North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Sawyer, Frank M. (ca. 1872-after 1940)

Variant Name(s):
  • Frank McMurray Sawyer
Birthplace: North Carolina, USA
Residences:
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Wilmington, North Carolina
Trades:
  • Architect
NC Work Locations:
  • Concord, Cabarrus County
  • Cabarrus
  • Fayetteville, Cumberland County
  • Cumberland
  • Lexington, Davidson County
  • Davidson
  • Mocksville, Davie County
  • Davie
  • Durham, Durham County
  • Durham
  • Gastonia, Gaston County
  • Gaston
  • Greensboro, Guilford County
  • Guilford
  • Charlotte, Mecklenburg County
  • Mecklenburg
  • Davidson, Mecklenburg County
  • Mecklenburg
  • Wilmington, New Hanover County
  • New Hanover
  • Red Springs, Robeson County
  • Robeson
  • Eden, Rockingham County
  • Rockingham
  • Salisbury, Rowan County
  • Rowan
  • Monroe, Union County
  • Union
Building Types:
  • Commercial;
  • Educational;
  • Fraternal;
  • Public;
  • Religious;
  • Residential
Styles & Forms:
  • Chateau Style;
  • Colonial Revival;
  • Mission;
  • Neoclassical Revival;
  • Romanesque Revival;
  • Spanish Colonial Revival

Pythian Building [Concord]

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Pythian Building [Concord]

Biography

Frank M. (McMurray) Sawyer (ca. 1872-after 1940?) was an architect born in Magnolia, N. C. (some accounts said Wilmington) who worked in Wilmington, Charlotte, and elsewhere in North Carolina from the 1890s until he moved to California in 1910. He worked both on his own and with severalassociates, most notably with Charlotte architect Charles Christian Hook as Hook and Sawyer.

According to a report in the Wilmington Dispatch of February 5, 1898, Sawyer studied at the "A&M College" (present North Carolina State University), where he learned his profession as an architect. For a time he worked with New York architects Gooch and Harding (Wilmington Dispatch, January 1, 1898). He also reportedly worked with architects John C. Stout and Frank P. Milburn (Wilmington Dispatch, August 23, 1899). In February 1898 he married Carrie Poor of Anderson, S. C., whom he had met while working on a project for Milburn in that community.

Several months later, the Wilmington Dispatch of October 13, 1898 noted that Sawyer, "formerly of this city," had recently formed a co-partnership with architect Charles C. Hook of Charlotte and would "pursue his profession as an architect in that city." This was the first of three architectural partnerships Hook established, which enabled him to expand his firm's field of operation. Hook reported to one of his clients, President Charles McIver of the present University of North Carolina at Greensboro, on November 11, 1898, "I now have Mr. F. M. Sawyer of New York associated with me, and [we] are doing a great deal of work throughout the state" (Michael, 76); Hook surely knew that Sawyer was not a New Yorker, but may have wanted to capitalize on Sawyer's experience there. All of Sawyer's known architectural projects in North Carolina date from his period with Hook.

It appears that Sawyer was often sent to supervise projects at a distance from Charlotte, though Hook likewise traveled frequently to meet with clients and contractors across much of the state. Thus in 1899 the Wilmington Messenger of August 24 reported on "the success of our former young townsman, Mr. F. M. Sawyer, now active in Charlotte, who had been appointed recently as "supervising architect of the Southern Conservatory of Music, which the Dukes are building at Durham" with Hook and Sawyer as the architects. In 1900, Sawyer and W. E. Glenn, contractor, arrived in Wilmington from Charlotte to begin work on the Elks Building in Wilmington (Wilmington Star, June 6, 1900). Between 1898 and mid-1905, the firm reported 78 projects to the Manufacturers' Record. In 1902 the pair published Some Designs of Hook & Sawyer, 1892-1902 (which included some projects predating their partnership). The Charlotte Observer of July 4, 1903, carried a report from the Durham Herald that Hook and Sawyer were about to open a branch office in Durham, and that Sawyer would move to Durham, while Hook would remain in Charlotte.

