North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Sayre, Christopher Gadsden (1876-1933)

Variant Name(s):
  • C. Gadsden Sayre
Birthplace: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, USA
Residences:
  • Anderson, South Carolina
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
Trades:
  • Architect
NC Work Locations:
  • Concord, Cabarrus County
  • Cabarrus
  • Hickory, Catawba County
  • Catawba
  • Edenton, Chowan County
  • Chowan
  • Lexington, Davidson County
  • Davidson
  • Gastonia, Gaston County
  • Gaston
  • Greensboro, Guilford County
  • Guilford
  • Scotland Neck, Halifax County
  • Halifax
  • Hendersonville, Henderson County
  • Henderson
  • Sanford, Lee County
  • Lee
  • Carthage, Moore County
  • Moore
  • Farmville, Pitt County
  • Pitt
  • Greenville, Pitt County
  • Pitt
  • Lumberton, Robeson County
  • Robeson
  • Salisbury, Rowan County
  • Rowan
  • Spencer, Rowan County
  • Rowan
  • Raleigh, Wake County
  • Wake
  • Norlina, Warren County
  • Warren
  • Warrenton, Warren County
  • Warren
Building Types:
  • Commercial;
  • Educational;
  • Public;
  • Religious
Styles & Forms:
  • Collegiate Gothic;
  • Colonial Revival;
  • Tudor Revival

Hugh Morson High School [Raleigh]

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Hugh Morson High School [Raleigh]

Biography

Christopher Gadsden Sayre (November 21, 1876-October 12, 1933) was a South Carolina architect who had extensive work across North Carolina for many years, in partnership with James J. Baldwin and on his own. Although his practice encompassed many types of buildings, he was best known for his public school designs, which included some of the state's finest public school edifices of the 1910s and, especially, the 1920s.

Sayre was born in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, the son of William and Jane Dewers Gadsden Sayre. He was educated at the Porter Military Academy in Charleston and entered South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina) in 1894, and received his BS degree from that institution in 1897. After graduating, he went to work in South Carolina in surveying and civil and mechanical engineering, from 1897 to 1906, working under the supervision of Gadsden E. Shand, an architect and engineer with W. B. Smith Whaley and Company, as the firm's resident engineer at the Ware's Shoals Manufacturing Company development in South Carolina. The complex, including a cotton mill, canal, dam, and power plant, was completed in 1904.

Sayre began an independent practice as architect and engineer about 1905, with offices in Anderson, South Carolina. City directories show him listed there in 1905-1906 as a Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineer, and in 1907-1908 as an engineer and architect, and in later years he typically listed himself as an architect. In 1909, architect James J. Baldwin joined Sayre as an associate, and the firm of Sayre and Baldwin operated for several years in the Bleckley Building in Anderson. The firm expanded its practice into North Carolina by 1909, designing numerous buildings, especially schools, across the state. They opened a branch office in Raleigh in 1914 but dissolved the partnership by 1915.

After parting ways with Baldwin, Sayre maintained an office in Anderson through 1931, but he also had offices in North Carolina cities: Raleigh, 1914-1925; Winston-Salem, 1925; Greensboro, 1924-1927; and Asheville, 1926. He resided in Greensboro briefly in 1925-1927, and had his office in the prestigious Jefferson Standard Building, designed by Charles C. Hartmann. Sayre's architectural practice extended through much of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia through at least 1927, but the preponderance of his work after 1918 was in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, Sayre's practice alone and with Baldwin included projects in 28 counties from west to east. His work included many types and styles of buildings, such as the multi-storied Wilrik Hotel in Sanford, the Moore County Courthouse in Carthage, and the imposing Colonial Revival A. M. Scales House II, with towering Mount Vernon porch, in Greensboro. Notably, Sayre also submitted sketches for the Buncombe County Courthouse, a major commission, but the commissioners selected Milburn, Heister, and Company as their architects. Sayre's specialty, however, and doubtless his principal source of work, was in designing public schools.

