Three Charlotte-area sites are among 15 in North Carolina that are the latest properties considered worthy of preservation by the National Register of Historic Places, the state’s cultural resources department announced last week.
They include the Coleman-Franklin-Cannon Mill in Concord, the country’s first mill owned and run by a black man; R.F Outen Pottery in Matthews, important for the design of its downdraft kiln; and Old Westview Cemetery in Wadesboro that tells the social history of the town’s African-American residents.
The 15 sites were added to more than 2,800 listings in North Carolina’s 100 counties. South Carolina has more than 1,400 listings, including 160 historic districts.
The register protects districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects important to American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. The listed sites are at least 50 years old, virtually unaltered and are important to their communities.
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“The National Register is fundamentally designed to make sure that before any federal money or federal licenses go into effect for a property that the impact of those programs on historic resources are taken into account,” said Dan Morrill, consulting director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. “It’s all about protection.”
Here’s a look at the three Charlotte-area sites:
Warren Coleman Mill, 625 Main St. SW, Concord: The mill Warren Clay Coleman built in 1897 became so famous across the country that African-American historian and activist W.E.B. Du Bois hung photos of it at the 1900 Paris Exposition as an example of progress made by American blacks.
Coleman was born into slavery in 1849, and freed after the Civil War in 1865, according to a 1992 Observer story. By then, he was an established trader of wagons, mules, cows and horses and he’d set his mind on building his own cotton mill.
After two years at Howard University, he began buying lots in downtown Concord. On one, he founded Price Memorial AME Zion Church. On another he built a house, and still another a downtown store.
In 1896, he shunned politics to open a mill. He raised $100,000 by selling stock for $100 a share. Tobacco manufacturer Washington Duke, father of industrialist James B. Duke, invested $1,000. The mill opened in 1897 between Wilshire Boulevard and Old Charlotte Road.
After Coleman died in 1904, Washington Duke bought the mill and eight years later he sold it to the Cannon Company. The complex still includes cotton warehouses and an office building. It is architecturally significant for its heavy-timber mill construction.
R.F, Outen Pottery, 430 Jefferson St., Matthews: Rufus Outen, a second-generation potter, built his large oil-burning downdraft kiln next to his Matthews home in 1950.
He’d learned to throw pots from his father, who’d opened Matthews Pottery. By the 1940s he and brother Gordon were running the business, but Rufus sold his share to start his own pottery business making hand-thrown utilitarian pottery.
For about 25 years, he produced pieces designed after historic pottery designs like butter churns, crocks, pitchers and rabbit water bowls. Outen was a traveling salesman for his wares. He would drive across the state until he had enough orders and then go home and fill them.
The property is virtually intact, said Morrill, who pushed the nomination.
“Rufus Outen walked away and left it like it was,” he said. “It’s deteriorated, but it’s all there. It is the last surviving historic pottery producing plant in Mecklenburg County.”
The landmarks commission owns the property, but Morrill said the group hopes to sell it to the town of Matthews.
Westview Cemetery, Wadesboro: On the outskirts of Wadesboro are five acres of rolling, craggy land that tell the stories of African-American life in Anson County and surrounding counties since the mid-1800s.
As recent as five years ago, those stories at Old Westview Cemetery – bounded by Madison and Henry streets – were virtually covered up by bramble and broom straw.
That’s how Rose Sturdivant Young found it when she came home from Washington, D.C. to bury her mother, Ethel Sturdivant, in the family lot. Her father was buried there in 1981, her brother in 1997. A great-grandmother had been buried there since 1912 and her great-great grandmother, born into slavery in 1831, is buried there, too.
But she couldn’t find the lot for all the overgrowth.
She was determined to clean up Old Westview and started her nonprofit to raise money. She holds two annual fundraisers in Washington and sends the money to an Anson County landscaper to keep the cemetery groomed. Now, 14 years later, the past has been uncovered.
Young said she hopes to celebrate the cemetery’s inclusion on the National Register in the fall. “We are very honored that our cemetery has been placed on the National Register,” Young said. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get it there and now those stories will be preserved.”