South Race Street Historic District
The South Race Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. 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 Race Street Historic District exemplifies the New South industrial neighborhoods which emerged in the cities of the Piedmont during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Located between the two major waterways of the Piedmont, the Catawba River and Yadkin River, Statesville occupied a strategic position within the furniture and textile regions of the Piedmont. The South Race Street neighborhood, located at the edge of a manufacturing and railroad corridor, developed after 1893 when the first cotton mill was established in Statesville. The South Race Street community emerged as both a natural outgrowth of nearby employment opportunities and from the direct actions of the Statesville Land and Manufacturing Company, a development company formed shortly after the Statesville Cotton Mill was built in 1893. Located within the city, the South Race Street neighborhood reflects the pre-automobile era when managers, skilled, and unskilled workers lived in proximity to each other and local industries.
The prosperity generated by the new manufacturing operations is reflected in the architecture of the South Race Street Historic District. The contributing architectural resources in the South Race Street Historic District clearly illustrate the variety of traditional vernacular house types and nationally popular architectural styles common to the small industrial towns of the Piedmont, dating from the 1890s to World War II. One of the oldest houses in the South Race Street Historic District is the one and one-half story, John White House (509 South Race Street), constructed ca.1894 with the asymmetrical massing, projecting bays, and shingled gables of the Queen Anne. The H.G. Hallyburton House (415 South Race Street) is one of the finest two-story, Queen Anne houses in the district. This frame dwelling with asymmetrical massing, gable-on-hip roof, cutaway bays, and conical roofed wings was constructed at the turn of the century. Built ca.1910, the house at 327 South Oak Street exemplifies the traditional I-houses which survive in the area. The L.B. Bristol House at 427 South Race Street illustrates the influence of the Colonial Revival by the 1910s. The Bristol House has weatherboard siding, symmetrical massing and facade, and low hip roof. The R.E. Turnipseed House (315 South Race Street) exemplifies the bungalows of the South Race Street Historic District. The Turnipseed house is a frame, side gable bungalow with broad eaves, exposed rafters, and knee brackets. The engaged porch is supported by battered piers resting on brick pedestals. Built at the turn of the century, the two-story, brick commercial block at 440, 436-38 and 434 Western Avenue illustrates the simple neighborhood and main street commercial buildings during the early twentieth century. The Western Avenue Baptist Church is one of two churches within the South Race Street Historic District. This substantial and impressive, Gothic Revival church was built ca.1915 with crenellated towers and pointed arch, stained glass windows.
Historical Background and Community Planning and Development Context
The development of the South Race Street neighborhood reflected the emergence of Statesville as a small industrial city in the Carolina Piedmont during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Between the 1890s and 1920s, Statesville grew from a courthouse town and agricultural entrepot into a significant manufacturing center (Keever 1976: 349-361). The growth of Statesville, like cities and towns throughout the Piedmont, was based largely on railroad connections and the rise of textile mills. In 1894, the northern-owned Southern Railway consolidated a major portion of the track in the region, including the Richmond and Danville Railroad which owned the two lines passing through Statesville. Statesville was thus linked to a national network of rail lines that connected the city directly to major northern markets (Goldfield 1982: 123-125 ).
Like numerous Piedmont communities along the Southern Railway (most notably Charlotte, Greenville, and Spartanburg) Statesville rapidly attracted textile mills, support industries, and an assortment of other factories tied to the natural resources of the region. By the early 1900s, the city boasted three cotton mills employing over 400 workers, foundries, a brick-making machine works, tobacco factories, and furniture makers. The Statesville Furniture Company, established along the railroad at the southern edge of the city, was one of the major furniture builders in the Piedmont. The company constructed inexpensive furniture for mill workers and supplied wooden looms, spindles, and bobbins to the mills (Glass 1992: 30-55; N.C. Department of Labor and Printing 1903). By World War I, the list of textile-related industries also included a hosiery mill and knitting mill employing an additional seventy-five workers (N.C. Department of Labor and Printing 1916-1917).
The South Race Street Historic District took shape during this period of local and regional industrial expansion. The neighborhood, which is located along the Southern Railway in southwest Statesville, filled a niche in the residential geography of the city. Because Statesville never had a streetcar transit system, residential growth during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries developed in proximity to workplaces. The South Race Street neighborhood grew up as a white residential area that was populated mainly by plant managers, office workers, and skilled laborers who were employed by industries along the railroad corridor (Statesville City Directory 1909, 1916- 1917).
