North Main Street Historic District
The North Main Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The North Main Street Historic District consists of a linear neighborhood which extends northeast from the central business district to the city limits of Mocksville. Developed mostly from ca.1840 to World War II, it was Mocksville's principal residential area until after World War I and contains representative and well-detailed one- to three-story brick and frame examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Classical Revival, Shingle style, Craftsman, Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival houses. Also within the North Main Street Historic District are the 1896 First Methodist Church, the 1911 Mocksville Graded School and the Masonic Picnic Grounds, established in 1883. The North Main Street Historic District contains 117 contributing and 54 noncontributing resources, including 53 primary contributing and 25 primary non-contributing buildings.
Located along the crest of a ridge, the neighborhood grew on both sides of the curving line of North Main Street (also US Highway Route 158 and formerly Huntsville Road) with only a few intersecting or parallel streets. Its slow growth is reflected not only in the mix of periods and styles of its buildings, but also in a variety of setbacks and an irregular spacing of structures. Initially consisting of a limited number of rural or suburban houses on large tracts, it was gradually subdivided into smaller and smaller parcels, although a number of the houses still sit on multi-acre lots. All are oriented toward the street. A unifying factor for the district is the substantial canopy of mature hardwood and evergreen trees, particularly oaks and magnolias.
Probably the earliest building in the North Main Street Historic District is the ca.1840 rear wing of the Ephraim Gaither House (337 North Main Street), which has late Federal style detailing. The ca.1850 Dr. Jesse Carter Medical Office (350 North Main Street), with its pedimented gable end, is a very good example of the small, Greek Revival office buildings, although it was removed to its present site from the edge of downtown in the 1960s. The Booe-Rich House (472 North Main Street), ca.1850, has vernacular Greek Revival details on a clapboarded log frame house, as does the ca.1845 Harbin House (780 North Main Street). Although somewhat altered, the Rose-Howard-Morris House (621 North Main Street) also has Greek Revival interior trim. The Martin-Willson-Caudell House (900 North Main Street) of ca.1870 is an unusual Greek Revival/Italianate transitional house with vertical flush sheathing.
Perhaps the most eccentric residence in the North Main Street Historic District is the brick, Victorian Gothic ca.1880 Abraham M. Nail House (768 North Main Street), whose verticality is emphasized by triangular-arched windows, and which has wall dormers with bull's-eye openings.
The North Main Street Historic District contains a good collection of large, frame Italianate houses erected between 1880 and 1903, but particularly around 1890. Among these are the Dr. Marshall Bell House (685 North Main Street), the Dr. A. Zachary Taylor House (751 North Main Street), the Francis Johnson House (712 North Main Street), the Robertson-Clement House (728 North Main Street), the William Miller House (1032 North Main Street), the Ephraim Gaither House (337 North Main Street), and a late example, the Louis G. Horn House (361 North Main Street).
Typical of Davie County, several of the houses along North Main Street have log frames. All were originally, or have been later clapboarded, such as the Nail-Brown House (759 North Main Street) of about 1880, and the ca.1870 Add and Clementine Clement House (northeast corner of North Main Street and Spruce Street).
There are a handful of Queen Anne style dwellings in the area: the ca.1895 Dr. W.C.P. House (534 North Main Street), the one-story Casey-Foster House (846 North Main Street) and the triple-A William Crotts House (854 North Main Street). The Graham-Williams House (641 North Main Street) is Queen Anne/Classical Revival transitional.
Between 1895 and 1915 a number of Classical Revival style houses were erected in the district: the Call-Anderson House (740 North Main Street), the Will M. Howard House (788 North Main Street), the John H. Clement House (565 North Main Street), the Hanes House (651 North Main Street), and the James L. Sheek House (801 North Main Street). However, the 1902 Philip Hanes House (1085 North Main Street), set on a wooded hill, eclipses the others with its size and its wealth and quality of Classical Revival elements.
With a few exceptions, houses in the North Main Street Historic District are of vernacular design or their architects are unknown. The 1903 Dr. R.P. Anderson House (665 North Main Street), though, is known to have been built from mail order plans provided by Barber and Klutz of Nashville, Tennessee. Its distinctive design employs rubble stone foundations and chimneys, shingled walls and projecting, clapboarded water tables, as well as a squat tower.
