Troy Residential Historic District
The Troy Residential Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The local architectural significance of the district extends over a period from 1871 through 1940, from the construction of the original portion of the Wade-Arscott House at 214 North Main Street through the completion of the Thompson Rental House at 216 North Main Street at the end of 1940. The significance of the five residences in the Troy Residential Historic District is manifested by the high quality of architectural design ranging from Queen Anne to Neoclassical Revival and Minimal Traditional styles. Four of the five houses were built during the latter part of the nineteenth century and originally exhibited the irregular form, projecting bays, wraparound porches and steep roofs that distinguish the Queen Anne style. One structure, the Wade-Arscott House, preserves those elements on the exterior; while the Mills-Thompson, Bruton-Allen and Blair houses, altered in the twentieth century in the Neoclassical Revival style, only retain their Queen Anne features on the interior. The small Thompson Rental House, the last of the group, reflects the simplified architectural treatment of housing during the time period immediately preceding World War II.
Troy, the county seat of Montgomery County, is encircled by the Uwharrie mountain range, twelve miles east of the Pee Dee River and forty-five miles north of the South Carolina border. Although the region was settled during the late eighteenth century, it was not until 1852 that land was set aside for construction of a county courthouse and commercial buildings. The town was named in honor of John B. Troy, a local attorney, who operated a school in neighboring Randolph County and represented the region in the state General Assembly (Lassiter, 286). The town developed into an important center for agriculture, timber, stone and gravel resources, spurred by the discovery of gold in the mountains north of town and the construction of a railroad system stretching from the state capital at Raleigh southwest to Charlotte.
The Troy Residential Historic District forms the nucleus of a significant period of architectural and community development set within the heart of the Piedmont town. Three of the five residences bordering North Main Street present an imposing picture of the prosperity of the citizens and their community pride during the 1890s and early 1900s, a time of great economic, political and social development. The foremost example of this advance is visible in the Blair House at 105 Blair Street, two-story, a Neoclassical Revival design distinguished by fine brickwork; numerous large windows; an entrance containing a beveled glass door, sidelights and transoms; one-story wraparound porches and a soaring front portico with clustered, colossal-order columns. Across the street, the frame Bruton-Allen House continues the classical motif with a tall, full-width front portico supported by square posts; tripartite windows and a central entrance highlighted by a semi-elliptical fanlight. The brick veneer Thompson House on an adjacent lot repeats the classical theme with its five-bay porch consisting of single and clustered Tuscan columns, a pedimented entrance bay, and a symmetrical roof line accentuated by a large pedimented dormer. All three houses are especially important because they originated, not as Neoclassical Revival designs, but were exuberant examples of the most elaborate decorative fashions of the Victorian period: the Queen Anne style, complete with sawn woodwork, shingles, stained glass, balconies, turrets and towers. The Blair House preserves its colored glass window transoms at the first level, both the Blair House and the Bruton-Allen houses have balconies above their front entrances and porte-cocheres in the side elevations, and the Blair, Bruton-Allen and Thompson houses preserve their original stairs, mantels and other Victorian woodwork. Farther south along Main Street, the Arscott House retains its Queen Anne characteristics of asymmetrical plan, wraparound porch, tall corner tower with curved-glass window sash, stained glass, and patterned shingles. The last of this quintet of architectural variety is the 1940 Minimal Traditional house that occupies the site between the Thompson and Arscott residences. The diminutive scale of the dwelling, its asymmetrical plan and projecting bay window makes it appear to be a wing of the adjacent buildings, but the overall character of the structure relates more to a traditional style popularized in numerous tract houses built before and after World War II.
