Tidings of Comfort and Joy: The Holiday Tour of Homes
Dec 01, 2015 08:00AM
By Jason Huddle
Tidings of Comfort and Joy: The Holiday Tour of Homes
The Historic Districts of downtown Concord have got to be among the most meaningful and elegant aspects of our community. and they can be enjoyed on foot.
Predominantly constructed between the latter half of the 1800s and the Great Depression, these homes serve as a reminder of Concord’s lucrative textile industry, Locke Mill being the first cotton mill in town.
With the success of the mills came a surge in population. Names like Cannon, Coltrane and Brown represented all forms of business and industry that were needed as the city grew. With business came homes, which sprung up close to the town center. Styles ran the gamut – from Queen Anne Victorian, to Colonial Revival, Neo-Classical, Italianate, Second Empire and American craftsman bungalows.
Today, Concord’s three registered Historic Districts – North Union, South Union and Edgewood (see
map on page pictured below) – are still dominated by the stately residences that were the original framework of this community. And since 1988, the homeowners in these districts have rallied around each other in helping preserve their neighborhoods.
Marilyn Porter Koch, Anne Lee Pearson and Stephen Morris founded The Residents of Historic Concord Inc. (RHC). The organization says, “The purpose of Residents of Historic Concord Inc. is to provide a forum for discussing and acting on issues of importance to the historic neighborhoods of Concord. The constant objective is to preserve and improve the downtown historic areas as residential neighborhoods. We do this by preserving the appearance and promoting beautification of the area. We work in cooperation with several other organizations, such as the City of Concord, the Chamber of Commerce, Concord Downtown Development and Historic Preservation Commission.”
The RHC, whose membership is unrestricted, is led by a four-person board of directors. “The board is nominated and elected by members,” Marcie Schwalbe, current RHC president, says. “Board members serve two-year terms. Anyone can join, but only resident homeowner members can vote. Meetings consider upcoming events and neighborhood concerns.”
The RHC holds two meetings yearly for its full membership: one in the spring and one in the fall. This year’s fall meeting saw new board members elected. Schwalbe and her fellow officers will step down at the end of this month, with new officers taking their places on January 1: Jana Marx, president; Lea Halloway, vice-president; Rudi Muenster, treasurer; and Jenny Dabbs, secretary.
While the RHC’s initiatives have always been to raise awareness and appreciation of the Historic Districts, Schwalbe says, “It evolved into a fundraiser. Our projects have included purchasing and planting American Elms to maintain the canopy, and Historic District sign toppers.
“This year, RHC hosted two summer porch parties, an ice cream social, a St. Patrick’s Day party, a
hugely-successful community-wide yard sale (27 homes participated), National Yard Art Day, a scarecrow contest and the neighborhood has one of the most well-attended trick-or-treat events in the country. We are also the main route for the Concord Christmas parade and many homes in the neighborhood decorate with lighted Christmas balls hanging from the trees...this is truly magical at night!
“We will host workshops for making the Christmas balls and lighted stars,” she continues. “This is open to the public for $5 (free for residents of the Historic District). The (last one) is Saturday, December 5, from 2:00 to 4:00pm at 288 Union Street N. (The Odell House). Participants should bring wire cutters, work gloves and 200 mini-lights per ball.”
One of the largest RHC fundraisers is the Holiday Tour of Homes, held since 1992. Offered in December – one day every two to three years – this event sees Historic District homeowners volunteering to open their houses to the public.
Lea Halloway has volunteered to be the RHC’s next home tour chairperson. Her goal is to reach out to fellow Historic District homeowners six to nine months out to see who might be willing to literally open their doors at the next Tour of Homes, tentatively slated for December 6, 2016.
Asked why the tour doesn’t take place every year, Schwalbe says, “It is very labor intensive and expensive to host the tour. The board determines when we have enough homeowners willing to volunteer. The homeowner is responsible for decorating the home; the RHC pays for advertising, supplies a floral arrangement and hosts a preview party. The entire process is at the discretion of the homeowner.”
Visitors to the tour are greeted by RHC volunteer guides – sometimes high school students earning community service hours – at each participating home. There, they receive historical information about the home, who currently lives there and what modifications they’ve made to the house. More than 800 people took part in last year’s 1.2-mile tour that raised nearly $9,000. The proceeds went toward the RHC’s mini-grants program and tree replacement project.
Called the 2014 Tidings of Comfort & Joy, the tour featured six residences and St. James Lutheran Church, located at the corner of Union Street and Corban Avenue.
Schwalbe provided the following from the RHC brochure: “These homes have been lived in and loved, restored and renovated, enlarged and amended. They have sheltered many generations of families, been the site of many holiday celebrations, weddings, christenings, etc., and given enjoyment to countless visitors and guests. Through the hard work and resources of our dedicated homeowners, they will continue to contribute to the beauty of our city.”
