Mitchell College Historic District
The Mitchell College Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 with amended documentation provided in 2001 and 2002. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from copies of these original nomination documents. [† ‡ §] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Mitchell College Historic District is the largest concentration of architecturally and historically significant structures dating primarily from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Statesville. Within its boundaries are located one of the oldest colleges in western North Carolina (Mitchell College, chartered in 1853), one of the oldest cemeteries in Iredell County (Fourth Creek Burying Ground, dating from 1756), two of the oldest and most architecturally significant religious structures in Statesville (former Trinity Episcopal Church, now the Friends Meeting House, built ca.1875, and the Congregation Emmanual Synagogue, built in 1891), and scores of architecturally significant houses exhibiting a wide range of popular styles from the period.
The area of Statesville now known as the Mitchell College neighborhood developed as the primary residential outgrowth from the commercial center of town during the post Civil War years. Because of the prestige lent to the area by the presence of Mitchell College at its center, the neighborhood grew to become what appears to have been the most prominent neighborhood in town during the early twentieth century.
As has been stated, the focal point — geographically and otherwise — of the Mitchell College Historic District is Mitchell College (500 West Broad Street), the main building of which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Mitchell College dates from the mid-nineteenth century, when in 1853 it was chartered as the Concord Presbyterian Female College, making it one of the oldest colleges in western North Carolina. Its impressive Greek Revival style main building was erected between 1854 and 1856 by contractor J.W. Conrad. In 1917 the school was renamed Mitchell College in honor of the Mitchell sisters, who served as teachers at the school, and their father, geologist and botanist Dr. Elisha Mitchell, who measured Mount Mitchell in 1835, establishing it as the highest mountain in the eastern United States. In 1924 Mitchell College officially became a junior college, and in 1932 men were admitted as students. Since 1959, when the college was released by the Concord Presbytery, Mitchell College has served as an independent community college. (Now a part of the State Community College System.)
Several religious groups which played important roles in Statesville life during both the last two centuries and this century erected buildings within the Mitchell College neighborhood. The earliest was the Presbyterian church, which established a congregation long before Mitchell College was even an idea. Both the Fourth Creek Congregation and the Fourth Creek Burying Ground (202 West End Avenue) were established in the mid 1750s, although the organization of the congregation was not officially authorized by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia until 1764. Thus, Fourth Creek Presbyterian Church ranked along with Centre Presbyterian Church at the southern end of the county in being one of the earliest congregations in Iredell, a county where Presbyterians dominated the early development in this region and still have a large following today. In 1875 the name of Fourth Creek was changed to Statesville, and when at the end of the century, its name was changed again to First Presbyterian Church. Contributing architecturally to the Mitchell College Historic District, the present 1924 First Presbyterian Church building (125 North Meeting Street) is a direct historical descendant of the original Fourth Creek congregation. The adjacent Fourth Creek Burying Ground, or Fourth Creek Cemetery, has retained its original name and contains the gravestones of some of the earliest members of the congregation, dating from the mid-eighteenth century.
Other churches played prominent roles in the community as well. Broad Street United Methodist Church (315 West Broad Street), a fine 1907 structure in the Gothic style, is one such church. The congregation is a descendant of Mt. Zion Methodist Church, for many years the only church in Statesville besides the Presbyterian Church. During much of the nineteenth century it was known as Statesville Methodist Church, but after other Methodist churches were created, it became known as First Methodist Church in 1902. When the church moved from Walnut Street to its present site on W. Broad Street in 1907, its name was again changed to Broad Street Methodist Church.
The two oldest religious buildings remaining in Statesville and two of the finest architecturally are the former Trinity Episcopal Church (now Friends Meeting House) at 441 Walnut Street and the Congregation Emmanuel Synagogue at 206 Kelly Street. In 1858 an Episcopal congregation was established in Statesville by the name of Chapel of the Cross. In 1870 a lot was purchased on Walnut Street and by 1876 the present church building had been constructed. The name was changed to Trinity Episcopal Church in 1879 when the Gothic Revival building was consecrated. The congregation moved from the Walnut Street building in 1968. Apparently there was a large enough Jewish population in late nineteenth century Statesville to warrant the building of a synagogue. The Congregation Emmanuel was organized in 1883 at the home of Isaac Wallace. In 1890 a lot was purchased on the corner of Kelly Street and West End Avenue next to Fourth Creek Cemetery, and in 1891 the eclectic synagogue was constructed. For more than thirty years the Congregation Emmanuel played a prominent role in religious and social life in Statesville. In the 1920s, however, the synagogue fell into disuse and for the next thirty-five years it stood, organized but not functioning. Then in 1954 a circuit-riding rabbi revitalized the congregation and in 1957 the synagogue was rededicated and now continues an active role in Statesville religious life.