The residential architectural resources of Troy can be categorized as late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century designs, comprising Queen Anne, Neoclassical Revival and Minimal Traditional styles that were widely popular during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was a period of rapid adoption of architectural fashions, motivated by the role of the railroad in transporting building materials to town and rural sites, the distribution of design books and construction catalogs, and the influx of carpenters and masons into the area. In addition to materials brought in from other railroad-serviced areas, Montgomery County and Troy had an abundance of structural timber, siding, shingles, clay, stone, and slate in the vicinity to provide for any sort of construction that was needed or desired by owners and builders. During the late-nineteenth century, the popular Queen Anne style proliferated throughout the Piedmont region of North Carolina, an area encompassing commercial centers such as Greensboro, High Point and Salisbury, as well as recreational retreats such as Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Jackson Springs. Examples of Victorian and Edwardian period architecture abounded in the several resort hotels encircled by golf courses and pine groves: the Carolina and Holly Inn at Pinehurst (NR, 1973), the Inn at Jackson Springs (destroyed in 1932), the Central Hotel in Asheboro, and the Seaboard and Commercial Hotels in Hamlet whose grand and turreted depot (National Register, 1971) stands at the crossing of major east-west and north-south rail lines. Fashionable homes flourished on landscaped grounds in neighboring Randolph, Moore, Stanly and Catawba counties, influencing owners and builders to duplicate their designs. In Asheboro, the 1892 William Penn Wood house on East Salisbury Street is strikingly similar to the original 1893 form and appearance of the Blair House in Troy. The latter's evolution from the Queen Anne to Neoclassical Revival style in 1903 is closely akin to the 1897 Arthur Ross House on Sunset Avenue in Asheboro. The 1898 Fox-Ingold House at 121 Fifth Avenue, NE in Hickory has angular porches, turrets, and decorative dormers that are almost identical to those on the original design of the Thompson House in Troy. The original form of the Bruton-Allen House consisted of a double-story front porch similar in its ostentation to the F.F. DeBerry House in Mt. Gilead.
Although the names of the architects and builders of most of the structures is undocumented, the Blair House is known to have been constructed by Troy contractor William B. Beaman (1854-1921). A contract, dated December 19, 1893, between Blair and Beaman, calls for the construction of the Blair House, at the northeast corner of North Main and Blair streets, specifying that the builder will duplicate the design of the Bradshaw House in Asheboro (twenty-five miles north of Troy, in Randolph County), but with the entrance hall two feet wider and the staircase situated in the center of the hall. Ten years after Beaman completed work on the Blair House, the owner decided to have the Queen Anne style residence altered into a Neoclassical Revival design currently in vogue. Hill Carter Linthicum, a Durham, North Carolina architect, and later the first president of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, was engaged to produce new drawings to transform the exterior of the house while preserving many of the interior Queen Anne features such as the stairs, fireplaces, woodwork and colored glass windows. Linthicum is also credited with designs for the 1892 Edgar Vaughn House in Winston-Salem, the 1935-1937 National Guard Armory (now Cape Fear Museum) in Wilmington, and other residential and public architecture in the state. Both the 1893 builder's contract and the 1903 architect's drawings and specifications remain in the possession of the Blair family who continue  to reside in the house.
Another important local builder, William Thaddeus Haywood (Will Haywood) (1880-1945), a Mt. Gilead engineer who listed himself as an architect in the 1910 census, is credited with erecting the Methodist and Baptist churches and several private residences in Montgomery and adjacent counties. Other builders of the region were Dewitt Holt (1882- 1971) and Clovis Ralph Blake (1879-1948) who constructed both commercial and residential structures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Historical Background and Community Development
The first permanent settlement in Montgomery County was Lawrenceville, settled as the county seat in 1816, but replaced by a more centrally located county seat in 1842. Angus McCaskill gave fifty acres for the establishment of Troy, equidistant from Drowning Creek on the east, the Pee Dee River on the west, and close by the Little River flowing through the Uwharrie Mountains.
