PIERCE WADSWORTH HOUSE
This report was written on 20 March 1994
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
George Pierce Wadsworth House is located at 400 S. Summit Avenue in the
Wesley Heights neighborhood of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North
2. Name address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
Mr. Charles McClure
McClure Properties, Inc.
3027 Maple Grove Drive
Charlotte, North Carolina 28208
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. Maps depicting the location of the property: This report
contains maps which depict the location of the property.
5. Current deed book references to the property: The George Pierce
Wadsworth House is sited on Tax Parcel Number 071-24-11 and listed in
Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3914 at page 503.
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 brief architectural description of the property prepared by Frances
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the properties meet 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 George Pierce Wadsworth House property does possess special
significance in terms of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The Commission
bases its judgement on the following considerations:
1) the George Pierce Wadsworth House was designed in 1910 by prominent
North Carolina architect, Louis H. Asbury;
2) the George Pierce Wadsworth House is one of the earliest houses in the
westside streetcar suburb of Wesley Heights;
3) the George Pierce Wadsworth House was the home of an important local
businessman, whose enterprises illustrate the economic activities of the
city during the early twentieth city;
4) the George Pierce Wadsworth House, and subsequent residential
construction in Wesley Heights, illustrate the expansion of the city
through the suburban subdivision of surrounding farmsteads; and
5) the George Pierce Wadsworth House property contains a servant's
quarters/carriage house, an increasingly rare building type in the city of
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 George Pierce Wadsworth House property 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. The current appraised value of the
improvements to the George Pierce Wadsworth House is $153,210.00. The
current appraised value of the George Pierce Wadsworth House, Tax Parcel
Number 071-024-11 is $54,700.00. The total appraised value of the George
Pierce Wadsworth House is $207,910.00. Tax Parcel Number 071-024-11 is zoned
Date of Preparation of this Report: 20 March 1994
Prepared by: Frances P. Alexander, M.A.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
P.O. Box 35434
Charlotte, North Carolina 28235
Location and Site Description
The George Pierce Wadsworth House is located in the Wesley Heights
neighborhood, an early twentieth century streetcar suburb, of Charlotte,
North Carolina. The Wadsworth House sits on a corner lot at the junction of
South Summit Avenue and West Second Street, two blocks north of the West
Morehead Street thoroughfare. The tracks of the former Piedmont and Northern
Railway follow Litaker Street, one block south of the Wadsworth House. This
house is one of the larger and earlier houses in this residential
neighborhood of tree-lined streets. Much of the surrounding neighborhood
dates to the 1920s and 1930s.
Facing Summit Avenue, the George Pierce Wadsworth House is sited
off-center on its lot with a curved drive and porte cochere on the West
Second Street side and a circular drive between the rear of the house and
the servant's quarters. Portions of the original scored carriage driveway
with high rounded curbs remain. The servant's quarters/carriage house is
located directly to the rear of the main house. An original walkway runs
along the front of the house with a walkway and steps connecting the front
walk with the rear drive. The gardens and yard are found on the south and
southwest sides of the house. Vestiges of the terraced lawn survive as do
some original plantings, including now mature oak and maple trees. The
Wadsworth House is now operated as a funeral home.
The proposed designation includes the house, the servant's
quarters/carriage house, and the surrounding yard.
The George Pierce Wadsworth House is a large, two and one-half story,
frame house sheathed in
wood shingles. The house has a truncated L-shaped plan formed by the
rectangular massing of the main block and the two story rear ell. The house
has a raised, brick foundation, a
hip roof covered in asphalt shingles, overhanging eaves, and hip roofed
dormers. A hip roofed porch extends across the facade and terminates in
a porte cochere on the north side. The wide porch has shingled box piers and
a shingled skirt between the piers. The facade has four irregularly placed
bays and an off-center entrance. The wide entrance has divided
transom, and the door has a multiple light upper section. The windows
vary in size and type, but most are sixteenover-one light,
double hung, wooden sash. Banks of Craftsman style windows are located
in the southwest corner of the second floor, corresponding to a sleeping
porch. An inset summer porch beneath the sleeping porch has a hipped roof
bay on the southwest elevation and a single entrance, with transom, on the
rear elevation. The window openings in the bay and rear door are screened.
