South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District
The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District (also known as East Burlington), a notable concentration of historic houses on the southwest border of Burlington's business district, consists of approximately nine blocks of stylish middle-class Queen Anne, Bungalow and Colonial Revival houses, vernacular houses from the turn-of-the-twentieth-century, modest rental houses from the early twentieth century, and several notable apartment buildings, built from the 1890s to the 1940s by both industrial and business leaders and ordinary citizens. The earliest group of houses are one- and two-story gable-and-wing cottages and I-Houses built between 1890 and 1910. Local carpenter-builder James A.R. Davis apparently built the Queen Anne cottages at 719 S. Broad Street for George W. Bradshaw, and at 805 S. Broad Street for himself. Both are intact landmarks of the exuberant Queen Anne style. Also of architectural note are a group of stylish Bungalows built in the 1910s and 1920s by the second generation of district residents — including the stone Bungalow built by local contractor H. Frank Mitchell for himself at 808 South Main Street, the stone Bungalow known as the C.R. Faucette House at 214 E. Fifth Street, and the stone Bungalow built for E.L. Henderson at 731 S. Broad Street. Burlington's first modern apartment complex, built in 1928, was the Holt Apartments at 852 S. Main Street, a Craftsman/Spanish Colonial Revival style complex. Another significant apartment building is the Colonial Revival style Copland Apartments built at 605 South Lexington Avenue in 1930. A number of small duplexes and several apartment buildings were built in the district during the late 1930s and early 1940s as Burlington's industrial economy was recovering from the Depression. The final construction phase in the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District produced a small number of Minimal Traditional style houses during the immediate post-World War II period of the late 1940s.
The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District has followed the economic cycle of many neighborhoods that abut central business districts, remaining a fashionable middle-class neighborhood until after World War II, when new suburban developments sapped the vitality of established downtown neighborhoods. The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District's most substantial houses began to be subdivided into apartments. Multi-family zoning has caused further subdivision of the historic houses and the construction of new apartment complexes in the area.
The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its planning and community development significance to the city of Burlington. The S. Broad-E. Fifth Streets Historic District is one of several areas of East Burlington that reflect residential development during the town's industrial boom from ca.1890 through the 1940s. The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District is also eligible for its local architectural significance as a collection of representative examples of the I-House, Queen Anne, Bungalow, Colonial Revival, and other architectural styles and house types that define the city's residential areas during this period. The period of significance begins ca.1890 with the oldest houses, and continues to 1950, the date of the youngest resource more than fifty years old.
Historical Background and Community Development
The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District is located near the southern edge of the original limits of the town of Company Shops, a complex of repair facilities established in 1855 by the North Carolina Railroad Company in central Alamance County. The limits of the town, incorporated in 1866, were a one-and-one-half-mile square centered on the hotel of the North Carolina Railroad. All of this land remained under the ownership of the railroad until 1869, when the company began to gradually sell lots to private individuals to build dwellings and shops. One such individual was railroad employee and local entrepreneur Gabriel M. Lea, who in 1871 built a residence on a two and one-half acre site that is now along East Davis Street between Spring Street and Lexington Avenue. Like nearly all pre-1886 (Company Shops era) architecture in Burlington, the Lea House has been demolished.
During the Company Shops era, buildings stood on spacious sites connected by dirt paths. The company shops stood beside the tracks at the north end of Main Street, which terminated at the tracks. Although largely demolished, the roundhouse and some building remnants remain. The earliest building still standing near the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District is St. Athanasius Episcopal Church, built in 1879-1880 at 320 East Davis Street, two blocks to the east. A journalist visiting in the late 1870s admired the handsome architecture of the village, and noted that "each house has the advantage of convenient isolation; and, surrounded with beautiful trees and luxuriant shrubbery...forms as pretty a picture of urban life as could well be imagined."