A later church to locate within the Mitchell College Historic District was St. John's Lutheran Church (218-222 South Mulberry Street) in 1921. When the congregation moved to another location in 1956, they sold their brick and stone Gothic style church to St. Pius X Catholic congregation. (Resold to C.M.E. Church group.)
Surrounding these educational and religious institutions there developed a large residential neighborhood with some of the finest houses in Statesville. Only a few of the present houses in the Mitchell College Historic District were built prior to 1885. Two of the oldest houses in Statesville, however, are found within the Mitchell College District. These are the Greek Revival style George Anderson House at 313 S. Mulberry Street, dating from ca.1860, and the William Franklin Hall House at 203 North Race Street, dating from 1866 and vaguely reflecting the Greek Revival style while also hinting of the later Victorian styles to come. Including these two houses, only about four percent of the present buildings in the Mitchell College Historic District had been built by ca.1885.
Then the building boom came. Between ca. 1886 and ca. 1905, thirty-two percent of the extant buildings were constructed and another twenty-six percent were built between ca.1906 and ca.1918. Then building activity tapered off somewhat with only around sixteen percent of the present buildings having been built between ca.1919 and ca.1930. Thus by 1930, seventy-eight percent of the buildings now present in the Mitchell College Historic District had been built. Most buildings constructed after 1930 have been replacements of earlier structures. Some of these are compatible with the character of the district and some are not.
Among the more than 200 properties in the Mitchell College Historic District, a rich variety of architectural styles can be seen, many of which represent the finest examples in Statesville. These styles include the Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Neoclassical Revival, Regency Revival, Elizabethan Revival, Tudor Revival and Bungaloid styles. Together they provide a strong visual sense of the appearance of a prominent late nineteenth and early twentieth century neighborhood in Statesville.
The residential structures in the Mitchell College Historic District reflect the status of the many prominent individuals who made their homes in this neighborhood. These individuals made important contributions not only to Statesville but to the surrounding region and included manufacturers, merchants, doctors, legislators and others.
Of the manufacturers who lived in the Mitchell College neighborhood, four had close ties with the industries located within the Academy Hill District [see Academy Hill Historic District]. O.W. Slane and Fred T. Slane, brothers who came to Statesville from Pittsburgh and were partners in the O.W. Slane Glass Company for the manufacture of mirrors (Academy Hill Historic District), lived at 502 West Front Street and 415 W. Front Street. Ludwig Ash, who operated the L. Ash Tobacco Factory which manufactured plug tobacco (Academy Hill Historic District), owned the fine Colonial Revival house at 643 Walnut Street. In 1920 H. Oscar Steele, one of the sons of J.C. Steele and in charge of advertising and sales for the Steele brick machinery enterprise (Academy Hill District), moved from his previous residence at 502 S. Mulberry Street (Academy Hill District) to 603 Walnut Street.
The furniture industry was well-represented in the Mitchell College Historic District. W.A. Thomas, who lived in the exotic Queen Anne style house at 302 West End Avenue, served as president of the Statesville Furniture Company, and when it was reorganized in 1904 as the Atha Chair Company (Atha being an abbreviation of Thomas' middle name), he was principal shareholder. Joseph G. Shelton, a promoter of the furniture industry, was the largest shareholder as well as secretary-treasurer of the Statesville Furniture Company. He made his home after ca.1920 at 122 North Mulberry Street. William Franklin Hall, who lived in one of the oldest houses in the Mitchell College Historic District at 203 N. Race Street, was also involved in the beginning of the furniture industry. All three men also served as local merchants.
Other industrialists in the Mitchell College neighborhood included C.H. Turner and R.A. Cooper. Turner, who lived at 317 W. Front Street, invented a small portable sawmill called the Pony Saw Mill and with the advent of the gasoline farm tractor, he expanded into the production of many types of farm machinery to be used with the tractor. R.A. Cooper, who lived first at 624 Walnut Street and later at 646 Walnut Street was a distiller until prohibition and then worked as a banker, furniture wholesaler, and theater owner.
Prominent merchants residing in the district included J.W. Poston, Dr. Julius Lowenstein, Charles E. Mills, and John Bowles. Poston, who along with his brother W.J. Poston was active in the general merchandising trade in the 1880s, lived at 409 W. Front Street. In 1884 Dr. Julius Lowenstein and his brother-in-law, M.W. Myer, opened a major wholesale liquor house in Statesville. Lowenstein, a prominent member of the Jewish community in Statesville, lived in the magnificent Queen Anne style house on W. Broad Street next to Broad Street Methodist Church. Charles E. Mills, who built the imaginative Colonial Revival house at 324 West End Avenue, was a longtime partner in the mercantile business of Mills-Poston. In addition, he served for fifty years as the choir director of First Presbyterian Church, during which time he composed many hymns. John Bowles was a partner to M.E. Ramsey, Sr. in Statesville's largest dry goods store, Ramsey-Bowles. He lived at 239 N. Mulberry Street.
