North Union Street Historic District
The North Union Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. 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 North Union Street Historic District comprises nearly 200 properties in a twenty-block area just north and west of Concord's central business district. The district takes its name from the six-block stretch of North Union Street between Grove and Buffalo Avenues, a broad residential thoroughfare with a canopy of mature oak trees lined by many of the district's (and the city's) finest residences. The North Union Street Historic District experienced most of it development during the 1880-1930 period, during which Concord transformed itself from a small courthouse village of barely one thousand inhabitants into a major textile manufacturing center of 12,000 people and gave birth to Cannon Mills Company, one of the nation's largest textile firms. The growth of North Carolina towns such as Concord created significant urban middle and upper classes for the first time in the state's history, and the history of the North Union Street Historic District also reflects this development. The North Union Street area was the preferred residential neighborhood for Concord's leading industrialists, merchants, and professionals, and Concord's impressive growth in population and wealth found its finest architectural expression in the houses and six churches of the district. Fine examples of every major architectural style of the period — Greek Revival, Italianate; Second Empire, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and Jacobethan Revival — may be found in the North Union Street Historic District, as well as more representative examples of these architectural idioms. At the north end of the district is the Odell-Locke-Randolph Cotton Mill, already listed in the National Register, whose expansion set Concord's economic progress in motion at the end of Reconstruction. The North Union Street Historic District has remained desirable to the present day, and retains one of the finest collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth century residential architecture in North Carolina.
Cabarrus County was established in 1792. However, four years would pass before the citizens selected a site for the county seat. This delay is attributed, by the local sources, to a disagreement between the two major ethnic groups that divided the county into two cultural and geographic regions. Local chroniclers contend that the German settlers wanted the county seat to be located in the east and the Ulster Scots insisted that the seat be established in the western part of the county. With the aid of the county's namesake, Stephen Cabarrus (1754-1808), the settlers reached a compromise on a central geographic locale and called the site Concord and the main thoroughfare became known as Union Street. The names were selected for their symbolic representation of harmony. The original parcel of twenty-six acres is in the southern part of the central business district. Initially Concord consisted of four squares of eleven lots each and a log courthouse in the center of town, Concord received its charter in 1798.
There are few surviving records that depict the early years of Concord. According to local tradition, the homes of prominent citizens such as Paul and Rufus Barringer, Robert W. Foard, and Caleb Phifer were on Union Street. In addition, the Cabarrus County Courthouse was located at the intersection of Union Street and Corban Avenue until 1825. Another source lists a store owned by John Phifer after 1802, and a store operated by General Paul Barringer after 1805. Martin Phifer and Joseph Young maintained a mercantile partnership from 1808 until 1818 when Young became the sole proprietor. Before the Civil War, there were never more than four stories operating in Concord at the same time. Other storekeepers include David Storch, George W. Spears, John W. Hamilton, John Murphy, Michael Brown, Edward Cress, A.C. McRee, John R. Phifer, William F. Phifer, John F. Phifer, John Moss, Jacob Winecoff, Jesse Hudgins, and R.W. Foard. The first industrial operation of any size came with the opening of the Concord Manufacturing Company in 1840. This business later became known as the McDonald Mill. Although it was the only sizeable town in the county, Concord remained quite small. The population of the whole county in 1860 was only 10,546. Concord began selecting a mayor and alderman in 1837.
The economic growth that Concord would enjoy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was the result of two major developments that occurred during the antebellum period. As previously stated, the Concord Manufacturing Company was founded in 1840. The location of the company on a section of high ground beyond the town limits established Union Street's northern terminus, and it also insured that Concord would eventually expand northward. The 1856 completion of the North Carolina Railroad from Goldsboro and Raleigh via Salisbury and Concord to Charlotte along a right-of-way about a mile west of the courthouse pulled the town's initial growth in that direction. A new street running between the center of the town and the railroad quickly emerged, and this thoroughfare, appropriately named Depot Street, became one of Concord's principal residential avenues during the next two decades. The railroad was primarily important because it laid a major part of the foundation for the county's postwar growth though its immediate impact was equally significant. The railroad greatly increased the amount of cotton that could be shipped from Concord and reduced the cost of its transportation. Soon large numbers of Cabarrus farmers were bringing their cotton to Concord for shipment on the rails. After the Civil War a new generation of Concord merchants, most of whom had come to the town from other parts of the state, realized that they could persuade more farmers to sell their cotton in the town by offering to purchase the fiber at a higher price than cotton buyers in settlements without a road. The merchants' tactic proved to be quite successful. Eventually it drew cotton sales from Charlotte and Salisbury. Like Concord, these two towns capitalized on their railroad connections. Concord thus became the major market for an area that stretched from Mecklenburg County to eastern Stanly County, a role the town was able to maintain until after 1900. The profits of Concord's successful cotton buyers enabled them to furnish much of the capital for the growth of the county's textile industry.
