Dilworth Historic District
The Dilworth Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. A boundary increase was listed in 2000. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from copies of these original nomination documents. [†, ‡] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Dilworth Historic District, Charlotte's first streetcar suburb, encompasses approximately 63 blocks on about 395 acres of the southeast fringe, but now the heart of the city of Charlotte. The suburb was the work of Edward Dilworth Latta, entrepreneur, industrialist, developer, and New South advocate. Dilworth brought the first electric trolley system to Charlotte and planned his original suburb around it. He enlisted the talents of Joseph Forsyth Johnson, of New York, in the platting of the grid plan which featured a grand boulevard, three sections of which were built and survive, at the edges of the neighborhood, as well as a park with pool, lakes, pavilion, theatre, and ball fields located at the east end of the suburb. The idea behind Dilworth's development was to provide convenient, readily accessible housing for the growing population of Charlotte. By 1911 Latta realized that there was still demand for affordable, convenient housing for the growing city, and he obtained additional land to the south and east of the original Dilworth. In his continued quest for the best and most up-to-date, he obtained the services of the Olmsted Brothers Firm, the premiere landscape architects of the day. The firm provided a plan for the 300-acre hourglass-shaped tract calling for a grand avenue in the northern section which split at the "waist" of the tract into two drives, east and west, to provide a trolley loop to serve the proposed suburb. A system of curving smaller streets branched out from these main ways. The southern section was laid out according to the Olmsted plan; the northern section was not, but still took advantage of the curvilinear concept. The houses in the neighborhood are a showcase of late Victorian and early twentieth century architectural styles, and many have been refurbished during the past ten years.
The Dilworth Neighborhood is the result of the planning and industry of Edward Dilworth Latta, an advocate of the industrialization of the South, which he and others believed would result in a New South, pulled from the ashes of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Latta was born in Pendleton, South Carolina, and grew up amid the chaos of the Civil War, and the resulting desolation and depression of Reconstruction. He attended Princeton University, and while there he was exposed to, and came to believe in, the growth, industry and urbanization of the North. He and others saw these qualities as a way to raise the South from the depression which followed the Civil War, and when he returned to the South, to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1876, he set to work. Latta opened a men's clothing store and during the rest of the 1870s and 1880s parlayed it into a clothing factory, the Charlotte Trouser Company. Still intent on promoting growth, he formed the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, or as it was popularly known, the 4C's, in 1890.
About the same time that he was organizing the 4C's, Latta acquired a gas franchise and electric streetlight contract. He then purchased a 442-acre farm just to the south of the city, and introduced the concept of the streetcar suburb to Charlotte in 1891. Charlotte was experiencing the beginnings of recovery in the form of a textile manufacturing boom, and later that year Latta had the acreage platted in a grid pattern of streets which would be ringed by a grand boulevard. The grid system was probably the work of Joseph Forsyth Johnson, an engineer from New York. Running through the center of the grid was East Boulevard, which accommodated the streetcar line running through the proposed neighborhood to a recreation area, named Latta Park, The streetcar system was designed and installed by the Edison Electric Company. As always, Latta obtained the best, most up-to-date technology available. On May 20, 1918, just two days after the completion of the streetcar line, lots in Dilworth were auctioned with great fanfare and celebration.
Although the initial sale of lots appeared to auger well for the growth of Dilworth, sales soon slumped. A big boost for the subdivision came when D.A. Tompkins, a local businessman, bought land on the south edge of Dilworth in 1892 with the intention of building a mill there. By April 1893 Atherton Mill was in operation, and Tompkins bought a full block in Dilworth where he built twenty frame cottages for mill operatives. Five of these houses still stand. The success of Atherton Mill prompted other businessmen to look toward Dilworth as both a neighborhood and an industrial center. In 1894 the Charlotte Trouser Company built a factory there, and in 1895 six other factories were built in the corridor. Employees of these companies provided a ready market for housing in Dilworth, and this infusion of business and residential demand provided the necessary push to make Dilworth a viable, successful neighborhood.
