Marsh, Marion R. (1893-1977)
M. R. Marsh
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
- Charlotte, North Carolina
Styles & Forms:
Art Deco; Colonial Revival; International style; Neoclassical; Tudor Revival
Marion R. (“Steve”) Marsh (October 21, 1893-September 4, 1977) was a versatile and long-lived architect and engineer active during Charlotte’s early to mid-20th century growth as an industrial and financial center. Between 1922 and his retirement in 1964, he designed several well-known Charlotte buildings, plus others in surrounding region of North and South Carolina. His work encompassed a wide range of styles and types from Tudor Revival residences to modernist office buildings, with Charlotte’s Art Deco style Coca-Cola Bottling Plant probably his best known project.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida Marsh attended college but learned his profession through correspondence courses and working with his brother W. M. Marsh’s architectural firm, Marsh and Saxlebye in Jacksonville. According to his partner in later years, Tebee Hawkins, Marsh was licensed as both an architect and an engineer. His obituary noted that he came to Charlotte in 1916 as chief draftsman for the architectural firm of James M. McMichael and later joined the chemical engineering firm of Peter Gilchrist as chief architect. In 1922, Marsh opened his own practice in Charlotte, where he spent his entire career except for a brief period during World War II.
Marsh like many of his fellow architects kept especially busy during the 1920s. In 1922 the local newspaper announced the impending construction of an apartment house “of modern design” he had planned for J. D. Stroupe on North Church Street between 7th and 8th Streets, one of several new apartment houses in the city (if it was built, it no longer stands). An important downtown landmark was his 1926 Builders Building, built at a key spot at 314 West Trade Street for developer Charles Lambeth as a seven-story downtown tower that served as headquarters for many of Charlotte’s contractors and other building professionals and tradesmen. His Charlotte Auditorium and Armory, which stood at Kings Drive and 7th Street, is remembered for its rapid completion, having been constructed in seventy-three working days to host the thirty-ninth national reunion of Confederate Veterans in 1929.
During the Great Depression Marsh along with others found work in publicly funded projects including schools. The Statesville Record and Landmark of June 20, 1935 noted that Marsh had been selected to plan school buildings for the county (Iredell County), “in the event the application for PWA government funds meets final approval.” He also gained commissions for private residences in Charlotte and elsewhere in the mid to late 1930s. Among his employees at this time was James A. Stenhouse, a recent graduate of Georgia Tech who would go on to become a prominent Charlotte architect.
In 1940, as the nation prepared for war, Marsh completed a National Defense census form for engineers and architects. He stated that his firm had a staff of four, but noted that a “quick, large, efficient organization can be had.” He listed among his recent commissions, dating from the 1930s, Fairview Homes, Concord High School, State Hospital Morganton, the Kannapolis Theater, Richmond County schools, the Coca-Cola bottling plant, and a residence for Charles Kistler in Morganton. He added a note on his practice: “Wide varied experience. Reputation for expediency and coordination. Can expedite plans for all kinds of buildings.”
During the war Marsh was stationed in New York and Washington with the War Production Board, serving as liaison architect for the construction division of the production board. He is also described as having designed the Morris Field Army Air Base (1941), which later became the site of the Charlotte airport.
In 1945 Marsh entered into partnership with Tebee Hawkins, native of Atlanta educated in architecture at Clemson University. During the postwar era Marsh along with his contemporaries adopted modernist styles, as illustrated in the main office of Mutual Savings and Loan, an International Style high-rise structure of blue and white glazed masonry completed in 1962 at 330 South Tryon Street in downtown Charlotte. Postwar projects also included school and hospital work, churches and residences, and bottling plants for Pepsi-Cola in various towns. Marsh retired in 1964. After Marsh’s retirement, the firm he established continued under various names, most recently Hawkins Kibler Associates. Marsh was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, where his wife, Lavonne, was buried in 1948.
In addition to the projects cited in the building list, several other Charlotte projects have been cited to Marsh for which additional information is needed. These include an apartment house at Queens Road and Pembroke Avenue (1936); the Jefferson Apartments; the Liggett Drug Company Building; the Torrence Hemby House; a gymnasium for the Thompson Orphanage; the South Branch Public Library (1956); F. H. Ross Warehouse and Office Building; and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Building. Another commission cited to Marsh is the Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church, but the history of the church notes church member Chuck Wheatley as architect of the ca. 1950 Colonial Revival structure. Marsh is also credited with several North Carolina commissions beyond Charlotte, including First Baptist Church, Mooresville; the H. B. Wilkenson House, Concord; the W. Lineberger House, Shelby; the Kannapolis High School in Kannapolis; and theaters in Kannapolis and Lincolnton. Many more projects appear in the job list cited below and merit further research.
Records of the firm begun by Marsh, dating from 1923 to 1972 are held in the Hawkins Kibler Associates architectural drawings collection (mss#275), Special Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. A job listing made in 1983 from this collection by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commissions notes names and some dates for building projects represented in more than 90 tubes in the collection; many of them, especially the numerous residences, are undated. When processing of these records is completed, further research in this collection will provide additional information about Marsh and his work.
