News & Opinion

Charlotte Museum of History Recognizes Historic Preservation with Gem Awards

The Wadsworth Estate in Wesley Heights. (Photo courtesy of CMoH)

The Charlotte Museum of History will honor a slew of local homes and businesses at its eighth annual Charlotte Gem Preservation Awards on Thursday, May 11. The awards recognize Mecklenburg County’s historic building and local streetscape preservation projects. 

Former Charlotte Mayor and current U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will be the featured speaker at Thursday’s event and will also be recognized for his contributions to historic preservation. In addition to Foxx, a panel of architects and local preservation enthusiasts have picked six building and restoration projects to receive the awards, as well as two honorable mentions.

“There is a common refrain in our city that we don’t have any history left; that we are a city of teardowns. But Charlotte still has many buildings worth saving,” said Terri  L. White, president and CEO of the Charlotte Museum of History. “We hope the Charlotte Gem Preservation Awards will encourage more preservation projects in our region, as well as sensitive new construction that integrates into our existing historic environments.”

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Thursday’s ceremony will also include moonshine tastings, axe throwing, musical performances, a Chinese Dragon Dancer and access to the museum’s newest exhibits.

Proceeds from the event will go toward the Charlotte Museum of History’s mission, which includes the preservation of the 1774 Alexander Rock house, Charlotte’s oldest home, and historic preservation and relocation of the Siloam School to the museum’s property.

Inaugural Charlotte Gem Award:
Anthony Foxx

Anthony Foxx will receive the Inaugural Charlotte Gem Award to honor him for his life-long commitment to improving Charlotte. Foxx was the first African American Student Government Association President at Davidson College and is now the chair of their Commission on Race and Slavery.

As Charlotte’s mayor, he helped bring the 2012 Democratic National Convention to the city and was the first Charlottean to serve as U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Excellence in Preservation Award:
McCrorey Heights Neighborhood Association

The McCrorey Heights Neighborhood Association will receive the Excellence in Preservation award. McCrorey Heights is a 71-acre historically Black neighborhood north of Uptown. It was founded in 1912 by H.L. McCrorey, the second Black president of Johnson C. Smith.

In the 1950s and ’60s, McCrorey Heights developed into a neighborhood for Black teachers and preachers. Within the homes, residents held meetings to challenge racial segregation and establish new freedoms. 

historic preservation
A home on Oaklawn Avenue in McCrorey Heights. (Photo courtesy of CMoH)

Residents of the neighborhood became a powerful force in the civil rights movement, which came with its own dangers. In 1965, Dr. Reginald Hawkins’ home in McCrorey Heights was one of four targeted by white supremacist terrorists due to his work in expanding local protests and sit-ins that had been started by Johnson C. Smith University students in Uptown.

McCrorey Heights was dubbed “the neighborhood of firsts.” Residents were the first Black people that demanded to eat in the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. They were some of the the first to join city government, to become top administrators at schools, and to demand they be allowed to play at an all-white golf course.

After 70 years of firsts, McCrorey Heights remains one of the most well-preserved historical neighborhoods in Charlotte.

Preservation Award with Distinction (Residential): 
The Wadsworth Estate & Carriage House, 400 S. Summit Ave. 

Museum staff will present the Preservation Award with Distinction to the owners of The Wadsworth Estate & Carriage House in Wesley Heights. The home was built in 1911 by businessman George Pierce Wadsworth. It was later home to Judge Shirley Fulton, who was Mecklenburg County’s first female prosecutor and the first Black woman on North Carolina’s Superior Court bench. 

Under Fulton’s ownership, the home became a community gathering space. In 2018, the estate was bought by Mark and Alyson Miller, who have remained committed to the restoration of the home. Along with repairing damages, the Millers have added a back patio to use as an event space.

Preservation Award (Residential): 
Cohen-Fumero House, 1154 Cedarwood Lane

The Cohen-Fumero House in Coventry Woods will be given the Residential Preservation Award. The home was built in 1961 by artistic architect Murray Whisnat. Always intended for entertaining, the house became the center of Charlotte’s artistic social life.

historic preservation
The interior of the Cohen-Fumero House. (Photo courtesy of CMoH)

After sitting vacant for years and falling into disrepair, the house was purchased by realtor Charlie Miller in 2019. He began restoration efforts and removed all of the previous changes that weren’t true to the original design.

Preservation Award (Commercial):
First Presbyterian Church, 200 W. Trade St. 

The Presbyterian Church in Fourth Ward is one of two honorees being recognized with the Commercial Preservation Award this year. The church was built in 1857 and is one of the oldest structures in the city. The Gothic Revival-style building still stands tall thanks to a recent foundational renovation.

historic preservation
First Presbyterian Church in Fourth Ward. (Photo courtesy of CMoH)

More than 4,000 square feet of hardwood flooring was dismantled, restored, and reinstalled. All of the original light fixtures were preserved and restored along with the 20-foot-tall stained glass windows commissioned by Tiffany and Lamb in 1895.

Preservation Award (Commercial):
Supperland, 1212 The Plaza

This award-winning restaurant was opened in March 2021 inside two historic buildings built in 1948 and 1956. Owners Jeff Tonidendel and Jaime Brown preserved the original red brick exteriors and designed the interior to tell the story of the church’s pasts.

Supperland Plaza Midwood Restaurant, historic preservation
The dining room at Supperland restaurant in Plaza Midwood (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

They stained the floors to highlight the center aisle and built a show kitchen where the church choir would have been. The original walls were kept and the owners built a speakeasy in one of the church’s unfinished basements.

Neighborhood Infill (Residential):
Latta Park Lantern House, 719 Romany Road

Awarded to a new residential building that integrates sensitively with its historic environment, the Latta Park Lantern House will be recognized with the Neighborhood Infill Award. This newly built home has a natural stone foundation, balanced asymmetry and a trellised front patio so that it can blend in seamlessly with the surrounding cottages that were built in the 1940s.

Latta Park Lantern House. Photo courtesy of CMoH)

Preservation Award (Residential) – Honorable Mention:
William Peeps House, 831 E. Worthington Ave.  

The William Peeps House, also in Dilworth, is receiving an honorable mention for its historic preservation. The home was built in 1919 by renowned architect William Peeps. He built the house for himself and his wife. Over the years, home owners have made changes that didn’t align with the original design.

The William Peeps House in Dilworth. (Photo courtesy of CMoH)

The current owners have unearthed Peeps’ architectural plans for the home and are working with an architect to restore it to its intended state, including by restoring the formal entry door and portico on the side street and removing a modern master bathroom to restore the architect’s upper studio space for use as an open den.

Preservation Award (Residential) – Honorable Mention:
1508 Dilworth Road

The home at 1508 Dilworth Road is also being recognized as an honorable mention in residential preservation. The home was built in 1921, and while the interior of the home has been renovated, the exterior was deteriorating. The current owners have restored its historic charm by repairing the brick, slate roof and windows.

The Charlotte Gem Preservation Awards are open to the public. Tickets are $75 for the event, which will be held at the Charlotte Museum of History on May 11 at 6 p.m. Cocktail attire is required.

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