Route II: South & East Charlotte
Several miles to the south of
Plaza-Midwood, yet another development plan got underway in 1911. John
Springs Myers had already carved off part of his farm to create the
Cherry neighborhood in 1891. His new dream was to turn the rest of his
large cotton farm into an elegant suburb. He must have spent many evenings
discussing the plan with his family and especially with his son-in-law,
George Stephens. Stephens, who came to Charlotte after graduating from the
University of North Carolina, joined the insurance firm of Walter Brem
house we saw in
Dilworth) in 1896.
John Springs Myers, owner of the farmland that became Myers Park
George Stephens, John Myers's son-in-law who hired John Nolen to design
A talented businessman, Stephens
was able to take advantage of the excellent opportunities that
turn-of-the-century Charlotte provided, and he quickly became involved in
several schemes. He and Brem joined realtor F.C. Abbott and textile banker
B.D. Heath in developing part of
Elizabeth, and in 1901, Stephens, Abbott, and Word H. Wood set up the
Southern States Trust Company (now NationsBank).
Ten years later, he founded the
Stephens Company with Word Wood and A.J. Draper, and began to turn his
father-in-law's dream into reality. Moved by the same fashion consciousness
as E.D. Latta, the company hired a city planner to make the plans. They
chose John Nolen, whose design for Independence Park had impressed Stephens
a great deal. It was a good choice, for Nolen later became one of the
nation's top planners with over 400 projects to his name.
Nolen's vision for Myers Park was to use the natural
curves, gentle hills, and creeks to create a secluded glen cut off from the
city. A major boulevard would unite the whole and provide trolley service to
homes scattered along winding side roads. The results earned Myers Park
national acclaim as the "finest unified subdivision south of Baltimore." To
the modern visitor, the New South Neighborhoods appear to have been
constructed in the midst of a forest, but in fact this was not the case. It
is hard to imagine those first years when it must have been plain to new
residents that they were living on former cotton fields, and it was only
hard work that changed the scenery. In Myers Park that work began in 1915,
when Nolen hired the landscape architect Earle Sumner Draper to turn the
almost treeless farmland into a suburban park. "Willow, oak, tulip, plane,
and elm" were selected to grace the sidewalks and gardens. Early buyers even
had their lots landscaped free of charge. Not a man to let nature take its
own time, James B. Duke insisted that large trees be planted as well, and
summoned one of his estate gardeners to oversee the task.
The oldest section of Myers Park is towards the northern
area that you will enter first. For some years the suburb acted as a
separate incorporated town. As houses were erected, wealthy Charlotteans
were lured out of the center city. The first wave came from among the
executives of the eight-year old Southern Public Utilities Company (now Duke
Power), and included its legendary president, James Buchanan Duke. The next
wave of residents included bank presidents and real estate magnates such as
George Stephens himself. Then came the textile executives such as the famous
Springs family. Civic and commercial leaders also chose to locate their
family houses here, including members of the families that owned the Belk,
Ivey, and Efird department stores, and "Good Roads" Governor Cameron
junction with 4th St., Hawthorne becomes Queens Rd.
35. At this intersection notice the
streetcar shelters on both sides of Queens, facing onto 4th St. When the
trolley line was operating, this was the site of the streetcar gateway that
marked the entrance into our fourth New South suburb, Myers Park.
Queens across 3rd St. and curve to the left and then right. At the next
streetcar shelter, which is on the left hand side of the road, turn left
onto Hermitage Rd. Shortly ahead, pause at the entrance to Hermitage Court
on your left, which is flanked with large stone pillars.
36. Hermitage Court was developed by a
subcontractor, Frank Simmons, and he built his own imposing
Neoclassical house here in 1913. This is on your immediate right as you
face the entrance. Notice its grand semicircular portico with two-story
columns. You will notice a contrast between the earlier Colonial Revival
houses of Dilworth, which retained some of their Victorian features, and
their later counterparts here.
The Simmons House
Hermitage Rd., past Edgehill Park on your right. Pause in front of the large
white house to your right.
37. Known variously as "Lynnwood,"
"White Oaks," or just "the big house," this large Colonial Revival
mansion is where James Buchanan Duke and his family spent several months of
each year between 1919 and his death in 1925. It was one of four family
houses and provided Duke with a place from which to oversee his thriving
utility empire. It also gave his only daughter, Doris, the opportunity to
experience southern life and society. Duke enlarged an earlier mansion built
here in 1915 by one of his executives, Z. V. Taylor, so that it included 45
rooms and 12 bathrooms. He chose the architect C.C. Hook to design the
additions and Earle Sumner Draper to landscape the 15-acre garden. Duke had
12 miles of pipeline laid to the Catawba River to provide a 150-foot
fountain on the grounds--this in itself became known as a local wonder.
"Lynnwood", or "White Oaks"
Duke was already a tobacco magnate when he acquired the
fledgling Catawba Power Company of Fort Mill in 1904. Building dams to
harness the power of the river, his Southern Utility Company facilitated the
expansion of the cotton industry in early twentieth-century Charlotte.
It was in this house, incidentally, that Duke set up the
endowments which transformed Trinity College into Duke University and which
benefited several other institutions including Johnson C. Smith University
and Davidson College.
Hermitage Rd. Cross Ardsley Rd.
38. After crossing Ardsley Rd, notice the wooded
area to your left. This was the site of J.S. Myers's front yard which he
proudly planted and maintained and which inspired the name "Myers Park."
