North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Wilson, Charles C. (1864-1933)

Variant Name(s):
  • C. C. Wilson;
  • Charles Coker Wilson
Birthplace: Hartsville, South Carolina, USA
Residences:
  • Columbia, South Carolina
Trades:
  • Architect
NC Work Locations:
  • Siler City, Chatham County
  • Chatham
  • Gastonia, Gaston County
  • Gaston
  • Dunn, Harnett County
  • Harnett
  • Benson, Johnston County
  • Johnston
  • Sanford, Lee County
  • Lee
  • Tryon, Polk County
  • Polk
  • Rockingham, Richmond County
  • Richmond
  • Lumberton, Robeson County
  • Robeson
  • Raleigh, Wake County
  • Wake
  • Wilson County
  • Wilson
  • Lamm, Wilson County
  • Wilson
  • Lucama, Wilson County
  • Wilson
  • Wilson, Wilson County
  • Wilson
Building Types:
  • Commercial;
  • Educational;
  • Health Care;
  • Residential
Styles & Forms:
  • Beaux-Arts;
  • Colonial Revival;
  • Mission;
  • Spanish Colonial Revival;
  • Tudor Revival

Biography

Charles Coker Wilson (November 20, 1864-1933), a prominent and prolific South Carolina architect headquartered in Columbia, designed numerous buildings in North Carolina during the late 1910s and the 1920s, chiefly in a Beaux-Arts classical mode. Although much of his North Carolina work concentrated in Gastonia and other communities convenient to Columbia, he had projects across much of the state, including many public school buildings.

Wilson was born in Hartsville, South Carolina, to Dr. Furman Edwards Wilson and Jane Lide Coker Wilson. He was educated at South Carolina College in Columbia, taking bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering in 1886 and 1888. Between 1886 and 1890 he worked for South Carolina railroad companies, and it may have been railroad work that took him to Roanoke, Virginia, then a fast-growing rail center. Although he had no formal architectural education at this point, by January, 1891, he had established an architectural partnership with fellow South Carolinian Henry Hartwell Huggins in Roanoke. After that partnership ended in 1893, South Carolinian William A. Edwards joined Wilson's office as a draftsman. In 1895 Wilson went to work for established local architect Walter P. Tinsley in Lynchburg, Virginia, but he soon left Tinsley's office and returned to South Carolina, moving to Columbia where by 1896 he and Edwards formed an architectural partnership that lasted until 1901 and produced more than fifty buildings. During this period, Wilson briefly studied architecture in the Atelier Duray at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1899-1900.

Wilson's firm prospered with various associates for nearly forty years, and he became one of the most highly regarded architects in his state. Most of his work displayed Beaux Arts influences, both in the balanced, symmetrical massing of buildings and in his use of neoclassical detailing. He gained acclaim as the architect who completed the South Carolina State House in 1907, which was begun before the Civil War and damaged during the conflict; Wilson, who was selected over Frank Pierce Milburn, was the last of several architects on the project. Another major early work was Columbia's 15-story Palmetto Building of 1912-1913, a steel-framed skyscraper designed by New York architect Julius Harder, with Wilson and Sompayrac as supervising architects. When completed, it was the tallest building in the state. Wilson's involvement in the project strengthened his reputation as well as his expertise in steel frame tall building construction.

From his office in Columbia, Wilson's practice reached across North and South Carolina and into Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, Alabama, and Florida. As his office grew, Wilson continued to form associations with various architects, some of whom went on to careers on their own. Joseph F. Leitner of Atlanta worked for Wilson in 1901-1905 and later became a prolific architect in Wilmington, North Carolina. Henry Ten Eyck Wendell, who worked with Wilson in 1905-1906, had experience in Denver and New York. In 1907 Edwin Douglas (E. D.) Sompayrac, a South Carolinian who had studied at Cornell and worked in Buffalo, and James B. Urquhart of Virginia became associates in the firm of Wilson, Sompayrac and Urquhart through 1910. Urquhart and another Wilson employee set up their own firm in 1910, but the partnership of Wilson and Sompayrac continued until 1917 or 1918. George Berryman of Virginia, educated in architecture at the George Washington University, joined Wilson in about 1920, became a partner in 1923, and in 1926 established his own firm in Raleigh. In 1923, too, J. Robie Kennedy entered the firm, which operated as Wilson, Berryman, and Kennedy until 1927. At this point, Wilson consolidated his offices in Columbia and worked without partners until 1929. Harold Tatum of Philadelphia joined the firm in 1929, and the partnership continued until Wilson's death in 1933. It is seldom possible to determine which members of the firm designed specific projects.