Several modest examples of Craftsman style houses were built on North Main Street in the 1920s: the J.T. Baity House (717 North Main Street), the Tatum-LeGrand House (739 North Main Street), and the J.L. Ward House (1211 North Main Street). Bungalows were also built during the 1920s, most with some Craftsman detailing, such as the R.D. Mooney House (corner of North Main Street and Poplar Street), the Ida Hunt Yates House (748 North Main Street), the Martin-Harding House (980 North Main Street), the Grady Ward House (1231 North Main Street), and the Thomas J. Caudell House (932 North Main Street).
During the late 1920s and 1930s a quantity of brick-veneered houses of nominally Colonial Revival or Tudor Revival style were built along the street. One architect-designed frame Colonial Revival residence, the Knox Johnstone House (1133 North Main Street) of 1929, designed by Northup and O'Brien of Winston-Salem, is located on a wooded lot above North Main Street at the far end of the district.
From 1945 to the early 1980s, a small number of brick and frame houses, mostly of modest size and Colonial Revival or Ranch house styling, were also built in the North Main Street Historic District.
The large and varied collection of outbuildings in the district reflects the transition from a rural to an urban/suburban neighborhood over 150 years. Outbuildings include early twentieth century gable or shed frame garages, large and small barns, servants' quarters, offices, a few kitchens, Delco gas generator houses, and smokehouses. There is also a substantial number of modern garages and storage buildings.
Non-residential buildings in the North Main Street Historic District include the Prairie School influenced (former) Mocksville Graded School of 1911 at 220 Cherry Street, the 1896 brick Victorian Gothic Revival First Methodist Church (305 North Main Street), together with two modern churches, the North Main Street Church of Christ and the First Baptist Church. One historic commercial building survives at 806 North Main Street, the ca.1903 Casey Store, a frame, corner neighborhood establishment.
Between North Main Street and the Southern Railroad tracks at the end of Poplar Street is the Masonic Picnic Grounds, a substantial cleared area dating to 1883, with an assortment of Post World War II shelters and accessory buildings.
The primary intrusion within the North Main Street Historic District is the grounds of the former Mocksville High School (demolished 1971), which contain the Post-World War II (former) Mocksville High School Gymnasium and Auditorium, as well as B.C. Brock Community Center, built in 1971. The other substantial intrusion is the 1966 Davie County Public Library and its accompanying parking lot.
Most buildings in the North Main Street Historic District are in good to excellent condition, with a number being rehabilitated in recent years, while others have always been maintained. Vinyl, aluminum and some asbestos siding have been applied to a number of residences in the area, but without removing decorative trim elements.
To the south of the North Main Street Historic District are the fringes of the central business district. To the east are later residential areas, the line of the Southern Railroad, and woodland. To the southwest, west and north are intermingled later residential areas, woodland and farmland. Boundaries of the North Main Street Historic District have been drawn to include pre-World War II resources along and adjacent to North Main Street, while excluding non-contributing properties wherever possible. The rear sections of unusually long, deep tracts which do not otherwise contribute to the significance of the district have also been excluded.
The North Main Street Historic District contains Mocksville's premier residential area of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on and adjacent to North Main Street. Also within the district are Mocksville's first public school, the 1911 Mocksville Graded School, the brick 1896 First Methodist Church, and the Masonic Picnic Grounds, home of one of the central Piedmont's most important social events since 1883. The North Main Street Historic District is eligible for the National Register for its significance in the growth and development of Mocksville, and also as Mocksville and Davie County's most distinguished collection of residences constructed between ca.1840 and 1940, with representative examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Victorian Gothic, Classical Revival, Craftsman and Colonial Revival domestic architecture.
Community Development Context and Historical Background
In 1836 a bill was passed in the North Carolina General Assembly to create a new county of Davie out of part of Rowan County. By an act of January 13, 1837, Mocksville was identified as the county seat, with a minimum land requirement later specified as 15 acres. The commissioners appointed to set up the county seat acquired land to the northeast of the existing village of Mocksville and platted a new town, laid out with a central square intersected by a broad, north-south avenue and with cross streets. (Wall, Short History, p.44)
The north-south avenue, originally called Henderson Street, connected with the apparently already existing Huntsville Road. However, there were few, if any houses along the Huntsville Road north of the new town plat, the existing village being located to the south and southwest along the Salisbury Road. In the early years of the new county, Mocksville's residential development occurred mostly along Salisbury Road, and in and adjacent to the new town.
From the 1840s to the 1880s, the Huntsville Road ran through large tracts of farmland, with a few widely-spaced houses oriented along and toward the road. During the 1880s and 90s, with the slow growth in the population of Mocksville (from 300 in 1870 to 525 in 1890) and its increasing importance as the county's center for commerce and non-textile industry, the area of the road north of downtown began to assume the character of a suburban neighborhood. Large, well-detailed houses were built on lots of varying sizes, most still good-sized tracts of land.