Hook and Sawyer's works included prominent churches, educational buildings, residences, and civic buildings. Among the most notable of those that still stand are the chateauesque Hambley-Wallace House in Salisbury, the Pythian Building in Concord, and Spencer Hall at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

During their partnership, occasional accounts specifically noted Sawyer's activities. In 1904, Sawyer went to Salisbury, N. C., to "look after" the new opera house and Masonic building and other work in that town (Charlotte News, June 23, 1904). In 1905, Sawyer "of the firm of Hook & Sawyer" was in Wilmington "looking after plans" for the Princess Theatre to be erected there. Sawyer said he had "already built five theatres and it is his intention to make the new play house in Wilmington their masterpiece" (Wilmington Dispatch, January 1, 1905). On another occasion, President McIver wanted Hook to be on site for opening of bids for a building at the college in Greensboro, but Hook said that Sawyer would be in the area and would be better to supervise the project because he had designed it (Michael, 83).

The partnership between Hook and Sawyer was dissolved in mid-1905. Hook then formed the partnership of Hook and Rogers with Willard G. Rogers, who had moved to Charlotte to associate with the engineering firm of Stuart W. Cramer.

After his partnership with Hook was dissolved, Sawyer led a varied and mobile life. Later in 1905 he formed a business arrangement with William P. Rose of Raleigh to manufacture in Charlotte a composite roofing tile reportedly invented by Sawyer; several branches of the Composite Tile Company were planned (Wilmington Star, October 27, 1905). He received a patent for a "tile mold" in 1906 and continued to patent various construction inventions for many years.

In 1907, the Charlotte News of April 4 noted that Sawyer had returned to the city after "an extended trip" through Louisiana, Texas, and other Southern States." In 1908, he was planning to manufacture brick at Atherton in Charlotte (Charlotte Observer, August 22, 1908). He also continued his architectural practice, and the Charlotte News of October 13, 1910 noted that Mr. F. M. Sawyer, "the architect," had completed plans for a residence for Mrs. J. E. Kavanaugh, a large, stuccoed house with a slate roof. The census of 1910 recorded Sawyer as a brick manufacturer aged 38, heading a Charlotte household that included his wife Corrie (Carrie), 33, and their children Frank H., 11, Kenneth, 7, Elizabeth, 4, and John, 2.

Before long, the Charlotte News reported on September 29, 1910 that Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Sawyer and their family were planning to leave for Los Angeles, following a physician's recommendation that the California climate might improve Mrs. Sawyer's health. On October 21, the newspaper reported that Mrs. Sawyer and her children "stood the trip well." In 1913 the Charlotte Observer of April 18, reported that Sawyer, "formerly of this city," was visiting from Los Angeles: he had "met with success in the West," and was planning to go to Detroit and then to" embark on a trip around the world." In 1920 Frank and Carrie and their children were in Los Angeles, where he was an inventor, and in 1930 he and Carrie were in Richmond, Virginia, where he was a manager in construction. Often cited as F. McM. Sawyer, he continued to produce inventions and appeared in various journals as an inventor of block and tile. References to him include an elaborate "Old Spanish Villa" in Coral Gables, Florida (1920), a Spanish Revival style house of reinforced concrete in Houston, Texas (1933), and a patented shutter operator (1946).

Evidently Mrs. Sawyer benefited from the stay in California, for the United States Census of 1940 listed her and Frank, both in their 60s, in Coral Gables, Florida. She is said to have died in Florida on June 25, 1944, and her gravestone is in Belton Cemetery in her native Anderson County, S. C. Frank M. Sawyer's death date remains a question.

Author: Catherine W. Bishir.