At the next
intersection, turn right onto Granville Rd. When Granville intersects Queens
Road, turn right and then take the next right onto Harvard Place. Pause by
821 Harvard Place, the last house on the right hand side of the street.
39. George Stephens built this
house for himself in 1915. His father-in-law's 1867 country home used to
stand behind, and for a time it was used as a garage and servant's quarters.
The house combines
Colonial Revival and Bungalow influences. Its architect, L.L. Hunter,
came from nearby Huntersville, and designed other buildings in the area,
including the Carnegie Library on the Johnson C. Smith University campus,
which you will visit on Route IV.
The Stephens House
intersection ahead, turn left onto Ardsley. (You can catch another glimpse
of Lynnwood here; it is the house facing you at this intersection.) Continue
down Ardsley and then turn left at the intersection with Queens Rd.
40. Until 1938,
streetcars ran down the median of the road. The Charlotte Observer
tells an amusing story of schoolboys greasing the tracks where Queens Road
dipped into the valley on this stretch. One Halloween night in the mid-1930s
both tracks were greased and a little gunpowder was included in the mixture.
"As the streetcar struggled vainly to get up the hill in either direction,
anonymous groups lighted the gunpowder-grease mixture. The way those streaks
of fire swooshed down the tracks, under the car, and up the other hill was
something to behold. No damage, just a real great sight."
Stay in the
right lane and when you reach the major intersection of Queens Rd. and
Providence Rd., turn right to remain on Queens Rd.
41. Louis Asbury, Sr. designed the Myers Park
Methodist Church that faces you across this intersection of Queens and
Providence roads. Built in 1929, the building closely imitates Medieval
Gothic churches in its cruciform shape, and by using arched
stained-glass windows, and stone facing.
Myers Park Methodist Church
42. Six houses past the high-rise Carlton
Condominiums, look out for the
McManaway House on your right (1700 Queens Rd.). Like "Victoria" on The
Plaza, this 1874 house was moved from its uptown location to the suburbs in
1916. It is a rare surviving example of the Victorian
Italianate style, with its bracketed cornice, tall arched windows with
decorative crowns, and a shallow roof. The house has a sad history: the
first two owners died when they were relatively young and at the height of
their careers. The first was an immigrant and merchant, Jacob Rintels, who
was a partner of Samuel Wittkowsky's in a successful uptown wholesale and
retail business. Dr. Charles McManaway had the house moved from W. Trade St.
to this location, but died two years later.
The McManaway House
Bear to the
right when the road divides shortly past the McManaway house. This is Selwyn
Ave. Immediately on your right you will see the campus of Queens College.
43. Stephens was no doubt copying W.S. Alexander's
enterprising idea (remember Elizabeth College?) when he decided to attract
Presbyterian College for Women from its uptown location to a 50-acre lot of
its choice in Myers Park. He was not, however, the only suitor that
Presbyterian College for Women had. Three others, including E.D. Latta, made
their own offers and forced Stephens to increase his offer. Eventually he
won out, and the college moved here in 1914.
John Nolen laid out the plan for the college, renamed Queens College,
and subsequently used the same ideas in other campus designs, including the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
C.C. Hook designed the first five buildings: Administration, Science and
Art, the Conservatory of Music, and North and South dormitories.
immediately after the college onto Wellesley and left again onto Roswell
Ave. Notice the first house on the left.
44. This is a fine example of the
Tudor Revival style, designed by the English born William H. Peeps for
Mary P. Lethco in 1928. The Tudor Revival style was almost as popular as the
Colonial Revival style in Myers Park in the 1920s and 1930s. Notice the
mixture of building materials he used to create a rambling rustic effect.
At the next
intersection turn left onto Queens Rd., and at the traffic light bear right.
You will now be going back down Queens Rd. where you were before.
45. Almost opposite the Italianate McManaway house, at 1621
Earle Sumner Draper's own
Tudor Revival residence. From his beginning as on-site supervisor for
John Nolen in 1915, Draper became the leading planner in the southeastern
U.S. In 1933, he left Charlotte to become the chief of planning for the
Tennessee Valley Authority and later acted as a director of the Federal
Housing Administration. Between 1923 and 1933 he lived here with his wife,
Norma, and five children. They enjoyed a typical upper middle class
life-style, employing a cook, a maid, a chauffeur, and a gardener. Look for
the family crest on the chimney face! After they left, local children
thought that the house was haunted. Draper died in 1994 in Florida.
The Earle Sumner Draper House
junction of Queens and Providence Rds. at the next traffic signal, go
straight across. This will put you on Providence Rd.
46. After passing the library and apartment
buildings on your left, look for the
stone house that's now a branch office of First Citizens Bank. This was
the third house erected in Myers Park (1912) and was designed for hotel
owners John and Lucille Jamison by Louis Asbury, Sr. It was built using
North Carolina granite laid in a cobweb pattern. Sadly, before it was
completed, Mr. Jamison was killed by a train at Mecklenburg community of
Newell while out on a country drive. Mrs. Jamison, however, completed the
house and the family lived there for 63 years.
The Jamison House
47. To your right, look out for the Villa Square
Shopping complex and try to catch a glimpse of the
unusual Tuscan Revival-style villa. (It is possible to park in front of
the house or in the rear for a closer look.) The widowed Mrs. Blanche
Reynolds met her second husband, Mr. Alexis Gourmajenko, a Russian émigré,
during a tour of Europe. They had the house built in 1926 in a style which
must have seemed a little eccentric for Charlotte at the time. Look for the
piazzas to either side of the house, the square tower, and the low-pitched
roof with roof tiles imported from Cuba. The architect was William L.
Turn right at
the traffic light onto Cherokee Rd., and bear to the right when the road
forks shortly thereafter. Pause just past the intersection with Fenton Pl.