The house has both interior and exterior brick chimneys. A molded projecting
cornice divides the two main floors of the house.
The rear ell has an irregular massing. The first floor has a
gable roof with an engaged porch roof over an enclosed porch. A modern
double loading door and a single door are found on the rear elevation of the
enclosed porch. The second floor is smaller than the first and has a hip
roof extending from the roof of the main block.
The interior has a wide, formal entrance hall which extends to the rear
porch. A horizontal paneled door separates the rear porch from the entrance
hall. The front hall is flanked by a long living room and a dining room. The
entrance hall now has linoleum floors, but the plaster walls, wide, molded
door surrounds, base moldings, and a tall chair railing are original. A
staircase, with square, classical box
balusters and curved newel, rises to a landing with a segmental
arched, stained glass window. The window has a fixed light transom, and
the lower section is a
casement window. The stairs are now carpeted. At the stair landing,
there is a door opening which originally contained a staircase to the attic.
This opening is now closed.
The long living room is separated from the hall by paneled pocket doors.
Opposite the hall doorway is a fireplace with a paneled mantel. The ceiling
has exposed wooden beams, with original drop globe lamps, and the hardwood
floors of the living room are now carpeted. Double multiple light doors in
the southwest corner of the room open into the summer porch.
The dining room also has plaster walls and exposed ceiling beams, paneled
wainscoting, and Arts and Crafts chandelier, but no fireplace. A paneled
door in the northwest corner opens into a butler's pantry which, in turn,
leads into the kitchen. The hardwood floors in the dining room are carpeted.
The butler's pantry has built-in cabinets along the interior walls.
Behind the living room is a small study. The study opens off a small
hall, with a closet and small bathroom. Opposite the hall door to the study
is a multiple light door, opening onto the summer porch. The doors and
windows repeat the broad, molded surrounds, and there is a wide, flat chair
railing. The study has a notable oversized fireplace mantel constructed of
brick. The mantel is composed of a flat, brick back wall from which a molded
classical mantel projects. The room also contains original Arts and Craft
wall light fixtures. The hardwood floors in the study are also carpeted.
Located in the rear ell, the kitchen has undergone little alteration
although it is now used as a preparation room for the funeral home. The
kitchen repeats the wide, molded door and windows surrounds, and the use of
horizontally paneled doors. Some original fixtures are intact. To the rear
of the kitchen is the laundry room. Along the south side of the kitchen and
laundry room is the enclosed porch which contains an open rear staircase
leading to the second floor main staircase landing. The staircase has box
balusters and newel. The walls and ceiling of the porch have the original
vertical wood paneling except along the south wall where the porch has been
enclosed. One window, along the kitchen wall, has been infilled. The second
floor has four bedrooms, two sleeping porches, and two bathrooms. The second
floor hall runs the width of the house, although a portion of the hall on
the south side has a door opening to close off two bedrooms and a bathroom.
The hall has original light fixtures. The bedrooms all have original
horizontal paneled doors, wide, molded surrounds, and plaster walls and
ceilings. The hall and the bedrooms are all now carpeted. Two of the
bedrooms have fireplaces, and the paneled mantels are original. The
bathrooms have their original fixtures, including freestanding tubs, sinks,
and tile. The sleeping porch on the south side was used as a kitchen when
this portion of the second floor was converted to an apartment, probably in
the late 1940s. However, the kitchen fixtures are freestanding and have
required little alteration.
The house has undergone relatively little alteration despite the change
in function. Some general deterioration is evident, notably in the rear
service areas of the house, but otherwise the historic fabric is intact.
