Survey and Research Report on the Phillips House and Morris Barn
1. Name and location of the property: The property known
as the Phillips House and Morris Barn is located at 131 West Charles
Street, Matthews, North Carolina.
2. Name and address of the current owner of the property:
Margaret E. Phillips
PO Box 265
Matthews NC 28106-0265
3. Representative photographs of the property. This
report contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property.
Current Deed Book Reference To The Property. The most recent
deed information for this property is found in Mecklenburg County
Deed Book/Page. The tax parcel number for the property is
6. A Brief Historical Essay On The Property. This report
contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by
7. A Brief Physical Description Of The Property. This
report contains a brief physical description of the property
prepared by Stewart Gray.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5.
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Landmarks Commission judges that the Phillips House and Morris Barn
possesses special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations:
1) The property known as the “Phillips House and Morris Barn”
is a significant cultural artifact for the town of Matthews, well
representing the historic landscape of the town in the early 20th
century. The intact lot, house and outbuildings physically
demonstrate how daily life was conducted in Matthews when
agriculture and working animals were prominent in the town, and when
modern conveniences such as public water and electricity were not
2) The Phillips House and Morris Barn are important for their
association with the Phillips family. Oscar Luther “Pete” Phillips
who served as Matthews’s postmaster from 1933 to 1953, served on the
Town Board and Mecklenburg County School Board, and was a prominent
citizen who worked to bring public electricity and new businesses to
Matthews. As the longtime director of the Carolina Room, Mary Louise
Phillips was prominent in the area of local history in Mecklenburg
County. Mary Louise and her sister Margaret Phillips became “town
institutions,” living in their childhood home in the center of town,
and remaining physically and socially active into their
3) The Phillips House is a substantial Craftsman-style bungalow that
contributes significantly to the built historic environment of
4) While all surviving historic barns in Mecklenburg County are
important artifacts of the agricultural history of the area, the
Morris Barn is extremely significant as the only indentified
surviving “in-town” barn in the county. The barn is in good
condition and has retained a good degree of integrity.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission judges that the physical
description included in this report demonstrates that the property
known as the Phillips House and Morris Barn meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for 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 Phillips House and Morris Barn is $193,400.
10. This report finds that the interior and exterior of the house
and barn, all outbuildings, and the land associated with the
Phillips House and Morris Barn should be included in landmark
designation of the property.
Date of preparation of this report:
The Phillips House and Morris Barn
The Phillips House was built in 1925 for O. L. “Pete” Phillips, his
wife Beulah Paxton Phillips, and their two daughters Margaret and
Mary Louise, in the heart of the town of Matthews, North Carolina.
The family moved into the house in February of 1925. The house was
built by professional builders, Beulah’s brother Tom Paxton, and
Bill Freeman. The builders also built the nearby Pleasant Plains
Baptist Church. The Phillips House was built on the site of the
Morris House, a three-room house that was moved to the southeast
corner of the one acre property and used to house servants and farm
hands. The Morris House was demolished around 1965. The Morris’s
gabled barn was left in place and served as barn and a cotton house
for the Phillips family.
Matthews in the First Half of the 20th Century
The Phillips House was built in a physical and social landscape
that was very different from the Matthews of today. In 1925
Matthews did not have public electrical power. Nor were public water
and sewer available. Water for the Phillips house was drawn from a
hand-dug well that was lined with stone. Water was brought up with
a bucket and a hand crank, while their neighbor Nancy Reid drew her
well water with a pump. The Town of Matthews did not have a
municipal water system until 1948.
The Phillips’s relied on their hand-dug well until around 1935 when
their neighbor, Lee Edward Funderburk, brought water to his house from a
well on the Funderburk family’s commercial property on Trade Street.
The pipe had to run through the Phillips property to reach Funderburk’s
house, and Pete Phillips was able to tap on the waterline in exchange
for granting Funderburk a right-of-way. As was typical, an outhouse was
located on the Phillips lot.
In Matthews in 1925, animal husbandry was prevalent, and animal power
was still commonly used to transport goods. Until the end of World War
II, the Phillips family kept a milk cow in the barn, and used the back
third of the house lot as a pasture. Margaret Phillips recalls that not
everyone in town owned a milk cow, but that many people did. According
to Margaret, “Everyone” kept chickens, and some folks in town even kept
pigs. In addition to a milk cow, the Phillips sometimes kept sheep and
a horse in the pasture behind their house. The Phillips kept chickens
through the 1950s. The property is bordered to the east by an alley
(now Library Lane) that served a grist mill, a blacksmith shop, and a
large livery stable. Mule and horses frequently traveled the alley
before the War.