Sayre became the leading public school architect of his day in North Carolina during a period of unprecedented state and local investment in education. Although other architects designed equally excellent school buildings in the state, such as Hugh White for the Gastonia High School; Hobart Upjohn for the Roanoke Rapids High School; and Douglas D. Ellington for the Asheville High School, and some architects planned a greater number of schools, none equaled Sayre for quality along with quantity. (Sayre had applied for the Asheville project, but Ellington, the local favorite, got the job.) Most of Sayre's public schools were of brick with terra cotta or stone trim, two or three stories tall, and usually with double-loaded corridors flanked by classrooms typical of the era. The largest ones had gymnasiums, cafeterias, auditoriums, and other facilities. Most of them featured the popular Collegiate Gothic, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival and classical styles in more or less elaborate fashion and in various combinations.

More than 35 school projects by Sayre were mentioned in notices in the Manufacturers' Record. These ranged from modest buildings to some of the largest and most elaborate public schools in the state. In Raleigh, for example, where he was employed for the city's full set of public schools, he planned small schools for Pilot Mills and Caraleigh mill villages and also designed the large and handsome Wiley Elementary School and Thompson Elementary School (both for white students); Washington Grade and High School (for black students), and the magnificent and much mourned Hugh Morson High School (for white students), which was among the finest high schools in North Carolina. Known by reputation far and wide, he gained commissions for top-notch public schools in smaller towns as well, such as Claremont High School in Hickory, Boyden High School in Salisbury, Lumberton High School in Lumberton, Warrenton High School in Warrenton, and others. In some cases, Sayre's drawings served to encourage local support for funding the projects, as was the case for the Lumberton High School. The local Robesonian of February 22 and February 26, 1923, expressed support for the much needed high school, for which a special election was to be held authorizing issuance of bonds of up to $250,000 for the project. The article identified Sayre (of Anderson and Raleigh) as the architect and announced, "Plans and a water-color perspective of the proposed new building will be placed on exhibition so that the people may see just what the school board has in mind." Water color perspective drawings, a medium mastered by most successful architects, were frequently used to convey to clients what their proposed building might be, and often to persuade them to employ the architect or pay for the building.

Sayre was among the first architects licensed to practice in North Carolina. His license certificate, issued in 1915, was #40 in the official registration book of the North Carolina Board of Architecture.

Sayre was also involved in the burgeoning textile industry and was president-secretary of the Anderson Hosiery Mills in Anderson, South Carolina in 1925-1931. He died in Anderson on October 12, 1933. His son, Christopher Gadsden Sayre, Jr., moved to Texas, and had a son by the same name; family members still live in Texas.

Because of their extensive usage of the Manufacturers' Record, Sayre and Baldwin and Sayre alone have an unusually large number of unconfirmed buildings. Only those that have been confirmed as built are included in the building lists. During Sayre's association with Baldwin, the firm reported many building designs to the Manufacturers' Record, chiefly when the firm had proposed or completed plans. Some were identified by name and location, but whether they were built or whether they still stand has not been determined. Anson County, Wadesboro, Anderson Sanitarium Building (MR 6/19/1913); Cabarrus County, Mount Pleasant, Mont Amoena Seminary Building (MR 7/18/1912); Gaston County, Gastonia, Mrs. E. C. Wilson House, "colonial style dwelling" (MR 12/30/09); Johnston County, Smithfield, Bank of Smithfield (MR 5/22/1913, 6/19/1913); Johnston County, Smithfield, Cotter-Underwood Store Building (MR 5/22/1913 and 6/19/1913); Lee County, Sanford, First Methodist Church (MR 6/6/1914); Randolph County, Asheboro, Randolph County Jail (MR 8/13/1914); Rutherford County, Rutherfordton, Dr. Henry Morris Hospital (MR 9/15/1910); Transylvania County, Brevard, Brevard Institute Girls' Dormitory Remodeling (MR 12/4/1913). Others were noted only by type and location: School, Concord, Cabarrus County (MR 7/9/1914); School, Bessemer City, Gaston County (MR 7/24/1913); School, Canton, Haywood County (MR 4/15/1909); Graded School, Kenly, Johnston County (MR 6/19/1913); School, Franklin, Macon County (MR 6/24/1909); School, Rutherfordton, Rutherford County (MR 6/30/1910); School, Marshville, Union County (MR 9/9/1909, 12/2/1909).