Servant's Quarters/Carriage House
The Servant's Quarters/Carriage House is located at the rear of the
property and is separated from the main house by the circular driveway. This
building is a one story tall, frame building with a rectangular plan. This
building has a brick foundation, shingled veneer, and asphalt shingled, hip
roof. The two bays of the garage occupy the northern half of the building,
and the living quarters the southern portion. The hinged, double doors to
the garage appear to be replacements. The living portion of the building has
an engaged porch at the south end, and the porch is supported by classical
box piers. This south elevation has three irregular bays. The door occupies
the easternmost bay, and there are two windows. The east elevation is
symmetrical with a central entrance, covered by a modern metal awning, and
two flanking windows. The windows in this building, as in the main house,
are sixteen-over-one light, double hung, wooden sash. The building has one
interior, brick chimney. The garage is still used as such, and the servant's
quarters are used for storage. The building has good integrity.
The George Pierce Wadsworth House was designed by prominent North
Carolina architect, Louis H. Asbury, in 1910, and construction was completed
in 1911 (Louis H. Asbury, Book of Commissions, Job No. 71, July 1910). Local
businessman, George Wadsworth commissioned Asbury to build his new house on
property which the Wadsworth Land Company had recently subdivided into
Wesley Heights, a middle class suburb located west of downtown between West
Trade Street and W. Morehead Street. The George Pierce Wadsworth House was
one of the first houses built in the new suburb which was called Wesley Park
on early plans (C.G. Hubbel, Wesley Park Map, July 1910).
By 1892, much of the hillside between Tuckaseegee Road and Sugaw Creek
had been acquired by George Wadsworth's father, John W. Wadsworth
(1835-1895), who ran the largest livery stable in Charlotte. In addition to
his livery at North Tryon Street and Sixth Street, Wadsworth also assisted
in operating the first horsedrawn streetcar system in the city. Coming to
Charlotte in 1857, John Wadsworth began with a small drove of mules and
gradually built a large livestock, carriage, and harness business while
acquiring extensive land holdings in the city and county (Hanchett, 1984:
14; Mull, 1985: 1). On the westside parcel, where the George Pierce
Wadsworth House was later built, Wadsworth operated the "J.W. Wadsworth
Model Farm", which was known for its Holstein cattle. At his death in 1895,
Wadsworth's heirs incorporated the livery and livestock business as
Wadsworth Sons Company and subdivided the farm. However, development was
delayed after 1909, when the West Trade Street trolley began service north
of the property. With
streetcar service, the Wadsworths began plans for developing the former
farm, but construction was again largely stalled until after World War I
when the Charlotte Investment Company bought the land.
George Wadsworth was born in 1879 to John Wadsworth and Margaret Cannon
Wadsworth, sister of J.W. Cannon, founder of Cannon Mills. After college in
Virginia and Baltimore, George Wadsworth returned to Charlotte to assume the
presidency of Wadsworth Sons Company in 1902. George Wadsworth soon began
diversifying the family business interests, a necessary step as automobile
travel began replacing horsedrawn conveyances. In 1912, he organized
Smith-Wadsworth Hardware Company, and in 1914, he helped establish the
Carolina Baking Company, which later was subsumed within the Southern Baking
Company. Wadsworth was also associated with the
Charlotte National Bank as a director. In 1925, Wadsworth Sons Company
was liquidated, ending seventy years of local livery and livestock
operations. Wadsworth continued his business interests with the Wadsworth
Land Company and the Wadsworth-Seborn Company, a sales operation for Reo
cars throughout the Carolinas. His other real estate operations included
serving as an officer for the Pegram Land Company. The holdings of both
Wadsworth and the Pegram Company were platted as
North Charlotte (Mull, 1985: 2).
