North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Norton, Charles H. (1857-1901)

Birthplace: Virginia, USA
Residences:
  • Durham, North Carolina
Trades:
  • Builder
NC Work Locations:
  • Durham, Durham County
  • Durham
Building Types:
  • Educational;
  • Public;
  • Religious;
  • Residential
Styles & Forms:
  • Queen Anne;
  • Romanesque Revival

First National Bank [Durham]

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First National Bank [Durham]

Biography

Charles H. Norton (1857-1901), a builder in Durham in the 1880s and 1890s, came from his native Virginia in 1888 to help rebuild Durham after a major downtown fire. Among his first projects was construction of a Romanesque Revival style commercial building, the E. J. Parrish Building, for pioneer tobacco merchant Parrish. Like other builders who arrived in Durham as the ashes were cooling, Norton found opportunities among leaders eager to rebuild the whistle-stop town of frame structures into a city of substantial and eclectic brick buildings.

Norton served as contractor for leading industrialists such as the Duke and Watts families. Within a short span he built a large annex to the Dukes' tobacco factory plus two cotton mills in industrial Italianate styles: the Chateauesque-Queen Anne style First National Bank Building; and the Gothic Revival style First Presbyterian Church. For the newly formed county, he built the Durham County Courthouse (1887-1889) in brick with a central, mansard-roofed tower from designs by architect Byron A. Pugin. He also undertook construction of the towered, Romanesque Revival style Trinity College Main Building (1890-1891) at Trinity College, designed by architect Samuel Linton Leary for the college that, with Duke family support, had just established a campus in Durham. Trouble ensued when the tower collapsed, causing a bitter debate and delaying the opening of the college.

In 1896 Norton was injured when his buggy was hit by a train as he and his co-passenger, architect A. G. Bauer, were traveling to a building site (Durham's First Baptist Church). Bauer suffered lasting injuries, but Norton recovered and resumed his practice in 1897 with a towered, brownstone mansion, the George W. Watts House. The Durham Record reported on February 11, 1896, that Norton, the "well-known contractor" was to build the $75,000-$100,000 residence and that "architects"—unnamed and as yet unidentified—had been "working on the plans since the first part of January." A notice in the Durham Record on April 16, 1900, stated that "Architect, Builder and Contractor" Norton "draws his own designs" and listed his works. In 1900 the census showed Norton as "architect-builder" in Durham with wife, Nannie, and three young children. He continued to build factories and had a contract for a cotton mill in Charleston before his unexpected death in 1901. In Durham, nearly all of the buildings of the 1890s boom years have fallen to fires and extensive rebuilding that began in the early 20th century and essentially erased the 19th century downtown. Briefly the pride of Durham, Norton's diverse and imposing works survive only in photographs.

Author: William B. Bushong. Update: Catherine W. Bishir.

Published 2009

Building List

First Baptist Church (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1877

Contributors:
Dates: 1877; ca. 1895-1896 [remodeled]
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: N. Mangum St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • William B. Bushong, "A. G. Bauer, North Carolina's New South Architect," North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 60, No. 3 (July, 1983).
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).

First Baptist Church

Durham County Courthouse (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1887

Contributors:
Dates: 1887-1889
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).
Note:

The Manufacturers' Record (July 16, 1887) reported that Ellington, Royster, and Company of Raleigh had received the contract to build the courthouse in Durham for $12,000. Their role was confirmed in the Durham Tobacco Plant's account (November 23, 1887) of the cornerstone laying. The courthouse, designed by architect Byron A. Pugin, was a large brick structure with a tower.

Durham County Courthouse

Trinity College Main Building (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1890

Variant Name(s):
  • Washington Duke Building
Contributors:
Dates: 1890-1892
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Trinity College Campus (now East Campus, Duke University), Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).
  • opendurham.org.
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).

Trinity College Main Building

E. J. Parrish Building (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1888

Contributors:
Dates: 1888
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Main St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).

First Presbyterian Church (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1890

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1890
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: E. Main St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).

Watts Hospital I (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1894

Contributors:
Dates: 1894-1895
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Main St. at Buchanan Blvd., Durham, NC
Status: Moved
Type:
  • Health Care
Images Published In:
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).
Note:

The original Watts Hospital, dedicated in 1895, was a two-story structure with flanking wings. The central portion was moved to 302 Watts St. and converted to a private residence.

Watts Hospital I

W. Duke and Sons Factory Annex (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1888

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1888
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: 600 W. Peabody St., Durham, NC
Status: Altered
Type:
  • Industrial
Images Published In:
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).
Note:

The Manufacturers' Record of March 31, 1888 reported that W. Duke and Sons was building a 4-story addition 1600 feet long, with "C. A. Norton" as contractor. This is likely the addition to the 1884 factory designed by William H. Linthicum. The lower stories of part of the factory still stand near the railroad track.

Pearl Cotton Mill (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1890

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1890-1895
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Trinity Ave. at Duke St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Industrial
Images Published In:
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).
Note:

Only the tower is still standing.

Fuller School (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1897

Contributors:
Dates: 1897
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: E. Chapel Hill St. and Cleveland St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Durham Recorder, Apr. 16, 1900.

Harwood Hall (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1897

Variant Name(s):
  • George W. Watts House
Contributors:
Dates: 1897
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: 806 S. Duke St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).
  • opendurham.org.
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).
Note:

The stone and shingled mansion in towered Chateauesque style was one of several grand residences built for Durham's industrial elite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the second house built in Durham for George Watts, who came to Durham from Baltimore in 1878. With aid from his tobacconist father of Baltimore, he soon became a partner in W. Duke and Sons. (Watts's first house in Durham was a Queen Anne style residence, completed in 1880 for him and his wife, Laura Valinda BealE Watts, and their daughter Annie, who later married financier and philanthropist John Sprunt Hill). The plans for the 1897 mansion are imprinted with "Rand and Taylor Kendall and Stevens, architects" of Boston. See opendurham.org for the plans and photographs. It was razed in 1961.

Edgemont Cotton Mill (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1899

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1899
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Edgemont Village, Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Industrial
Images Published In:
  • Durham Recorder, Apr. 16, 1900.

First National Bank Building (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1892

Contributors:
Dates: 1892
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: SE corner Main St. and Corcoran St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).

First National Bank Building

Charles H. Norton's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • Charlotte Vestal Brown Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Durham Recorder, May 18, 1896; Feb. 11, 1897; Apr.16, 1900; Mar. 5, 1901.
  • Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).
  • Manufacturers' Record, July 29, 1892; Sept. 8, 1893; May 18, 1894; Aug. 9, 1895; Feb. 26, 1897.
  • Raleigh News and Observer, July 31, 1895; Apr. 14, 1898; Mar. 5, 1901.
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).
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