Pearson and Ashe
Charles A. Pearson; Thomas M. Ashe
Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
- Raleigh, North Carolina
Styles & Forms:
Colonial Revival; Queen Anne; Romanesque Revival
Two promising young graduates of the North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts (present North Carolina State University), Charles A. Pearson (Oct. 24, 1875-July 26, 1966) and Thomas M. Ashe (Feb. 11, 1876-July 10, 1900) began the Raleigh architectural firm of Pearson and Ashe soon after their graduations and quickly met with success in designing public, residential, and educational buildings. After only a few years, Ashe’s premature death terminated the partnership, and thereafter Pearson continued on his own chiefly as a civil engineer in various southern states.
Charles A. Pearson was born in Asheville to Capt. Charles W. and Susan Bruce Shepard Pearson of an established western North Carolina family; his father was a civil engineer specializing in railroad construction in the mountains. Pearson studied civil engineering at the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts and taught there briefly. Thomas M. Ashe was born in Raleigh, the third son of noted journalist and historian Samuel A’Court Ashe and part of a family with deep roots in the colonial Cape Fear region. He graduated from the College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in 1895. Pearson and Ashe, both members of Sigma Nu fraternity, formed their business partnership in 1895 or 1896.
Probably aided by Ashe’s family connections as well as their college and fraternity associations, the two men soon took on many substantial projects. In 1897, the Manufacturers’ Record noted that Pearson was supervising architect for a major downtown Raleigh project, First Presbyterian Church (see Pearson’s building list); whether Ashe had a role in this project is unknown. It is not known how Pearson and Ashe divided the work during their partnership. In some cases, the Manufacturers’ Record notices mentioned only Pearson, while others cited both men. Most buildings believed to have been planned during their partnership are credited to the firm in the building list.
Subsequent projects included a major expansion of the National Hotel [State Agriculture Building] in downtown Raleigh in 1899, and a dormitory, Carr Building, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In 1899 the young firm reached the apex of its popularity in Raleigh when Pearson and Ashe were appointed by the local school board as supervising architects for all school buildings. The News and Observer asserted on November 24, 1899, that the architects were “not only past masters of their art, but also cultured, pleasant gentlemen.” To help with business, they employed as a draftsperson “Miss Bonniwell.” This was probably Norma N. Bonniwell, the architect daughter of Hickory builder George C. Bonniwell. (None of the schools planned by Pearson and Ashe is known to survive; among them was the first Wiley Graded School in Raleigh.)
In July 1900 after a long illness, evidently typhoid, Ashe died of a heart attack. The firm placed no notices in the Manufacturers’ Record during 1900. Pearson strove to keep his practice going, and placed a few notices in the Manufacturers’ Record in 1901 concerning plans he had provided for Raleigh buildings. However, in 1901 he left Raleigh and worked as a civil engineer in various southern states as well as an architect.
- 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).
- News and Observer, Aug. 24, 1899; July 12, 1900.
- Charles A. Pearson Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Raleigh Morning Post, July 11, 1900.
- Wilmington Messenger, Dec. 1, 1900.
- Wilmington Star, Dec. 29, 1900.
- Variant Name(s):
1900Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:
Fletcher Park, Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, NCStatus:
The Borden Building, among the first built at the Methodist Orphanage, still stands. Most of the initial buildings at that institution, including the Methodist Orphanage Main Building (1901) planned by Pearson, have been razed.
1899-1900Location:Chapel Hill, Orange CountyStreet Address:
University of North Carolina Campus, Chapel Hill, NCStatus:
EducationalImages Published In:
John V. Allcott, The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Years of Architecture (1986).
M. Ruth Little, The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975 (2006).Note:
According to M. Ruth Little in The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, this was the first building at the university built to function solely as a dormitory. The postcard shows the white Carr Building and Bynum Gymnasium (see Frank Pierce Milburn).
ca. 1900Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:
The identity of this house is uncertain. It may have been the Strong-Young House at 630 N. Blount St. (no longer standing), a “Southern Colonial” design with portico said to have been built about 1898.
- Variant Name(s):
State Agriculture Building; Guion Hotel; National HotelDates:
1812; 1870; 1883 [remodeled]; 1899-1900 [addition]Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:
NW corner Edenton St. and Halifax St., Raleigh, NCStatus:
No longer standingType:
PublicImages Published In:
William B. Bushong, “A. G. Bauer, North Carolina’s New South Architect,” North Carolina Historical Review, 60.3 (July 1983).
Elizabeth C. Waugh, North Carolina’s Capital, Raleigh (1967).Note:
The hotel facing the North Carolina State Capitol was built for Charles Parish and began operation in 1812 as the Eagle Hotel, and operated under various names over the years. It was considered Raleigh’s finest hotel for years. By 1870, it had been expanded into a large brick building with double porches. In 1883 it was remodeled by A. G. Bauer to house state offices, and it was headquarters of the state’s agricultural department. It was expanded dramatically in 1899-1900; the News and Observer of August 24, 1899, cited the State Agriculture Building then under construction as the work of Pearson and Ashe. In 1896 it appeared on the Sanborn Map as the State Agriculture Building and State Museum, and by 1903 (Sanborn Map), it had an immense addition that extended down Halifax Street and around the corner on Jones Street. That building was razed to build the current Agriculture Building (1922-1923) by G. Murray Nelson and Thomas Wright Cooper.
ca. 1900Location:Red Springs, Robeson CountyStreet Address:
Red Springs, NCStatus:
This might be the Dr. B. F. McMillan House at 110 E. 2nd Ave., ca. 1900, a frame Queen Anne style house with conical towers.
1896Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:
North Carolina State University Campus, Raleigh, NCStatus:
University records indicate that a “Mr. Pearson” had drawn plans for the picturesque, brick horticulture building; this was likely Charles A. Pearson when he was associated with Ashe.
1897Location:Carthage, Moore CountyStreet Address:
301 McReynolds St., Carthage, NCStatus:
The ornate Queen Anne style house on the premier residential avenue was built for the president of the Tyson and Jones Buggy Company, an important local industry.