Published 2017

Building List

First Presbyterian Church Sunday School and Auditorium (Greensboro, Guilford County)

Guilford Greensboro

1903

Variant Name(s):
  • Greensboro Historical Museum
Contributors:
Dates: 1903
Location: Greensboro, Guilford County
Street Address: 220 Church St., Greensboro, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).
  • Hook and Sawyer, Some Designs by Hook & Sawyer, Architects, Charlotte, N.C. (1902).
Note:

The large, Romanesque Revival building was erected as an addition to First Presbyterian Church built in 1892 and designed by L. B. Volk and Son. The pair of brick edifices now houses the local history museum. The congregation subsequently built and moved to First Presbyterian Church (1928-1929), designed by Hobart Upjohn and Harry Barton and located in the Fisher Park suburb (see entries for Hobart Upjohn and Harry Barton).

First Presbyterian Church Sunday School and Auditorium

Spencer Hall (Greensboro, Guilford County)

Guilford Greensboro

1904

Variant Name(s):
  • New Dormitory
Contributors:
Dates: 1904;1907
Location: Greensboro, Guilford County
Street Address: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).
Note:

Spencer Hall is the principal surviving building by Hook and Sawyer at present University of North Carolina Greensboro (the State Normal and Industrial College), where Hook also planned other buildings including an auditorium, a library, and other dormitories. When completed it was described as largest women's dormitory in the country under one roof. The Julius Isaac Foust Papers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro University Archives and Manuscripts includes correspondence with the firm of Hook and Rogers (1910s) and Thomas Sears (1920s) about campus buildings and landscaping.

Spencer Hall

Pythian Building (Concord, Cabarrus County)

Cabarrus Concord

1902

Contributors:
Dates: 1902
Location: Concord, Cabarrus County
Street Address: 36-40 S. Union St., Concord, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Fraternal
Images Published In:
  • Hook and Sawyer, Some Designs by Hook & Sawyer, Architects, Charlotte, N.C. (1902).
  • Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).
Note:

Hook and Sawyer's drawing for the boldly composed 3-story building of rusticated stone is featured in Some Designs of Hook and Sawyer (1902). It is one of the landmarks of downtown Concord.

Pythian Building

Concord City Hall (Concord, Cabarrus County)

Cabarrus Concord

1903

Contributors:
Dates: 1903
Location: Concord, Cabarrus County
Street Address: S. Union St., Concord, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Hook and Sawyer, Some Designs by Hook & Sawyer, Architects, Charlotte, N.C. (1902).
  • Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).
Note:

The drawing for the Concord City Hall featured in Hook and Sawyer (1902) showed an eclectic blend of Renaissance and Italianate motifs, including a campanile-like fire tower on the right. As shown in a photograph (Kaplan, Cabarrus County), however, the building had the tower on the left.

Concord City Hall

Walter Holt House (Fayetteville, Cumberland County)

Cumberland Fayetteville

1900

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1900
Location: Fayetteville, Cumberland County
Street Address: 806 Hay St., Fayetteville, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential

First Presbyterian Church (Mocksville, Davie County)

Davie Mocksville

1905

Contributors:
Dates: 1905
Location: Mocksville, Davie County
Street Address: 261 S. Main St., Mocksville, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Kirk Franklin Mohney, The Historic Architecture of Davie County, North Carolina: An Inventory Analysis and Documentary Catalogue (1986).
Note:

The Romanesque Revival brick building is said to incorporate the walls of the 1840 meeting house that preceded it.

Southern Conservatory of Music (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1899

Contributors:
Dates: 1899-1900
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: SW corner of Main St. and Duke St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Jean Bradley Anderson, Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina (1990).
Note:

The Southern Conservatory of Music was established in 1898 and in 1900 the Duke family sponsored construction of a substantial building in memory of Mary Duke Lyon (the only daughter of Washington Duke), who died in 1893. The grand building in "Italianate" style was built to accommodate a school for music and a concert hall. The principal, Prof. Gilmore Ward Bryant, according to the Durham Sun of August 10, 1899, came to Durham in hopes of establishing such a conservatory in the South, and the project was funded by Washington Duke and his son Benjamin Duke, who were both instrumental in establishing Trinity College (later Duke University) in Durham. The conservatory opened in March 1900 (Durham Sun, March 9, 1900).

