Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Samuel J. McElroy House

I love inspecting old and historic properties. Enjoyable, due to my affiliation with the Historic Building Inspectors Association, and my background dealing with properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Every now and then, I have the privilege of inspecting historic or very old properties. When this occurs, I have decided to share my pleasure with you. Such was the case this week as I inspected the National Register Listed "Samuel J. McElroy House" located at 10915 Beatties Ford Road in Huntersville NC.

Realtor's Description:

EQUESTRIAN'S DELIGHT...! Completely restored 19th century home, brought into the 21st century for a special owner who wants an old home with today's amenities. Historic house on National & Mecklenburg County register ... only minutes from uptown Charlotte and lovely Lake Norman...! An additional 10 acres available for sale that abuts the Latta Plantation which has 400+acres of horse trails. The house has been restored, den addition in 2005, great master suite with new bath and fireplace. This unique home also features 8 fireplaces, extensive gardens, in-ground swimming pool, 8 stall barn, smoke-house, 20' X 40' pool, Victorian greenhouse .... Truly one of the most interesting historic homes in the area as featured in Charlotte Magazine.

Architectural Description:

The Samuel J. McElroy House is among the finest and most intact of a collection of vernacular Victorian, two-story, T-shaped farmhouses to appear in Mecklenburg County (including five along Beatties Ford Road) after the Civil War.  The house is situated in a rural setting  just north of  the historic Hopewell Presbyterian Church and the ca. 1800 Latta Plantation.  An operating farm stands to the southeast of the property and an open field is located northeast across the road.  The dwelling's asymmetrical form stands in contrast to the typically balanced facades of I-houses, which predominated in rural Mecklenburg during the 19th century. Built in the late 1880s, the McElroy House is a picturesque mix of vernacular Victorian influences.  Although the original weatherboards were covered with aluminum siding about 1980, (now removed) the exterior retains much of its original decorative woodwork, including the late Victorian sawnwork on the front porch.

The house's gable-front section features a front-facing bay window on the first floor and a sash window with six panes in each sash on the gable-front facade of the second story.  Original sash windows with six-over-six panes survive throughout the residence.  The two-bay, one-room-deep, side-gable portion features the largely intact front porch.  This porch includes pairs of slender wooden, chamfered supports with decorative sawn brackets.  These posts are connected by a sawnwork balustrade.

The main entrance, positioned at the corner of the two sections of the house and leading into the central hall, features a crossetted surround and double doors with four panels in each.  The paired screen doors are highlighted by ornate jig-sawed woodwork. The rear of the house includes a one-story bedroom wing on the north side that is probably original.  Its original gable roof replaced by a shed roof in the early 1980s.  At the south end of the rear facade is a one-story kitchen wing topped by a gable roof that extends to incorporate an original smokehouse.  The two units are separated by a narrow breezeway.  This configuration is unique in Mecklenburg County.

An engaged porch extends along the north and south elevations of the attached smokehouse and originally covered now partially remodeled south-elevation of the kitchen. A presumably original back porch with chamfered, supports and foundation of stone piers wraps around the rear of the smokehouse.  The porch's irregularly-shaped  low-pitched roof is a later modification, and the porch has been partially rebuilt, with several of the original posts replaced with square wood supports, and a simple wood railing erected. All of the roofs on the McElroy House are covered with standing-seam metal sheathing.The interior of the main body of the house is essentially intact.

 The interior follows a central-hall plan, with a parlor on the northwest side (side-gable portion) and a living room and dining room on the southeast side (gable-front portion).  The dining room leads into the kitchen wing, which has been remodelled and enlarged to include a section of the engaged porch on the northwest side.  The original bedroom wing on the north side of the rear elevation has been remodelled as a family room and now also incorporates a portion of this porch.  However, in the main T-shaped block of the McElroy House original vernacular Victorian elements survive intact.  The central hall features an open-string stair ascending  in two runs from the main entrance to three bedrooms in the second floor.  The stairway has turned balusters anchored by a sturdy turned newel.

