Peeps, William H. (1868-1950)
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
Styles & Forms:
Colonial Revival; Gothic Revival; Rustic; Tudor Revival
William H. Peeps (March 3, 1868-September 10, 1950), an English-born architect, was a key figure in Charlotte’s early 20th-century development into a regional business hub and center of architectural activity. Working in a variety of styles and with an elegant and restrained touch, Peeps designed some of the city’s finest downtown buildings as well as numerous residences and other buildings in Charlotte and a few other towns. According to George W. Hamilton’s 1928 publication, William H. Peeps, A.I.A., Architect, “In addition to the designing of many of the homes, the decorations and furnishings have also been handled by Mr. Peeps,” a role that reflected his early training and experience in furniture design.
William H. Peeps was born in London as one of several children of James Abraham Peeps, an ornamental wood carver, and Hannah Barnes Peeps. He immigrated in 1872 with his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where his father became a cabinetmaker, wood carver, and designer for the Phoenix Furniture Company. In 1880 the family included James and Hannah and their children Charles, likewise a woodcarver, and William, in school. (The older Peeps children, Walter, Amelia, and George, had left the household by that time. Walter Peeps and his wife Mary had a son, William H. Peeps [1875-1930], also a wood carver, who has sometimes been confused with Walter’s brother William H. Peeps who eventually moved to Charlotte.)
Probably learning his craft from his father and brother, William apprenticed in furniture design and architecture and in 1888 went to Chicago, where he worked for architect Frederick W. Perkins. In 1890 in Grand Rapids he married Ellen Jane (Nellie) Blakeslee, a native of Muskegon, Michigan. By 1900, William and Nellie had moved to Atlanta, where he was employed as a woodwork designer; his widowed father, James, was residing in the household working as a woodcarver. Whether Peeps received any formal architectural training is not known, but his background in design stood him in good stead in an era where the definition of the architectural profession was still open and fluid.
Accounts vary as to when Peeps came to Charlotte. His obituary gave the date as 1905, while some local sources indicate 1911, and the United States Census of 1910 recorded William and Nellie in Grand Rapids, where he was working as a furniture designer. It appears that he ventured to Charlotte for a brief period, for in 1907 the Manufacturers’ Record noted that he had drawn plans for an “Office Building & Interurban Depot” for the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company (4 C’s), a dynamic development firm headed by entrepreneur Edward Dilworth Latta.
In any case, probably impressed by fast-growing Charlotte’s prospects for an architect and perhaps with the encouragement of developer Latta, soon after 1910 William and Nellie Peeps made what proved to be a permanent move to the city: Peeps stated in a form he filled out for the National Census of Engineering and Architectural Personnel in 1940 that he had established his architectural practice in Charlotte in 1912. He joined a thriving architectural community that already included such practitioners as Charles Christian Hook, Louis H. Asbury, and Oliver Duke Wheeler and his various partners. He was among the first men certified to practice architecture in North Carolina, obtaining license 27 in 1915 along with other architects who were licensed in that year based on being in practice prior to 1915.
Although not as prolific or wide-ranging as some of his contemporaries in Charlotte, Peeps found a strong clientele among the Queen City’s civic and business leaders and established a long-lived practice that included some of the city’s most distinguished buildings, especially those of the 1910s and 1920s. He captured local attention with his reputation-making Latta Arcade and Brevard Court, built in 1914 for Edward Dilworth Latta’s 4C’s development company that created the Dilworth suburb and spurred Charlotte’s growth of the era. The skylit arcade with stylized classical details was described by the local newspaper as “a departure in all particulars from the usual style of office buildings.” One of his most prestigious downtown commissions was the elegant J. B. Ivey Department Store, a 5-story building clad in Gothic Revival style terra cotta, a landmark in Charlotte’s downtown regional shopping mecca of flagship department stores. Although his practice focused on Charlotte, Peeps also had commissions in nearby communities such as Gastonia, Concord, and Salisbury and a few mountain towns. His oeuvre encompassed commercial buildings, hospitals, and clubhouses, and especially, handsome residences, including several in Charlotte’s stylish young suburbs of Dilworth and Myers Park.
Known for the high quality of his designs, Peeps was like others of his generation a nimble eclectic, working confidently in all the popular styles of the day, including Renaissance Revival, Colonial Revival, Shingle style, Tudor and Gothic modes, and even a Moorish motif in the small, romantically picturesque commercial façade of Charlotte’s Ratcliffe Flower Shop. Like other architects in Charlotte, he excelled at the Tudor Revival residential style which was highly popular in the city; among his works in that style are the Lethco House in Charlotte’s Myers Park, the E. T. Cannon House built for a Concord textile executive, and the Hanford House in Salisbury. He was equally adept in variations on the Colonial Revival and Federal Revival styles, including the W. W. Flowe House in Concord and many others.
A leader in the state’s architectural profession, he became a national AIA member in 1921 and was active in the North Carolina chapter as vice president and as president in 1924 and 1925. In his address to the NCAIA meeting in Charlotte in 1925, Peeps encouraged the chapter members to expand the organization and encourage recognition of the profession.
After the death of his wife Nellie in 1940, Peeps married Margaret Linehan Berry, a native of New York born in 1897. His obituary noted that at the time of his death Peeps was a member of the Church of the Holy Comforter, of Excelsior Masonic Lodge No. 261, and the Charlotte Commandery, Knights Templar. He was buried in Charlotte’s Elmwood Cemetery. His widow Margaret survived him for a year. He evidently left no children, though his obituary mentioned his stepson, Jack Berry of Charlotte.