Two physicians living in the neighborhood who made special contributions to Statesville and the surrounding area were Dr. Ross McElwee and James W. Davis. McElwee served as county physician from 1915 until 1941 and was a member of the prominent McElwee manufacturing family (see McElwee Houses portion of the Iredell County Multiple Resources Nomination). Davis was a leading exponent of the privately owned rather than publicly supported hospital idea in Statesville and was the principal founder of Davis Hospital on West End Avenue which was built in 1925. Davis also played a leading role in the organization of the Statesville Broadcasting Company, which operated the first radio station in Statesville, starting in 1947. Davis' home was at 211 N. Race Street and McElwee's was at 404 West End Avenue.
State politicians also made their homes in the Mitchell College area. Most prominent of these were Hugh G. Mitchell, Zeb Vance Long, and Major W.M. Robbins. Mitchell, who served as state senator in the twentieth century, lived at 123 Kelly Street. Long, who lived at 234 N. Race Street, was a lawyer and served four terms during the twentieth century as state senator. Major Robbins, who was a Civil War veteran, first served as state senator from Salisbury. In 1872 he won the Democratic nomination for Congress and was elected. After moving to Statesville early in 1873, he was re-elected to Congress in 1874 and 1876. His home was the well-detailed Colonial Revival house at 139 N. Mulberry Street.
Other residents of the Mitchell College neighborhood through the years have included teachers, ministers, artists and others who have made valuable contributions to the community. Because of the community roles played by the above described individuals and others in the district, along with the educational and religious roles played by the various institutions within the district, the Mitchell College Historic District has made significant contributions to the development of social, educational, religious, industrial, business and political life of the community and, in some cases, the surrounding region.
Coupled with the architectural qualities of the district, these factors convey a sense of historic cohesiveness which present an interrelated, multi-faceted view of Statesville life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This view remains largely intact today because most of the buildings in the Mitchell College Historic District continue to be actively used and are in a good state of preservation. Only around four percent of the buildings can be considered real intrusions to the special character of this neighborhood. To help prevent further intrusions and to encourage the preservation of the neighborhood as a viable residential area, a neighborhood association has been formed.
Mitchell College Historic District (Amended)
While the original, 1980 nomination for the Mitchell College Historic District does not specify a period of significance, the text implies a period beginning ca.1855 and ending fifty years prior to the date of the nomination, despite the fact that certain post-1930 resources were discussed and considered as contributing to the historic character of the district. In 1999, the City of Statesville sponsored a comprehensive survey update of the district. One outcome of the study was the recommendation that the Mitchell College Historic District's period of significance be reevaluated and extended to 1941 due to the continuation of development in the district after 1930, although at a slower pace; as explained below. With this amendment, the period of significance is specified as beginning ca.1855, when construction of the oldest building in the district began, and extending to the eve of the United States's involvement in World War II in 1941, when construction within the district almost came to a halt for several years.
During the period 1931 to 1941, Statesville continued the pattern of diversified industrial development begun in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the Depression was difficult for most of North Carolina, Statesville avoided many of its hardships with only two of the town's five banks failing and the continuing solvency of most of the local businesses. The furniture industry continued to support the local economy through Carolina Parlor Furniture Company's two factories and the Slane Glass and Mirror Manufacturers, and their continued success was reflected both directly and indirectly in the Mitchell College Historic District. For example, Clarence F. Williams Sr., the bookkeeper for Slane Glass and Mirror Manufacturers, built a bungalow with Colonial Revival styling (638 West Front Street) in 1932. Also in 1932, Burton N. Hefner, owner of the popular, family-run Hefner's Cafe (119 E. Broad Street), built his house with a monumental classical portico (628 West End Avenue). Mid-decade, Dr. James W. Davis, principal founder and namesake of Statesville's hospital, built a stately house at 211 N. Race Street. In 1940, J.I. Tomlin, a furniture manufacturer's representative, had a stylish two-story house built (610 Walnut Street). The following year L.S. Gilliam, president and manager of the Carolina Parlor Furniture Company, declared his prosperity (and that of his company) with construction of a large Colonial Revival style house with elaborate entry (436 West End Avenue) behind his earlier house, which he demolished.
These and the six additional houses constructed in the Mitchell College Historic District, as well as the new county library built by the Works Progress Administration across from the main building at Mitchell College, demonstrate the continued preference of Statesville residents for the Mitchell College neighborhood during the decade leading up to the entry of the United States into World War II.
Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion
The Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under criterion for architecture. With a period of significance of ca.1890 to 1952, the collection of well-preserved dwellings reflects the expansion of Statesville's early suburban neighborhoods resulting from the town's prosperity as an industrial center along the railroad in Piedmont North Carolina. The area west of downtown and contiguous with the Mitchell College Historic District (National Register, 1980) contains an eclectic mix of local vernacular forms and nationally-popular house types common to industrial towns in central North Carolina. The Victor Ellis House (526 Alexander Street) and the Haskell Mills House (610 Alexander Street) are the Mitchell College Historic District's oldest dwellings and exhibit influences of the Queen Anne style. Bungalows, such as the Dr. Samuel A. Rhyne House at 245 North Race Street and the Harold Shoaf House at 249 North Race Street, are the most common house type. I-houses, period cottages, Colonial Revival houses, Minimal Traditional dwellings, Ranch houses and post-World War II apartment buildings stand in the district. Although houses continued to be built after 1952, they are not of exceptional significance.
The district is also eligible for the National Register in the area of Health/Medicine for Davis Hospital, a medical facility that served Statesville for approximately seventy years. Davis Hospital occupies the center of the Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion area and is the only non-residential resource. Opened in December 1925 and expanded over many decades, the hospital was deemed by local newspapers as "one of the most modern and completely equipped hospitals in North Carolina." Several buildings associated with the hospital stand in the district including houses built by doctors, an apartment building (644 Cherry Street) constructed for interns in 1948 and a nurses' dormitory (704 Cherry Street) from the 1950s. Of the ninety-two primary and twenty-six secondary resources, seventy-four percent contribute to the significance of the Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion.
Statesville's Historical Development and Architecture Context
The buildings in the Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion represent the architectural styles and forms that occurred throughout Piedmont North Carolina from the late nineteenth century to the post-World War II period. During this period, architecture reflected the social and economic changes occurring as the region transformed from a land of farmers to a bustling industrial and railroad corridor.
In the closing decades of the nineteenth century industry, in the form of textile and tobacco factories, spread across the Piedmont. Towns along the railroad — such as Statesville — blossomed as thousands flocked to these centers of industry and commerce. The population of Statesville increased dramatically after the Civil War as manufacturing concerns opened in the town. In 1870, 683 people lived in the county seat. By 1890, that number had increased to 2,318. In 1890, a local newspaper described Statesville's newly-established tobacco manufactories as "the most prosperous and promising line of business in this prosperous and progressive city." That year three tobacco factories operated. The paper also extolled the city's up and coming role as a cotton market.
The Western North Carolina Railroad, which was completed to Statesville in 1858 and the Atlantic, Tennessee and Ohio Railroad (also known as "the June Bug"), a line constructed in 1862, but rebuilt in 1871 after being destroyed in the Civil War, helped transform the town from a center of local government, namely a place for court to meet, to a thriving trading center where cotton, lumber and farm products could be shipped to market. Families moved to Statesville as men sought work at places such as the Statesville Manufactory Company which produced parts for wagons, John Wilson's furniture factory and the J.C. Steele Foundry and Machine Shop and Brick Yard, all established in the 1880s. By the last decade of the century, the town's roller mill produced more flour than any other mill in the state and in 1893 the Statesville Cotton Mill opened.
Town boosters did their part to lure new residents to Statesville to work in the town's industries and shops. Local papers celebrated the "zeal for increase, improvement and upbuilding" occurring in Statesville in the spring of 1890. As new people arrived, the need for housing increased and construction took off. Reflecting the increasingly complex nature of society and the availability of pattern books and mass-produced and standardized building materials, domestic architecture became complex and the Queen Anne style proliferated. Local manufactories — such as Overcash & Sons Sash, Door and Blinds Factory which had a plant on Cherry Street where they made "sawed and turned balusters, brackets and a great many other articles in woodwork" — provided ornate millwork to outfit asymmetrical houses composed of intersecting wings, projecting bays and porches that extended from the facade to one or both of the side elevations. In towns across the state, high-style Queen Anne houses as well as more restrained versions lacking ornate detail were built from the 1880s into the first decade of the twentieth century.
In the early twentieth century, Statesville continued to grow due in large part to the 1894 consolidation of the town's railroads into the Southern Railway system and the expansion of local industries. Statesville, like numerous other Piedmont towns, swelled with new residents, many leaving the farm seeking employment as mill workers, machinists and store clerks. By 1910, the population swelled to 4,599, nearly double what it had been ten years earlier. In 1915, a regional magazine described Statesville as a "clean, attractive [and] modern" city where "in building their homes, citizens have aimed at the beautiful as well as the commodious and convenient." The magazine concluded that "the residences of Statesville are a sure index to the commercial and industrial success and prosperity of her people."
With the advent of the automobile in the twentieth century, development moved into more suburban areas of North Carolina's town and cities. In small towns such as Statesville, this push outward from the central downtown often translated to the construction of houses on streets only one or two streets beyond the avenues lined with nineteenth century dwellings and just outside the commercial and industrial areas. As the century got under way, it was common for mill managers, bank presidents and prosperous merchants to live only one street away from mill workers, store clerks and carpenters. While professionals and workers continued to live in relative close proximity to their work places and each other, the differences in the two groups' income and social standing were made clear by the size of their houses and the lots they occupied.