George Wadsworth commissioned Charlotte architect, Louis H. Asbury to
design the house at 400 South Summit in 1910, two years after his marriage
and the birth of two children. A Charlotte native, Asbury (1877-1975), had
established his practice in the city only two years before the Wadsworth
commission. Prior to returning to his hometown, Asbury had received his
professional training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and had
worked for the nationally known firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, in
either its New York or Boston office. Later joined by his son, Asbury had an
extensive regional practice until his retirement in 1956. A founding member
of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects,
Asbury was among a group of early architects in the city who brought a
degree of sophistication, urbanity, and professionalism to early twentieth
century building in Charlotte. His clients, exemplified by George Wadsworth,
tended to be the businessmen responsible for the growing importance of
Charlotte as a regional center for the textile and banking industries
(Farnsworth, 1975: 16).
The Wadsworth family continued to live in the house after the sudden
death of George Wadsworth in 1930 at the age of 51. James Dallas Ramsey, an
officer of the Textron-Southern Company, and his wife, Pearl Shelby Ramsey
bought the house in 1936. The Ramseys converted a portion of the west side
of the second floor to an apartment and adapted a small sleeping porch as a
kitchen, probably during the late 1940s. The Ramseys moved in 1967, and the
house stood vacant for two years. In 1969, Mrs. Ramsey sold the property to
prominent businessman, Worthy D. Hairston (1902-1969) and his wife, Marie S.
Hairston. Hairston, a funeral director who had established the Hairston's
House of Funerals in 1930, moved his business from its Beatties Ford Road
location to the Wadsworth House in 1969 (McClure Interview, 29 November
Biddleville resident and the son of a Presbyterian minister, Worthy D.
Hairston, had attended Charlotte public schools, Harbison College, and
Johnson C. Smith University. Prior to forming the funeral home, Hairston was
a builder, having trained as a carpenter, and a teacher in Mecklenburg and
Gaston counties. His local building projects included the Murkland School in
Providence Township, the first school for blacks constructed of stone, and
the Grand Theater. Mr. Hairston also served as the first agent for the
Washington National Insurance Company in Charlotte. In 1930, Hairston and a
partner formed Hairston's House of Funerals, but after his partner's death
in 1933, Hairston became the sole owner. Worthy Hairston lived less than a
year after moving the funeral home to the Wadsworth House, and the Hairstons'
daughter, Marie H. Pettice, operated the business until her death in the
mid-1970s. In 1977, Mrs. Hairston's nephew, Charles McClure, bought the
Wadsworth House property. McClure, vho already had an extensive real estate
business as well as other commercial operations, continued to operate
Hairston's House of Funerals. McClure changed the name to Northwest Funerals
Homes, Inc., and the business is still in operation at this site today
(Mull, 1985: 4-5).
Unlike the other early streetcar suburbs in Charlotte, such as
Elizabeth, Wesley Heights was platted without the wide boulevards along
which the streetcars ran and which were developed with large, impressive
residences. Streetcar service, which was essential to the development of
outlying locations prior to the widespread use of automobiles, was available
nearby, but did not run through the Wesley Heights neighborhood. After World
War I, the Charlotte Investment Company platted roughly half the land,
including Summit Avenue, Grandin Road, and Walnut Avenue. The plat extended
from West Trade Street and Tuckaseegee Road southwest of the interurban line
of the Piedmont and Northern Railway which bisected the former farm parcel (Hanchett
1984: 15). (The Wadsworth House is located one block northeast of the
Wesley Heights was the work of Charlotte real estate developer, E.C.
Griffith. Griffith, a Virginia native, was pivotal in the construction of
many early twentieth century neighborhoods in Charlotte, and Wesley Heights
was his first solo project in the city. Griffith had come to Charlotte to
work in the real estate department of the American Trust Company, founded,
with F.C. Abbott and Word Wood, by George Stephens. Stephens, who was
responsible for subdividing the farm of his father-in-law, J.S. Myers, as
Myers Park, employed Griffith to oversee the final construction of this
streetcar suburb (Blythe, 1961: 306). From Myers Park, Griffith continued
his real estate career with Wesley Heights in the early 1920s, but developed
the Rosemont subdivision of Elizabeth and Eastover during the same period.