Around the turn of the century, for reasons that are unclear, Henderson Street became known as Main Street and the Huntsville Road was increasingly referred to as North Main Street. Newspaper articles of the time speak of the area as "North Mocksville." Gradually it became the preferred area of residence for the more substantial citizens of the town, and, because Mocksville was the county seat, of the county. In fact, because the county remained overwhelmingly rural in character, even with an 1890 population of only 525 Mocksville was the only community in the county which was much more than a crossroads. (Branson's Business Directory, 1890, p.249)
A list of residents of North Main Street in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries includes many of the town and county's most substantial citizens and government officials. Living on North Main Street were North Carolina House member and clerk of superior court Ephraim L. Gaither; county sheriff A.M. Booe; town clerk and treasurer Francis M. Johnson; clerk of county court Caswell Harbin; North Carolina House and Senate member and Davie County Commissioner John H. Clement; North Carolina House member, county commissioner and clerk of the superior court Henry B. Howard and North Carolina House member and Mocksville Postmaster John P. LeGrand. Local business men on North Main Street included merchants Calvin U. Rich, J.T. Baity, Jesse L. Clement, E.E. Hunt, John Casey, William M. Crotts, Pleasant Rowan Martin, Thomas J. Caudell, Louis G. Horn and livery stable operator Mack D. Brown. Capitalists and executives such as tobacco factory owner Hugh E. Robertson, veneer company executive Walter F. Martin, veneer manufacturer O.L. Williams, furniture company owner J.F. Hanes, furniture executive Marvin Waters, tobacco company owner Philip Hanes and furniture executive and Bank of Davie President Knox Johnstone also lived on North Main Street. Medical men on North Main included Dr. W.C. Martin and dentists R.P. Anderson and A. Zachary Taylor. Reverend William C. Willson was among several ministers who lived on North Main. (Survey Files)
During the late 1870s several Masonic lodges in the county organized an annual picnic to raise funds for the Masonic-sponsored Oxford Orphanage. For the first five years the picnics were held at The Shoals, at Cooleemee. Herbert Clement offered the use of the Clement Grove at Mocksville in 1883, and since that date the picnic has been held on the site annually. In 1897 the Masons purchased the grove from the Clement family and two years later built a large arbor seating twelve hundred (this arbor burned in the 1950s and was rebuilt). During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Masonic Picnic, held on the second Thursday in August, was a major social event in Davie and surrounding counties. The program included music and speakers and attracted political and government figures from around the state. The picnic continues today, but with a week-long carnival. (Wall, Short History, pp.112, 113)
When the town was preparing to erect its first public school, a site off North Main along Cherry Street was chosen. Completed in 1911, the handsome, Prairie School-influenced brick building served grades 1-12 until a high school was constructed nearby. In 1922 the Mocksville School Board condemned 3.43 acres of the Rich subdivision north of Poplar Street for the new school. Built in 1922-24, the high school was a handsome, two-story brick building with Craftsman-influenced detailing, set adjacent to North Main Street. (Vertical Files)
Bettie T. Rich, widow of Calvin Rich, owned most of the land on the east side of North Main between Pine and Hemlock Streets. Following her death, members of the family subdivided this land into building lots in 1915 (Deeds, Book 23, p.113). In 1919, a tract of land owned by the J.H. Clement estate along the west side of North Main north of Church Street was subdivided. (Plats, Book 1, p.13) Another large tract was opened up in 1923 when the executors of Alice J. Willson sold off several large parcels of land she had owned, including three lots on the northeast side of Oak Street, a lot on the south side of Oak, and a 14-acre piece, called "the pasture," on the east side of North Main, north of the Booe land and carrying through to the North Carolina Midland tracks (Vertical Files). J.S. Daniel purchased the latter, subdivided it, and in 1924 held an auction sale for about 120 lots between North Main and the railway (Vertical Files). These subdivisions, and others like them on a smaller scale, increased the number of available tracts for home building and encouraged a wave of construction during the 1920s and 30s along North Main Street. Although other residential areas were opened up for development during the same period along the Wilkesboro Road and south of the downtown, North Main Street remained the most desirable area for many of Mocksville's better-heeled citizens.