Cotton growing beside the Matthews commercial district, ca. 1945
Cotton was a dominant presence in Matthews. Cotton farms surrounded
the town, and there was even a cotton field in the town adjacent to the
train depot, where the current Town Hall is located. Pete sometimes
hauled cotton from his tenant farms to his home and stored the cotton in
the barn. Their neighbor, Lee Edward Funderburk, a cotton dealer,
routinely hauled bailed cotton to North Fremont Street by mule drawn
wagons when there was nowhere else to keep it.
Despite being “in town,” the landscape of Matthews in 1925 was
inexorable linked to agriculture, livestock, and rural practices.
Margaret and Mary Louise
Phillips, ca. 1940
The Phillips House and Morris Barn are important artifacts for
understanding the early 20th-century history of Matthews.
The intact lot, house and outbuildings physically demonstrate how daily
life was conducted in Matthews when agriculture and working animals were
prominent in the town, and when modern conveniences such as public water
and electricity were not yet available.
The Phillips Family
Pete and Margaret Phillips, ca. 1918
Pete Phillips was both a townsperson and a farmer. He was born one of
nine children, on a nearby farm where his father raised cotton for seed,
selling “Phillips Big Bowl” brand seeds. Even after going to work as a
clerk for cotton merchant Thomas Jefferson Renfroe, Pete continued to
work on the family farm and to manage tenants who sharecropped the
Phillips’ land. Pete married Beulah in 1913 and moved to a house on
Trade Street. The Phillips had two daughters. Margaret was born in
1914, and Mary Louise was born in 1917. In 1925 Matthews did not have
public electrical power, but Pete Phillips had his home wired for
electricity in anticipation of electrical service becoming available.
After the family moved into the Charles Street house, Pete began to work
Edward Funderburk to have electricity brought to the town from Monroe.
Margaret remembers her father and Funderburk traveling in the evenings
between Matthews and Monroe, working to secure the right-of-way for the
power lines. It is possible that Pete’s civic involvement was rewarded
in 1933 when he was named the town’s Postmaster. Pete was a Democrat,
and was appointed as the town’s Post Master by the Roosevelt
Pete Phillips in front of the Matthews Post Office, ca. 1950
1939 a new federally funded post office was completed at the corner of
Trade Street and West Charles Street, on land donated by local
businessman Lester Hunt Yandle. This new location was ideal for Pete
Phillips, as the post office lot backed up to the Phillips House lot.
Pete led the official dedication of the new post office on May 3, 1939.
The celebration was quite an event with the U.S. Army 105th
Engineer Band playing to a crowd of approximately 3,500 people. Among
the speakers at the ceremony was the area’s congressman, A. L.
During Pete’s tenure as Postmaster (1933-1955), the post office was
central to the lives of Matthews residents. Mail was the primary means
of communication and information for most people in the town. It was
essential to commerce, and with the development of the New Deal, it was
the source of government welfare and assistance checks. The Matthews
Post Office was the most prominent and most utilized public building in
the town, and Pete Phillips was most public and most accessible public
official in Matthews.
While working as the postmaster, Pete Phillips also served on the town
board and the
Mecklenburg County Board of Education. He continued to manage his
family’s farm and tenant farms, and bought additional productive
farmland. He also constructed a tennis court beside the Phillips House,
adjacent to Charles Street. The family played a tremendous amount of
tennis, and the court (packed clay) was available to the other town
residents. The fence that surrounded the court had a gate that opened
directly onto the public sidewalk.
After his retirement from the post office, Pete Phillips kept busy as a
farmer and worked as a volunteer recruiter to bring businesses to
Matthews. Pete was given credit for bringing a branch plant of the
Consolidated Brass Company to Matthews. The company, today known as
Apollo Valves, is now headquartered in Matthews. He was voted “Matthews
Man of the Year” in 1957.
 Pete died in 1965.
Beulah worked as a homemaker. She shared her house with her daughters
until she died in 1978. Margaret attended the North Carolina College
for Women (now UNCG), and then began a career as a teacher. She worked
in the Mecklenburg County school system, and then in the unified school
system. She spent the last nineteen years of her career as a school
administrator and retired in 1976. Mary Louise attended Queens College
and then Emory University where she studied library science. After
teaching and working as a librarian in Virginia and Raleigh, N.C., Mary
Louise returned to Matthews in the late 1940s and worked with her father
at the Post Office. In 1955 she became the director of the public
library’s Carolina Room, an archive and reference center for the local
history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Mary Louise was critical
in the development and long lasting success of the Carolina Room, and
she retired as director in 1985.
