Retro Charlotte

The Mayes House

Renovation continues at Mayes House in 1993.
Renovation continues at Mayes House in 1993. The Charlotte Observer

I pass this gorgeous house on my way to work - a handsome anomaly on the hill above I-277. Maybe you’ve seen it on East Morehead Street, across from the YMCA. Thanks to an important vote in 1991 the Mayes House was preserved; it’s been renovated, and is now home to a law firm. Observer reporter Gail Smith describes the key decision by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission:

“In the 1920s, the Mayes house stood majestic on East Morehead Street, commanding attention along with the prominent homes of power-company president W.S. Lee and architect C.C. Hook. Today, the vacant shingle house stands solitary across from the Central YMCA ... the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission voted unanimously Monday night to seek historic designation for the house, which would delay possible demolition.

“The commission and its consultants said the house is a real find, with a commanding view of the uptown skyline. ‘It probably looks much like it did when the owners lived in it,’ said commission consultant Nora Black. ‘It's just an incredible house.’ The 88-year-old house has unusual features, such as a pedestal sink, cascading staircase and maple floors. A wooden dressing-room floor is pocked with marks left by a woman's sharp high heels. Downstairs, the living room features a large fireplace of highly detailed terra cotta and glazed brick. ... The Mayes house, now unoccupied, was most recently used as a halfway house for young people. The house has withstood many occupants. It was built about 1903. Two years before that, John Henry Mayes bought the northeast corner at the intersection of East Morehead and Caldwell streets from W.B. Ryder for $2,000. Mayes worked as a traveling salesman for Stuart Cramer, a textile magnate who made his fortune selling textile equipment. But in the mid-1920s, Mayes no longer worked for Cramer and went into debt. The house was sold in 1926 to J.W. Barber, vice president of Cathey Lumber Co. According to a 1929 map, the Mayes house was surrounded by homes, and next door was the home of W.S. Lee, well known as president of Southern Power Co., the forerunner of Duke Power Co. Today, the Mayes house stands alone, overlooking the concrete expanse of I- 277. The homes of Brooklyn residents to the east were razed years ago during urban renewal. The other substantial homes along Morehead were torn down for roads or commercial development. ‘What looks like an isolated house was really part of an entire neighborhood,’ Morrill said. ‘At one time this would have been one of the absolute most fashionable streets in Charlotte.’ The house is one of the few intact shingle-style houses in Mecklenburg, which also makes it significant.”

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