After Sayre went out on his own, he continued to send notices of his work to the Manufacturers' Record on a regular basis. Bladen County, Bladenboro, School, 1917 (MR 2/22/1917); Buncombe County, Asheville: First Christian Church, 1925, Oak St. (MR 1/1/1925), Mountain Street School, 1925, Mountain St. (MR 7/23/1925), Chateau LaFayette Hotel, 1926, Stradley Mountain Park (MR 4/15/1926), West Asheville Presbyterian Church (MR 11/17/1921, and 5/25/1922), West Asheville High School (MR 7/23/1925), Eugene Rankin School (MR 11/26/1925); Catawba County, Hickory, Teacherage (MR 7/19/1923); Hoke County, Raeford, Presbyterian Church, 1921 (MR 9/8/1921); Johnston County, Clayton, Baptist Church, 1919 (MR 6/12/1919); Polk County, Columbus, School, 1916 (MR 7/20/1916); Randolph County, Ramseur, School, 1921 (MR 7/7/1921); Robeson County, Fairmont, School, 1921 (MR 3/10/1921, 3/7/1921); Robeson County, Maxton, School, 1916 (MR 1/27/1916, 2/24/1916, 3/9/1916); Swain County, Bryson City, School, 1922 (MR 8/24/1922); Wake County, Raleigh, Caraleigh School, 1924 (MR 7/31/1924), and Pilot Mills School, 1924 (MR 7/31/1924).

Further information is sought on these and other Sayre works. Not all projects cited in the Manufacturers' Record as planned by a firm were actually built, or built from that firm's designs. Only those whose status has been confirmed are included in the building list.

Author: John E. Wells. Update: Catherine W. Bishir.

Published 2009

Building List

Patton Memorial Hospital (Hendersonville, Henderson County)

Henderson Hendersonville

1912

Contributors:
Dates: 1912-1913
Location: Hendersonville, Henderson County
Street Address: 1225 Highland St., Hendersonville, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Health Care
Note:

The Patton Hospital was cited as Sayre and Baldwin's in the Manufacturer's Record (10/24/1912, 3/27/1913, and 4/3/1913). The 2-story brick building with Craftsman detailing was the mountain resort's first hospital and encouraged the development of the suburb known as Hyman Heights.

Concord National Bank and Hotel (Concord, Cabarrus County)

Cabarrus Concord

1925

Contributors:
Dates: 1925
Location: Concord, Cabarrus County
Street Address: 2-14 Union St. North, Concord, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).
Note:

Construction of the dual purpose building, which cost more than $400,000 to erect, was covered in the local Concord Times of May 7, 1925 and February 8, May 31, June 10, June 14, and June 17, 1926. A design for the Concord National Bank and Hotel was also prepared by architect Christopher Gadsden Sayre, as noted in the American Art Annual, Vol. 21.

Concord High School (Concord, Cabarrus County)

Cabarrus Concord

1922

Contributors:
Dates: 1922-1924
Location: Concord, Cabarrus County
Street Address: 120 Marsh Ave., N. W., Concord, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record (Dec. 14, 1922) and the present building was probably his design.

Claremont High School (Hickory, Catawba County)

Catawba Hickory

1924

Contributors:
Dates: 1924-1925
Location: Hickory, Catawba County
Street Address: 231 3rd Ave. NE, Hickory, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Kirk Franklin Mohney and Laura A. W. Phillips, From Tavern to Town: The Architectural History of Hickory, North Carolina (1988).
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record of (Feb. 7, 1924; Feb. 14, 1924; May 22, 1924); it is one of his best known school designs.

Claremont High School

Edenton High School (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1916

Contributors:
Dates: 1916; 1922 [additions]
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: 100 block Court St., Edenton, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Thomas R. Butchko, Edenton, an Architectural Portrait: The Historic Architecture of Edenton, North Carolina (1992).
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record (Mar. 23, 1916) and it was illustrated therein. He also designed the additions (Manufacturers' Record, June 29, 1922).