New houses continued to be built along North Main after World War II, but mostly on a more modest scale than previously, and several nonresidential buildings were introduced. The World War I vintage First Baptist Church at North Main and Pine streets was replaced in 1966 with a modern Colonial Revival style sanctuary. Also in 1966, an undistinguished, one-story brick building was constructed on the west side of North Main for the Davie County Public Library. At the south end of the street, the handsome, Italianate Pearson-Brown House on the east side of the street was demolished to make way for commercial buildings (Vertical Files). About 1970 the Stewart House at the corner of North Main and Stewart Streets was demolished and the North Main Street Church of Christ built. The superannuated Mocksville Elementary School (formerly the Mocksville High School) was demolished in 1971 and a federal grant used to construct a nondescript modern community center on the site. The 1940s gymnasium and auditorium were kept as part of the community center. (Vertical Files)
Despite these unfortunate changes, North Main Street retains its continuity and sense of place as a neighborhood. The large number of surviving 19th and early 20th century houses, mostly well-maintained and many with architectural significance, helps to perpetuate the historic ambience of the area.
On the whole, domestic architecture in Davie County tended toward the modest in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a few notable exceptions, such as the "Anglo-Grecian Villa" at Cooleemee. Largely settled by yeoman farmers, and with very little urban fabric, residential building was mostly composed of vernacular farmhouses of the traditional I-house or hall and parlor plan, often of log construction. Later, these houses were supplemented by more varied T- and L-plans, triple As, and about World War I, by bungalows. (Mohney, pp.3-39)
Mocksville, and particularly North Main Street, contains the most varied and distinguished grouping of dwellings in the county, ranging from Greek Revival style houses to the Colonial Revival, with at least a token representative of the Victorian Gothic Revival, Italianate, Shingle Style, Queen Anne, Classical Revival, and Craftsman styles.
The most distinctive element in the North Main Street Historic District's architectural fabric is a group of Italianate houses built during the 1880s and 1890s. Each is frame, two stories, with an L- or T-plan. Their porches have chamfered posts with scroll-sawn brackets and turned or square-section balusters. Their cornices are bracketed. Most have four-panel front doors with glazed upper tabernacle panels and two-over-two sash. Several have shingled gables. Most also have distinguished Italianate or Neo-Grec interior woodwork, some in a mix of woods.
The Italianate was a relative popular mode in Davie County in the late 19th century, surviving a decade or two after it had been replaced by the Queen Anne and other styles in the rest of North Carolina, but most of the remaining examples are scattered throughout the county. Mocksville has the largest concentration of these houses.
Although the machine-produced architectural ornament that typifies such buildings was usually brought in by railroad, the North Carolina Midland Railroad did not arrive in Davie County until 1891. However, there was at least one steam-powered sawmill in Mocksville in the late 1870s, operated by Brown and Brother, and it is likely that much of the ornament was produced locally (Mohney, p.37). The designers or contractors for most of the buildings are unknown, though it is believed that carpenter James Call, who was also the "architect" for the First Methodist Church, built his own Italianate house (later remodelled) on North Main Street and the well-detailed Charles Meroney House on Salisbury Street (the latter with his brother Samuel). James or Samuel Call also may have been responsible for some of the other Italianate houses.
Several residences on North Main Street are unique in the county. The Martin-Wilson-Caudell House, built about 1870, is an unusual mix of Greek Revival and Tuscan Gothic superimposed on the standard I-house with two-story, gabled portico. Its front elevations are completely flushboard-sheathed in a manner more common to New York and New England. The Abraham M. Nail House, a two-story, single-pile brick building, has vernacular Gothic Revival detailing, including triangular-pointed windows and bull's-eyes in its gabled wall dormers. The Dr. R.P. Anderson House, built in 1903 to designs by Barber and Klutz of Nashville, Tennessee, has a Shingle style-influenced sophistication that is alien to North Carolina domestic design during the period. And the Philip Hanes House, built in 1902, though more in line with Classical Revival trends in the state at the turn of the century, is several cuts above similar Davie Classical Revival houses in size and complexity of plan and ornament.
Architecturally, Mocksville builders and owners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries appear to have been trying to associate themselves with the two major cities just to the north and south, Winston-Salem and Salisbury, and less with the standard of building elsewhere in Davie County.
Davie County Deeds, Mocksville.
Davie County Plat Maps, Mocksville.
Mohney, Kirk F. The Historic Architecture of Davie County, North Carolina. Mocksville: Davie County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1986.
Vertical Files, Davie County Public Library, Mocksville.
Wall, James W. Davie County: A Brief History. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1979.
Wall, James W. History of Davie County. Mocksville: Historical Publishing Association, 1969.
† David R. Black, architectural historian, North Main Street Historic District, Mocksville, Davie County, NC, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.