Of Historic Significance of East Trade St.
Potentially Affected By The New Uptown
The report is a preliminary assessment of the historic
significance of the remaining older buildings in the 400 block of East
Trade St. for purposes of determining whether any or all of the aforesaid
buildings might meet the statutory standards of "special significance"
required for historic landmarks.
Properties To Be
Evaluated. This report evaluates four adjoining
buildings. They are:
Significance. The four adjoining brick commercial
buildings located on the north side of the 400 block of East
Trade Street are perhaps collectively the most intact and significant
streetscape of early
twentieth-century neighborhood stores that remains in the city’s
historically urban core. The buildings, 401, 405, 409, and 411 East
Trade, date from the years just before World War One.
The makeup of the 400 block of
East Trade Street changed drastically in the second decade of the 20th
century. The Sanborn
Insurance Company Maps show that the block bordered by Trade,
Brevard, Fifth, and Caldwell Streets, was entirely residential in 1911.
The closest commercial presence appears to have been a small brick
grocery store that operated from at least 1895 on the opposite corner of Brevard
In 1913 the City Directory still lists no commercial addresses on the block.
By 1918, however, the Carolina Pharmacy and C. A. Ross, grocer, occupied 401 East
Trade, then known as East Avenue. Blair Brothers & Co., druggists,
and the Earthquake Carpet Cleaning Co. occupied what is now 405 East
Trade. Bashlin's Auto Tire Shop occupied 409 East Trade, and
Piedmont Creamery Co. occupied 411 East Trade. Other businesses
shared the block along what was then East Avenue, but none of these
other early 20th century buildings survives. In 1918 a Standard Oil
Company service station sat on the corner formed with North Caldwell
Street, and by 1920 Allison Brothers, vulcanizers and Barnett Photograph
Co., were also located in the block.
The building at 401 East Trade St. is
historically significant in part because a hotel occupied the top two
floors of the building with its entrance being on North Brevard St.
Small hotels were once an important part of the built environment of
regional trading centers such as Charlotte. Salesman would flock to
this community from throughout the two Carolinas and the nation in the
early 1900s, visiting the many distribution warehouses and textile mills
in the city. Operating under various names, the hotel at the corner
of East Trade St. and North Brevard St. was conveniently located only one
block from a major railroad line. It is the only local surviving
example of a hotel building of this scale in Charlotte.
The most significant building
architecturally in the block is the one presently located at 405 East
Trade St. Constructed in 1914, it originally had two apartments
upstairs and two stores on the street level. The earliest tenants
were Blair Brothers and Co., druggist, and W. H. Boss Pianos and Organs.
The architects were Franklin Gordon and L. L. Hunter, who were partners in
Hunter and Gordon from 1909 until 1917. The only other known extant
structures in Charlotte designed by the firm are the 1911 Carnegie Library
Building at Biddle Institute, now Johnson C. Smith University, the E. C.
Marshall House in Myers Park, and the Chalmers Memorial A.R.P. Church on
1911 Carnegie Library, designed by the firm of
Hunter and Gordon
E. C. Marshall House by Hunter
|Chalmers Memorial A.R.P. Church by
Hunter and Gordon. The steeple was never erected.
Each architect did design significant extant
buildings in Charlotte on his own. Hunter was the architect
of the George Stephens House on Harvard Place and the Hawley House on
Elizabeth Avenue, which was destroyed in 1990. Gordon designed the
Earle Sumner Draper House and Mercy Hospital on East Fifth St.
Click here to see photographs of these
buildings designed by Hunter and by Gordon.
401 and 405 East Trade Street
According to a 1914 building permit, Hunter
and Gordon designed the building at 405 East Trade for R. K. Blair,
perhaps one of the Blair Brothers. J. A. Hilton was listed as the
contractor. The permit describes modern (for 1914) building
materials, such as steel girders and a composition-gravel roof.
The style of 405 East Trade reflects the
retail building's intended use. While Hunter and Gordon incorporated
elements of the classical style into their
design for the Carnegie Library and Chalmers Memorial A.R.P. Church to
signify tradition and cultural continuity, the design for 405 East Trade is
more exuberant. It appears that the building was fashioned to be
eye-catching, and modern. Among the two-story building's notable
architectural details is the use of decorative pendants hanging from the
building's metal cornice. Below, a second decorative horizontal
metal band accentuates the separation of the ground floor retail space and
the second floor, which housed two apartments. Lightly colored
bricks of various hues were utilized on the front of the building.
The window openings for the second floor are recessed and accentuated by
decorative brick panels featuring a diamond design. The colorful
brickwork found on 405 East Trade demonstrates the popularity of that
material in the early 1900s. The firm of Hunter and Gordon
also chose light colored bricks for the Carnegie Library at Biddle
Institute; and architect
C. C. Hook used the same material in 1924 in the construction of the
William Henry Belk House, located on Hawthorne Lane.
All four of the adjoining commercial
buildings on East Trade Street are of brick construction. Along East
Trade Street, 401 and 409, like 405, feature decorative brickwork, and
accentuating horizontal bands of contrasting materials. These were
the public faces of the buildings. These facades needed to be
attractive and inviting to customers. The rears of
the buildings are purely utilitarian. These elevations feature plain
red brick walls and simple segmental-arched windows. 411 East Trade,
the smallest of the buildings, appears to have been recently
rehabilitated; and it appears that new materials have been used to
construct the facade.
A historical design feature of the
four commercial buildings is the narrowness of their storefronts.
Originally 401 East Trade and 405 East Trade both incorporated into their
facades two narrow storefronts as well as a central entrance that likely
led to the upstairs residences. Historically, proximity to the
Square and to busy streets determined the value of retail real estate, and
the narrowness of these commercial buildings is a result of many of
Charlotte's businesses squeezing up as close as possible to the center of
Two views of the crowded East Trade Street
As the automobile became more popular in
Charlotte, businesses, along with neighborhoods, moved farther and farther
from the city's center. Narrow storefronts increasingly gave way to more
Tenants of the four commercial
buildings have changed frequently over the years. The longest operating
business appears to have been the Carolina Pharmacy, which replaced Webb
Brothers Drugs at 401 East Avenue (now Trade) in 1917, and was still
listed at that address in 1969.
A colorized photo of Charlotte from 1935 - The four
commercial buildings discussed here may be visible along Trade Street in
the lower right-hand corner of the picture
The evidence suggests that only two of the buildings might qualify for
designation as historic landmarks -- 401 East Trade St. because of its
associative history and 405 East Trade St. because of its architectural
significance. Neither 409 East Trade St. nor 411 East Trade St. has
the requisite physical integrity to meet the requirements for historic
As a group the buildings provide the only
evidence that East Trade St. was once a thriving street level business
district. Accordingly, the buildings might qualify collectively for
designation as a local historic district.