Besides the convenience of the streetcar line, Dilworth offered Latta Park, a ninety-acre amusement complex, located at the end of the trolley line, for the enjoyment of the residents of Dilworth and anyone else who cared to take advantage of it. The park featured a pavilion, a pool, walks along a lake and lily pond, wooded areas and a creek. An additional feature of the park was a theater for plays, and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show even visited Latta Park. Latta leased an additional parcel of land to the City of Charlotte for its municipal fairgrounds, with race track, and ball fields. Professional baseball teams played in Latta Park, and as did the football teams of University of North Carolina and Davidson College.
The first homes built in Dilworth were in late Victorian and early Colonial Revival styles, including fine homes built for Charlotte business leaders such as R.O. Alexander, a cotton broker; John Villalonga, president of the Charlotte Brick Company, and Peter Gilchrist, a chemical engineer. Many of these homes were located along East Boulevard, the grand entry into the neighborhood. Charlotte was growing rapidly and Latta wanted Dilworth to serve a large segment of the population of the City. In order to encourage more middle-class involvement, Latta conceived an innovative long-term payment plan to enable families to "buy a house with the rent money."
In 1896, Charles C. Hook came to Charlotte from Wheeling, West Virginia, to teach mechanical drawing, but soon he turned to the practice of architecture. He and his partner published a number of house plans in late 1903 and early 1904 in the Charlotte Daily Observer. Among the plans were examples of Georgian Revival, Colonial Revival, Cottage and Spanish Mission styles, as well as a Georgian Revival duplex. A number of these styles, with minor variations, stand in the Dilworth Historic District today, and Hook is known to have designed a number of houses, perhaps as many as thirty-five, in the district.
To develop the suburb, Latta sold property by three methods. He sold lots to individuals, who either built houses, or held them for speculation and resale. He also sold tracts to private developers, who then subdivided the tracts and sold lots, or built houses for sale. H.C. Sherrill, a local developer, purchased the land in the 1900 block of Dilworth Road when the second section of Dilworth was platted, and built homes for sale. Finally, the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company built houses, for individuals, speculation, or to rent. These are the houses that Latta sold on long-term payment plans.
In 1907, Dilworth was annexed into the City of Charlotte, which spurred further growth in the neighborhood. In 1910, the U.S. Census records show that in ten years the population of Charlotte had jumped over 80%, from 18,000 to more than 34,000 people. Charlotte was also in the midst of an unequalled economic boom, fueled in a large part by the growth of the textile industry. Fred L. Bonfoey, an architect from Connecticut, moved to Charlotte in 1911, and was hired by the 4C's to design houses for Dilworth. His specialty was the Bungalow, which he introduced to the area, building his own residence at 800 Worthington Avenue in the style. The style was extremely popular, attested by the fact that the houses built in Dilworth between 1911 and 1925 are predominantly Bungalows, or have some bungaloid detailing.
At the same time, 1911, the City of Charlotte's lease on the 4C-owned fairground and ballpark at the end of East Boulevard expired, providing Latta with additional acreage for development. Latta then sold his streetcar line to J.B. Duke's Southern Power Company. Latta, in the manner of a true New South entrepreneur, took advantage of the situation and with land, capital and demand, began his second venture into land development.
Latta was familiar with Roland Park, a Baltimore, Maryland, suburb of winding drives which was begun in the 1890s, and which was considered the finest suburb in the south. Latta, wanting the best and most innovative in development, went to Baltimore, met with Edward Bouton, who had developed Roland Park, and found that a landscape architect, not an engineer, had planned the suburb. Bouton put Latta in touch with the Olmsted Brothers, who had prepared the plans, and who were the premiere landscape architects of the day. The firm's work included neighborhoods in New York City, a park system in Seattle, landscaping at the White House, and the campus of Duke University in Durham, N.C.