- Charlotte Observer, Sept. 5, 1977.
- Thomas W. Hanchett, “Myers Park Historic District,” National Register of Historic Places nomination (1986).
- Thomas W. Hanchett, “The Work of M. R. Marsh and Successor Architects,” manuscript at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina (1983).
- Hawkins Kibler Associates architectural drawings collection (mss#275), Special Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina.
- “Job Listing” typescript of drawings at Hawkins Kibler Associates, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Historic Properties Commission, 1983, copy at Special Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Richard Mattson and Frances Alexander, “Fritz Seifart House,” National Register of Historic Places nomination (2006).
1926-1927Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
312 W. Trade St., Charlotte, NCStatus:
The 7-story masonry building with classical detailing was built for businessman Charles E. Lambeth as a home for the various firms involved in Charlotte’s building trades as part of the city’s focus on growth.
1926Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
1310 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NCStatus:
The stylish building employs concrete in various formats, with the façade displaying scored and polished surfaces resembling cut stone, adorned with classical details. It is an especially well preserved example of this building type in Charlotte.
- Contributors:Marion R. Marsh, architectdDates:
1929Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
310 N. Kings Dr., Charlotte, NCStatus:
The large masonry building with castellated roofline was built in just 73 working days to serve as the meeting place of the 39th reunion of Confederate veterans, which brought an estimated 50-70,000 veterans and visitors to town. The building burned in 1954, and some of the foundation walls were reused in the Park Center, later the Grady Cole Center.
1929-1930Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
1401-1409 W. Morehead St., Charlotte, NCStatus:
Using the company’s signature elements, Marsh designed this Coca-Cola bottling facility, a concrete and brick veneered structure as an advertisement of the company and the product, with the distinctive script over the entrance and big Coke bottles made by the local Ornamental Stone Company at the corners of the building. He is said to have planned it in coordination with local company president Luther Snyder. Large windows offered views of the bottling process.
1935Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
500 Cherokee Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:
According to a report by Mary Lynn Morrill, when Eastover School opened its doors in 1935 at 500 Cherokee Road, it had six classrooms for grades 1-6, a one room office and a small first aid room. It was designed by architect James A. Stenhouse, then employed by Marsh. Eastover School is cited as Stenhouse’s “first design job out of college (Georgia Tech). It took Mr. Stenhouse two weeks to design Eastover School. He was paid $10.00 as he made $5.00 weekly pay. The only element not used in his design was a handsome cupola, eliminated for budget reasons. Mr. Marsh was paid 6% of the construction costs. W.P.A. labor was used in the construction of the school (a grant to the city from the federal Public Works Administration.) The only government restriction was that you couldn’t pay anyone less than 25 cents hourly to do W.P.A. work. The school system liked Stenhouse’s design so much it reused it for Midwood elementary, Eastover’s twin, on Central Ave.” The school has been updated and expanded over the years.
1940Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
Oaklawn Ave. and Statesville Ave., Charlotte, NCStatus:
No longer standingType:
The large federally funded housing development that opened in 1940 was built for low income black residents as one of the Charlotte’s first efforts at public housing. Like many such projects of its time, it was designed by a prominent local architect and seen as a great advance over previous housing. It consisted mainly of brick row houses. The area has been completely redeveloped.
1938Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
41 Hempstead Place, Charlotte, NCStatus:
The Tudor Revival residence, built for Seifart, a native of Germany who was president of the Hudson Silk (later Hosiery) Mill, is one of the larger residences in the Eastover neighborhood. The landscape was designed by Clarence Leeman, an associate of Earle Sumner Draper, who had laid out the automobile-oriented suburb.
- Variant Name(s):
Charles Kistler HouseDates:
1937Location:Morganton, Burke CountyStreet Address:
509 W. Union St.Status:
The 2 1/2-story brick residence of Charles Kistler is considered Morganton’s finest example of the Colonial Revival style. Marsh noted in his National Defense census form that it was built in 1937 and cost $100,000.
- Variant Name(s):
Midwood Elementary SchoolDates:
Ca. 1935Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
1723 Central Ave., Charlotte, NCStatus:
The school followed the model established by Eastover Elementary School and was one of several local schools by Marsh’s firm.
- Variant Name(s):
Oasis Shriners TempleDates:
1953Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
321 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NCStatus:
No longer standingType:
Marsh’s obituary was headlined, “Oasis Temple Designer, Marion Marsh, Dies at 76,” indicating that this was a prominent edifice, yet little is known about it. Tube #11 in the Hawkins-Kibler Collection contains material on “Building for Oasis Temple, 26 May 1953.” The Charlotte city directory of 1956 lists the Oasis Temple near the Masonic Temple (329 South Tryon St.), the Egyptian style edifice designed by Charles Christian Hook many years before. (Both have been lost.)
1948-1949Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:
Dilworth Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:
No longer standingType:
Tube #34 in the Hawkins Kibler Collection contains material on “Proposed Temple Israel, 4/15/46 and 4/24/46,” and Tube # 5 contains material on “Building for Temple Israel, 14 May 1948” and an addition to the temple, undated. In the 1990s the congregation moved to a larger facility. The Dilworth Road site has been redeveloped.