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New owner to restore historic Charlotte home with ‘flamboyant architectural style’

Courtesy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
Prominent architect Martin E. Boyer designed the colonial revival-style home for the Barnhardts, an elite manufacturing family in Charlotte.
Courtesy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission Prominent architect Martin E. Boyer designed the colonial revival-style home for the Barnhardts, an elite manufacturing family in Charlotte.

After two years on the market, the historic Charles E. Barnhardt House in Plaza Midwood will soon be purchased and restored as a single-family residence.

Grandfather Homes is under contract to buy the 1930s-era mansion at 3217 Maymont Place from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission for $725,000, a commission official said. The luxury custom home builder will repair the colonial revival-style house, and President Matt Ewers said he will move in with his family when it’s finished.

Grandfather Homes plans to finish restoration in a year so the family can move in by fall 2020, Ewers said. All renovations made to the 6,500-square-foot home must first be approved by the commission to safeguard its historic and architectural character.

Built in 1938 near the Charlotte Country Club, the home once sat on a 15-acre estate and has belonged to two prominent Charlotte families in the textile industry, the Barnhardts and the Cramers.

Dan Morrill, consulting director of the Historic Landmarks Commission, said he’s excited Ewers is purchasing it as a family residence.

“People care more about their own home than they do if they’re going to sell it to somebody else,” Morrill said. “Also, he knows construction, so he’s got the expertise and manpower to be able to restore it.”

Ewers said the house was too expensive when it went on the market in 2016, especially with the restoration it needed. That year, the house’s appraised value was $1.8 million, according to the commission’s research report.

“This home was just unattainable for us — price prohibitive — and then just time allowed the price to come down, as well as people’s willingness to compromise,” Ewers said.

An 80 -year history

Prominent manufacturer Charles E. Barnhardt hired Martin Boyer, a popular revivalist architect among Charlotte’s elite in the 1920s and 1930s, to design the mansion for him and his wife Edna. While inspecting construction on the grounds in 1938, Barnhardt drowned in the property’s pond. His wife never moved into the home.

Ewers said Barnhardt’s background as a textile industrialist is evident in the house’s concrete floors.

“It’s truly built like a mill,” he said. “There’s a little bit of an industrial component to it.”

George Cramer and Elizabeth Crooks Cramer purchased the home in 1948. Members of the influential textile industrialist family lived there, never making significant changes, until they sold it in 2016.

In 2017, developers divided the site into 40 lots for single-family homes. The Barnhardt house faced the threat of demolition due to a city zoning ordinance that would require a connector road to go through the home.

After negotiating with the developer to make a new site plan, the Historic Landmarks Commission purchased the Barnhardt house that sat on four lots for $975,000.

The commission put in deed restrictions to ensure its preservation, intending to resell it. Charlotte City Council approved the house’s designation as a historic landmark in late 2017.

The Barnhardt mansion now sits at the center of a development called Cramer’s Pond. Grandfather Homes is contracted to build on 17 lots in the community, and all the houses should be completed in a year.

‘It’s unsurpassed’

Morrill, with the landmarks commission, said the architecture of the home is split. Boyer designed the front in the Colonial revival-style, but the back of the house looks completely different.

“It is very embellished and decorated with very intricate brickwork, decorative iron work and really it can’t be identified as a particular style but it’s very picturesque,” he said.

Ewers said the major changes he will make include converting the kitchen into a scullery, renovating the master bathroom and building an addition to the rear of the house that will serve as an expanded kitchen, breakfast room and family room.

“It’s going to be really fun to take some of the Barnhardt — the textile, the mill, the industrial finishes — and implement it into our design,” Ewers said.

But ultimately, Ewers said he doesn’t want the addition to stray from the house’s original romantic character.

“You’ve got to be very smart on the outside and make sure it doesn’t take away from the original intent of Martin Boyer’s flamboyant architectural style,” he said.

That flamboyant architectural style includes elements such as pink, blue and green tiling, which Ewers plans on restoring.

Ewers said the conceptual plan of the renovations and restoration will be presented to the Historic Landmarks Commission at its Aug. 12 meeting as part of the design review process.

Morrill said the house will require a lot of restorative work but it will be worth it.

“I think in terms of complexity and sophistication of architecture in Charlotte, it’s unsurpassed,” Morrill said. “The fact that it’s being restored and protected in perpetuity adds greatly to the character of our local built environment.”

This article originally published in The Charlotte Observer.