Latta was instructed to provide a detailed survey and map of the topography and condition of the tract, which comprised about 300 acres in an hour-glass shape at the east end of Latta Park and the grid section of Dilworth. The two large sections of the hour-glass were joined by a narrow strip at the end of Latta Park. Latta's son, Edward Dilworth Latta, Jr., oversaw the details of the development, and explained to the Olmsteds that the tract had to be developed in two sections, the first financing the second. The Olmsteds agreed to this, but insisted that it was "essential, however, that the entire tract be considered." Latta agreed and the firm began work. The Lattas were eager to get underway with the enlargement of Dilworth, and wrote several times urging the Olmsted firm to complete the plans in advance of the 1912 construction season.
The final 1912 Olmsted plan for the expansion of Dilworth included both sections, with a curving drive tying the two sections together, and which would then branch out in the southern part to form a loop for the streetcar line, with smaller streets branching out from these main thoroughfares. The streetcar line would then come down East Boulevard to Latta Park, and would follow the two main drives in the southern section providing service to the homes along the side streets, and would loop back up taking the main drive into the northern section.
Morehead Street, at the eastern edge of Dilworth, overlooked black Second Ward, and provides an interesting insight into the black-white relationships of the era, as well as one of the most interesting concepts of the Olmsted plan, although this portion of the plan was never implemented. Both the Olmsteds and the Lattas believed that the white Dilworth neighborhood should be clearly separate from black Second Ward, and the plan for Morehead Street called for a number of short dead-end "Garden Courts" off Morehead with each cul-de-sac to be built with townhouse apartments facing onto a small common park at the center, effectively creating a "blind" side toward Second Ward. Why the plan was not implemented is not known, but perhaps the concept of townhouse living was not customary in Charlotte at that time. The "garden court" concept was never put into effect, but the rest of the southern curvilinear plan was laid out as designed,
The main road from the northern section was named Dilworth Road, and it branched at the "waist" of the tract into Dilworth Road East and Dilworth Road West, which met at the southern end of the southern section. The plan, complete with street trees, now at maturity, is exactly as planned by the Olmsted Brothers' firm (with only one minor exception where Berkeley Avenue joins Dilworth Road East, made necessary by St. Patrick's Church) with broad, sweeping vistas, and smaller, picturesque side streets. The enduring strength of the Olmsted plan was proved by the fact that the property in this section retained its value and desirability, even into the 1960s, when the grid section fell into decline prior to the preservation movement of the 1970s.
The popularity of the southern section enabled the Lattas to begin development of the northern section by 1920. For some reason the Olmsted plan for the northern section, with the exception of Dilworth Road which served as a connector, was discarded. It has been suggested, and documentary evidence supports the idea, that the northern plan was discarded because the Lattas did not like the idea of "wasting" land in "pocket parks," which the Olmsted plan utilized, especially at the "waist" where a number of streets converged. The Lattas were also impatient with the amount of time the Olmsted firm took to complete the southern section plans. Charlotte was still in the midst of an economic boom, and certainly the Lattas wanted to take advantage of the strong housing market. While keeping vital points of the Olmsted plan, including Dilworth Road and the concept of curvilinear roads, the Lattas' revised plan is less sophisticated, and the streets wind less picturesquely than those in the southern section.
Growth and development of Dilworth and Charlotte continued and by 1927 Charlotte had officially surpassed New England in textile manufacturing. By the late 1920s the streetcar line was running in the northern section of Dilworth, entering along Dilworth Road, looping around Berkeley Avenue, Myrtle Avenue and Mount Vernon Avenue, and returning to Dilworth Road. Other architect including W.H. Peeps and Louis Asbury, designed houses in Dilworth, adding variety and an academic touch to the neighborhood's fabric.
Although the majority of the northern section was laid out in 1920, and was largely developed by the 1930s, several sections were not developed until later. In 1940 C.D. Spangler, a Charlotte developer, purchased land along the north side of Romany Road overlooking Latta Park. The street followed the Olmsted plan, but the houses there were built in the early 1940s, creating a ring of late development around the edge of the park. Although the homes date from the early 1940s, they are in keeping with the scale and styles found elsewhere in the district, and include a number of one, one-and-a-half and two-story brick cottages and Colonial Revival dwellings. The last lots owned by the 4C's were sold in 1945, and the company went out of business.
