|Southern Real Estate Building
102 S. Tryon St.
By Lisa A. Stamper
July 26, 1983
The Southern Real Estate Building, located in the center of
Charlotte's uptown business district, exhibits a wonderful
Neo-Classical facade. In order to update the Southern Real Estate
Company's image and to keep pace with their new neighbor,
Garibaldi and Bruns jewelry store, the Charlotte architect Louis
Asbury, Jr., was commissioned to design the facade in 1913. Although the
first-story level of the facade has been replaced by two store-fronts,
the upper levels are still unaltered and in excellent condition.
The building is a rectangular, three-story structure which shares
party walls with adjacent buildings. The symmetrical facade is made of
terra-cotta masonry. Also, the facade has a parapet roof line.
During the early twentieth-century, the use of the Neo-Classic Style
was widespread, especially in the design of civic and commercial
buildings. the Greek and Roman forms were used to make the building seem
weighty, strong, durable, and permanent; an image which businesses such
as savings and loans companies and banks wanted to convey. These types
of businesses also wanted to appear to have a great deal of money;
therefore, classical motifs were extensively used to enrich their
buildings. The Southern Real Estate Company obviously believed that the
classical image could best serve their needs.
When Asbury designed the white glazed terra-cotta facade, he probably
had a Roman triumphal arch in mind. He made a tall, modified arch from
the first two stories, complete with
Ionic pilasters (instead of columns) and a straight entablature. The
third-story contained a Roman attic. This attic is not defined as the
modern type where one stores Grandma's antiques, but is the top section
which is located above the principal entablature of a Roman triumphal
arch. In other words, here the attic is referred to as an architectural
component rather than an interior space.
A photograph in a advertisement in the 1918 Charlotte Directory shows
the facade as Asbury designed it. The Ionic Order is faithfully employed
with two-story pilasters appearing to support a full entablature. Since
the photograph is not sharp, it is difficult to discern if the pilasters
had any type of base. The pilasters are tapered as columns would have
been. The capitals are complete with volutes (the most obvious
characteristics of the Ionic Order), an ornate abacus, and egg-and-dart
decoration. The entablature consists of a simple, unadorned architrave
and frieze, plus a prominent cornice complete with dentils.
The Roman triumphal arch usually has a round-arched opening between
its columns. To simulate the triumphal arch, between the pilasters a
large, slightly arched opening was left in the terra-cotta. Dark wood
was used here as infill to simulate the arched void in the triumphal
The attic story has a rectangular opening in the terra-cotta which is
the same width as the arched opening below. This opening contains dark
wooden framed windows. Terra-cotta molding visually defines the top of
the attic story. Resting on this molding an ornate cartouche encloses
the date Asbury designed and completed the Neo-Classic facade. The
parapet extends above the cartouche.
The interiors of the Southern Real Estate Building are quite
unremarkable. The structure has had numerous tenants since the bank and
real estate offices left, and current appearance likely reflects
post-1913 remodelings. On all three floors, walls are smooth plaster and
ceilings are fiberboard with small wooden molding strips where wall and
ceiling join. A narrow wooden stair at the rear corner of the building
links the three levels.
The Southern Real Estate facade is an excellent example of the
Neo-Classic Style which was very popular in Charlotte's early commercial
and civic buildings, as well as those of the nation. The facade exhibits
an important ideology of early businessmen as well as interesting
architectural ornamentation. The Southern Real Estate Building is
proposed for demolition to make room for a park in the center of
Charlotte as part of the city's Tryon Street Transit Mall Project.
Efforts have been made by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties
Commission to have the facade dismantled and relocated.