The Kenworth Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 with an expansion listed in 2005. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from copies of the original nomination document. [‡, ‡] Adaptation copyrgiht © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Kenworth Historic District recalls Hickory's two early twentieth century periods of development when its expanding population and diversification of the manufacturing base transformed the city's appearance. It is also the most intact and visually cohesive part of Kenworth, Hickory's first planned subdivision in which some of the latest theories in suburban design were employed to create a more picturesque residential neighborhood. The platting of the neighborhood in 1913 was, in retrospect, untimely. World War I intervened and delayed intensive building here until 1920. Kenworth, the new home of young businessmen and professionals many of whom had recently moved to Hickory, became and remains a showplace of the diversity of the bungalow house type.
The Kenworth Historic District represents the largest, most representative and most intact group of bungalows in Hickory, most of which are constructed within the boundaries of Kenworth, the city's first planned subdivision. It also includes a number of significant adjacent buildings including Hickory's second graded school and a neighborhood church. Platted in 1913, but not developed until the early 1920s, this subdivision represents Hickory' post World War I growth period. As a result, the character of the Kenworth Historic District recalls not only the tremendous overall growth in the period, but also the then current theories about the design of suburban areas.
Prior to the development of Kenworth the area had been farmland and woods owned by a number of people. An 1886 map of Catawba County shows neither a road nor any farmstead situated in the area, although the Hawn Family House, probably erected in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, stood in the vicinity. The house is located just south of the subdivision. A portion of the farm may have been incorporated into the Kenworth area, but this has not been verified.
The initial development of the Kenworth District commenced at a time when Hickory was experiencing rapid growth in the number and type of its manufactories as well as its population. In 1910 the city had a population of 3,716 persons, a figure which had grown to 5,076 in 1920. These people were employed by a growing number of furniture, hosiery, and textile mills, as well as the various support and service enterprises which accompanied them. The continuous steady upward population spiral — there had been 2,535 people in Hickory in 1900 — created an urgent need for housing. In response, no doubt, to what was perceived as a bright future for the real estate business in Hickory, a number of prominent businessmen formed the Hickory Land and Development Company in 1913.
The Hickory Land and Development Company was founded by Kenneth C. Menzies, William B. Menzies, J.L. Riddle, J.D. Elliott, and H.E. Elliott. Each had subscribed to thirty shares of stock valued at $100 per share. In the letters of incorporation the company's objects were clearly stated: "...to acquire by purchase or otherwise, own, hold, buy, sell, convey, lease, mortgage or encumber real estate or other property either real, personal or mixed. To erect houses and rent same. To survey, subdivide, plat, improve and develop lands for the purpose of sale, rent or otherwise, and to do and perform all things needful and lawful for the development and improvement of same for residences, trade or any lawful purpose or purposes whatsoever. To carry on in all of its phases the business of a real estate dealer to buy and sell houses, lots or any lands whatsoever...and to supply any and all houses with lights and water, telephones and other conveniences of any character."
Soon after its incorporation the company began to acquire property. By the end of 1913 a parcel containing approximately fifty acres had been pieced together in the city's southeastern section. On it Hickory's first subdivision was planned.
The founders of the company were involved in various occupations in Hickory. Kenneth C. Menzies was vice president, and later president, of the First National Bank. His brother William was manager of the Hickory Manufacturing Company, a firm which produced building materials. J.L. Riddle was a grocer and a director of the First National Bank. The Elliott brothers were engaged in a number of businesses, one of which was the Elliott Building Company, a firm which was active throughout the state. J.D. Elliott was also a former mayor and one of the founders of the First National Bank, becoming its president in 1912.
It is a point of some significance that when the company had assembled the fifty acres of land it turned to the Charlotte firm of Blair and Drane to design the subdivision. Holmes Blair and Brent Drane were listed in the Charlotte city directories as Civil and Landscape Engineers. A third member of the firm was Wilbur W. Smith. All three of these names appear on the plat of the Kenworth subdivision with Smith the acting surveyor. Key to the firm's design of Kenworth was the fact that it had been involved in the expansion of the Dilworth subdivision in Charlotte.
The extension of Dilworth was designed by the Olmsted Brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. In its design, Dilworth embodied the latest approach to planning residential neighborhoods. Winding roads which followed the topography were laid out in a heavily landscaped hierarchy of wide boulevards and smaller feeder streets. Thus the rigid grid patterns of earlier periods had been discarded for a more picturesque park-like atmosphere. Although Frederick Law Olmsted's work in the mid-nineteenth century had set a precedent for such designs it was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that they were widely accepted. It had been, in part, a reaction to the pace of industrialization which made such ideas popular. The well-to-do had begun to see the suburban home as a retreat from the pace of city life, and the extension of railroads and trolleys, as well as the ever-increasing number of automobiles made commuting to them possible.