Courtesy of the Residents of Historic Concord, the 2014 tour homes were:
W.L. Burns House
Located at 43 Marsh Avenue N.W., the W.L. Burns house was built circa 1930. The brick two-story is a Colonial Revival house with a symmetrical five-bay façade. The central entrance is composed of a gabled roof portico with Tuscan columns and half-timbering. The broad cornice is trimmed with decorative boards. The porch is supported with square brick piers
and has a flat roof. Because of the brick piers and its broad eaves, the home has a bungalow feel about it. Kate and John Turner currently own the home.
Daniel Branson Coltrane House
Located at 84 Union Street N., the Daniel Branson Coltrane house was built circa 1893 by Coltrane who served as director of Concord National Bank for some 50 years. The home blends Queen Anne and Colonial Revival elements. Features to notice include the porte-cochere, which was enclosed to create a sunroom; wraparound porch with tapered Tuscan columns; sunbursts in the porch gables; urn-shaped finials on the balcony; and cornice trim that includes dentil courses and modillion blocks.
Two principle parlors with elaborate ceiling molding and seven fireplaces grace the residence. The home also uses scalloped shingles and raised panels on many surfaces. Carol and Bill Meade have been restoring the Coltrane House to its former glory since purchasing it in 2012. Major projects have included restoring the wallpaper in the stair hall, renovating three bathrooms, converting a small bedroom into a laundry room and creating a mural of the owners’ farm in the family room.
Daniel Branson Coltrane was a Civil War veteran. His daughter Ruth married Charles A. Cannon.
J.L. Hartsell House
Located at 125 Spring Street N.W., the two-story J.L. Hartsell house was built in 1905 by Jonah Latinus “Tine” Hartsell. The key features of this residence include Queen Anne Victorian architecture illustrated by a witch’s cap adornment topped with a finial; the original slate roof; and asymmetrical design with mixed textures.
In addition, Colonial Revival features are evident
with the large double Tuscan columns around the porch on the front of the home. Since Jillian and Sean Preston purchased the house they have painted the interior and exterior, refinished the original heart-of-pine hardwood floors, added a laundry room, renovated the half-bath with period Victorian fixtures and refurbished three fireplaces.
The home is furnished with many original antiques from the early 19th century, including a notable circa 1840 French Country Hunt Vitrine and operational grandfather clock from the same era. The homeowners recently acquired an original pre-Civil War bureau and an Italian Baroque brass and marble clock and candelabra set.
J.L. Hartsell was a Concord industrialist and the first secretary/treasurer of the Yeung-Hartsell Cotton Mill. Hartsell founded the company, along with R.S. Young and P. Fetzer.
Aaron Greene Lentz House
Located at 235 Union Street N., the Aaron Greene Lentz house was originally built in 1899 for Aaron Lentz’s youngest daughter, Kate. This Queen Anne-style home has changed little in the past 100 years. Notable architectural features include a hip-roofed main block; façade bay with conical roof; and a wraparound porch with turned posts, decorative brackets, and balustrade with vertical and horizontal balusters.
The interior features original heart-of-pine floors, an original built-in hutch in the butler’s pantry, an
intricately carved mantle in the den and a carved wooden front door. Major renovations include the conversion of the back porch into a kitchen and the division of the Gentleman’s Parlor to create a bathroom.
Heather and Troy Taylor purchased the home in 2013 and have discovered many hidden treasures, such as the home’s first cooking range, which is on display. The wonderful historical art seen in the home is by the homeowner’s father.
Besides St. James Lutheran Church, other homes on the 2014 tour (not pictured) included the Brown-Efird House, located at 205 Union Street S. Built circa 1880 by Rufus A. Brown, the home is a classic Italianate two-story brick masterpiece; the clipped gable roof maintains its original slate tiles. The home’s exterior possesses segmental arched windows and molded cornices supported by brackets with turned pendant drops. The interior has Italianate and Colonial Revival features, and is comprised of solid brick walls with recessed panels. An unusual filigree wood screen separates the front hall from the stairs.
In 1914, J.R. Efird bought the house and replaced the front porch with the broad wraparound, brick-supported porch seen today. He also added the three-part windows on the first floor façade. When Lea and Cid Halloway purchased the home in 2012, they discovered that one of the five fireplaces was signed by Rufus A. Brown. They also found a time capsule filled with papers documenting the home’s history.
Rufus A. Brown was a Concord merchant and contractor.
Lastly, The William B. Ward House is located at 194 Union Street S. Built in 1901 for William Benton Ward, this home contains some elements of the Queen Anne style – such as the wraparound porch – and elements of the Colonial Revival style, such as the multi-pane windows that are original to the house. The sunroom was likely a porch and enclosed by later owners. The home is currently owned by Dawn and Alec Lockavitch.
Ward operated W.B. Ward Wholesale Grocery.Area residents – and not just those living in Cabarrus County – are sure to look forward to the next Holiday Home Tour. How fortunate we are to be welcomed into beautiful residences decked out for the holidays, and whose futures look bright because so many have taken a vested interest in preserving their – as well as our – past.
Story By: Kim Cassell
Photos by: Michael A. Anderson Photography