As the automobile allowed for increased mobility, national styles of architecture began to influence house styles in the new suburbs rising up across North Carolina. The picturesque idiom of the nineteenth century made way for the Colonial Revival; in early examples, the two styles meshed in a transitional hybrid where classical elements were attached to irregularly-massed forms. As the new century wore on, the Colonial Revival became more symmetrical and dwellings were rectangular in form.
In 1920, the population of Statesville was 7,895. The town was home to four flour mills, three foundaries or machine shops, three hosiery mills, three cotton mills, five furniture factories, four tobacco factories and a brick plant. The Wallace Brothers Botanical Company, established just before the Civil War, was described in 1926 as the largest botanical depot in the world and the oldest in the United States. The company manufactured herbal home remedies. Statesville Manufacturing Company, a supplier of architectural millwork and building materials, was established in 1925 and shipped products throughout North Carolina and adjoining states.
In suburban neighborhoods in Piedmont North Carolina, modest houses of the 1920s sometimes exhibited Colonial Revival features such as a simple gabled portico with Tuscan or Doric columns, but more often middle class families built bungalows. The bungalow enjoyed national popularity in the late 1910s and 1920s and architects designed fine examples for clients from coast to coast. More scaled-down versions of the style proved immensely popular in towns and suburbs across North Carolina. Building plans for these houses with their wide overhanging eaves, open arrangement of rooms and inviting porch appeared in national magazines and catalogs. The bungalow — in all its many expressions, construction materials and degrees of detail — was inexpensive and easy to build and appealed to families' desire for a modern house.
By 1930, the population of Statesville stood at 10,490. The Charlotte Observer described Statesville as lying "in the center of the industrial zone of the state." In 1935, at least sixty-five manufacturing plants occupied the city, including nine textile plants. During the period, bungalows and other house types found favor among those working in the city's manufactories leading the Charlotte Observer to remark that the town's "laboring class of people have not entered into the extravagances of modern life."
The country's entrance into World War II did not severely impact Statesville's economy as its industries and the goods they produced proved vital to the war effort. Eighty manufacturing companies operated, with textiles and wood-related concerns dominating. Industries founded in the late nineteenth century, including the Statesville Cotton Mill, Statesville Flour Mills and J.C. Steele and Sons, a machinery company, continued to produce goods.
When the war ended, the population exploded to almost 17,000 citizens as soldiers returned home and returned to jobs in Statesville's factories. As construction revived after the war, some families in North Carolina sought the comfort and reassurance of building in styles of the past such as the Colonial Revival. More commonly new houses took on a decidedly modern appearance. The Minimal Traditional house, typically a side-gabled dwelling with a front-facing gable vaguely reminiscent of the Tudor cottage and lacking decorative detail, began appearing just before the war, but proved more popular in the last half of the 1940s. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the Ranch house, with its low-pitched roof and horizontal massing, reigned as the most sought-after dwelling. Builders and architects in Statesville promoted the new styles. G.L. Wilson, who founded a building company just after World War II, featured a thoroughly modern stuccoed Ranch house he built for Latta Johnson in a local advertisement. Another Statesville firm, Design Associates, showcased several of their recent commercial commissions — most were streamlined Moderne with features such as glass block and wood paneled interiors. Although most commonly Minimal Traditional and Ranch houses appeared as part of large housing developments, these dwellings were built in early twentieth century suburbs in towns such as Statesville where tract housing was not exceedingly common after the war. Because the Depression and World War II slowed construction in neighborhoods which had began developing in the previous century, once the economy improved with the end of the war, development in these neighborhoods resumed.
A History of the Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion Area
The area encompassing the Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion began developing as a residential neighborhood in the late nineteenth century after a city-wide street building campaign in the 1880s. Before dwellings were built on a wide-scale basis, the district consisted of a few scattered houses, vacant land and some industrial development. The most prominent industry was Overcash Brothers Planing Mill, also known as Overcash & Sons Sash, Door and Blind Factory, whose plant stood on the north side of the junction of Cherry and South Oak streets, near the present location of the interns' apartment building (644 Cherry Street) constructed for doctors at Davis Hospital. In 1890, the local newspaper described operations on Cherry Street: "there is as much noise and activity at their factory as there is anywhere in Statesville." The Overcash Brothers complex included a steam dry kiln, a lumber shed and a large, one-and-a-half-story processing building that occupied the site as early as 1890 and remained there until just after 1918 when it was demolished. In 1911, Overcash's sash and door warehouse stood just south of the factory on the west side of the first block of South Oak Street at a site between the house at 102 South Oak Street and the Anderson House at 114 South Oak Street.