Original mantels, four-panel doors, and delicately moulded door surrounds survive throughout the interior of the main block.  The mantel in the south front room--the living room--is particularly elaborate. The frieze has a curvilinear motif with raised  curved panels, and three heavy wooden corbels supporting the shelf.  The pilasters also have raised panels topped by moulded caps.  Flanking this mantel are two original closets with doors having two vertical panels, a lingering vernacular Greek Revival trait.  The other mantels--in the parlor, dining room, and three upstairs bedrooms--are simpler, but all reflect the vernacular Victorian style exemplified by the living room mantel. The original ceiling in the living room is covered by a modern rough-finished plaster coating; but all of the other rooms in the main bock of the house have original board-and-batten ceilings. The walls of the house have original plaster, and original hardware, porcelain door knobs, and wood flooring survive throughout.

The McElroy yard, shaded by mature oak trees, comprises a mix of historical and modern elements.  The remains of a fieldstone chimney (perhaps once a summer kitchen, but more research is needed to confirm its original function) stands behind the house to the south.  It is not classified in this nomination as either contributing or noncontributing.  Other contributing and non-contributing resources are listed below:

Tack House Contributing ca. 1885:

This frame gable-front building stands on granite slabs.  It was built to store bridles, harnesses, and saddlery for horses and mules.  Measures about eight by twelve feet.  Present wood-shingled roof put on in 1988.

The Samuel J. McElroy House is architecturally significant under Criterion C as an outstanding example of the T-shaped, two-story, vernacular Victorian farmhouses that were built in the county after the Civil War.  Erected in the 1880s for Samuel J. McElroy, a farmer, the dwelling features one of the more ornate post-Civil War front porches remaining in rural Mecklenburg.  The interior, though not exceptionally decorative, retains mantels with curviliner friezes and raised decorative panels, a turned-post staircase, board-and-batten ceilings, and intact doors and simply moulded door surrounds that exemplify the interior finishes of middle-class farmhouses across the county in the late 19th century.  The house's asymmetrical form reflects the emerging preference among well-to-do farmers in the area for up-to-date picturesque domestic architecture, over the more conservative I-house.  Yet, the basic design remains restrained both inside and out compared to the picturesque styles appearing in Charlotte and other substantial North Carolina cities in this period. The focus of stylistic attention is placed on the front porch and bay window.  The attached smokehouse, which is unique in Mecklenburg County, reflects McElroy's concern for function as well as style in the overall design of his farmhouse.  The tack house, which is the only surviving free-standing farm outbuilding on the tract, contributes to the architectural significance of the McElroy property.

Historical Essay:

The Samuel J. McElroy House was built sometime after November, 1883, when Samuel Jefferson McElroy (1840-1927) purchased a ninety-one acre parcel on what is now Beatties Ford Road.

McElroy was descended from Scotch-Irish ancestry who came to America in 1729 and settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Sometime later they moved on to Virginia, then to Kentucky. One of the descendents, Samuel Jefferson McElroy, Sr., moved to Waihaw in Union County, N.C., where he was engaged in mining and farming. One of his sons, Samuel Jefferson McElroy, Jr., moved to Mecklenburg County as a young man (he appears as a resident of the county in I860).

A volunteer during the Civil War, McElroy was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he lost a finger, and was taken prisoner. After the war, on January 16, 1866, he married Margaret Janet Sample (1846-1928) of Hopewell, who was a great-grandaughter of Richard Barry, Sr., a signer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. They started their married life on the Dr. George Dunlap farm near Hopewell Presbyterian Church, which was part of her father's estate. Samuel and Margaret McElroy had eight children: William Edward; Henry Lynn; John Grier; Carrie Jane (Mrs. John Underwood); Flora May (Mrs. William E. Luckey); Una Dunbar (Mrs. Frank Patterson); Margaret Eugenia; and Martha Ellen. All were active members of Hopewell Presbyterian Church. John Grier McElroy (1878-1958) became an elder of the church in 1907.  He also inherited the homestead from his father in 1928, where he lived and farmed.

Just a few months before his death in 1958, John Grier McElroy sold off fifty acres of the ninety-three he had inherited from his father, and his children, John Grier Jr., Robert Sidney and Samuel Jefferson divided the remainder into three 5-l/2-acre lots. The S. J. McElroy House was acquired by John Grier McElroy, Jr. in the division.

In 1976, J. G. McElroy, Jr. sold a 1.88-acre parcel fronting on Beanies Ford Road that contains the house to Donald C. and Timola B. Moore, who in turn sold it to the present owners, Thomas M. and Mildred D. Snyder, in 1982.

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