Norton, Charles H. (1857-1901)

Birthplace:

Virginia, USA

Residences:

  • Durham, North Carolina

Trades:

  • Builder

NC Work Locations:

Styles & Forms:

Queen Anne; Romanesque Revival

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.

  • 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).
Sort Building List by:
  • Durham County Courthouse

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1887-1889

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    Durham, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Public

    Images Puslished 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.


  • E. J. Parrish Building

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1888

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    Main St., Durham, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Puslished In:

    Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).


  • Edgemont Cotton Mill

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    Ca. 1899

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    Edgemont Village, Durham, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Industrial

    Images Puslished In:

    Durham Recorder, Apr. 16, 1900.


  • First Baptist Church

    Contributors:
    A. G. Bauer, architect (ca. 1895-1896); Charles H. Norton, builder (ca. 1895-1896)
    Dates:

    1877; ca. 1895-1896 [remodeled]

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    N. Mangum St., Durham, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Puslished In:

    William B. Bushong, “A. G. Bauer, North Carolina’s New South Architect,” North Carolina Historical Review, 60.3 (July 1983).
    Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).


  • First National Bank Building

    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 Puslished 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 Presbyterian Church

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    Ca. 1890

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    E. Main St., Durham, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Puslished In:

    Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu, Durham: A Pictorial History (1978).


  • Fuller School

    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 Puslished In:

    Durham Recorder, Apr. 16, 1900.


  • Harwood Hall

    Contributors:
    Charles H. Norton, builder; Rand and Taylor, Kendall and Stevens, architects; Bertrand E. Taylor, architect
    Variant Name(s):

    George W. Watts House

    Dates:

    1897

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    806 S. Duke St., Durham, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished 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.


  • Pearl Cotton Mill

    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 Puslished In:

    Claudia P. Roberts (Brown) and Diane E. Lea, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory (1982).

    Note:

    Only the tower is still standing.


  • Trinity College Main Building

    Contributors:
    Samuel Linton Leary, architect; Charles H. Norton, contractor
    Variant Name(s):

    Washington Duke Building

    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 Puslished 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).


  • W. Duke and Sons Factory Annex

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    Ca. 1888

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    600 W. Peabody St., Durham, NC

    Status:

    Altered

    Type:

    Industrial

    Images Puslished 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.


  • Watts Hospital I

    Contributors:
    Everett and Rand, architects; Charles H. Norton, builder; Rand and Taylor, architects; Bertrand E. Taylor, architect
    Dates:

    1894-1895

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    Main St. at Buchanan Blvd., Durham, NC

    Status:

    Moved

    Type:

    Health Care

    Images Puslished 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.


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