Alexander Street was the first to develop on a significant basis. In 1917, eleven houses occupied the northernmost block between North Mulberry and North Race streets. The earliest dwellings on this block — now the 500 block — are the Victor and Lucy Ellis House (526 Alexander Street), built ca.1890 with a high hipped roof and wraparound porch with turned posts and sawn work detailing, and the 1906 W.G. Carter House (527 Alexander Street), a one-story Queen Anne cottage with a wraparound porch and central front gable. Queen Anne dwellings of the late nineteenth occupied lots on each end of the west side of the street. A one-and-a-half story Queen Anne dwelling with a wraparound porch and bay window stood at 502 Alexander Street, now a vacant lot. An even more elaborate two-story Queen Anne house stood at the south end of the block at the location of a Ranch house (544 Alexander Street). Its wraparound porch terminated on the north elevation in a two-story turret. Both houses were demolished sometime after 1930. At least five houses occupying the 500 block of Alexander replaced earlier dwellings.
The present 600 block of Alexander saw development by the late nineteenth century, but at a slower pace than the block to the northeast. The oldest surviving dwelling on that block is the ca.1890 Haskell Mills House (610 Alexander Street), a one-and-a-half-story Queen Anne cottage with a high hipped roof and wraparound porch, similar in style and form to the Ellis and Carter houses. By 1917, seven dwellings occupied the block where today eleven dwellings stand.
In 1917, five houses stood on the north side of Cherry Street, just north of L.K. Overcash's planing mill; apparently no houses occupied the south side of the street.
Carrol Street developed slowly; in 1918, the circa 1910 Mervin W. Harwell House (501 Carrol Street) was the only house on the small street that extends for one block from North Mulberry Street to North Race Street. Five years later, six houses stood, including the J.H. West House (526 Carrol Street), a bungalow with clipped gables that had been built in 1925; the Jules Albrecht House ( 536 Carrol Street), a brick <>Craftsman-influenced house completed in 1926 and the Richard Anderson House (525 Carrol Street), a one-story brick house with a hipped roof and hipped dormers. One other house, the W. Lloyd Cutting House (509 Carrol Street), a stone veneered Tudor cottage, was built circa 1935, while the street's five other houses are Ranch houses built in the post-World War II period and the 1960s.
The James Johnston House (245 Mulberry Street) and the W.S. Kelly House (253 Mulberry Street), both built around 1910, are the earliest remaining houses on North Mulberry Street, however a large, two-story frame dwelling stood on the east side of Mulberry Street opposite Carrol Street in 1918. A simple, one-story frame dwelling with a full-facade porch stood at the northwest corner of Carrol and North Mulberry streets where the ca.1955 Julian Lindsey House (265 Mulberry Street) now stands. In the late 1920s, the Pearl West House (271 Mulberry Street) was built at the southwest junction of Alexander and North Mulberry streets. In the late 1930s and around 1940, Gordon Wilson built two multiple-unit apartment buildings (272-274 Mulberry Street and 268-270 Mulberry Street) on the northeast side of Mulberry, directly across from the West House.
The most active building period in the district came in the 1920s, when approximately twenty-seven principal buildings — mostly bungalows — were built. A significant physical change to the neighborhood came in 1925 with the construction on a formerly vacant parcel of the Davis Hospital at 709 West End Avenue. Upon its opening in December, the Statesville Daily deemed it "one of the most modern and completely equipped hospitals in North Carolina." Before completion of the three-story-on-basement, steel and reinforced concrete building veneered with brick, the facility occupied a building on East Center Street. The first floor of the new hospital housed offices, examining rooms, the X-ray department and an operating room. The hospital's second and third floors could accommodate fifty patients. The local newspaper made note of the reinforced concrete stair that extends from the basement to the third floor. Mr. U.A. Oswalt designed the structure which when built was "considered a remarkable piece of engineering of this particular kind." The success of the facility allowed for the expansion of the original building over several decades. In 1930, a large rear addition was made to the original block. In 1937, the hospital came under the ownership of a nonprofit corporation. In the 1950s, two major additions were made. A two-story section was added to the east side of the building in 1963. The hospital closed in the 1990s.
The presence of Davis Hospital affected the residential patterns of the district. The first student nurses lived in the Josie Davis House, located just north of the hospital. In 1948, as the hospital expanded, a brick apartment building was constructed at 644 Cherry Street just behind the hospital to house interns. Later, in 1956, a modern nurse's dorm (704 Cherry Street) was erected on the lot adjacent to and west of the interns' apartments. Physicians associated with the hospital built homes in the immediate area. Dr. Lloyd Shaw and his wife Gertrude built their house at 222 North Oak Street in 1934 while he worked at Davis Hospital. Dr. Samuel J. Holbrook built a house at 223 North Oak Street around 1948. X-ray specialist Dr. Samuel A. Rhyne and his wife Louise lived in a bungalow at 245 North Race Street in the late 1920s.