Troy differed from other towns in the county because court days meant an influx of people gathering together from farms and rural communities in the county to conduct legal affairs. Accommodations and shops were needed since families often came to purchase store-bought items on those rare occasions when they visited the county seat. Shortly after the Civil War, William Lassiter and Captain Duncan McRae opened hotels in Troy. By the end of the century, George Washington Allen and his family provided bed and board for court attendees and traveling businessmen passing through the area, and by 1895 the railroad reached Troy and brought with it the establishment of cotton, lumber and carpet mills. Among other activities found in Troy at the beginning of the twentieth century were a village blacksmith, a cotton gin, three barbers, a movie theater, household appliance and furniture stores, and several fraternal organizations.
Many of the early families in Troy continue to prosper in the twenty-first century, their names linked with electric power, real estate development, timber operations, dairies, groceries, restaurants and lodgings. Among the scions of the city were John Calvin Bruton who moved to Troy, in 1896, became a merchant, manufacturer of cross-arms for telegraph poles, and Justice of the Peace for several terms. George W. Allen (1847-1937), opened the G.W. Allen and Son mercantile business and built one of the first hotels in the county seat (Lassiter, p. 232). In 1917, A. Leon Capel (1900-1972), organized the Capel Rug Mill which grew to be the largest of its type in the world. Prior to 1917, he made plow lines, but the advent of farm machinery drove him to find an article that was easily made and useful in a majority of households. "Not to be outdone with the thousands of feet of rope he had on hand, Capel began a two-machine operation of the rug industry in a two room building, braiding the ropes into rugs for home use. Today, his mill, operated by his three sons, is the oldest and largest manufacturer of braided rugs in the world "(Lassiter, p. 238). Another resident of Troy was Joseph Reese Blair (d. 1914), a "scrapping young lawyer" who married Miss Ada Allen, daughter of G.W. Allen, in 1904 (Lassiter, p. 240). Blair was well known in state politics serving in Raleigh as a representative and a senator. Mr. Blair died in 1914 after suffering a stroke at the courthouse. Dr. Alexander Frank Thompson (1871-1936), received his early education in Montgomery County schools, attended Trinity College (now Duke University) in Durham, NC, in 1891-1892, and the Medical Department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1893-1894. After teaching school to earn tuition for further studies, he entered the Medical College of Indiana, in Indianapolis, where he received his medical degree, in 1895. That same year he married Laura Burch (1873-1909) of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; the couple moved to Troy where he opened a practice on North Main Street and they purchased the Mills House at 220 North Main Street. In 1908, he erected a brick building at the northwest corner of North Main and Smitherman streets, expanding it the following year to a four-story structure. This was the first medical clinic in Montgomery County and became widely known as "Dr. Thompson's Sanatorium." During World War I, Dr. Thompson was commissioned First Lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps and served at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. At the conclusion of the war he returned to practice in Troy, converting the sanatorium to a Doctor's Office Center. He served as president of the Montgomery County Medical Society, the American Medical Society, member of the Board of Trustees of the Montgomery County Schools, and was active in the local Masonic Order, Knights of Pythias, Junior Order of American Mechanics, and the Lions Club. In 1936, after forty-one years of family medical practice, Dr. Thompson, 65, died and was succeeded in his profession by a son, A. Frank Thompson, Jr. (Heritage, Item 826).
In 1921-23, water and sewer systems were installed in Troy and the streets were paved. Gravel for the streets came from near Beaulah Hill Church and it is claimed that "gold nuggets the size of corn kernels were found in the gravel, leading to the remark that Troy's streets 'were paved with gold'" (Heritage, 22). Commercial growth during the 1920s brought about the transformation of Dr. Thompson's Medical Clinic to the Hotel Troy at the top of the hill from the railroad station. The hotel continued in operation until 1970.
Through the twentieth century, Troy remained a small county town populated by many residents of long standing and lineage. Set against the rugged, feral hills of the Uwharrie National Forest and the deep, sylvan cloves descending to the banks of Little River, the place preserves the ambiance of a rural Piedmont city with the amenities of industrial, banking, retail and residential resources bound together by a strong architectural heritage and a determined sense of community pride.
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† Edward F. Turberg, Architectural Historian, Troy Residential Historic District, Montgomery County, NC, nomination document, 2005, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.