Dilworth [see Dilworth Historic District] was the first example in Charlotte of the new approach to city planning, but it was surpassed by Myers Park subdivision [see Myers Park Historic District] designed by John Nolen in 1911, and extended in 1927-30 by planner Earle Draper. Furthermore, it is important to gauge the impact of these designs, drawn up by nationally prominent firms, on the local engineering companies which had been hired to transform the design to reality. When retained to lay out subdivisions such as Kenworth, Blair and Drane were certainly influenced by their direct contact with nationally recognized designers.
The planning activities not only in Charlotte but throughout the nation provide a context in which to examine the design of the Kenworth subdivision. Blair and Drane were confronted by topography which was composed of three distinct parts: (1) An irregular plateau at the western edge which sloped from about 1,180 feet to 1,125 feet in a north-south direction; (2) a bisecting ravine which became increasingly steeper at the southern end; and (3) an eastern edge which fell rapidly from an elevation of 1,180 feet to about 1,125 feet, and then gradually sloped to 1,100 feet. Their solution called for a straight road (5th Street) to extend southward along a ridge from 2nd Avenue until it curved at the south end to again follow the topography. 3rd Avenue Drive branched off of 5th Street approximately one-third of the way from its north terminus and gently curved along the edge of the ravine, providing house sites on its west side overlooking the wooded ravine. A third road (6th Street), which was never built, extended along the west side of the ravine from 3rd Avenue Drive northward to 2nd Avenue. A fourth street (7th Street) intersected 2nd Avenue, curved downward toward the center of the tract and then turned to the southeast to follow the floor of the depression. Finally, one street (also never built) proceeded eastward in a winding fashion from 6th Street, across 7th Street and up the side of the east hill. Bordering these streets, which had been undifferentiated from each other in width, were 150 building lots of near equal size. The picturesque street pattern was not supported by different-sized lots, reflecting the special character of the landscape.
Without any of the development company's records to consult it is difficult to make statements of fact about its intent in this subdivision. By the very consideration of this area for such a use, however, it seems reasonable to assume that the developers were fully aware of its potential in the context of current planning trends. That they hired Blair and Drane to design it supports the suggestion. In fact, the Hickory Democrat was well aware of this when it reported, the "...promoters employed skilled landscape engineers to lay out roads and grounds." As if to underscore their ideals the developers installed paired stone columns at the entrance to Fifth Street — an obvious reference to the stone gates which marked entrances into Charlotte's Myers Park. At the same time, however, it is clear that they had not intended to create a Myers Park or a Dilworth. The price of lots and their relatively small size defined the type of neighborhood which the developers envisioned; one targeted primarily at the middle or lower middle class. The Oakwood and Claremont College (now High School) Districts would remain as two of the most fashionable residential areas.
Kenworth was boldly different from any other part of Hickory when it was laid out. As a 1915 map of the city shows, Kenworth's winding roads and location at the southeastern fringe of the corporate limits were in sharp contrast to the older grid pattern of streets with development concentrated close to the downtown area.
Although platted by 1914, only six houses had been erected in the Kenworth subdivision prior to W.W. I. Of these six, five were clustered together near the southwestern corner, and the sixth was built within the boundary of the present district. (Later construction dating from the 1940s through the 1960s placed an incongruous barrier between the bungalow structures in the district and those built in other portions of the subdivision which are similar and in many cases older.)
Development of the Kenworth District commenced along 2nd Avenue, and just outside of the subdivision's boundaries. In response to the growing school-age population and the overburdened facilities at the North or Oakwood school, the City of Hickory made plans in 1913 to build a new school. Called simply the Graded School No. 2, but commonly referred to as the South school, the present Kenworth Elementary School (426 Second Avenue SE) was built in 1913. Its location in the city's southern half was apparently deemed necessary by the size of the population there — some 2,250 of a total population of 4,800. (Hickory's first graded school was built in 1903 in the northern half of the city.) In 1933 the South school was renamed Kenworth Elementary School because of its location near the Kenworth residential area. The single house erected at this time in what is now the Kenworth Historic District was for John G. Carrier. Employed at the Hickory Manufacturing Company, Carrier had bought his lot along 5th Street in 1915 and had his fine bungalow built that same year.
The United States's entry into W.W. I put a halt to any further development in the Kenworth District. With its resources given over to the war effort, Hickory and the nation as a whole virtually stopped building. After the war the city was poised on the edge of a phenomenal period of growth. In 1920 the population stood at 5,076, but it would soar by forty-five percent in the decade to 7,363 persons in 1930. This followed the pattern evident throughout North Carolina at this time in the wake of a general economic boom spurred on by business and industry.
As industry retooled following the war, the price of building materials remained high. By 1921, however, local builders and developers had joined the Hickory Daily Record in proclaiming that "Now is the Proper time to Start Building Campaign." A large part of the February 4, 1921 issue of the Hickory Daily Record was devoted to this topic. In it there were articles about building costs, the number of new homes recently constructed, as well as numerous advertisements by local builders and lending institutions. The Hickory Land and Development Company had taken a half-page ad which read:
"Opportunity for Builders — The most attractive residential section of Hickory is Kenworth, a community of pretty houses, on good streets, with water, lights and other modern improvements and in easy reach of the South graded school.