After their retirement, the sisters continued to reside in the Phillips
House and were prominent in the social life of Matthews. Mary Louise
died in 2013. With the exception of her time in college, the
one-hundred-year-old Margaret has resided in the Phillips House from its
completion in 1925 until today.
The Phillips House
Tom Paxton, and Bill Freeman built Pete and Beulah Phillips a
substantial Craftsman style bungalow. Although the popularity of the
Craftsman style and the bungalow form had peaked years earlier, the
style and form proved to be tenacious in the rural parts of Mecklenburg
County. Based on a survey of the Matthews’s historic buildings
conducted in 2007,
it is clear that the Phillips house is significant as a substantial
side-gable one-and-one-half-story Craftsman-style bungalow in the
historic core of the town. The Phillips House well demonstrates the
progression of popular architectural styles in Matthews’s historic core
when viewed with the neighboring
Queen Anne/Colonial Revival-style Benjamin DeWitt Funderburk House, and
the Queen Anne-style Reid House.
The significance of the Phillips House is enhanced by its high degree of
integrity, its setting in the center of the town’s historic core, and
its outbuildings. Another good example of a side-gable
one-and-one-half-story bungalow is located at 308 Trade Street, which is
on the edge of the town’s historic core. The house is more eclectic
than the Phillips House and features clipped gables and a gabled porch
supported by classical columns. Another side-gable
one-and-one-half-story Craftsman-style bungalow that may have shared
plans with the Phillips House is located on the edge of town at 500
Matthews-Mint Hill Road. The house has been covered with vinyl siding,
no roof overhang supports are extant, and it appears that the original
porch posts have been replaced.
500 Matthews-Mint Hill Road. This house shares a basic floor plan with
the Phillips House, but has lost a good degree of integrity.
the early years of the 20th Century Mecklenburg was one of
the leading North Carolina counties in terms of agricultural production,
and in 1900 the county was leading the state in cotton production.
Thus farmhouses and barns dotted the landscape. Frame barns began to
replace log barns late in the 19th century. At that time
most Mecklenburg County barns primarily housed the mules and horses used
to grow and transport cotton. The work animals were also used to
cultivate corn and mow the hay that was needed to feed the livestock.
Hay and other fodder were stored in the barn with the animals. A
secondary purpose for the barn was to house dairy cows that provided
dairy products for the family and for the market.
the Mecklenburg countryside the frame barns that dotted the landscape
were consistently tall front-gabled buildings with a central-hall plan.
The barns were typically 32’ wide (excluding shed additions), with a
depth that ranged from 30’ to 60’. The Morris Barn is a “town barn.”
It is 32’ wide, but only 26’deep. A barn located in town functioned
like those in the countryside, but housed less livestock. The Phillips
used the barn to house a milk cow. The cow was milked by a hired-hand
who lived in the tenant house on the property. Hay for the cow was
stored in the loft. Corn and other feed grains were also stored in the
barn. The barn does not adhere to the typical central-hall plan. It
appears that the side bays served as stalls. The central section of the
Morris barn has a wooden floor, and it likely held tack and feed. Any
available space in the barn was used at times by Pete Phillips to store
Many representative examples of barns built in Mecklenburg County’s
countryside have survived, but barns in Mecklenburg’s small town have
largely disappeared. A “town barn” was identified in Cornelius at 20509
North Main Street, but was demolished after 1999. The Morris Barn is
the only surviving barn historically associated with a small town or
urban setting that has been identified by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmarks Commission.
The Phillips House and Morris Barn are situated on a relatively level
one-acre lot, located near the historical center of the town of
Matthews. The lot is bounded by North Freemont Street and East Charles
Street and is located in a block that contains both single-family
residential property and commercial properties that face North Trade
Street. The Phillips House shares the block with the 1890 Queen
Anne-Style Nancy Reid House. Across North Fremont Street is the
Queen Anne/Colonial Revival-style
Benjamin DeWitt Funderburk House.
To the north of the Phillips House, across East Charles Street runs the
rail line of the former
Carolina Central Railroad, now CSX.
The nearly square, one-acre lot associated with the Phillips House is of
the same size and dimensions as the lot for the
Funderburk House, and for the original lot for the Reid House, which was
subdivided in the 1950s.