Note: The building list includes a sampling of Peeps’s work focusing on his best known projects. His papers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte include about 80 drawings and photographs for these and other projects. Additional entries will be made in the building list as status, dates, and locations can be confirmed. A fuller study of his work is needed.
- Charlotte Daily Observer, Jan. 4, 1914.
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, designation reports, various properties, http://www.cmhpf.org/homehistoricproperties.htm.
- Charlotte Observer, Sept. 11, 1950.
- “Descendants of George Peeps,” http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pepys/pepysons/peeps/pafg12.htm.
- George W. Hamilton, ed., William H. Peeps, A. I. A., Architect (1928).
- George W. Hamilton, “William H. Peeps. A.I.A. Architect. Charlotte. N.C.,” The Charlotte Observer, Sept. 11, 1950.
- C. David Jackson and Charlotte V. Brown, History of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 1913-1998 (1998).
- “North Carolina Death Records,” Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com.
- William H. Peeps, National Defense Census Form, June 28, 1940, copy in William H. Peeps file, Charlotte Vestal Brown Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- William H. Peeps Papers, Manuscript Collection, J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina.
- United States Census.
- Dates:1929Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:900 Ardsley Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:StandingType:Residential
- Variant Name(s):First Presbyterian Church Fellowship HouseDates:1920sLocation:Concord, Cabarrus CountyStreet Address:58 N. Union St., Concord, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Peter R. Kaplan, The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina (2004).
- Dates:1914-1915Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:602 E. Morehead St., Charlotte, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:Located in the Dilworth suburb, the Galloway residence combines natural stone and shingles to create a rustic effect.
- Dates:1937Location:Salisbury, Rowan CountyStreet Address:712 S. Fulton St., Salisbury, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:The Tudor Revival house was the childhood home of North Carolina's United States Senator Elizabeth Hanford Dole.
- Variant Name(s):Ivey'sDates:1924Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:127 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, NCStatus:AlteredType:CommercialImages Puslished In:Mary Norton Kratt and Mary Manning Boyer, Remembering Charlotte: Postcards from a New South City, 1905-1950 (2000).Note:Of the grand department stores that once drew customers from far and wide to downtown Charlotte—Belk's, Efird's, and Ivey's—only the magnificent Gothic Revival style Ivey's with its terra cotta façades still stands, converted to a new use. According to Dan L. Morrill and Stewart Gray, company founder J. B. Ivey was a devout Methodist, who "insisted that the curtains be drawn in his store windows on Sundays, so that the pedestrians would not be tempted to consider matters of this world on the Lord's day."
- Dates:1925Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:600 Hermitage Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:One of several Colonial Revival style residences Peeps designed in the Myers Park suburb. Brown was a bank president and mayor of Charlotte.
- Variant Name(s):Joe E. Cannon HouseDates:1927Location:Blowing Rock, Watauga CountyStreet Address:John's River Gorge, Blowing Rock, NCStatus:UnknownType:ResidentialNote:The large, luxurious mountain home was built for textile industrialist Joseph E. Cannon in a rustic style typical of the time and place, using native stone and chestnut wood and bark. Blowing Rock was a favorite mountain resort for wealthy piedmont industrialists and other businessmen and their families. Like many of their residences, the Cannon house stands in a private and remote location.
- Dates:1914Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:320 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialImages Puslished 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).
- Dates:1927Location:Waynesville, Haywood CountyStreet Address:37 Church St., Waynesville, NCStatus:StandingType:FraternalNote:The 3-story edifice, one of the most imposing early 20th-century structures in Waynesville, features a façade in concrete fashioned to resemble stone, with progression of classical orders from the Doric at the entrance to the Ionic columns and pilasters at the first story and the Corinthian pilasters that rise through the second and third stories. Whether Peeps had a hand in other Waynesville buildings of the era is not yet known.
- Contributors:William Peeps, attributed architectDates:Ca. 1920sLocation:Gastonia, Gaston CountyStreet Address:New South Rd., Gastonia, NCStatus:StandingType:Health CareNote:Some accounts cite Peeps as architect for the North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital in Gastonia, a facility opened in 1921. Further information is needed on which building or buildings he planned there.
- Dates:1907Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:Charlotte, NCStatus:UnknownType:Commercial
TransportationNote:The Manufacturers' Record, July 11, 1907, reported that the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company had plans prepared by William H. Peeps for erection of an office building and interurban depot, 40 x 125 feet. Whether it was built remains unknown. When the Piedmont and Northern Interurban electric route was actually built a few years later, Charlotte architect Charles Christian Hook designed the depots.
- Dates:1930Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:431 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NCStatus:AlteredType:CommercialNote:After facing the threat of demolition, the picturesque little Moorish Revival shop was removed from its site in 2000 and then reinserted in a big new building near its original site. The longlived family business had as its motto, "Ratcliffe's Flowers/Brighten the Hours."
- Dates:1925Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:1400 Queens Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:StandingType:Residential
- Dates:1924Location:Laurinburg, Scotland CountyStreet Address:315 W. Church St., Laurinburg, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:The eclectic, tile roofed Colonial Revival residence is among the most imposing early 20th century houses in Laurinburg.