Small towns and communities continued to be predominant in Cabarrus County after the Civil War. As shown by the Branson Directories, Concord was the leader among these rural villages. In 1869, for instance, Concord had most of the small industries and businesses in the county, the only hotel, and all of the practicing attorneys. Mills, churches, and physicians were more evenly distributed among the population. Merchandising was almost exclusively the general store, while manufacturers, excluding the McDonald Mill, consisted of service professions such as blacksmiths, shoemakers, tanners, and carpenters. Concord profited economically from its central location. The county courthouse attracted legal and professional elements. The McDonald Mill was greatly weakened by the Civil War. However, the mill expanded after 1877 under the direction of J.M. Odell, and it would play a significant role in Concord's social and economic resurgence as the Reconstruction period came to a close.
The incorporated area of Concord in 1851 had not changed by 1882 when O.W. Gray and Son, of Philadelphia, mapped the town. By this time, North Union Street had begun to take shape. From Depot Street to its terminus at the Odell Mill, North Union Street itself appeared as a series of large residential lots, while the streets to the west contained sparse construction.
Over a third of the extant properties date from 1882. These properties represent the prosperity of storekeepers, artisans, and the professionals who profited from the cotton textile industry in general and Odell Mill in particular. Because of its mill, Concord had remained a cotton center after the war, which tended to attract new money and population. In the decade of the 1880's, Concord's population expanded from 1,260 to 4,399, including Odell's village which was annexed in 1889. In 1896, the number reached 6,300.
The extant North Union properties from the 1880's reflect not only the established member of the economic community, but also the rise of new entrepreneurs. At that time, J.M. Odell was the outstanding financier, while others were only retail merchants. David Cannon (100 North Union Street), James Cannon (122 North Union Street), and P.B. Fetzer, (45-49 Georgia Street, NW) soon to enter textiles, were still prosperous storekeepers in the early 1880's. William G. Means (138 North Union Street) (whose extant house may date from a later period), was a representative of the legal community that traditionally centered around the courthouse.
Odell (1830-1910) came to Concord in 1877 and purchased the McDonald Cotton Mill, which he transformed from a defunct enterprise to a booming business by 1900, however, the changing cotton market forced it into receivership in 1908. James Cannon (1852-1921) began as a clerk in Concord in 1868, but moved into textiles to establish Cannon Manufacturing Company and other associated firms. His brother, David Cannon (1844-1904), came from Mecklenburg, and became a prominent Manufacturing Company. Pendleton Fetzer (1849-1912) remained a merchant and William Means, (b.1850) in addition to his law practice, served as mayor of Concord and as a state legislator.
Other homes dating from this general period are those of John P. Allison (113 North Union Street) (b.1848) who entered his father's mercantile business as well as pursuing other concerns and Matthew Beatty (56 Cabarrus Avenue, West) (1825-1898) a contractor and builder. The current president's house at Barber-Scotia College had been erected by 1882 as well as the home of merchant Alexander Foil (117 Cabarrus Avenue, West).
Between 1890 and 1900 the North Union area continued to be a residential area for the business elite and reflected the rising status of several occupations. Textiles had become the basis of Concord's economy, outstripping the commercial and professional trades traditionally associated with county seats. Cannon Manufacturing Company launched James W. Cannon and his brother David into the textile field in 1887. By 1896, Kerr Bag Manufacturing Company, Patterson Mill, and Cabarrus Cotton Mill (a Cannon enterprise) had joined the Cannon and Odell mills. Coleman Manufacturing Company began operations the next year and the Gibson Mill (a Cannon Mill) followed in 1901. Coleman Manufacturing Company was remarkable in that its founder, Warren C. Coleman, (1849-1904) was a black man. By careful economy and shrewd dealing, he became a prominent Concord merchant and organized this mill.
The large investments of capital and the return yielded led to the development of banking in Concord, and some of the textile financiers were also bankers. Daniel Branson Coltrane (84 North Union Street) and H.I. Woodhouse (31 Georgia Street, NW) for instance, built homes in 1891 and 1890. Dr. D.G. Caldwell (130 North Union Street) also moved from the country between 1895-96 to establish a medical practice in this exclusive neighborhood, and James William Cannon (65 North Union Street) built his second house in 1900.
Coltrane (b.1842) came to Concord in 1888 to help found the Concord National Bank. He served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the bank. Woodhouse (b.1858) grew up in Concord and joined the Cabarrus Savings Bank of which he had become president by 1904. James Cannon, now with the Cannon, Cabarrus, and Gibson mills under his direction, began towel production in 1898. Caldwell came to Concord from Tulin, a small community in northwest Cabarrus County.