In 1875 the offices of the North Carolina Railroad Company moved to Greensboro, and in 1886 the repair services were shifted to Manchester, Virginia by the company that leased the track, the Richmond and Danville Railroad. If manufacturing concerns had not been moving into the village in the earlier years of the 1880s, Company Shops would have ceased to exist at this time.
The town's location along the busiest railroad line in North Carolina made it desirable as a location for manufacturing facilities. Four new 1880s establishments — three cotton factories and a coffin factory — provided a sufficient economic base to prevent the demise of Company Shops. As the railroad repair shops were being phased out, the Holt family, who had pioneered the production of colored cotton cloth in Alamance County in the 1830s, expanded their industrial facilities to Burlington. The first textile mill in the village, the Lafayette Cotton Mills, was also the first mill in the county powered completely by steam instead of water power. Peter F. Holt constructed the mill in 1882 along the tracks a short distance east of the company shops. By 1885 this had been renamed Aurora Cotton Mills under the ownership of Lawrence S. Holt, youngest son of pioneering industrialist Edwin M. Holt. Holt descendants soon opened two other cotton mills in the vicinity. A fourth industry, the Burlington Coffin Company, was established in 1884 at the corner of Maple and Tucker streets, one block south of the district boundaries. Founded by J. Locke Erwin, a brother of Lawrence Holt, and T.P. Moore, the company employed over 100 workers and produced over 10,000 coffins annually by 1906. The factory became one of the largest coffin factories in the South and continued in operation until the 1960s. Its brick buildings, now in adaptive use, still stand.
As the railroad company abandoned Company Shops, they decided to accelerate their sale of land and had a survey plat made which laid out streets, designated street names, and divided the property into numbered lots. The main east-west street, along the south side of the railroad, was named Webb Avenue, the main north-south street, which extended south from the railroad passenger depot, was named Main Street. Cross-streets south of the railroad were Davis, Means (later renamed Maple), Morehead, and so on. Morehead, a boundary of the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District, was named for Governor John Motley Morehead, first president of the North Carolina Railroad.
Townspeople decided that their community needed a new name, and in 1887 abandoned the name "Company Shops" for the new name "Burlington." During the decade of the 1880s, population doubled from 817 to 1,716. Much of the industry which fueled Burlington's growth located along the railroad tracks, and the new town of Burlington created a great need for housing for both mill owners and workers. New commercial services such as food, clothing, furniture, and pharmacies appeared. Professionals such as doctors and dentists set up shop in the evolving business district along Main Street. Wealthy mill owners erected grand architect-designed homes that symbolized their leadership in the community, thereby placing Burlington into the architectural vanguard once again, as it had been in the early years of Company Shops. During the town's regeneration, almost all of the company shops fabric — railroad buildings, a few houses, a few stores — were demolished. The second phase of architectural resources — mills, mill housing, owners' residences, commercial buildings — from the industrialization era, form Burlington's most venerable landmarks.
The young town's business community, the second tier of industrialists and businessmen, established enterprises along the railroad tracks and built residences nearby in the 1890s and early 1900s. It is this class of residential architecture that forms the backbone of the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District. The earliest houses in the district were built in the 1890s. These are the Episcopal Rectory at 414 East Morehead Street, the Love-McIver House at 804 S. Broad Street, and the Fletcher Williams House at 726 S. Broad Street.
The first decade of Burlington's existence following the exodus of the railroad's shop services proved that the town had a bright future, since from 1890 to 1900 Burlington's population doubled, to 3,692, then increased to 5,952 in 1920. During the first two decades of the twentieth century Burlington developed the civic services needed by a town of its size. The earliest street in the district to develop was S. Broad Street, which gradually built up with middle-class Queen Anne style housing in the 1890s and early 1900s. The block of S. Lexington Avenue between Morehead and Fifth streets was known as the Montgomery property. Central Loan and Trust Company, one of several local development companies, subdivided this parcel for development in 1917. By 1918 four Bungalows had already been constructed. The earliest Sanborn Map to completely map the district, in 1924, shows the district approximately seventy-five percent developed. The 1929 and 1949 updates of the Sanborn Maps chronicle subsequent changes as some of the early houses were themselves expanded and remodeled and the remaining lots built upon.