The grid-pattern of streets and property lots in the historic core of
Matthews is oriented to the rail line of the former Carolina Central
Railroad, which runs from the southeast to the northwest through the
center of the town. For the purposes of this description, the house,
barn and site will be described as if the lot was aligned with the
The Phillips House
The Phillips House faces north, and is located in the northwest corner
of its lot, set approximately 35 feet from East James Street and 30 feet
from Freemont Street. It is a bungalow-form, Craftsman-style,
side-gabled, one-and-one-half-story house. The façade is dominated by a
full-width engaged porch.
The porch is supported by four half-height tapered posts that rest on
brick piers topped with simple concrete caps. The brick for the piers,
cheek walls, two front steps, and the porch’s continuous foundation are
wire-cut, unlike the plain brick used for the rest of the house. The
cheek walls are topped with concrete caps. The posts feature bases with
a decorative and functional sawn ogee detail. The porch floor is narrow
tongue-and groove boards. The ceiling is beaded boards, with deep
beaded crown moulding.
The porch shelters the original three-vertical-light and
three-horizontal-panel, pine door. The door is centered on the façade
and features and an original louvered outer door. To the east of the
door is a wide three-over-one window. All of the window sash in the
house were replaced with vinyl windows installed into the original
frames. The original sloped window sills and simple flat trim are
intact. All the window and door openings are topped with an angled
wooden cap. The porch and all of the elevations feature German siding.
The siding terminates in corner boards that feature a moulded radius.
The beam that supports the porch roof is boxed with dimensioned lumber.
The same cap used above the window and door openings is applied to the
top of the boxed beam on the gable-sides of the porch. The porch roof
rafters are exposed. The roof pitch breaks where the porch meets the
house, with the principal roof being steeper.
Centered over the front door is a substantial gabled dormer containing
three replacement-sash windows. The barge boards are supported by three
short beams that project from the gable. The lower portions of the ends
of the beams are beveled. The gable is covered with German siding. The
rafter tails are exposed. An internal chimney pierces the roof to the
east of the dormer. The chimney features a corbelled crown and a
corbelled band below the crown.
The west elevation is four bays wide. From the front, the first two
bays contain single replacement-sash windows. Centered between the two
windows is an exterior shouldered chimney with a substantial corbelled
crown. Like the internal chimney, a second corbelled band is located
below the crown.
Set slightly off-center on the façade is a substantial, shed-roofed
projecting bay that contains three tall replacement sash windows. The
rafter tails are exposed. The last bay contains a single
replacement-sash window. Centered in the large gable is a pair of
replacement-sash windows. Small, square replacement-sash windows flank
the center windows. A louvered vent is located in the top of the
gable. The roof overhang is supported by short beveled beams. Below the
lowest row of siding, the same angled trim used over the windows is used
as a cap over a wide water table board.
The east elevation is dominated by an original gabled sun room.
 The sun room is two bays wide and features an
original three-vertical-light and three-horizontal-panel, pine door
adjacent to the principal section of the house, and a single
replacement-sash window. The door opens onto a brick and concrete stoop
that does not appear to be original. The east elevation of the sun room
features a ribbon of four replacement-sash windows that nearly span
width of the sun room. The south elevation of the sun room features two
replacement-sash windows. Like the rest of the house, the sun room is
covered with German siding, the rafter tails are exposed, and short
beveled beams support the roof overhang.
the rear of the sun room the east elevation is pierced by two
replacement-sash windows. At the rearmost section of the east elevation
a portion of a shallow rear porch has been infilled with German siding.
The fenestration for the east elevation above the first story matches
that on the west elevation.
Originally the rear of the house featured a shallow, partial-width,
recessed porch that ran to the east corner. Much of the original rear
elevation is now obscured by a wide, shed-roofed addition. Exposed
features of the original rear elevation include a portion of the
original infilled porch, and a single window adjacent to the west
elevation. The addition was built ca. 1955, and is covered with German
siding that matches the rest of the house. The rear of the addition
features a center six-light-over-two-panel door. To each side of the
door are triple one-over-one double-hung windows. The windows and door
are topped with metal awnings. Double brick steps with a simple iron
railing lead to the rear door. The rafter tails are exposed. The east
elevation of the addition features a shoulders chimney. The west
elevation is pierced by two short one-over-one double-hung windows
topped with metal awnings.