North and South Oak Streets developed primarily in the 1920s and 1930s, coinciding with the construction and first expansion of Davis Hospital. Before the construction of the hospital, only four houses stood on the two blocks of Oak Street included in the district. Bungalows and Colonial Revival dwellings predominate these streets that form the western boundary of the Mitchell College Historic District.
The Great Depression and World War II slowed down development somewhat in the neighborhood in the 1930s and early 1940s. Once the war ended, construction in the area resumed and new houses were built on parcels that were for the most part previously unoccupied. Families moving into the area around Davis Hospital in the post-war period chose to build primarily Minimal Traditional and Ranch houses. The Charles Clark House at 524 Carrol Street typifies the Minimal Traditional style in Statesville. The one-story, side-gabled brick dwelling features a prominent, but low-pitched front gable. To accommodate the post-war population increase, small apartment buildings were constructed. Louis Merrit Sr. built two brick buildings around 1950 on the corner of Cherry and North Race streets (602 Cherry Street and 101 North Race Street).
New construction remained steady throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s with approximately eight to ten buildings constructed in each decade. A decline in the rate of construction came in the 1960s. During the 1960s and 1970s, three of the eight properties constructed were apartment buildings or small apartment complexes. In the 1980s and 1990s, only two principal resources were built.
This neighborhood west of central downtown Statesville has historically been the home to mostly working class residents. The earliest city directories available indicate that in 1917 residents worked in fish and meat sales, at local lumber mills, as carpenters, mill hands and drivers. A farmer resided in the neighborhood, as did the owner of a knitting mill and a manager of a furniture company. From the 1930s through the 1950s principal male residents worked in a wide variety of the city's prospering industries and retail establishments. Several residents worked as salesmen, machinists and laborers or supervisors at Statesville Steam Laundry. A barber, two tailors, several mechanics and men involved in the building trades — including one plasterer — lived in the neighborhood during the period of significance. Professionals or business owners were more rare and concentrated in houses along North and South Race Streets, near Mitchell College. A mill manager, doctor, vice-president of a manufacturing company and the president of Piedmont Baking Company occupied the bungalows, Cape Cod houses and Colonial Revival style dwellings in the two-and-a-half block section of North Race Street adjacent to the Mitchell College Historic District.
Statesville boasts several intact historic neighborhoods that developed primarily in the late nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century. The South Race Street Historic District (NR, 1995) is located just south of the Mitchell College Historic District and its boundary expansion. Encompassing 121 resources built mainly from the 1890s through the post-World War II period, the district is made of primarily dwellings, but also contains a few commercial buildings and a church. The house types and styles are comparable to the Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion and include I-houses, hipped-roof cottages, triple-A cottages, Queen Anne houses and Bungalows. The East Broad Street-Davie Avenue Historic District (NR, 1980) lies east of downtown Statesville and contains Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Craftsman houses built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Academy Hill Historic District (NR, 1980), a neighborhood of primarily late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings, includes some of the most significant educational, industrial and residential buildings in Statesville. The Academy Hill Historic District is located in south of the commercial center of downtown Statesville.
The area encompassing the Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Expansion remains a pleasant residential neighborhood of well-kept, mostly modest dwellings. From the condition of the houses and landscape, residents make it obvious that they take pride in the neighborhood. The redevelopment of Davis Hospital, a goal of the city, will only enhance the neighborhood.
Health/Medicine Context: the Origins and Development of Hospitals in Statesville
Although hospitals had formed during the Civil War to treat wounded soldiers, general hospitals did not exist in North Carolina until after the war. W.W. Lane likely operated the first hospital in North Carolina. He opened a small private facility in Wilmington in 1881. In 1876, the Episcopal Church opened St. Peter's Hospital in Charlotte. The first hospital for African Americans was likely Leonard Hospital, which opened in Raleigh in 1882.
Just after the Civil War, in 1866, five physicians practiced in Statesville. Around this time a hospital association formed and managed to raise some money to build a facility, but nothing came of those efforts. By 1896, thirteen doctors worked in Statesville, but only in private practices.
Just after the war, Rev. A.D. Billingsley, a Presbyterian minister from the Midwest, arrived in Statesville to help teach and preach to African Americans. He spearheaded the construction of a brick church and served as its pastor until 1884 when church members, wanting a minister of their own race, barred him from the church. Upon his death in 1897, he bequeathed five thousand dollars of his estate toward the building of a hospital with the provision that it serve both races. In February 1899, Rev. W.R. McLellan, a Presbyterian charged with directing the effort to build the hospital, purchased four acres on Park Street where on September 7, 1899 the cornerstone for the hospital was laid.
Billingsley Hospital opened in 1900. Dr. Henry F. Long and Dr. W.J. Hill directed the hospital with Mollie Walker serving as its administrator. Two more physicians — Dr. M.R. Adams and Dr. T.E. Anderson — joined the facility and together, the four men formed the Billingsley Hospital Company. A year after the hospital opened, Dr. Long established the town's first nurses' training program. Eventually, the hospital closed following the departure of the four original physicians. The building was converted to apartments, but was later demolished.
