Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Withers House

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Institution Name: Queens University of Charlotte
Original/Historic Place Name: Withers Efird House
Location on Campus: 2025 Selwyn Ave.
Date(s) of Construction:
1904original construction McMichael, J. M.
1926remodeled; reconstruction Asbury, Louis
Designer: J. M. McMichael; Louis Asbury
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Colonial revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: masonry
Walls: exterior: aluminum siding, interior: plaster
Roof: slate
 
Function:
ca. 1904-1928private residence (Benjamin Withers)
ca. 1933-1979private residence (Joseph and Elizabeth Withers Efird)
ca. 1979-1991private residence (Robert M. Shive)
ca. 1991-2000chapel (Myers Park Baptist Church)
ca. 2000-present (2006)faculty offices (alumni, donor, and community affairs)
ca. 2000-present (2006)other (conference and reception areas)
 

Narrative:
Originally located on East Avenue, which is now E. Trade Street, the house was moved piece by piece to Selwyn Avenue (Myers Park neighborhood) in 1926. It is associated with two prominent Charlotte families.

Mr. Benjamin Withers lived in the house from 1904 until he died in 1928. Withers was a prominent Charlotte citizen who made his living as a building supply merchant. His daughter, Elizabeth Withers Efird, inherited the property. Mr. and Mrs. Efird owned a house on the same street, and they did not move into the Withers house until 1933. Mr. Efird was the head partner of Efird's Department Stores, which helped shape commercial development in the Southeast. The Efird chain eventually expanded to fifty stores across the Carolinas and Virginia. Mr. and Mrs. Efird were both socially active in Charlotte. Mr. Efird was an active member of First Baptist Church and in 1943 donated his home on Selwyn Avenue (3.5 acres North of the Withers house) as the location of Myers Park Baptist Church. Mr. Efird was on the Board of Directors for the Merchant and Farmers Bank, the American Trust Company, and American Efird Mills. As a philanthropist he served as a Trustee for the YWCA and gave free memberships to the female employees at the department store. He advocated for employee welfare, hospitalization, health, accident, and life insurance and established profit-sharing pension plans. Mr. Efird was also the director of Efird Foundation, which arranged bequests to Wake Forest University and Wingate University. Mrs. Efird was actively involved with the YWCA and was the local chairwoman of the Round the World Reconstruction Fund (post WWII). She also worked on the Charlotte Memorial Hospital campaign during WWII and was very supportive of the activities at First Baptist Church and then Myers Park Baptist Church.

The house has a fascinating architectural history and is a tangible representative of the changes in residential design in relationship to new suburbs. The historical commission supports the undocumented fact that regionally renowned architect James Mackson McMichael built the house. McMichael began his architectural firm in Charlotte in 1901. Prior to this he had apprenticed and practiced for six years in Philadelphia. He is best known for his church architecture. He designed approximately 900 churches, including the old First Baptist Church, Little Rock AME Zion, East Avenue Tabernacle, Myers Park Presbyterian, and First American Reformed Presbyterian in Charlotte.

McMichael designed the house in the Queen Anne style which was popular in Charlotte in 1900. This "model" Queen Anne Victorian originally had a complex asymmetrical façade, soaring corner tower with a conical roof, wrap around porch, shingle siding, a hip roof, and classical ornamentation. It was not overly ornate or whimsical but possessed a classical style.

The style of the building then changed when the building was moved in 1926. After the city of Charlotte purchased residences on East Avenue from the owners in order to establish a location for the County Court House and Law Building, Mr. Withers purchased the house back from the city and had it dismantled and moved to an empty lot down the street from his daughter's house in Myers Park. The family states that another regionally significant architect, Louis Asbury, handled the modifications that changed the exterior. Once it was reassembled in Myers Park, the tower had disappeared and the exterior displayed a strict Colonial Revival symmetry. The house is now a two-story dwelling. The original third story of the Queen Anne structure is the current attic. The slate hip roof has projecting pedimented bays on the sides and rear, two chimneys with decorated, paneled stacks on the north side of the house, and three gabled-roofed dormers at the front. Each dormer has heavily molded cornice returns, panel pilasters, and round arched windows with a key block and multiple panes. There is a dental molding running under the roof edge. The original façade was stucco, which can be found under the aluminum siding. The front is three-bays-wide on the first story and five-wide on the second. The central bay at the front door is sheltered by a one-story portico supported by Roman fluted columns and pilasters. The front door surround has a carved sunburst motif, key bloc,k and corner blocks. Above the door is an elliptical fan light with stylized floral design in a sunburst motif. This fan light compliments the double leaf beveled glass door. A porte cochere was added to the north side of the house and is attached to the side porch. The interior of the house retains more of the 1904 Queen Anne elements, such as the finely carved trim, woodwork, decorative mantels, and ornate metal fireplace covers. Some of the rooms were increased in size and simplified during the remodeling.

This change in the exterior design is significant, because it shows the pressure to follow the overall unity of the Myers Park suburb and adapt to a change in architectural "fashion." The houses built in the original part of Myers Park were either Colonial revival, Rectilinear, Bungalow, or Tudor Revival. The Withers House is significant as a tangible representation of the growth of Charlotte's suburbs during the early twentieth century, especially fashionable Myers Park, and the movement of Charlotte's elite from center city to the suburbs.

Queens University of Charlotte used the building while it was owned by Myers Park Baptist Church. When the Baptist Church donated the structure in 2000, the University moved the house one block south to property it owned.
 

References:

Kratt, Mary Norton, and Thomas W. Hanchett. Legacy: The Myers Park Story. Charlotte, NC: Myers Park Foundation, 1986.

Wright, Christina A. Survey and Research Report: Withers-Efird House. Charlotte, NC: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark Commission, September 1, 2000.

 

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Last update: November 2006