By the 1930s, Griffith had been responsible, in some capacity, for the
streetcar suburbs which encircled the city.
Development in Wesley Heights was slow initially, but as the population
of Charlotte more than doubled between 1910 and 1930, real estate sales
improved (Blythe, 1961: 173). In 1928, the second half of Wesley Heights was
platted, extending Summit, Grandin, and Walnut Avenues across the railroad
to West Morehead Street (Hanchett, 1984: 16). As part of the Wesley Heights
project, Griffith focused on the development of West Morehead, which until
1927 had been a minor downtown street. By extending the street across Irwin
Creek through the edge of Wesley Heights, Griffith made West Morehead an
important link between downtown and Wilkinson Boulevard, the first highway
in North Carolina, leading from Charlotte to Gastonia. Griffith encouraged
industry to take advantage of these good transportation connections, and
persuaded J.B. Duke's Piedmont and Northern Railway to extend a spurline
south to parallel the new thoroughfare (Hanchett, 1984: 17).
Wesley Heights was platted with a grid street pattern, and the lots along
the principal northeast-southwest streets were long and narrow, to maximize
proximity to the street rail system. House construction was determined, in
part, because of the limited streetcar service, and frame bungalows
predominated in the area during the l910s and early 1920s. During the late
1920s and 1930s, construction included numerous examples of one story,
brick, cross gable cottages, making Wesley Heights a homogeneous
neighborhood of bungalows, restrained Tudor Revival cottages, small four
unit apartment houses, as well as some earlier and later exceptions to this
pattern. The George Pierce Wadsworth House is one of the earliest, and
perhaps only architect designed houses in this middle class neighborhood of
The changes in ownership and function of the George Pierce Wadsworth
House since 1969 illustrate changes in the composition of some older
Charlotte neighborhoods. The extensive urban renewal programs of the l950s
and 1960s displaced large segments of the black population and put many
blacks onto the housing market. In inner city neighborhoods, such as Wesley
Heights, housing pressures transformed the formerly white neighborhood. By
the 1970s, virtually all residents of Wesley Heights were black. The
conversion of the Wadsworth House to a funeral home, after purchase by a
long-standing black business family, exemplifies the metamorphosis of this
Designed by a well-known local architect for a wealthy patron, the George
Pierce Wadsworth House breaks with the surrounding homogeneity of Wesley
Heights in the size of the parcel, the layout of house and gardens, and the
architectural sophistication of the house. Occupying the equivalent of three
lots, the Wadsworth House is a large, two and one-half story residence in an
area of relatively dense, one story bungalows and cottages. The house, large
gardens (vestiges of which remain), carriage drive, and servant's quarters
form an ensemble which contrasts to the uniformly middle class composition
of the surrounding area. The survival of the servant's quarters/carriage
house is rare and further underscores the contrast with later construction.
Architecturally, the irregular massing, materials, and detailing make the
George Pierce Wadsworth House an impressive and rare local example of the
Arts and Crafts movement from the early twentieth century.
Bishir, Catherine. North Carolina Architecture. Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
Blythe, LeGette and Charles Raven Brockmann. Hornets' Nest: The Story
of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Charlotte: McNally of Charlotte,
Farnsworth, Julie. "Louis Asbury: Builder of a City." Charlotte
Observer, 24 March 1975.
Hanchett, Thomas W. Charlotte Neighborhood Survey: An Architectural
Inventory. Volume III. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties
Commission, November 1984.
Hubbel, C.G. Plat Map. Wesley Park, Section 1, Wadsworth Lend Company,
Charlotte, North Carolina. Records of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Interview with Charles McClure, 23 April 1985. Interview conducted by
Barbara M. Mull. Records of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
Interview with Charles McClure, 29 November 1994. Interview conducted by
Frances P. Alexander and Robert Drakeford, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Landmarks Commission Member.
Mull, Barbara M. Historical Sketch of the Wadsworth-Ramsey House. April
1985. Records of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Company. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, 1929.