Belk House

Belk House

CharlesChristian Hook arrived in Charlotte in 1890, after his graduation from Washington University. He originally planned to be a teacher, but two years later, he set up shop as an architect and started changing the face of Charlotte.

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 He soon attracted the attention of developer Edward Dilworth Latta, who was launching Charlotte's first streetcar suburb, to be known as Dilworth. Hook probably designed some 35 houses for Latta.

He also designed many important civic buildings, including the Charlotte City Hall (now called Lynnwood), and the Charlotte Woman's Club.

Hook's career coincided with considerable social upheaval, which threatened the serenity of the times. Immigration was soaring, and the industrial age was displacing the more familiar agrarian way of life. A Populist movement was taking hold in the 1890s, marked by efforts to establish trade unions and otherwise empower workers.

Hook's most important contribution to the region was introducing the Colonial Revival style of architecture in 1894. It was a solid, balanced style that spurned the frills of the previous Victorian-era styles, such as Queen Anne. He believed firmly in its relative simplicity and the elegance it derived from its roots in ancient Greece and Rome. Basic characteristics include a two-story rectangular "classic box" shape, a balanced façade with the main entrance in the center, hipped roof and narrow dormers.

William Henry Belk

The Colonial Revival style suggested stability and appealed to local leaders like William Henry Belk. The farm boy from South Carolina had come to Charlotte to set up a clothing store, which developed into a chain known as Belk Stores.

A shy man who devoted himself to building his business in his early years, Belk didn't wed Mary Irwin until he was 52. He hired Hook to design a house that would both reflect his status in the community and provide plenty of room for a family that would grow to include six children.

"Mr. Belk was interested in preserving the Presbyterian Hospital," said architect Jack Boyte, who was boyhood friends with the Belks's son John, who later became mayor of Charlotte. He bought 25 acres next to Presbyterian Hospital, which had moved into the buildings of the failed Elizabeth College in 1913.

The Belk house was moved 120' sideways and 20' toward the street in 1990 to provide room for hospital expansion. It was opened back up to the The Belk house was moved 120' sideways and 20' toward the street in 1990 to provide room for hospital expansion. It was opened back up to the public in 1991.public in 1991.    

"The hospital was already there when Mr. Belk bought his land," Boyte said. "It ran along East Fifth and Hawthorne to Caswell Road. He kept 10 to 15 acres for the farm. He grew corn and vegetables and had a big greenhouse next to Caswell Road. He had several workers to tend the farm. I remember being very impressed with it. He grew up on a farm in South Carolina and wanted to continue that lifestyle."

True to Form

Colonial The Belk house has many typical details of the Colonial Revival form. "I was in Boy Scouts with John Belk. I spent a lot of time at the Belk home. Mrs. Belk had one of the few electric cars in Charlotte. It was fascinating. I saw her drive the car into the garage and plug it in to recharge the battery."- Jack Boyte. Hooks designed Charlotte's  Masonic Temple in Egyptian Revival style. Hooks designed Charlotte's  Masonic Temple in Egyptian Revival style.

Life in the Belk House

In 1925, the Belks moved into their 5,800 square-foot house on Hawthorne Lane.

"The house was really built for us, you know," chuckled son John Belk. "My parents wanted us to have plenty of room for all us kids and our friends."

Boyte remembers visiting the family in that home during his growing-up years.

"I was in Boy Scouts with John Belk," Boyte said. "I spent a lot of time at the Belk home. Mrs. Belk had one of the few electric cars in Charlotte. It was fascinating. I saw her drive the car into the garage and plug it in to recharge the battery."

After Henry died in 1952, Mary continued to live in the home until her death in 1968. The house was bequeathed to Presbyterian Hospital and is now used as office space for the Presbyterian Hospital Foundation, the hospital's marketing department and Care Connection, the physician referral service.

Hook's career led him beyond residential design and into the public and commercial sectors. His works include the gymnasium and dormitories at what is now Duke University. He also designed White Oaks, the James B. Duke mansion on Hermitage Road, and the VanLandingham home on The Plaza.

"C.C. Hook also designed the Belk store and the Masonic Temple," Boyte said. "But in this (Belk) house, his talent really comes to the fore. With the scale, proportion and details, you can see why it's so popular. It was really a beautiful place to live."

Charlotte's Historic Homes

Acknowledgements:

Lisa Bush Hankin, for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission; architect Jack Boyte; and "Sorting Out the New South City," by Thomas W. Hanchett.
# http://www.cmhpf.org

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