Southern Conservatory of Music

Robert Flowers House (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1900

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1900-1910
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Duke University, Durham, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).

Durham Municipal Building and Auditorium (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1902

Variant Name(s):
  • Academy of Music
Contributors:
Dates: 1902-1904
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Corcoran St., Durham, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).

Durham Municipal Building and Auditorium

Trust Building (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1904

Contributors:
Dates: 1904-1905
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: 212 W. Main St., Durham, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).
Note:

According to the Manufacturers' Record (Feb. 25, 1904) Hook and Sawyer designed this commercial building for contractor Norman Underwood. When it was built, the 6-story building was one of the tallest in town. The Trust Building is pictured on the left.

Trust Building

Bivins Hall (Durham, Durham County)

Durham Durham

1905

Contributors:
Dates: 1905
Location: Durham, Durham County
Street Address: Duke University East Campus, Durham, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).

John Love Buildings (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1904

Contributors:
Dates: 1904; ca. 1906-1908
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: 213-223 W. Main Ave., Gastonia, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Kim Withers Brengle, The Architectural Heritage of Gaston County, North Carolina (1982).
Note:

In 1899 and 1906 the Manufacturers' Record carried news of Hook's firms designing office buildings for John Love, which may be these.

Greensboro Loan and Trust Company (Greensboro, Guilford County)

Guilford Greensboro

1902

Contributors:
Dates: 1902
Location: Greensboro, Guilford County
Street Address: 319-321 S. Elm St., Greensboro, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).
  • Hook and Sawyer, Some Designs by Hook & Sawyer, Architects, Charlotte, N.C. (1902).
Note:

The street level façade has been replaced, but the upper stories of the façade remain as designed by Hook and Sawyer.

Martin Chemical Laboratory Building (Davidson, Mecklenburg County)

Mecklenburg Davidson

1901

Contributors:
Dates: 1901
Location: Davidson, Mecklenburg County
Street Address: Davidson College, Davidson, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Mary Norton Kratt and Mary Manning Boyer, Remembering Charlotte: Postcards from a New South City, 1905-1950 (2000).
Note:

Hook and Hook and Sawyer planned several buildings for Davidson College, but none of them is known to survive. The Martin Chemical Laboratory, which housed science facilities, stood until 1941.

Martin Chemical Laboratory Building

Trust Building and Academy of Music (Charlotte, Mecklenburg County)

Mecklenburg Charlotte

1901

Contributors:
Dates: 1901-1902
Location: Charlotte, Mecklenburg County
Street Address: 210-212 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Mary Norton Kratt and Mary Manning Boyer, Remembering Charlotte: Postcards from a New South City, 1905-1950 (2000).
  • William T. Simmons and Lindsay L. Brooks, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County: A Pictorial History (1977).
Note:

The ornate 6-story office building, featuring classical and Chateauesque details, was one of the largest and tallest in downtown Charlotte at its completion. It contained an opera house known as the Academy of Music. It burned in 1922. The building is shown at the center of this block.

Trust Building and Academy of Music

Flora McDonald College (Red Springs, Robeson County)

Robeson Red Springs

1900

Contributors:
Dates: 1900-1910
Location: Red Springs, Robeson County
Street Address: College St., Red Springs, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
Note:

The architects provided a more elaborate composition for the college main building than was actually built.

Flora McDonald College

Martin-McKinnon House (Red Springs, Robeson County)

Robeson Red Springs

1898

Contributors:
Dates: 1898
Location: Red Springs, Robeson County
Street Address: 225 East 3rd Ave., Red Springs, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential

Spray Inn (Eden, Rockingham County)

Rockingham Eden

1900

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1900
Location: Eden, Rockingham County
Street Address: Eden, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Hook and Sawyer, Some Designs by Hook & Sawyer, Architects, Charlotte, N.C. (1902).
  • M. Ruth Little and Claudia Roberts Brown, A Tale of Three Cities: Eden's Heritage: A Pictorial Survey (1986).
Note:

The Spray Inn, shown in a photograph in Hook and Sawyer (1902) was built for the textile industrial community of Spray, which became part of the town of Eden. It was a long, gambrel roofed building combining Shingle and Colonial Revival styles, with a full-length 1-story porch with stout columns.