It was during his partnership with Sompayrac that Wilson's firm extended into North Carolina, with one of the first projects in the state being the First National Bank Building (1916-1917), a steel-framed skyscraper in the burgeoning textile city of Gastonia. The North Carolina work continued with the partnership of Wilson, Berryman, and Kennedy, and in the early years after World War II, most of Wilson's work was located in North Carolina. Several projects were located in communities near Columbia, such as Charlotte and Gastonia, but the firm also gained commissions in other parts of the state, especially for schools. For several years the North Carolina projects were so numerous that Wilson established branch offices—in Gastonia and Wilson in 1919-1925, in Charlotte in 1925, and in Raleigh in 1925-1926. He put the Gastonia office in the charge of his friend, Hugh White, an architect who subsequently established his own prolific and long-lasting firm in Gastonia.

Like other architectural firms in the early 20th century, Wilson's office designed many school buildings in the Carolinas, meeting the demand spurred by the growing state investment in public education. In Wilson County, North Carolina, where school superintendent Charles L. Coon was developing a model system of consolidated schools, Wilson gained commissions to design at least twelve school buildings between 1921 and 1926 in the town of Wilson and in outlying communities. These included such neo-classically detailed red brick buildings as the large Charles L. Coon High School in Wilson and also some small rural schools in a vivid Mission Revival vocabulary, such as Lamms School. A major collegiate project came in 1923 when Wilson, Berryman, and Kennedy gained the million-dollar commission for the new campus of Meredith College at the western edge of Raleigh. In this project, which lasted for several years, the firm employed a Beaux-Arts-influenced formal layout and red brick Colonial Revival architecture.

Wilson was instrumental in promoting architectural professionalism in South Carolina in accord with the guidelines of the national American Institute of Architects (AIA). Along with North Carolinians and other southerners, in 1892 he was a member of the short-lived Southern Chapter of the AIA, and in 1901 he was a founding member and charter president of the South Carolina Association of Architects. When that association became the South Carolina Chapter of the AIA, he became the charter president of the chapter. The national AIA named Wilson as a member in 1905, and in 1914 he was named a Fellow of the AIA in recognition of his achievements in establishing and promoting standards of practice.

In his home state Wilson was as a leader in the profession. In addition to serving as the last architect on the State House in Columbia in 1903-1907, he was architect of the University of South Carolina in 1907-1916. He also served on the state's initial Board of Architectural Examiners and as its president from 1917 until his death in 1933, and he helped write the South Carolina School Building Code in 1923 as well as the statewide building codes in 1932. Wilson married Adeline Selby of Columbia, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Jean.

Note: Wilson's commissions were reported regularly in the Manufacturers Record, including many in North Carolina. Although a good number of these have been identified, for others no details are known. Several are known to have been built and are no longer standing, including these in Gastonia: National Realty Company Store Buildings (MR 10/11/1917 and 10/18/1917) and Addition (MR 7/24/1919); J. M. Belk and Co. Store Addition (MR 1/24/1918); Arrington Hotel (MR 4/8/1920); and C. B. Armstrong Community Building (MR 5/27/1920). Also lost is Robeson County, Lumberton, Thompson Memorial Hospital (MR 6/25/1925, 7/2/1925, 7/30/1925).

Among the reported projects for which further information is sought are the following:

Cleveland County, Shelby: Jail (MR 12/6/1923, 12/27/1923, and 3/6/1924). Cumberland County, Fayetteville: YMCA Building (MR 1/19/1922). Gaston County, Gastonia: Church (MR 1/11/1895); Farmers Commercial Bank (MR 8/18/1921); Nash County, Rocky Mount: Cottage, East Carolina Training School for Boys (MR 9/4/1924); High School (MR 11/25/1926); Seventh Ward Grammar School (MR 11/25/1926); Negro School (MR 11/25/1926). Northampton County, Rich Square: Grammar School and High School (MR 6/1/1922). Pitt County, Greenville: Negro School (MR 8/16/1923); School (MR 11/13/1924); Addition to High School (MR 2/19/1925). Robeson County, Lumberton: County Home (MR 1/24/1924). Wake County, Raleigh: Children's Building, North Carolina State Sanitarium (Dorothea Dix Hospital) (MR 2/4/1926), possibly the Harvey Building at 705 Picot Dr. Wilson County: Elm City School (MR 4/6/1922); Rock Ridge School (MR 4/27/1922); Scott's Church School (MR 7/10/1924); and Wilson: First Methodist Church Sunday School Building (MR 10/18/1923).

Author: John E. Wells. Editor and update: Catherine W. Bishir.

Published 2010

Building List

Siler City High School (Siler City, Chatham County)

Chatham Siler City

1922

Contributors:
Dates: 1922
Location: Siler City, Chatham County
Street Address: 119 S. 3rd Ave., Siler City, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The Manufacturers' Record (Aug 10, 1922) cited Wilson as architect of the School, Siler City. The old Siler City High School is now Braxton Manor Apartments, a senior living community.