Throughout the 1950s the area remained popular, and a number of Ranch houses were built as infill. Along the edges of the district new development encroached on the neighborhood, blurring once-distinct lines, particularly along South Boulevard, which is now separated from Dilworth by mid-twentieth century development. In addition, several multi-family projects were built within the boundaries of Dilworth, and detract from the suburban, residential aspect of the neighborhood. Dilworth has, however, escaped the wholesale redevelopment of other areas in Charlotte.
Dilworth today is a stable, well-maintained neighborhood which underwent a period of rehabilitation during the preservation movement of the 1970s. The Dilworth Historic District contains a large number and a broad range of early twentieth century development. Although the streetcar lines are gone, the wide avenues and gentle grades remain. The grid section has endured the most intrusive development, especially along South Boulevard, where mid-twentieth century development has physically separated the industrial park area from the neighborhood. In the Olmsted section, the street trees are mature, and the combination of winding streets, mature trees, and well-maintained homes still delight the eye. The northern curvilinear section, although not as picturesque as the southern curvilinear section, is also pleasant and inviting. The future for Dilworth, the product of the vision and work of Edward Dilworth Latta and others, is secure.
Dilworth Historic District Boundary Increase
The boundaries of the original Dilworth Historic District (National Register, 1987) expands westward to include eighteen dwellings and their attendant outbuildings in a one-and-one-half-block area. The houses include a Queen Anne style cottage and fourteen Bungalows, as well as three vernacular dwellings that are non-contributing due to age but do not detract from the Dilworth Historic District's overall character. All eighteen lots were part of the original 1891 plan for Dilworth, Charlotte's first streetcar suburb, and the architecture is consistent with the 1987 Dilworth Historic District in terms of age, scale, style, materials, association, and setting. As part of Charlotte's first streetcar suburb, the Dilworth Historic District Boundary Increase is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for community planning and development. The area within the boundary increase is significant in the area of architecture for its Queen Anne style house and its collection of Craftsman Bungalows. The period of significance begins in 1899, the date of construction of the earliest house, and continues through 1941, the end of the period of significance of the greater Dilworth Historic District.
Boundary Increase Architecture Context
The Dilworth Historic District Boundary Increase is entirely residential in character. There are eighteen houses and five garages on the eighteen lots on the 2000 blocks of Euclid and Lyndhurst Avenues. This two-block area specifically illustrates two trends in the development history of this neighborhood: a block of Craftsman-style Bungalows built in the 1920s by one man, and a group of houses that were constructed by different people at different times between 1899 and the 1960s. The architecture in the boundary increase area is representative of the type of middle-class housing that was being constructed in the neighborhood, and elsewhere throughout Charlotte, during the early twentieth century.
The Helms-Bell House at 2021 Euclid Avenue is the oldest house in the Dilworth Historic District boundary increase area. It was built in 1899 by J.C. Herring (proprietor of the Herring Artificial Stone Company) for Marcus D. and Bessie Herring during the early phase of Dilworth's development. It is a fine, one-and-one-half-story frame Queen Anne style house. True to type, it has an irregular footprint, cross-gabled roof and full-width front porch. The exterior sheathing is a combination of German siding and wood shingles. On the interior, the architect made abundant use of Victorian millwork, including two-over-two sash windows, molded door and window surrounds with bulls-eye cornerblocks, a lath and spindlework screen, and carved mantels. Its attention to detail and the unique recessed second-floor balcony suggest that it was designed by a professional architect. The balcony is similar to others that were built in the neighborhood around the same time and designed by C.C. Hook. Hook is thought to have designed this building as well. The Helms-Bell House is significant as a rare surviving example of a late-nineteenth century Queen Anne Victorian style that is only found in any appreciable quantity in the Dilworth neighborhood.