By the early 1900s, the pull of this manufacturing district was also stimulating other residential development along the tracks. The Academy Hill area, a National Register historic district (1980) [see Academy Hill Historic District], developed just east of South Race Street largely as a result of the industrial activity. However, in contrast to the South Race Street neighborhood, Academy Hill was characterized by wealthier residents, including factory owners (Phillips 1980). At the same time, cotton mill operatives occupied mill villages along the tracks at the southwestern and western outskirts of the city. To the southeast, African Americans were concentrated in an area known as Rabbittown. Finally, the majority of the upper and middle classes resided either east of downtown, along East Broad Street and Davie Avenue, or in the Mitchell College area [see Mitchell College Historic District], located north and east of South Race Street. The Mitchell College neighborhood was one of the oldest and most established in the city, and included industrialists as well as bankers, professionals, and other members of the traditional elite. Like Academy Hill, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (Phillips [Mitchell College] 1980; Little-Stokes 1978: 71).
Development of the South Race Street Historic District
The southern half of the lots in the South Race Street Historic District (south of West Bell Street) was at the northern end of a 1,300-acre planned industrial and residential development. In 1891, thirty-three prominent local investors contributed $1,000 each to form the Statesville Land and Manufacturing Company for the purpose of developing this huge tract that spanned both sides of the Southern Railway (Keever 1976: 352:-353). It was the largest planned subdivision in the history of Statesville. The company, which was soon reorganized as the Statesville Development Company, envisioned a community of workers and managers residing in proximity to both new and existing industries near the Southern Railway. The keystone of the subdivision was the Statesville Cotton Mill, the first and largest textile mill in Statesville, chartered in 1893. In order to increase real estate values, the development company donated ten acres of land along the tracks (southwest of the historic district) for the mill site, and subsequently contributed five additional acres to the west for a mill village (Keever 1976: 352). By the early twentieth century the Statesville Cotton Mill complex dominated the south side of the tracks, and the mill employed over 255 men, women, and children (N.C. Department of Labor and Printing 1903).
Four other sizable industries also arose along the Southern Railway in the vicinity of South Race Street. The ca.1901 J.C. Steele Company, a foundry and brick-making machine works, was located north of the railroad less than two blocks from the southeastern boundary of the historic district. The ca.1906 O.W. Shane Glass Company, the ca.1895 Ludwig Ash Tobacco Factory, and the Gaither Lumber Company were also oriented to the railroad east of South Race Street. In addition, there were a mattress plant and planing mill located to the north of the district, at the intersection of Oak and Cherry streets (Phillips 1980; Sanborn Insurance Map Company 1911).
On its land south of the Southern Railway, the development company platted a grid of residential streets primarily for worker housing. (This section is clearly separated from the South Race Street neighborhood by the railroad corridor, adjacent open space, and by modern U.S. 70). North of the tracks, within the South Race Street Historic District, the company laid out lots on existing streets. The company did not build housing, but rather sold parcels to individual buyers who then commissioned local contractors. Consequently, the South Race Street Historic District comprises a variety of designs that suited the tastes and budgets of individual clients (e.g., Deed Book 22, p. 456, Deed Book 23, p. 519).
Although only the southern half of the South Race Street Historic District is located in the original Statesville Land and Manufacturing Company tract, the entire South Race Street neighborhood developed in response to nearby industrialization. Lots were put up for sale in 1894, and the district generally grew from the south to north, reflecting the marketing efforts of the development company and the influence of the mill and other track-side factories. While deed transactions suggest that a small number of dwellings were built between ca.1894 and 1899, the construction of houses was steady between the turn of the century and the Depression, reflecting the growth of factories in the area (e.g., Deed Book 16, pp.21, 115, Deed Book 22, p.456, Deed Book 23, p.519). Of the twenty-eight households recorded in the historic district in 1909, seventeen were on South Race Street, below West Bell Street. Four others were on Western Avenue, located at the south end of the historic district. By 1916-1917, the city directory recorded thirty-four houses on South Race Street, which was the principal thoroughfare through the district (Statesville City Directory 1909, 1916-1'917).
