Lynn, Robert Franklin (1867-1951)
Robert Franklin Lynn (September 20, 1867- July 21, 1951) of Cabarrus County, N. C. was one of many African American men who specialized in masonry work, and like some others including Oliver Nestus Freeman (1882-1955) crafted distinctive stonework that enriched the architectural character of their communities. His best-known work is the small, Gothic Revival-style First Congregational Church in Mount Pleasant. Completed in 1921 to replace an earlier church that burned in 1918, First Congregational Church features an entrance tower and belfry and is distinguished by Lynn’s ruggedly irregular stonework. Lynn also executed other similarly picturesque stonework in the area. The Misenhimer-James House in Mount Pleasant, designed by architects Hook and Rogers of Charlotte for a prosperous industrialist who had moved from Charlotte, features a wealth of Lynn’s work. It is likely that Lynn undertook numerous other projects in the community which have yet to be identified. For Lynn’s own Summer Street residence in Mount Pleasant, which he built about the time of his retirement in 1939, he used his rugged stonework throughout, from the walls to the round porch posts and stone mantel.
Little biographical information has been located concerning Robert F. Lynn. A few basic items appear in public records, some of which contradict one another. The Cabarrus County marriage record which notes Robert’s marriage on October 20, 1890 to Ellen (Helen) V. Heilig, aged 22, identifies Robert’s parents as Robert and Harriet Lynn, his father being deceased by 1890. According to his social security form of 1941, Robert Franklin Lynn was born on September 20, 1867 to Frank Lynn and Harriet Brawley Lynn, but an index to death records in North Carolina gives the dates of Robert F. Linn (sic) as 1868-July 21, 1951. Other sources, including Kaplan’s Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, give his dates as 1867-1949.
In any case, the census of 1900 recorded R. F. Linn, a bricklayer aged 32, as living in Albemarle in Stanly County with Helen V. Linn, also 32, and children Otha, Ophelia, Harry, and Howard. There are numerous masonry buildings in Albemarle and Stanly County from this period, especially after the railroad arrived in 1891, but no examples have been cited yet as Lynn’s work. In 1910, the census listed the Lynn family as residing in Cabarrus County, and they had two younger children, Helena and Nina. The mason and his family resided in a house he owned. The family continued to live in Mount Pleasant. In 1940, Robert and Helen were living in the household headed by their son, Howard (1895-1961). Robert likely trained Howard in his trade and worked with him. Both Robert and Howard Lynn were noted as brickmasons employed in a “W. P. A. Building project.” Their specific W. P. A. projects have not been identified. In 1942, Robert Lynn and his son, probably Howard, completed a church in High Point, N. C., and it is likely that they worked on other buildings as well. The cemetery associated with First Congregational Church contains gravestones for some of Robert and Helen’s children, including Howard. How and from whom Robert F. Lynn learned his trade and identification of other examples of his work remain open to investigation.
- Dates:1918-1921Location:Mount Pleasant, Cabarrus CountyStreet Address:NW corner Wade St. and C St., Mount Pleasant, NCStatus:StandingType:ReligiousImages Puslished In:Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).Note:The well-preserved church was built for an African American congregation established in 1900 through missionary work of the largely northern Congregational denomination. After the 1906 church building burned on January 12, 1918, the congregation worshipped in a local school until their new church was ready for use. Stonemason Lynn and was assisted in the project by Calvin Bost. (Bost was listed in the 1910 census as a mason aged 55.) The church was dedicated on October 30, 1921. Church minute books survive. See Shelia A. Bumgarner and David Brown, "First Congregational Church National Register of Historic Places nomination," 1985.
- Contributors:Robert Franklin Lynn, brickmasonDates:1942Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:Saunders Place, High Point, NCStatus:No longer standingType:ReligiousNote:One of the few references to Lynn's work that appears in newspapers.com was in the High Point Enterprise of May 18, 1942, when the pastor and members of Kings Chapel Holiness Church announced that the brickwork of their new church had been completed; the work was done by "Robert Lynn and son [probably Howard] of Mount Pleasant." It was replaced by the present Kings Chapel Holiness Church at 500 Saunders Place, a modernist brick building which dates from about 1960.
- Dates:Late 19th century; 1915 [remodeled]Location:Mount Pleasant, Cabarrus CountyStreet Address:311 S. Main St., Mount Pleasant, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).Note:The eclectic house and its outbuildings constitute the principal ensemble of fine stonework by Robert Franklin Lynn, in this case in an architect-designed house built for a leading white citizen. The complex began with a simpler house built for J. J. Misenhimer, but it was greatly altered as the residence of industrialist Augustus N. James who moved to Mount Pleasant from Charlotte. He employed the Charlotte architectural firm of Hook and Rogers to redesign the house in a combination of Craftsman and Colonial Revival modes. Its special character derives from the abundant use of Lynn's stonework for the foundation, porches, outbuildings, and a retaining wall as well as a fireplace.
- Dates:Ca. 1939Location:Mount Pleasant, Cabarrus CountyStreet Address:Summer St., Mount Pleasant, NCStatus:UnknownType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).