Retro Charlotte

Breathing new life into the Belk house

The William Henry Belk house in 1925.
The William Henry Belk house in 1925. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Since 1990, the former Belk family home has rested comfortably among Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center’s modern buildings, serving as administrative offices. Observer editors laud the decision to save it in this 1989 Observer editorial:

“Historic preservationist Dan Morrill once described Presbyterian hospital's impact on the surrounding Elizabeth neighborhood as that of ‘a boulder in a tea cup.’

“In more recent years, the hospital has worked with the Elizabeth community to make its expansion plans fit neighborhood wishes. Those consultations paid handsome dividends in the recent announcement that Presbyterian plans to move and restore the historic W.H. Belk home and build a parking deck at Hawthorne Lane and East 5th Street. Both the Belk house preservation and the parking deck's design show a sensitivity to the neighborhood's concerns. ...

“In 1924, Mr. and Mrs. Belk commissioned Charles C. Hook, then Charlotte's premier architect, to design a new house (at 120 Hawthorne Lane) ... a two-and-a-half story colonial revival structure with a green-tiled roof. The house had 16 rooms, including seven bedrooms and six baths, and cost $75,000. Mr. Belk ran the family's uptown department store and Mrs. Belk ran the home. Even the deed to the property was in her name. At her death in 1968, she bequeathed the house to Presbyterian Hospital. It was designated a local historic site in 1986. Restoration plans call for the home to be moved about 50 yards south, closer to the hospital's main entrance, and to be renovated as offices for the Presbyterian Hospital Foundation. The restoration will follow the original Charles C. Hook design. For Presbyterian Hospital, the Elizabeth neighborhood and the community, the project is a win-win-win situation. The hospital retains a historic property from its past, the neighborhood gets a sensitive development that conforms to its residential character, and the city and county see a prestigious landmark given new life. In a community that too often has ignored its history, it is cause for rejoicing.”

Maria David is the Observer’s librarian