South Race Street attracted the wealthier residents in the district, as well as a mix of other white-collar employees and skilled workers. Statesville Cotton Mill superintendents J.W. Kaneer and W.C. Sykes owned two of the largest houses on the street, befitting their status (603 South Race Street and 433 South Race Street). Other South Race Street residents included machinists Arthur Fulp and A.F. Mayes (629 South Race Street and 517 South Race Street), nurse Emma Lewis (613 South Race Street), factory foreman W.L. Williams (515 South Race Street), clerk John White (509 South Race Street), plasterer H.G. Hallyburton (415 South Race Street), lumber inspector T.S. Lazenby (409 South Race Street), furniture maker Harry Gregory (333 South Race Street), and salesman C.L. Moore (325 South Race Street).
By the eve of the Depression, the other streets in the district were populated by a range of white-collar and skilled workers. Shipping clerks, bookkeepers, carpenters, traveling salesman, postal workers, and railroad firemen all resided in the district. As automobile ownership increased in the 1920s, the district attracted more and more residents who worked elsewhere in Statesville. For example, West Bell Street in the 1920s included the home of C.E. Stafford (515 W. Bell Street), who was employed with the Statesville Daily newspaper, and building contractor C.R. Rimmer (423 W. Bell Street).
The neighborhood was supported by a nearby public school, small retail enterprises, and churches. The Statesville Graded School, founded in 1891, was located east of the historic district in the Academy Hill neighborhood (Keever 1976: 94; Phillips 1980). Within the historic district, a small brick commercial block opened on Western Avenue about 1910. It included the Sanitary Grocery Store and the Statesville Drug Company. Also about 1910, a small frame grocery store was built at the corner of South Oak Street and West Sharpe Street (343 S. Oak Street).
Almost from the beginning of development, Methodist and Baptist churches appeared in the district. As with churches associated with other southern mill villages, they encouraged moral and social discipline and granted religious approval of the new industrial way of life. They also reflected a trend occurring in other manufacturing areas of the city, where new churches were organized to serve the influx of factory workers. For example, in the industrial Bloomfield neighborhood on the west side of town, both Baptist and Presbyterian churches were opened by the 1910s (Keever 1976: 502-503). In the South Race Street Historic District, Western Avenue Baptist Church (503-07 Western Avenue), which began as a mission church of the Statesville Baptist Church, opened its doors about 1894. In 1901, the institution was reorganized as the independent Western Avenue Baptist Church. In 1906, the Methodists built Race Street Methodist Church just north of the mill. (The existing Methodist church building was constructed in 1963.) (Keever 1976: 503).
In conclusion, the South Race Street Historic District clearly represents Statesville's major period of development during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The growth of the South Race Street residential area corresponded with the emergence of the town as an important Piedmont manufacturing center along the Southern Railway. The neighborhood, which survives largely intact along the railroad tracks in southwest Statesville, was originally characterized by an assortment of plant managers, other white collar workers, and skilled laborers who were employed at the nearby industries. Typical of such industrial neighborhoods at the peripheries of Piedmont cities, the South Race Street community also included churches and a small commercial zone that served local residents. The South Race Street Historic District retains resources that reflect its historically residential, religious, and commercial functions.
The contributing architectural resources in the South Race Street Historic District clearly represent the variety of traditional forms and nationally popular styles that marked the development of the small, industrial cities of the Piedmont during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The South Race Street Historic District is a mixture of working class and middle class dwellings, and as was common in the pre-automobile age, factory managers and professionals lived in proximity to both unskilled and skilled workers. From the earliest period of development in the mid-1890s, nationally popular domestic designs were built simultaneously with traditional regional house forms, and both types of residential design can be found on all streets of the district. Other houses combine either traditional forms with picturesque detailing or the asymmetrical massing of Victorian styles (often expressed in T-shaped or L-shaped plans) with the restrained detailing commonly found in the classically derived traditional house types. Traditional house forms found in the South Race Street Historic District include I-houses; one-story, single-pile, side-gable dwellings; and double-pile, hip-roofed cottages. Both the I-houses and the one-story, side-gable houses were often built with the Triple A roof configuration in which the side-gable roof has a front gable centered over the entrance.
Unlike the Academy Hill Historic District (N.R. 1980) to the east and the Mitchell College Historic District (N.R. 1980) to the north, the South Race Street Historic District contains more examples of traditional house designs and smaller, more restrained versions of nationally popular forms. The neighborhoods, now contained within the Academy Hill and Mitchell College historic districts, were developed for wealthier, mercantile owners, and consequently, these districts contain larger, more exuberant examples of popular late nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural designs than are found in the South Race Street Historic District. Although vernacular versions of the Late Victorian, hip-roofed cottages can be found in the Academy Hill Historic District, these houses tend to be more decorative than the restrained examples surviving within the South Race Street neighborhood.