Several of the finest Bungalows in the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District were constructed by H. Frank Mitchell, a building contractor (1887-1958) during his early years of employment as the building manager of Central Loan and Trust Company of Burlington. His own residence, a large stone Bungalow at 808 S. Main Street, is one of the most outstanding bungalows in the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District. Mitchell no doubt also built the E.L. Henderson House, 731 S. Broad Street, which is virtually identical to his own residence. Other bungalows either built entirely of stone or accented with stone porch piers, perhaps constructed by Mitchell, are the C.R. Faucette House, 214 E. Fifth Street, the John D. Robertson House, 307 E. Fifth Street, the Jessie P. Spoon House, 809 S. Broad Street, the George T. Spruce House, 708 S. Lexington Street, and the Dr. Murray House, 717 S. Lexington Street. Most of these bungalows have an unusual type of decorative stucco in the gable ends that resembles wood shakes. Mitchell began his own contracting firm, H. Frank Mitchell Construction Company, in 1932. The firm built churches, schools, and commercial buildings, as well as developing residential neighborhoods, from the 1930s to the 1950s. During this period it was the largest construction company between Greensboro and Durham, and continues to operate today.
Among the first generation of residents in the district, who built houses there before 1910, were important citizens, including merchants, industrialists, contractors, and professionals. George W. Bradshaw (719 S. Broad Street) owned a general store; James A.R. Davis (805 S. Broad Street) was a contractor; Fletcher Williams (726 S. Broad Street) was an undertaker; Banks Teague (732 S. Broad Street) was a cotton broker; and Dr. J.C. Stanley (822 S. Broad Street) was secretary of Alamance Loan and Trust Company. St. Athanasius Episcopal Church is believed to have built the eclectic Victorian house at 414 E. Morehead Street in the 1890s as the church rectory. The second generation, who built between 1910 to 1930, continued to be men of standing in the community. E.L. Henderson (731 S. Broad Street) owned the town's first ice company. Jennings B. Coble (708 S. Broad Street), worked with the Burlington Furniture Company. Jessie P. Spoon (809 S. Broad Street) was a prominent dairyman; and H. Frank Mitchell (808 S. Main Street), George T. Spruce (708 S. Lexington Avenue), and Worth Bryan (313 E. 5th Street) were contractors. Burton V. May (215 E. 5th Street) was a pioneer in the hosiery industry.
By the late 1920s, a new type of housing, the multi-family apartment building, was beginning to spread from the larger cities in North Carolina to towns such as Burlington that were struggling with housing shortages. Local industrialists built apartment buildings in the Broad-Fifth Streets District, since it was conveniently located both to the commercial area and to industries. In the 800 block of S. Main Street, merchants W.K. and C.T. Holt built the Holt Apartments, touted in 1928 as the "first large-scale, city style, modern apartment house'' in Burlington. The two-story brick structure, constructed in a U-shape, encloses a central courtyard with tile-covered bracketed stoops that shelter entrances to the twenty single-level apartments. The modest Craftsman/Spanish Colonial Revival style of the new complex had a sophisticated, urbane appeal. In 1930 the Copland Apartments were built at 605 S. Lexington Avenue by J.R. Copland, founder of Copland Fabrics. The ornately detailed two-story brick Colonial Revival-style building has nine apartments. Other businessmen built more traditional single-family and duplex rental houses, as well as small apartment buildings, in the district along Fifth Street, Sixth Street, at the west end of the district, and along the alley between Broad and Spring streets that is now called Oxford Lane.