Edenton High School

Cecil Elementary School (Lexington, Davidson County)

Davidson Lexington

1925

Contributors:
Dates: 1925
Location: Lexington, Davidson County
Street Address: 301 E. Center St., Lexington, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Paul Baker Touart, Building the Backcountry: An Architectural History of Davidson County, North Carolina (1987).
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record (Apr. 9, 1925; Apr. 16, 1925) and the present building was probably his design.

Cecil Elementary School

A. M. Scales House II (Greensboro, Guilford County)

Guilford Greensboro

1926

Contributors:
Dates: 1926
Location: Greensboro, Guilford County
Street Address: 1207 Lakewood Dr., Greensboro, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record (Mar. 18, 1926) and it is well known as his design.

First Baptist Church (Scotland Neck, Halifax County)

Halifax Scotland Neck

1916

Contributors:
Dates: 1916-1917
Location: Scotland Neck, Halifax County
Street Address: SE corner of Church St. and W. 11th St., Scotland Neck, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record (June 22, 1916) and the present building was probably his design.

First Baptist Church

McIver School (Sanford, Lee County)

Lee Sanford

1916

Variant Name(s):
  • East Sanford Graded School
Contributors:
Dates: 1916
Location: Sanford, Lee County
Street Address: 219 Maple Ave., Sanford, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • J. Daniel Pezzoni, The History & Architecture of Lee County, North Carolina (1995).
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record (Apr. 13, 1916; May 25, 1916) and it is well known as his design.

Wilrik Hotel (Sanford, Lee County)

Lee Sanford

1924

Variant Name(s):
  • Wilkins-Ricks Hotel
Contributors:
Dates: 1924
Location: Sanford, Lee County
Street Address: 200 Wicker St., Sanford, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
Note:

The project was cited as Sayre's in the the Manufacturers' Record (June 5, 1924) and is well known as his design.

Wilrik Hotel

Moore County Courthouse (Carthage, Moore County)

Moore Carthage

1922

Contributors:
Dates: 1922
Location: Carthage, Moore County
Street Address: Courthouse Square, Carthage, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Public
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record of (Apr. 20, 1922) and it is well known as his design.

Moore County Courthouse

Farmville High School (Farmville, Pitt County)

Pitt Farmville

1919

Contributors:
Dates: 1919-1920
Location: Farmville, Pitt County
Street Address: Main St., Farmville, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Scott Power, The Historical Architecture of Pitt County, North Carolina (1991).
Note:

Sayre cited this project in the Manufacturers' Record (Dec. 25, 1919; Jan. 1, 1920; Jan. 12, 1920) and the building was probably his design. It stood until the 1980s.

Immanuel Baptist Church (Greenville, Pitt County)

Pitt Greenville

1916

Contributors:
Dates: 1916
Location: Greenville, Pitt County
Street Address: 200 block W. 8th St., Greenville, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Michael Cotter, ed., The Architectural Heritage of Greenville, North Carolina (1988).
Note:

Sayre cited this project ("Emanuel" Baptist Church in Greenville) in the Manufacturers' Record (Nov. 23, 1916). The church, which was probably his design, stood until the 1990s, an edifice of buff colored brick with abundant classical detailing, including pediments and a large portico.

Lumberton High School (Lumberton, Robeson County)

Robeson Lumberton

1923

Contributors:
Dates: 1923
Location: Lumberton, Robeson County
Street Address: Walnut St., Lumberton, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

Sayre cited his design for the high school in Lumberton in the Manufacturers' Record (July 26, 1923). Meanwhile, the Lumberton Robesonian of February 22 and 26, 1923, encouraging local support for building the high school, announced that Sayre's plans and a water-color perspective drawing would be on display so that citizens could see what the school board had in mind. When completed, the large, well-equipped school became a landmark in the community. It was razed in 1970.

