as the
VanLandingham Estate in Charlotte, N.C. does meet the criteria of the
National Register of Historic Places. Basic to the Commission's position
is its understanding of the purpose of the National Register.
Established in 1966, the National Register represents the decision of
the Federal Government to expand its listing of historic properties to
include properties of local, regional, and State significance. The
Commission believes that the VanLandingham Estate is of local and
regional historic significance, and therefore, meets the criteria for
listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
10. Documentation of by and in what ways the property is of
historic importance to Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County: The
VanLandingham Estate is historically important to Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County for four reasons. First, the structure is
architecturally significant. Second, the interior furnishings are
superior in design and form. Third, the grounds contain one of the more
noteworthy gardens in the City and hold a rhododendron collection of
major importance. Fourth, the property has associative ties with
individuals of local, regional and State-wide significance.
An Inventory of Buildings in Mecklenburg County and Charlotte for
the Historic Properties Commission.
Charlotte City Directory (1907, p.434); (1908, p.325); (1909, p.339);
(1910, p.359); (1911, p.404); (1912, p.420); (1913, p.425); and (1914,
Charlotte News (September 24, 1937, p.4 and p.11); (December
26, 1937, Sec. 2, p.1, and p.14.); and March 31, 1970, p. 58).
Estate Records of Mecklenburg County. (Will Book Y, pp.443-446, p.
529)and (Will Book 27, p.428).
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office. Parcel number
Sanborn Insurance Maps of Charlotte (1911, p.71); (1929, Vol. 2,
The Charlotte Observer (February 27,1915, p.2); (September 27,
1937, p.1, p.3); (December 26, 1937, Sec. 2, p.1); (August 4, 1959, p.
1B); and (April 1, 1970, p.18A).
Vital Statistics of Mecklenburg County (Death Book 51, p.391).
Date of Preparation of this Report: July 5, 1977
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte - Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
139 Middleton Drive
Charlotte, N.C. 28207
There was an enormous building boom in the first several decades of
our century. More houses were built during those years than ever before
in so short a time. Designers and architects created residences which in
terms of style pointed everywhere. Inspiration came from Georgian
England, Renaissance Italy, Sixteenth Century France and Spain, Colonial
and Federal America and elsewhere. But the most universal influences
were the bungalow books, the stock ready-to-build houses, and mail order
stores. Public tastes were profoundly affected by magazines offering
plans for houses designed to improve living accommodations of Americans.
These plans had much of their design origin in the Bengalese 'bangla',
a low house used by the British in India, which was surrounded by a
veranda. Built at intervals along main roads, these bungalows were
intended to provide only temporary or seasonal dwellings. But adapted to
residences in this country by architects and designers, there was little
other than the name that was Indian about the vast majority of
bungalows. Designers most often drew from Japanese or Spanish sources.
In California, where climate and social conditions were favorable, the
bungalow flourished as nowhere else, with the result that 'California
bungalow' was interchangeable with 'bungalow'. This style embodied
spreading dormers, porch-verandas, lightness of construction, shingled
walls, and stone chimneys. Additionally it was the bungalow as much as
any other kind of house that led to the general adoption of the living
room and the outdoor - indoor living space.
In 1912 Charlotte, a well-to-do cotton broker and his family moved
from the older Piedmont Courts section to the new suburban development
at the end of the East Charlotte trolley line -- Plaza Hills. Here Mr.
and Mrs. Ralph VanLandingham commissioned a prominent local
architectural team, Hook and Rogers, to design a house in the 'latest'
style, not dictated by obvious historic precedents. The designers
embraced the most popular idiom of the day -- California bungalow -and
adapted the style to the large VanLandingham house to be located on the
many acred country site in Plaza Hills.
Resting solidly on a foundation of
random granite ashlar, the expansive two story house is a rare local
example of the Bungaloid style adapted to massive proportions -- an idea
far removed from the style's simple origins. Having basically a center
hall rectangular plan, the structure includes projecting wings on both
floors which create asymmetrical exterior facades. Approaching the front
entrance a circular carriage drive leads to wide steps which rise some
three feet to a broad tiled platform. Over this entrance area is a low
roofed canopy supported on stone piers at each side and joined at the
front by an arched stone lintel. From the entrance platform, wide
terraces extend across the full width of the house and turn down each
side to form verandas.