The Multiple Property Documentation Form, "Historic Resources of Burlington," prepared in 1983, noted that the neighborhoods adjacent to the Central Business District contained notable individual examples of late Queen Anne, Period Revival styles, Foursquares, and Bungalows. The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District is one of these neighborhoods. The district contains significant examples of the Queen Anne and Bungalow architectural styles that define the city's owner-occupied residential areas that developed from the 1880s to the 1940s. The earliest residences in the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District of Queen Anne style represent middle-class entrepreneurs and commercial class in Burlington, in distinct contrast to the "grand, stylish architect-designed homes" erected by the wealthy mill owners near the mills clustered along the railroad tracks. Lawrence S. Holt's "Blythewood" and John Q. Gant's "Bonnie Oaks" were grand, picturesque Queen Anne style monuments to the Gilded Age, each built from plans by Tennessee architect George Barber in the late 1880s and early 1890s on an entire city block. Blythewood stood where Lexington Avenue now connects East Davis Street and Maple Avenue. Bonnie Oaks stood along East Webb Avenue between Spring Street and Lexington Avenue. These mansions have been demolished, leaving the more modest Queen Anne style landmarks of the East Davis Street Historic District, the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District, and other neighborhoods.
After 1910, Burlington moved closer to the mainstream of residential design, evidenced by the advent of pattern-book bungalows as early as 1915. Jessie P. Spoon, prominent dairyman, had one of the first bungalows built in the district in the late 1910s at 809 S. Broad Street. Spoon's bungalow is distinguished by its combination of brick walls, stone porch piers and stuccoed porch posts, as well as the porte-cochere formed by an extension of the porch. By the 1920s the bungalow had become Burlington's principal house form. Handsome examples of frame, brick, wood shingle, stucco, and stone bungalows survive in most of Burlington's neighborhoods. Then-mayor Earl B. Horner built one of the most splendid bungalows in the city at 304 N. Fisher Street in the early 1920s. The profusion of upswept gables and the exposed timbering of the front porch gable reflect the oriental influence on the style. By the end of the 1920s, the decade in which the district achieved its most growth, the bungalow dominated the South Broad-East Fifth Streets District. Nearly one-half (thirty-four) of the historic houses in the South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District are bungalows.
The South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District holds significance as one of several areas of East Burlington that reflect residential development during the town's industrial boom from the 1890s to the 1940s. The nine-block district contains I-Houses, Queen Anne and Late Victorian cottages, Foursquares, Colonial Revival houses, Bungalows, and Minimal Traditional Houses. One of the city's most interesting collections of bungalows is grouped around the intersection of the 700 block of South Lexington Avenue and the 100-300 blocks of East Fifth Street in this district. The South Main/South Church Street [one block west of South Main Street] area contains a similar collection of residential development from the industrial boom era.
Black, Allison H. An Architectural History of Burlington, N.C. Historic District Commission of Burlington, 1987.
Brown, Claudia. "Historic Resources of Burlington,'' (Multiple Property Documentation Form), North Carolina Historic Preservation Office, 1983.
Burlington, Graham and Haw River City Directory. Asheville: Piedmont Directory Company, 1910, 1929-30.
Burlington Times-News, Burlington, N.C. Articles in August, 1997, April 12, 1999.
"Central Loan and Trust Co." corporate booklet, late 1920s. Copy in file.
Hill's Burlington City Directory. Hill Directory Co., Inc. Richmond, VA. 1920s-1950s.
Mitchell, H. Frank Obituary. Unidentified newspaper clipping, April 7, 1958. Copy in file.
Stokes, Durward T. Company Shops: The Town Built by a Railroad. Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, 1981.
Whitaker, Walter. Centennial History of Alamance County 1849-1949. Alamance County Historical Association, Burlington 1949, second printing 1974.
Sanborn Maps, Burlington, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.: 1918, 1924, 1929, and 1940. [Note: 1940 original map located in Map Collection, earlier maps on microfilm]
† M. Ruth Little, Longleaf Historic Resources, South Broad-East Fifth Streets Historic District, (aka East Burlington), Burlington, Alamance County, NC, nomination document, 2001, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.