Phillips House Interior
The interior of the Phillips House has retained a high degree of
integrity. The house features plaster walls and ceilings. All six
rooms in the principal section of the house have retained all of their
original door and window trim, tall baseboards, and doors. The front
two rooms in the first story serve as a parlor and a larger living
room. The front door opens into the living room and the two rooms are
separated by a pair of original fifteen-light pine doors, with their
original brass hardware and glass knobs. An additional set of
fifteen-light doors in the living room opens into the dining room, which
features an early five-bulb chandelier. The floor in the front rooms
and the dining room is narrow-strip oak. The living room features an
all-brick fireplace with corbelled brackets that support a shelf. The
parlor features a coal-burning fireplace with a simple but substantial
A central hallway contains a turning staircase. A tall pine
newel post with moulded trim and a flat cap connects to a
moulded handrail supported by closely-space simple pickets. The
hall connects the living room with a bedroom and what had
originally been a recessed rear porch. The bedroom contains a
coal-burning fireplace with a simple but pine surround featuring
a brackets and a shelf. The fireplace is bordered by two
closets. The closet doors and the rest of the house’s interior
doors are original two-panel pine doors with large early plywood
panels. The floors in the bedroom and the hall are narrow pine
strips. The bedroom opens onto a sunroom that projects from the
The stairway features a mid-point landing with partial-height doors
opening to closets built into the eaves. A small hall and the two
bedrooms on the second story feature medium-width pine flooring and the
same trim found on the first story. A small bathroom with a sloping
ceiling is located in the front eave. The tile and fixtures appear to
date to the late 1940s.
The original rear porch was enclosed when a bathroom was added in the
late 1940s. The kitchen is located to the rear of the dining room and
features an original pine two-panel dual-swing door. The kitchen has
been remodeled and opens onto a den that was constructed on the rear of
the house in the 1950s.
The Morris Barn
the rear of the Phillips House is the three-bay-wide, front gabled
Morris Barn. The barn sits close to North Freemont Street. The barn is
covered with flat, un-lapped siding, composed of wide boards of various
widths. The center bay contains a simple plank door with simple trim and
strap hinges. The other two bays feature wide chamfered openings, with
double wooden gate/doors held in place with strap hinges. Directly over
the center door, a short door of the same design gives access to a
The barn is covered with green 5-v metal roofing. The rafter ends are
exposed, and roof’s skip-sheathing extends past the gables to form a
modest overhang. The siding runs to the ground without any exposed
foundation. The barn was constructed on a slope, with the south
elevation being noticeably taller than the north elevation. The north
and south elevations are blank. The south elevation presents wide
siding of a uniform width. The north elevation is covered with siding of
various widths, and shows evidence of siding repair.
The rear of the barn features the same rhythm of fenestration found on
the front. The center bay contains a plank door. The northern bay
features a plank door set lower in the wall. The southern bay contains
a single board gate/door. Above the center bay is a roughly square
sash window set in the framing with simple trim.
the east of the barn is a ca. 1925 shed-roofed chicken house. The front
of the chicken house is pierced by a
three-vertical-light and three-horizontal-panel door, like those found
on the house. The front, west side, and rear elevations are covered
with German siding like that found on the house. The west side and rear
elevations are blank. The east elevation has been covered with T-111
siding and features two roughly
square sash windows with simple trim.
the east of the chicken house is a ca. 1955 gabled two-car garage that
faces North Freemont Street. The garage is constructed of concrete
masonry units. The front is pierced by two open bays separated by a
masonry column. The gable is covered with lapped siding. The rear and
side elevations each contain a fixed nine-light window with a brick sill
centered in each elevation. The rafter tails are exposed.
 Interview with Margaret Phillips. 3-16-14.
Paula Hartill Lester, Discover Matthews: From Cotton to
Corporate, the Town of Matthews, 1999, p.46.
Interview with Margaret Phillips, 3-16-14
Interview with Margaret Phillips, 3-16-14
Interview with Margaret Phillips, 3-16-14
Interview with Margaret Phillips, 3-16-14
Matthew S. Thomas and Dr. Dan L. Morrill, “Survey
and Research Report on the Former United States Post Office
Building,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission,
Interview with Margaret Phillips, 3-16-14.
 “Pete Phillips, Man of the Year,” 1957
 Obituary for Mary Louise Phillips,
Charlotte Observer, 10-4-13.
Interview with Margaret Phillips, 3-16-14.
N.C. Reconnaissance Inventory Prepared by: Bill Jeffers with
assistance from Dr. Dan L. Morrill
North Carolina Board of Agriculture, North Carolina and Its
Resources, (Winston: MI and J.C. Stewart, Public Printers
and Binders, 1896), p. 158.
Carl C. Taylor, and C.C. Zimmerman,
Economic and Social Conditions of North Carolina Farmers.
(Raleigh: U.S. Bureau of Agricultural Economics, North Carolina,
Tenancy Commission, 1922) p. 19. Text encoded Academic Affairs
Library, UNC-CH University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Interview with Margaret Phillips, 3-16-14.