The period 1900-1930 was similar to the preceding decades, in that bankers A. James Yorke (123 North Union Street) and Charles B. Wagoner (106 Cabarrus Avenue West) attorney J.L. Crowell (208 North Union Street) and textile operators William Winslow Flowe (113 Grove Avenue, NW) and James W. Cannon, Jr. (52 Spring Street, NW) and Charles A. Cannon (94 North Union Street) built homes in the North Union Street district. Yorke was the first president of Citizen's Bank, and Wagoner served as the mayor of Concord between 1909 and 1912 and was also the founder of Concord National Bank. A.J. Crowell (b.1863) was an attorney who also served as mayor. Flowe (1874-1940) was a son of Dr. Flowe of Flowe's Store. James Cannon, Jr. (1881-1938) was son of the "textile, magnate;" J.L. Hartsell (125 Spring Street, NW) (1864-1929) of Hartsell Mill, also built in the North Union Street district in 1905. By this time, the Cannon family had become the dominant family in the economic life of the county. The enormous expansion of their interests first under James Cannon then under son Charles, abruptly shifted the industrial base north to Kannapolis and quickly surpassed the Concord mills. Nevertheless, the county seat remained the financial center and even more significant the home of the most important industrial leaders of the county and the state.
The oldest extant house of worship in the North Union Street Historic District and in the city is the First United Presbyterian Church (127 Cabarrus Avenue, West). The church was built in 1880 and has a long association with Barber-Scotia College. Its original name was the Concord Presbyterian Church for Colored People and it was later known as the Westminister Presbyterian Church. The present congregation dates from 1947. The second oldest house of worship in the North Union Street Historic District, Forest Hill Methodist Church, (41 Buffalo Avenue, NW), was built in 1889 under the patronage of John M. Odell. The (Former) All Saints Episcopal Church (44 Cabarrus Avenue, West) was completed in 1891, and the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church was constructed in 1908. The First Baptist Church (49 Spring Street, NW) built in 1924 and the First Presbyterian Church was completed three years later.
Since the 1930s, the increased mobility of modern life has taken its toll on the district. A number of homes have been sold in the last decade to wealthy, young newcomers, some of whom commute to Charlotte. Concord having passed from service economy to industrial base to financial center, may soon add the dubious epithet of a "bedroom community" to its image if the patterns of North Union Street District are an indication of a future trend. Nevertheless, the area remains home to many of the widows and heirs of those who once shaped the economic life of Cabarrus County and Concord. These residents have maintained their homes and grounds, and their efforts are testament not only to their continued prosperity, but to the love and pride they have for their community.
Bill Sharpe, A New Geography of North Carolina (Raleigh, Edwards Broughton, 1954) Vol.1, p.23: (Mrs.) E. Luther Best, "Historical Sketch of the Foundation of Concord" (Unidentified clipping in subject files of Concord Tribune" April 23, 1908; Robert W. Allison, "A History of Cabarrus County and Concord," (c.1890); Progress, (December 1974), pp.22-25.
Allison, pp.27-31; J.R. Young, ed. Textile Leaders of the South (Anderson, South Carolina, c.1963), p.468; Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (Charlotte: Historic Cabarrus, Inc., 1981), p.100.
Eugenia Lore, "Concord, North Carolina was Founded in 1793: (typed, n.d.) p.1, located in Cannon Memorial Library, Concord, North Carolina: Kaplan, p.100.
Kaplan, p. 100.
Levi Branson, Branson's North Carolina Business Directory, (Raleigh: J.A. Jones, 1869), pp.25-27.
Gary R. Freeze, "Master Mill Man, John Milton Odell" (M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1980) pp.18-21; Kaplan, p.122.
Gray's Map. Company, "Gray's New Map of Concord." (Philadelphia: O.W. Gray Map Company, 1882).
Freeze, pp. 11-14.
Freeze, p. 10.
Branson, 1896, p.137.
Young, p. 157.
William S. Powell, (ed), Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), Vol.1, pp.320-321.
North Carolina State Archives, Private Collections, James Edward Smoot Papers, PC1362, Vol.13, pp.1323-4; Freeze, p.87.
Prominent People of North Carolina (Asheville, North Carolina: Evening News Publishing, 1906), p.60; W.F. Tomlinson, Biography of the State Officers and Members of the General Assembly of North Carolina, 1893 (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1893, pp.36-37.
"Pen and Picture Sketches, City of Concord, North Carolina" (1916) p.8; Progress (Fall 1972) p.1; Adalaide and Eugenia Lore, Open The Gates and Roam Cabarrus With Us (Salisbury, North Carolina: Rowan Business Forms, 1971) p.116.
O.W. Gray & Son, Map of Concord, North Carolina, 1882.
Branson, 1878, pp. 47-48.
