Lethco House

Lethco House

Typical Tudor details include steep roof pitches, half-timber work, leaded glass windows, decorative doorways and the use of brick and stone. George Stephens, the brains behind the creation of Myers Park, had a flair for innovation and a talent for making the right connections.

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 After graduation from Chapel Hill, Stevens came to Charlotte, where he joined forces with another newcomer and fellow innovator, F.C. Abbott. They formed a real estate company and introduced the first "For Sale" signs in Charlotte. Not content just to sell houses, they borrowed enough cash to set up their own real estate development firm.

Stephens had the good fortune to marry the daughter of a wealthy cotton farmer by the name of John S. Myers, who owned a large amount of farmland outside the city.

In 1911, Stephens took advantage of his golden connections and proposed developing a 1,005-acre tract owned by his father-in-law. That idea suited Myers just fine. He'd been thinking about doing something of that sort since at least 1890, when he encouraged a group of wealthy men to build "country" houses near his farmhouse.

Thanks to the generous terms Myers offered him, Stephens had the cash to turn the former cotton fields into an elegant neighborhood unlike anything in Charlotte. Among other things, he specified that all the streets would be paved - a rare luxury in those years. Even more important, he could afford to hire John Nolen, a Harvard graduate who had become one of the country's most respected planners.

Out of this partnership grew Myers Park, which Stephens touted as "a high-class residential neighborhood."

The Look of Myers Park

Thanks to Nolen, Myers Park was professionally planned, with streets divided by medians, following the natural contours of the land.

Zoning laws, among the first in the South, governed all new construction. No one could just throw up a house of any description and put it willy-nilly on a piece of land. Builders had to set the houses back a certain distance from the street and a certain distance from the house next to it, for example. Residential development was kept separate from offices and shops, and zoning maps specified where each would go.

The 4C's streetcar system followed the center median and ran from the Myers Park entrance near the end of Elizabeth Avenue to Queens College and back.

The primary architectural style favored in Myers Park was Colonial Revival. Bungalow influences are also evident in a few dozen houses dating from the 1910. The Tudor Revival of the 1920s was a third major architectural mode. Myers Park may represent the finest collection of Tudor Revival dwellings in the state.

It was Charlotte's good fortune to attract an architect from London, England, who was steeped in the design of his homeland and who was particularly enamored of the Tudor Revival style.

"William Peeps came to this country in the late part of the century and did a lot of work that reflected his English background," said Charlotte architect Jack Boyte. "Tudor Revival was popular in the 1920s and '30s in Charlotte. Up and down Selwyn Avenue are two or three examples of this style."

Helen Price Lethco

Helen Price Lethco and her husband, Frank, were the original owners of the house. "The half-timber work is usually in the upper stories of the house. The spaces between the timbers are filled in with brick and mortar. In this country, it's not structural. It's applied as an architectural detail."- Jack Boyte. He also said  "The Lethco House is a typical English Tudor Revival. It has extraordinarily delightful Tudor Revival details. This house is possibly the first one (Peeps) did in this style."

Tudor Revival, the Lethco House at 2038 Roswell Avenue. The Lethco House

Peeps designed one of Charlotte's most beautiful examples of Tudor Revival, the Lethco House at 2038 Roswell Avenue. It was among the early houses in Myers Park, built in 1924 for Frank and Helen Price Lethco.

They owned and operated Lethco's Linen Supply and the Charlotte Laundry on East Second Street. In the 1928 Charlotte City Directory, Lethco's Linen Supply Co. proclaimed itself "launderers, dryers, cleaners, rug and carpet cleaners, hat renovators, pleating, etc."

Sadly, Frank Lethco didn't have long to enjoy his mansion. He died about six years after its completion, leaving the house to his widow, Mary. Lethco's Linen Supply disappeared from the city directory, but the Charlotte Laundry continued on for several more years under different management.

The house sat across Roswell Avenue from the Myers Park Country Club, whose fairways at the time came all the way up to Roswell and ran alongside the street. At the time, the Lethco House had few neighbors, and none across the street from it. But when The Depression came along, the country club needed operating funds, so the owners sold building lots where the fairway had bordered Roswell Avenue, opening up that part of Myers Park to development.

Typical Tudor

"The Lethco House is a typical English Tudor Revival house," said Boyte. "It has extraordinarily delightful Tudor Revival details. This house is possibly the first one (Peeps) did in this style."

Those details include the typical steep roof pitches, the half-timber work, leaded glass windows, decorative doorways and the use of brick and stone.

The Tudor style had its beginnings in England during the reign of Henry VII. The period between 1485 and 1600 resulted in such architectural distinction in England that it was customarily described by the name of Henry's Welch family, Tudor.

English Tudor Revival was popular in America from 1890 to 1940. It was rivaled in popularity during those years only by Colonial Revival.

"The half-timber work is usually in the upper stories of the house," Boyte said. "The spaces between the timbers are filled in with brick and mortar." The use of half-timbers was a structural element in England, but that's not the case in this country, he said. "It's applied as an architectural detail."

The grand entrance features finely crafted fretwork of  Lethco House, Charlotte, NCThe grand entrance features finely crafted fretwork applied to the peaks above the gable. "This emphasized that this is the focal point of the house," Boyte said. "From there, you go out to the sides, the wings and bays."

Other features of Tudor Revival are the sidelights, or windows on either side of the entrance, with "eyebrows," narrow strips of stone that surround the door. The grouping of tall, narrow windows and variations in the size and style of the chimneys are other features of the Tudor Revival style.

The Lethco House has the typical blending of stone and brick found in that style, Boyte said.

Peeps designed several other grand houses in Myers Park, as well as a number of imposing structures in this community, including the Latta Arcade, Ratcliffe Florist Shop and Ivey's Department Store in uptown Charlotte.

John Nolen's assistant in the development of Myers Park was George SUmner Draper. Audio clips of an interview with Mr. Draper the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's online collection.

Charlotte's Historic Homes

Acknowledgements:

Jack Boyte; "Sorting Out the New South City," by Thomas W. Hanchett; and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission.
# http://libweb.uncc.edu/archives/draper/
# http://www.landmarkscommission.org

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