Hambley-Wallace House (Salisbury, Rowan County)

Rowan Salisbury

1902

Contributors:
Dates: 1902
Location: Salisbury, Rowan County
Street Address: 508 S. Fulton St., Salisbury, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
Note:

The grand Châteauesque stone and brick residence was built for Egbert Barry Cornwall Hambley, a Cornish-born civil and mining engineer who came to North Carolina to work in gold mining before becoming involved in development of hydroelectric power on the Yadkin River. The house and the grounds make extensive use of granite from quarries owned by Hambley near the present town of Granite Quarry in eastern Rowan County. The scale and elaborateness of the mansion and its grounds made it exceptional in Salisbury and the state. The Salisbury Evening Sun of October 17, 1901 reported that Hambley had let the contract to the Lazenby Brothers for his residence "which Architect Hook says will be one of the finest in North Carolina." "These gentlemen have been among the most successful contractors in North Carolina and the fact that they win out over all other competitors is a credit to them."

Hambley-Wallace House

Blakeney House (Monroe, Union County)

Union Monroe

1903

Contributors:
Dates: 1903
Location: Monroe, Union County
Street Address: 418 E. Franklin St., Monroe, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential

Carnegie Library (Greensboro, Guilford County)

Guilford Greensboro

1904

Contributors:
Dates: 1904-1906
Location: Greensboro, Guilford County
Street Address: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Status: Altered
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The Carnegie Library was one of several projects for Hook at present UNCG, where he also planned dormitories and other facilities. It was damaged by fire in 1932 and rebuilt and enlarged in 1933, expanded in 1955, and renovated in the early 21st century.

Grace Episcopal Church (Lexington, Davidson County)

Davidson Lexington

1901

Contributors:
Dates: 1901-1902
Location: Lexington, Davidson County
Street Address: 419 S. Main St., Lexington, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious

Grace Episcopal Church

Elks Building (Wilmington, New Hanover County)

New Hanover Wilmington

1900

Contributors:
Dates: 1900-1902; 1906; 1911
Location: Wilmington, New Hanover County
Street Address: 255-259 N. Front St., Wilmington, NC
Status: Altered
Type:
  • Fraternal
Images Published In:
  • Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).
Note:

In early March, 1900, it was reported that architect Charles McMillen was drawing up plans for the Elks building. Later that month the lodge leadership received plans from other architects, including Hook and Sawyer of Charlotte, who gained the commission in April after a personal visit from Frank M. Sawyer. Newspaper references generally identify Sawyer as the architect for the building. The 3-story brick structure was completed within the year, and the Wilmington Messenger of December 7, 1907 noted that the lodge had held their first meeting there on the previous evening. "The elks' head with electric lights on the tips of the antlers was a pretty sight last night when it was lighted for the meeting. It is on the outside of the building and not only was it lighted but the entire building was brilliantly illuminated." A previous report in the Wilmington Morning Star of November 14, 1900, had noted the arrival of the bronze elk's head by a steamer from New York. Within a few years, first the interior and then the front façade were remodeled by architect Leitner, and additional changes were made later in the 20th century. At some point the elk's head on the façade was removed. Tony P. Wrenn (Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait [1984]) notes that in 1906 the organizational meeting of the North Carolina Association of Architects, predecessor of the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects, was held here. Charles C. Hook was elected president.

Frank M. Sawyer's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • Michelle Ann Michael, "The Rise of the Regional Architect in North Carolina as Seen Through the Manufacturers' Record, 1890-1910," M.H.P. thesis, University of Georgia (1994).
  • William Reaves Files, notes from Wilmington newspapers, copy in Charles McMillen file, Charlotte Vestal Brown Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
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