Edward A. Burgess, "Tar Heel Blacks and The New South Dream: The Coleman Manufacturing Company, 1896-1904" (Ph.D. Dissertation, Duke University, 1977) passim; Cannon Manufacturing Company, Engineering Department, Maps with construction dates, pp.115-116: J.K. Rouse, The Noble Experiment of Warren C. Coleman (Charlotte: Crabtree Press, 1972) pp.19, 54 and 90.
Concord Tribune, July 2, 1978.
R.D.W. Conner, et al, North Carolina, Rebuilding and Ancient Commonwealth (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1929), Vol.4, p.323.
Christopher Crittenden, et al. (ed.) 100 Years 100 Men 1871-1971 (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1971), pp.59-61.
Branson, 1890, p. 141; 1896, p. 142.
Eugenia Lore, "Concord, North Carolina;" Kaplan p. 113.
Connor, Vol. 4, p. 188.
Concord Tribune, Obituary, October 11, 1929; "Cannon Pedigree, A Genealogical Manuscript" Cannon Library, Concord, North Carolina.
Leland S. Cozart, A Venture in Faith: The Story of Barber-Scotia College (Charlotte: Heritage Printers, 1976), pp.2-3; Kaplan, p.119.
Collected Histories of the Methodist Church, Lore Room, Cannon Library, Concord, North Carolina, (Typed, N.D.), p.1.
Manufacturers Record, December 12, 1907, p.61; Collected Histories of Episcopal Churches of Cabarrus County, Lore Room, Cannon Library, Concord, North Carolina. (Typed, 1957), p.2.
First Baptist Church, "Ninetieth Anniversary Homecoming" (Concord, North Carolina: First Baptist Church, 1976) p.1: Robert W. Allison, et al, History of First Presbyterian Church, Concord, North Carolina. (1953) pp.36-38.
Allison, Robert W. et al, History of First Presbyterian Church, Concord, North Carolina, 1953.
Allison, Robert W. "A History of Cabarrus County and Concord, (ca.1890") Progress (December, 1974): pp.22-25.
Asheville: Evening News Publishing Company. "Prominent People of North Carolina." 1906.
Branson, Levi. ed. Branson's North Carolina Business Directory. Raleigh: J.A. Jones, 1869, 1878, and 1890.
Burgess, Edward A. "Tar Heel Blacks and the New South Dream: The Coleman Manufacturing Company, 1896-1904. "Ph.D. Dissertation, Duke University, 1977.
Concord, North Carolina. Lore Room, Cannon Library. Collected Histories of Episcopal Churches in Cabarrus County. (Typewritten), 1957.
Concord, North Carolina. Lore Room, Cannon Library. Collected Histories of Methodist Churches in Cabarrus County. (Typewritten).
Concord, North Carolina. Lore Room, Cannon Library. Eugenia Lore Papers. (Typewritten), n.d.
Concord, North Carolina. Concord Tribune Subjects File. (Mrs.) E. Luther Bost "Historical Sketch of the Foundation of Concord." April 23, 1908.
Concord Tribune. October 11, 1929.
Concord Tribune. July 2, 1978.
Connor, R.D.W. et al. North Carolina: Rebuilding and Ancient Commonwealth. Chicago: American Historical Society, 4, 1929.
Cozart, Leland S. A Venture of Faith: The Story of Barber-Scotia College. Charlotte: Heritage Printers, 1976.
Crittenden, Christopher, et al (ed.) One Hundred Years One Hundred Men 1871-1971. Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1971.
First Baptist Church. "Ninetieth Anniversary Homecoming." Concord, North Carolina: First Baptist Church, 1953.
Freeze, Gary. "Master Mill Man: John Milton Odell." M.A. Dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1980.
Gray's Map Company. "Gray's New Map of Concord." Philadelphia: O.W. Gray Map Company, 1882.
Kaplan, Peter R. The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus Count , North Carolina. Charlotte: Historic Cabarrus Inc., 1981.
Lore, Adalaide and Eugenia, Open the Gates and Roam with Us. Salisbury, North Carolina: Rowan Business Forms, 1971.
McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.
Manufacturer's Record, (December 12, 1907).
Powell, William S., ed. A Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. Vol.1, 1979.
Progress. Pen and Pictures Sketches, City of Concord North Carolina (1916). (Fall 1972).
Rouse, J.K. The Nobel Experiment of Warren C. Coleman. Charlotte: Crabtree Press, 1972.
Sharp, Bill. A New Geography of North Carolina. Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1954.
Tomlinson, W.F. Biography of the State Officers and Member of the General Assembly of North Carolina, 1893. Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1893.
Young, J.R. ed, Textile Leaders of the South. Anderson, South Carolina: Unknown Publisher, ca.1963.
† Shelia A. Bumgarner with David William Brown and Peter Kaplan, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, North Union Street Historic District, Concord, Cabarrus County, North Carolina, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.