First National Bank Building (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1916

Contributors:
  • E. D. Sompayrac, architect;
  • Charles C. Wilson, architect;
  • Wilson and Sompayrac, architects
Dates: 1916-1917
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: 168-170 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:

Manufacturers' Record, March 9, 1916 and and Apr. 13, 1916. The 7-story, classically detailed skyscraper is known locally as the Lawyers Building.

First National Bank Building

First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1917

Contributors:
Dates: 1917-1918
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: 258 W. Franklin Ave., Gastonia, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Kim Withers Brengle, The Architectural Heritage of Gaston County, North Carolina (1982).
Note:

Manufacturers' Record, Apr. 19, 1917 and Apr. 26, 1917. The building is now home to St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Joseph Separk House (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1919

Contributors:
Dates: 1919
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: 209 W. 2nd Ave., Gastonia, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Kim Withers Brengle, The Architectural Heritage of Gaston County, North Carolina (1982).
Note:

Manufacturers' Record, Sept. 4, 1919. Wilson sent architect Hugh White to Gastonia to supervise construction of the elaborate Renaissance Revival residence, and White soon established his own long-lasting practice in Gastonia and planned many of its key buildings of the early 20th century. The landscape architect was Earle Sumner Draper, who planned many suburban and industrial settings in Piedmont North Carolina.

C. B. Armstrong Hotel and Apartment Building (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1920

Variant Name(s):
  • Marietta Street Apartments
Contributors:
Dates: 1920
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: 102 W. 2nd Ave. at Marietta St., Gastonia, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Note:

Wilson was cited as architect in the Manufacturers' Record, Apr. 15, 1920 and May 27, 1920 for the Armstrong Hotel and Apartment Building, now generally called the Marietta Street Apartments.

Gaston Memorial Hospital (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1923

Contributors:
Dates: 1923
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: Gastonia, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Health Care
Note:

The City Hospital Ward cited to Wilson in the Manufacturers' Record, Feb. 8, 1923, is the original section of Gaston Memorial Hospital.

Leander Gray House (Gastonia, Gaston County)

Gaston Gastonia

1919

Contributors:
Dates: 1919
Location: Gastonia, Gaston County
Street Address: 311 W. 10th Ave., Gastonia, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Note:

The Manufacturers' Record, Sept. 4, 1919, cited the Leander Gray residence to Wilson.

Magnolia Avenue School (Dunn, Harnett County)

Harnett Dunn

1918

Contributors:
Dates: 1918
Location: Dunn, Harnett County
Street Address: Magnolia Ave., Dunn, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The red brick school was adapted for new use as a business development center.

Farmers Commercial Bank (Benson, Johnston County)

Johnston Benson

1921

Contributors:
Dates: 1921
Location: Benson, Johnston County
Street Address: 100 Main St., Benson, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
Note:

A landmark in the small railroad town of Benson, the neoclassically detailed bank overlooks the tracks at the center of the community. Wilson's commission for the Farmers Commercial Bank was noted in the Manufacturers' Record, Aug. 18, 1921.

Farmers Commercial Bank

Sanford High School (Sanford, Lee County)

Lee Sanford

1924

Contributors:
Dates: 1924-1925
Location: Sanford, Lee County
Street Address: 507 N. Steele St., Sanford, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • J. Daniel Pezzoni, The History & Architecture of Lee County, North Carolina (1995).
Note:

The high school, well documented in local sources (see J. Daniel Pezzoni, The History & Architecture of Lee County, North Carolina), is a 2-story, red brick structure with restrained classical detailing and with a full complement of facilities, including a large auditorium with a frieze inspired by that of the Parthenon.

St. Luke's Hospital (Tryon, Polk County)

Polk Tryon

1928

Contributors:
Dates: 1928-1929
Location: Tryon, Polk County
Street Address: Carolina Dr., Tryon, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Health Care
Note:

Locally credited to builder Wright J. Gaines, the imposing stone building in Tudor Revival style is cited to Charles C. Wilson as architect in the Manufacturers' Record, July 12, 1928 and Oct. 4, 1928.

Rockingham Opera House (Rockingham, Richmond County)

Richmond Rockingham

1907

Contributors:
Dates: 1907-1908
Location: Rockingham, Richmond County
Street Address: 111 E. Washington St., Rockingham, NC
Status: Altered
Type:
  • Recreational
Note:

The Opera House in Rockingham cited to Wilson in the Manufacturers' Record (Nov. 28, 1907 and Jan. 30, 1908) is probably the current home of the Richmond Community Theatre, located at 111 E. Washington Street; the building has been altered with a ca. 1970s mansard roof on the front.