Arched glass doors form the main entrance and lead to a small tile
floored vestibule. Beyond this are additional double doors opening to a
wide center hall. Decorative millwork is limited to broad, simply molded
casing surrounding the two pairs of doors. Elsewhere there is only
rectilinear molding and trim, classical molded shapes being noticeably
Exterior design is severe, even stark, and generally exhibits
machined woodwork of simple shapes. Wall surfaces are uniformly gray
stained cypress shingles laid in alternating wide and narrow bands.
Windows are tall double hung units with large single glazed sash in
upper and lower panels. Window grouping varies in each bay and reflects
directly the wide variations of the plan and room sizes. In no instance
is there deliberate effort made to present a symmetrical placement of
At the roof overhang, exposed rafter ends are sawn in undulating
pattern to create a bracketed soffit extending out some three feet from
wall surfaces. There is no crown molding or other elaboration at the
cornice. Reflecting the wing projections and dormer features, the tall
hipped roof presents a variety of shapes. Covered with terra cotta tile,
this large roof mass dominates the exterior. Rising here and there from
the roof are tall granite chimneys.
At the sides and rear the window placement again reflects plan
irregularities. Facing the broad, carefully landscaped grounds to the
right(south)side is an expanded circular terrace which opens from the
interior through the double glazed doors. Above this terrace is an iron
trellis erected to provide support for climbing vines. At this side the
double doors are arched, and in one section which connects to a solarium
they are surrounded by granite ashlar laid to form a carefully
proportioned stone canopy with projecting wood brackets in the arch. On
the opposite(north)side the drive is extended to join a service
entrance. Here also there is a low roofed canopy supported by granite
piers and connected by an arched lintel.
The rear (east) side is the handsomest facade of the house. Featuring
an arched, triple unit window which lights and ventilates the large
dining room, this side also has two carefully proportioned arched stone
encased doorways from the solarium. On the second floor there are wood
frames with copper wire panels enclosing sleeping porches adjoining two
major bedchambers. Also at the rear a delicate slatted screen conceals a
rear service entrance and cellar stair.
Through the main entrance the large foyer is encountered. From this
high ceilinged hall, four rooms radiate to the sides and rear. At the
front right, double sliding pocket doors open to a large rectangular
living room. On the long inside wall a centered fireplace includes an
iron coal burning grate and an elaborately carved black marble mantel.
Flanking this fireplace are double doors, with multiple glazed lights,
opening to a solarium at the rear. Featuring a large stone chimney, also
centered on the interior wall, this sun porch is enclosed on two sides
by continuous arched windows and glass doors which open to a rear
terrace. Finished with rustic simplicity, the solarium has a
herringbone brick floor, stained cypress wall shingles, and board
and battened painted ceiling.
Again just inside the front entrance, another pair of sliding pocket
doors open from the foyer to the left into a book-lined study. Another
small fireplace, similar to that in the living room, is centered in the
far side wall and features a fine carved, imported marble mantel.
The center hall forms a long axis from front to rear. Terminating at
high arched glass doors, the hall leads directly into a dining room of
banquet proportions. This room has huge windows on the east and south
oriented to exploit the natural beauty of the immense gardens leading
away from the house on these two sides.
From the north side of the dining room, doors lead to the pantry and
in turn to a large kitchen. Here are early examples of gas and electric
services. Also at the rear the center hall turns left to enclose a wide
stair leading to the second floor. Rising some fourteen feet in two
runs, this broad stair features delicate turned balusters and
elaborately carved heavy newel posts hinting of Victorian origins.
On the second floor are four large bedchambers, each with separate
baths. These rooms vary considerably inside and the three largest rooms
have adjoining sleeping porches or 'outdoor rooms' designed for warm
weather sleeping. Curiously, these outdoor rooms are floored with
Interior finishes in the house are uniformly simple. Walls and
ceilings are plastered and have little or no molded trim. Chair rails
and wainscot paneling are not used. Window and door casing consists of
simple rectangular boards with square rabbeted back bands. Flooring
throughout is narrow oak strips, with the exception of ceramic tile in
the bath rooms.
A visit to the VanLandingham house offers a glimpse into the 'honest'
woodwork and unpretentious design of the post-Victorian age. Escaping
from the staid formalities of Victorian fashion, many designers over
reacted with detailing which reflected only the efficient lines of
machined wood -- leaving little or no evidence of the skill and
creativity of earlier wood hand craftsmanship. This imposing house and
its marvelous gardens are unique in Charlotte. Not necessarily easy to
admire, the strong statement of the design speaks eloquently of the
early twentieth century architecture in Charlotte.
Survey & Research Report: Carriage House at the VanLandingham Estate