By the 1920s, homeowners' tastes had turned away from the elaborate Victorian styles toward the simpler Craftsman Bungalow forms. The bungalow had been introduced to Charlotte by about 1910, and quickly became the most popular type of residential architecture. Architect Fred L. Bonfoey designed over fifty bungalows in 1911 alone, several of which were in the Dilworth neighborhood. Builders and developers adopted the style and produced bungalows in numerous variations across the city. Though bungalows remained fashionable for three decades, from the 1910s through the 1930s, they are most emblematic of the 1920s building boom.
Developer Paul R. Younts is credited with building all of the houses on the 2000 block of Lyndhurst Avenue. In 1923, building permits were issued for two houses on the west side of the street: 2024 Lyndhurst Avenue and 2028 Lyndhurst Avenue. Both are single-story Craftsman-style houses with side-gabled roofs, shed dormers and full-width porches. Both have thick rubblestone porch supports, foundations and chimneys. The house at 2012 Lyndhurst Avenue bears a resemblance to these two houses — it has the same thick rubblestone porch supports, and three-bay facade, but has a front-facing gable roof.
Younts went on to build at least five more bungalows on the east side of the 2000 block of Lyndhurst Avenue during 1926 and 1927. Building permits have been found for #2013, #2017, #2021, #2025, and #2033 Lyndhurst Avenue. The three houses at the north end of the block, #2013, #2017 and #2021, are small side-gabled dwellings with interior chimneys, symmetrical three-bay facades and only minor variations in detailing. Two houses on the east side of the block, #2025 and #2033 Lyndhurst Avenue, are larger. They both have front-gabled roofs and full-width porches with combination hipped and pedimented roof structures. The remaining house on this block, #2029 Lyndhurst Avenue, is a single-story side-gabled dwelling with a front-gabled porch. Its Craftsman-style features include knee braces, exposed rafter ends and bungalow-style porch supports.
The three remaining houses on the west side of the 2000 block of Lyndhurst Avenue were all in place by 1928. The house at 2016 Lyndhurst Avenue and the house at 2020 Lyndhurst Avenue are both simple one-story frame dwellings with side-gabled roofs, interior chimneys, symmetrical facades and single-bay front-gabled porches. Both reflect the Craftsman style in their knee braces and paired four-over-one sash windows. Both of these houses are very similar to the three at the north end of the east side of the street that were built by Younts in 1926 and 1927. At the south end of the block, the house at 2032 Lyndhurst Avenue is a one-story side-gabled house with a symmetrical, three-bay facade and a front-gabled porch. Despite a difference in window spacing, it is very similar to the house across the street at 2029 Lyndhurst Avenue.
On the east side of Euclid Avenue, two bungalows were built at the south end of the 2000 block. The house at 2033 Euclid Avenue was built by S.Q. Barnes in 1928. It is a one-and-one-half story bungalow with a side-gabled roof, gabled dormer and engaged porch. Craftsman-style features include four-over-one sash windows, a glazed front door and bungalow-style porch supports. Next door, the house at 2031 Euclid Avenue, was probably built around the same time, as it appears on the 1929 Sanborn map. It is a single-story bungalow with a front-gabled roof, paired Craftsman style windows, full-width porch and porte cochere.
All five outbuildings in this boundary increase are frame, front-gabled one-bay garages located behind their associated houses. Three are contributing resources and are located at 2033 Euclid Avenue, 2020 Lyndhurst Avenue and 2033 Lyndhurst Avenue. The other two garages, at 2028 Lyndhurst Avenue and 2029 Lyndhurst Avenue, are non-contributing due to age.
The three non-contributing buildings in this boundary increase include two one-story dwellings from the 1950s at 2013 Euclid Avenue and 2025 Euclid Avenue and a two-story front-gabled house dating from the 1960s at 2017 Euclid Avenue.
The buildings in this boundary increase illustrate two different development patterns, both of which are equally important in the history of the Dilworth neighborhood. Lyndhurst Avenue holds a discrete, coherent set of Craftsman-style Bungalows built around the same time, by the same person and in the same style (though no two are exactly alike). On Euclid Avenue the growth was more gradual, resulting in a collection of six houses of various vintages. Together the houses on Euclid Avenue illustrate three distinct phases in Dilworth's architectural history — a late nineteenth century Queen Anne dwelling, 1920s Craftsman-style Bungalows, and post-World War II housing.