Boyden High School (Salisbury, Rowan County)

Rowan Salisbury

1924

Variant Name(s):
  • Salisbury High School
Contributors:
Dates: 1924-1926
Location: Salisbury, Rowan County
Street Address: 500 Lincolnton Rd., Salisbury, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Davyd Foard Hood, The Architecture of Rowan County North Carolina: A Catalogue and History of Surviving 18th, 19th, and Early 20th Century Structures (1983).
Note:

To plan their high school, Salisbury leaders consulted Columbia University education experts George D. Strayer and Nickolaus Engelhardt on current ideals of design and employed Sayre to design it (Manufacturers' Record, Dec. 25, 1924); it is well known as his design. They employed another outstanding practitioner, Earle S. Draper, to plan the landscape.

Boyden High School

Central Methodist Church (Spencer, Rowan County)

Rowan Spencer

1917

Contributors:
Dates: 1917-1921
Location: Spencer, Rowan County
Street Address: Spencer, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Davyd Foard Hood, The Architecture of Rowan County North Carolina: A Catalogue and History of Surviving 18th, 19th, and Early 20th Century Structures (1983).

Thompson Elementary School (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1922

Contributors:
Dates: 1922-1923
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: 307 E. Hargett St., Raleigh, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Linda L. Harris and Mary Ann Lee, An Architectural and Historical Inventory of Raleigh, North Carolina (1978).
Note:

The project was cited as Sayre's in the Manufacturers' Record (June 29, 1922; Sept. 21, 1922) and is well known as his design.

Wiley Elementary School (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1922

Contributors:
Dates: 1922-1923
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: 301 St. Mary's St., Raleigh, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Linda L. Harris and Mary Ann Lee, An Architectural and Historical Inventory of Raleigh, North Carolina (1978).
Note:

The project was cited as Sayre's in the Manufacturers' Record (June 9, 1922; Jan. 11, 1923) and is well known as his design.

Wiley Elementary School

Washington Grade and High School (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1922

Contributors:
Dates: 1922-1923
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: 1000 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Linda L. Harris and Mary Ann Lee, An Architectural and Historical Inventory of Raleigh, North Carolina (1978).
Note:

The project was cited as Sayre's in the Manufacturers' Record (June 19, 1922; July 5, 1923) and is well known as his design. Washington School was Raleigh's first public high school for African Americans and remained the only such school until 1953. The building has been used continuously as a school since its opening and is remarkably intact.

Washington Grade and High School

Hugh Morson High School (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1924

Contributors:
Dates: 1924
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: New Bern Ave., Raleigh, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The project was cited as Sayre's in the Manufacturers' Record (June 19, 1924; June 26, 1924) and was among his best known works. It was the flagship high school for Raleigh for many years, along with the slightly later Broughton High School designed by William H. Deitrick.

Hugh Morson High School

Norlina School (Norlina, Warren County)

Warren Norlina

1915

Variant Name(s):
  • Norlina Christian School
Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1915
Location: Norlina, Warren County
Street Address: Heaven St., Norlina, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The Norlina School project was cited to Sayre in the the Manufacturers' Record (Aug. 12, 1915) and the present building is probably his design.

Warrenton High School (Warrenton, Warren County)

Warren Warrenton

1921

Variant Name(s):
  • John Graham High School
Contributors:
Dates: 1921-1922
Location: Warrenton, Warren County
Street Address: N. Main St. at Ridgeway St., Warrenton, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational

Warrenton High School

Mrs. E. C. Wilson House (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1909

Contributors:
Dates: 1909-1910
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: Gastonia, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Residential
Note:

The Mrs. E. C. Wilson House, a "colonial style dwelling," was cited as Sayre's and Baldwin's in the Manufacturers' Record (Dec. 30, 1909).

Christopher Gadsden Sayre's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • American Art Annual, Vol. 21 (1924).
  • Anderson, South Carolina City Directory, various issues.
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southern, and Jennifer F. Martin, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (1999).
  • Charlotte Vestal Brown Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Edgar M. Lyda Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville, Asheville, North Carolina.
  • Manufacturers' Record, various issues.
  • North Carolina Board of Architecture, Record Book 1915-1992. Microfilmed by North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • John E. Wells and Robert E. Dalton, The South Carolina Architects, 1885-1935: A Biographical Dictionary (1992).
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