Three houses in the South Race Street Historic District were built during the 1890s, and two of these houses were executed in the Queen Anne style. The Emma Lewis House at 613 South Race Street is a one-story, frame, vernacular Queen Anne dwelling with cross-gable roof symmetrical five-bay facade, and a hip-roofed porch with turned posts and decorative knee brackets. The John White House at 509 South Race Street is also a frame Queen Anne house with one and one-half story, asymmetrical massing, projecting bay, and shingled gables. The third house surviving from the 1890s illustrates traditional house construction. The J.L. Kimball House (503 South Race Street) is a frame I-house with the Triple A roof configuration and a one and one-half story, rear ell. The pointed arch vents under the gable are the only reference to the picturesque styles found in the Kimball House.
A number of surviving traditional dwellings date to the 1900 to 1910 period. On West Sharpe Street is an I-house with a wealth of Queen Anne detailing including a projecting center pavilion, decorative sawnwork under the gable, knee brackets, and turned porch posts and balustrade. The two-story, frame, N.P. Watt House, also on West Sharpe Street, has the T-shaped plan, wraparound porch, and chamfered porch posts of vernacular Victorian inspiration, but limited decorative detailing. Located on South Race Street, the B.F. Phifer House (319 South Race Street) is a one story, L-plan dwelling with little ornamentation. Built ca.1910, the house at 523 Western Avenue is a one-story, side-gable house with engaged front porch and long rear ell. At 522 South Race Street is the J.R. Pence House which exemplifies the double-pile, hip-roofed cottages found in the historic district. This one-story, weatherboarded dwelling has a gable-on-hip roof three-bay, symmetrical facade, and hip-roofed porch.
By the post-World War I era, traditional house forms and the picturesque styles had yielded their popularity to Colonial Revival and Bungalow designs. A number of examples of these two houses types survive in the South Race Street Historic District. While frame construction continued to predominate, brick veneers became popular, particularly for bungalows. The one and one-half story Walter Ross House, situated at 443 West Bell Street, exemplifies the Colonial Revival houses in its boxy massing, symmetrical facades, and gambrel roof. The E.F. Nesbit House at 502 South Race Street also illustrates the Colonial Revival influence on house construction. This one and one-half story, frame dwelling has an unusual cross-gambrel roof three-bay facade, and hip-roofed porch.
While Bungalows are not as common in the South Race Street Historic District as in other industrial towns of the period, a number of examples survive. The house at 429 West Bell Street is a brick veneered, side gable bungalow with the characteristic low-pitched roof broad eaves, knee brackets, exposed rafters, battered porch posts seated on brick pedestals, and gable-front dormers. The house at 511 West Bell Street exemplifies the gable front bungalow while 341 South Oak Street illustrates the clipped front-gable bungalows built in the historic district. The W.C. Sykes House (433 South Race Street) illustrates the influence of the Craftsman Bungalows on two-story dwellings. This brick veneered house has a broad, gable-front roof with deep eaves, triangular brackets and a wraparound porch supported by battered piers resting on brick pedestals.
While houses form the majority of resources found in the South Race Street Historic District, there are neighborhood stores and one church within the area. The Western Avenue Baptist Church (503-07 South Race Street) is an imposing, brick veneered, Gothic Revival edifice with crenellated towers and pointed arch, stained glass windows. The commercial buildings, also on Western Avenue, are simple two-story, brick veneered buildings with storefront windows and recessed entrances.
Because the South Race Street Historic District was developed as a small town, industrial neighborhood, comparatively few outbuildings were constructed. The majority of surviving outbuildings are garages, built in the 1920s as cars became the preferred mode of transportation. However, a barn and a well house also remain extant. The gable-front, frame garage, constructed in 1920 behind 618 West Sharpe Street, exemplifies the simple car garages found in the South Race Street Historic District. A small, side-gable, frame barn was built in 1920 behind the house at 429 West Bell Street. The sole surviving well house in the district is associated with the ca.1898 John White House at 509 South Race Street.
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† Richard L. Mattson and Frances P. Alexander, Architectural Historians, Mattson, Alexander and Associates, South State Street Historic District, Iredell County, NC, nomination document, 1994, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.