In general, neighborhoods in Charlotte had long periods of development — often lasting for several decades. Elizabeth, for example, was the product of five separate subdivisions and grew up gradually between the 1890s and 1940s. Myers Park [see Myers Park Historic District] was developed between 1912 and the 1950s, with the greatest amount of construction occurring in the 1920s. Within this overall trend, a building boom was felt during the 1920s, and clusters of houses, especially bungalows, were often built by the same developer. This can be seen throughout the city. For instance, in 1922, the H.C. Sherrill Company bought twenty-nine lots on 8th Street in Elizabeth adjoining lots they already owned, giving them a total of seventy-six lots in the immediate vicinity. Sherrill told the Charlotte Observer, "the new section was proving extremely popular with prospective home buyers in Charlotte..." Within this context, Younts' activity on Lyndhurst Avenue is seen to be part of a citywide building boom brought on by a healthy economy and a swelling population. Further, the more gradual development on Euclid Avenue is also representative of the slower pace of neighborhood growth in general.
The integrity of early-twentieth century neighborhoods in Charlotte is generally good, although intrusions, insensitive alterations and inappropriate commercial development do occur in places. Within this boundary increase area, the integrity is very good. With the exception of some replacement siding, the houses are primarily intact, and the three non-contributing structures do not detract from the overall character of the area. The boundary increase area adds to the architectural significance of Dilworth by including additional resources that are similar in age, scale, materials, character and association, and that reflect the social and economic trends of their time.
Black, Allison Harris. "Elizabeth Historic District" National Register Nomination. 1988. North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
Bradbury, Tom. Dilworth: The First Hundred Years. Charlotte: Dilworth Community Development Association, 1992.
Charlotte Building Standards Department. Building Permits.
Charlotte City Directories. Various years between 1927 and 1999.
Charlotte Observer. 26 May 1911, p.5; 20 Jan 1922; 9 February 1971, p.1A.
Gatza, Mary Beth. "Survey and Research Report on the Helms-Bell House" (draft). 2000. Charlotte: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
Greenwood, Janette Thomas, "1901 Dilworth Road East." (Research paper presented to Dr. Dan L. Morrill, History Department, University of North Carolina, 1981.)
Hanchett, Thomas W., "Charlotte: Suburban Development in the Textile Center of the Carolinas," Bishir, Catherine W., and Lawrence S. Earley, eds. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1985. pp.69-78.
Hanchett, Thomas W. "Dilworth: The 1911 Expansion." Unpaginated typescript on file with the Charlotte Historic District Commission.
Hanchett, Thomas W. Sorting Out the New South City: Race, Class and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Hanchett, Thomas W. "Myers Park Historic District" National Register Nomination. 1987. North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
Hankin, Lisa Bush. "Charles Christian Hook." unpublished article in the files of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
"Historic Properties in Charlotte-Mecklenburg." (brochure) Charlotte: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1988.
Little-Stokes, Ruth, and Dan L. Morrill, "Architectural Analysis: Dilworth: Charlotte's Initial Streetcar Suburb." Charlotte: Dilworth Community Association, 1980.
Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office. Deed Books, Deed Indexes and Map Books.
Morrill, Dan L. "Dilworth: Charlotte's Initial Streetcar Suburb."
Morrill, Dan L. "Edward Dilworth Latta and the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company (1890-1925): Builders of a New South City." North Carolina Historical Review (LXII) 3, July 1985). pp.293-316.
Oswald, Virginia. "Dilworth Historic District" National Register Nomination. 1987. North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
Sanborn Map Company. Insurance Maps of Charlotte. North Carolina. 1929 and 1953.
† Virginia Oswald, Charlotte Historic District Commission, Dilworth Historic District, Mecklenburg County, NC, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic places, Washington, D.C.
‡ Mary Beth Gatza, architectural historian, Dilworth Historic District (Boundary Increase), Mecklenburg County, N.C., nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic places, Washington, D.C.