Soon after leaving Billingsley Hospital, Dr. Long, realizing his dream to open his own hospital, opened Long's Sanitorium in a wood-frame building on north Center Street in 1905. The March 3, 1905 edition of Statesville's newspaper, The Landmark, offered this description: "Dr. H.F. Long's Private Sanitorium was opened this week and some patients have already entered. The institution is fitted with all the modern improvements and is modern and up-to-date in all respects." When opened, the hospital contained fifteen beds.
In 1912, Dr. Long enlarged his sanitorium with a three-story brick building attached to the original wood structure. In 1921, fire damaged the original building and when it was rebuilt, extra rooms were added. Dr. Long owned the hospital until 1933 when he and his wife conveyed it to H.F. Long Hospital, Inc., which the Duke Foundation Hospital Fund endowed. The facility was renamed the H.F. Long Hospital. Dr. Long died in 1939.
In 1914 Dr. James Wagner Davis returned to his hometown of Statesville after completing an internship in Pennsylvania and accepted a position at Long Hospital. During World War I, he left Statesville to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces in France and the United States Military Mission in Germany. Upon his return to Statesville in 1919, he found that his former position at Long had been filled. On January 1, 1920, Dr. Davis and Dr. F.A. Carpenter, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist opened the Carpenter-Davis Hospital in a brick building on South Center Street. Just two years after opening, Dr. Carpenter died leaving Dr. Davis to operate the hospital alone. It was renamed Davis Hospital.
In 1924, Dr. Davis purchased land on West End Avenue adjacent to his grandmother's house and hired Statesville contractor John Gilbert to construct a four-story building. When Davis Hospital opened in December 1925, three other physicians worked at the facility that held fifty beds. Davis Hospital quickly became known for its policy to treat both rich and poor patients.
Davis Hospital operated on the forefront of medical technology and training. From the beginning, Davis Hospital operated a nurses' training program with seventeen students making up the first class. Under Dr. Davis and the direction of Elizabeth Hill, the Davis Hospital School of Nursing became one of the outstanding nursing schools in North Carolina. Davis Hospital was the first hospital in the state to have air conditioning in its operating rooms and one of the first to establish blood banks and blood donor services in North Carolina.
Davis Hospital expanded — both in staff and physically — throughout the twentieth century. In 1930, Dr. Davis hired two additional physicians and directed the construction of the first of many additions to the original building. In 1937, the hospital became a nonprofit facility. In 1951, Davis's grandmother's house was demolished to make way for a wing that was added to the west side of the 1930 addition.
In 1946, the United States Congress passed the Hill-Burton Act to address the poor state of hospitals, which had been neglected during the Great Depression and World War II.
The bill directed the Surgeon General to evaluate hospitals and provide funding for the construction of new and modern plants. On the state level, Gov. J. Melville Broughton appointed a State Hospital and Medical Care Commission to study the hospital needs in North Carolina. The commission concluded that more doctors, hospitals and insurance were needed. Over the next several sessions of the legislature, the General Assembly enacted a series of reform measures and provided funding to build hospitals. Between 1947 and 1953, the state gained around five thousand additional hospital beds.
As a result of Hill-Burton and various state efforts to improve facilities, H.F. Long Hospital closed and consolidated with other area hospitals to form Iredell Memorial Hospital in 1954. The new county hospital opened in May 1954 with a staff of thirty-four physicians. The former H.F. Long Hospital on North Center Street was later converted to offices.
Davis Hospital benefited greatly from private endowments following World War II. In 1953, the Ford Foundation provided the hospital with $70,000 in construction money. In 1955 Dr. Davis directed the building of a diagnostic wing that was attached to the east side of the original Davis Hospital building. Davis died on May 31, 1955, just three months before the new wing opened. By 1970, seventeen physicians worked at Davis Hospital on a full time basis; specialists provided their services to patients at Davis when needed.
By 1974, two hospitals stood in Statesville — Davis and Iredell Memorial. Davis was the largest with two hundred beds, compared to Iredell Memorial's 179 beds. Davis Hospital operated into the 1990s. Today, Iredell Memorial Hospital is the county's and city's main hospital serving thousands of patients annually.
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† Laura A. W. Phillips, Consultant for North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Survey and Planning Branch, Mitchell College Historic District, Iredell County, NC, nomination document, 1980, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
‡ Jennifer Marin and Sarah Woodard, Historians, Edwards-Pitman Environmenta, Inc., Mitchell College Historic District Boundary Increase, Iredell County, NC, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
§ Michele Vacca, Consultant and Claudia R. Brown, North Carolina Deparment of Archives and History, Survey and Planning Branch, Mitchell College Historic District, Amended, Iredell County, NC, nomination document, 2001, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.