Planters Bank (Lumberton, Robeson County)

Robeson Lumberton

1924

Contributors:
Dates: 1924
Location: Lumberton, Robeson County
Street Address: 312 N. Chestnut St., Lumberton, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Note:

Wilson's commission for the Planters Bank, a 4-story, classically detailed building in stone and red brick, was noted in the Manufacturers' Record, May 29, 1924.

Meredith College Dormitory (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1923

Contributors:
Dates: 1923
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: Meredith College Campus, Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The Manufacturers' Record (Oct. 9, 1924 and Nov. 6, 1924) and cornerstones at Meredith College cite Wilson's role in the design.

Meredith College Quadrangle and Development Plan (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1920

Contributors:
Dates: 1920s
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: Meredith College Campus, Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The Manufacturers\' Record (Oct. 9, 1924 and Nov. 6, 1924) and cornerstones at Meredith College cite Wilson\'s role in the design.

Lamms School (Wilson County)

Wilson

1922

Contributors:
Dates: 1922
Location: Wilson County
Street Address: N side US 264, 0.3 mi. W of I-95, Lamm, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Kate Ohno, Wilson County's Architectural Heritage (1981).
Note:

Wilson's commission for the school near Grover Lamm's Store was noted in the Manufacturers' Record (Apr. 13, 1922 and Apr. 20, 1922). It was one of three stuccoed Mission-style schools the firm designed for the county, all located in the Old Fields Township. The others were the schools at Bullock's Crossroads (Manufacturers' Record, Apr. 13, 1922 and Apr. 20, 1922) and Sims (Manufacturers' Record, Apr. 13, 1922 and Apr. 20, 1922), which are not represented in Ohno's Wilson County architectural survey publication and are not known to survive.

Lucama School (Lucama, Wilson County)

Wilson Lucama

1924

Contributors:
Dates: 1924
Location: Lucama, Wilson County
Street Address: Lucama, NC
Status: Unknown
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Kate Ohno, Wilson County's Architectural Heritage (1981).
Note:

Wilson's commission for the Lucama School was noted in the Manufacturers' Record (July 10, 1924). Local sources credit it to Wilson, Berryman, and Kennedy.

Charles L. Coon High School (Wilson, Wilson County)

Wilson Wilson

1921

Variant Name(s):
  • Golden Leaf Apartments
Contributors:
Dates: 1921-1922; 1924
Location: Wilson, Wilson County
Street Address: 211 Kenan St. West at Moss St., Wilson, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Kate Ohno and Robert C. Bainbridge, Wilson, North Carolina, Historic Buildings Inventory (1980).
Note:

Wilson's commission for Wilson's first high school, for white students, was noted in the Manufacturers' Record (Dec. 15, 1921, Jan. 12, 1922, and Aug. 28, 1924). The red brick school with neoclassical detailing is named for Wilson County's school superintendent, an educator of statewide renown, who is credited with making Wilson County's consolidated county school system a model for the state. The red brick building features neoclassical detailing. It is now the Golden Leaf Apartments.

Charles L. Coon High School

Charles H. Darden High School (Wilson, Wilson County)

Wilson Wilson

1923

Contributors:
Dates: 1923
Location: Wilson, Wilson County
Street Address: 504 N. Carroll St., Wilson, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Kate Ohno and Robert C. Bainbridge, Wilson, North Carolina, Historic Buildings Inventory (1980).
Note:

The 2-story, red brick high school with Tudor detailing was constructed as Wilson's first high school for black students.

Kenan Street School Additions and Alterations (Wilson, Wilson County)

Wilson Wilson

1926

Contributors:
Dates: 1926
Location: Wilson, Wilson County
Street Address: Kenan St. at Deans St., Wilson, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Kate Ohno and Robert C. Bainbridge, Wilson, North Carolina, Historic Buildings Inventory (1980).
Note:

Noted as Wilson's commission in the Manufacturers' Record (June 24, 1926), the school was demolished in 1980.

Charles C. Wilson's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • 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).
  • Kim Withers Brengle, The Architectural Heritage of Gaston County, North Carolina (1982).
  • Harry Gardner Cutler, History of South Carolina, Vol. 4 (1920).
  • J. C. Garlington, Men of the Time: Sketches of Living Notables (1902).
  • Kate Ohno, Wilson County's Architectural Heritage (1981).
  • Kate Ohno and Robert C. Bainbridge, Wilson, North Carolina, Historic Buildings Inventory (1980).
  • John E. Wells and Robert E. Dalton, The South Carolina Architects, 1885-1935: A Biographical Dictionary (1992).
  • "Charles C. Wilson Dies at Hospital," The State (Columbia) (Jan. 27, 1933).
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