If you want a home in this section, the Hickory Land and Development Company will assist you in any way possible to attain your desire.
The company has scores of beautiful lots to select from. It will sell them at a small cost to you, assist you to put up your home, or if you prefer it will erect the building at actual cost, thus saving you money, time and trouble.
Arrangements will be made to assist you in carrying the cost of home ownership through the building and loan association. All you need is a small sum of money and the determination to become a home-owner.
Let us explain any one of several good propositions for you to you."
An accompanying article proclaimed Kenworth's growth as probably the finest of any residential section in Hickory. The paper described it as "Situated in a beautiful part of Hickory...it has lights, water and sewerage, beautiful trees and wholesome surroundings."
Consumer demand, the location, and what was probably a relatively low cost for lots combined to transform the district virtually overnight from vacant lots to single family dwellings. Many of the people who moved into Kenworth appear to have been young businessmen and professionals. A number of them had recently moved to Hickory and were in the early stages of their careers. This accounts, in part, for the high turnover rate in ownership in this district compared to some of the older residential areas in the city.
It is significant that these young middle class families chose to build in Kenworth rather than in other areas of the city. Their conscious selection of home sites here suggests that they identified themselves with the relatively new concepts of suburban planning and neighborhood design embodied in the subdivision. Removed from the business district but in close proximity to the South graded school, Kenworth offered the advantages of location and a number of amenities which combined to create an attractive new residential atmosphere. The fact that stone pillars had been used to mark the principal entrance to Kenworth certainly contributed to this sense of neighborhood unity.
Sales of both vacant lots and company built houses had been brisk, commencing about 1920. Of the remaining twenty-four lots in the district which were owned by the Hickory Land and Development Company, all but eight had been purchased by 1922. Only one of those eight would not be sold before 1923. All of these lots carried deed restrictions which prescribed a setback of twenty or twenty-five feet, and the value of improvements to equal or exceed $3,000. Some of the interest in Kenworth was clearly speculative in nature. For example, L.L. Moss, a local builder, bought a lot in November of 1923 for $800, built a house on it, and sold it in June of 1924 for $6,000. Another lot, although purchased in 1921, was not developed until 1939. A number of additional parcels were purchased by residents who wished to increase the size of their relatively small lots. Furthermore, three houses appear to have been built by the company since the price for the property was far greater than for unimproved lots. A third house, long rented by the company to the Eugene C. Ivey family, had probably been built about 1920.
Building activity in the Kenworth subdivision during this period was concentrated in the northwest corner — that portion which constitutes the bulk of the present Kenworth Historic District. A brief discussion of some of the new residents and their occupations will illustrate the social composition of this residential area at the time of its development.
The Hickory Land and Development Company built four houses along 5th Street in 1919 and 1920, and by the end of the second year they had sold all but one. Dr. W.H. Nicholson, a retired physician and secretary and manager of the corporation bought one of them for $5,000 in January of 1920. An active member of the business and financial community in Hickory, Nicholson lived in this house (232 Fifth Street SE) while he was having another residence (206 Fifth Street SE) built for himself. Edgar L. Fox, an employee of the First Savings and Loan Association, purchased one of the houses (239 Fifth Street SE) for $5,000 in May of 1920, and he and his wife lived here until they built a new home on 2nd Avenue NW in 1937 (in the Oakwood Historic District). In December of 1920 J.W. Whisnant, an attorney, bought the third house (246 Fifth Street SE) for $6,500.
The development of the district begun in 1920 continued during 1921 with the construction of at least three more houses all along 5th Street and 3rd Avenue Drive. Dr. William P. Speas had purchased a lot in December of 1920, and by February of 1921 had started to build a house (252 Fifth Street SE) on it. Speas had come to Hickory from Davie County and established a medical practice in which he specialized in eye, ear, nose and throat diseases. In 1927 he left to do post-graduate work and the house was purchased by J.B. Duval, the manager and superintendent of Brookford Mills. At the same time that the Speas-Duval House was being built, K.K. Kennedy was building an impressive Colonial Revival house (306 Third Avenue Drive SE). Kennedy was the superintendent of the Catawba Creamery Company, and in 1922 he sold the house to P. Ceph Setzer, a partner in the dry goods store of Setzer and Russell. Four lots to the north of Kennedy's house, Herman Payne had begun construction of a house (233 Fifth Street SE) on a lot he bought for $1,000 in January of 1921. Manager of the Hickory Ice and Coal Company, Payne moved to Lenoir soon after the house was built. Subsequent occupants included hosiery manufacturer Robert Lee Bothwell, and the immigrant German family of Rudolph J. Scheller who was also associated with the local hosiery industry.
A number of people had purchased building lots by mid or late 1921 and they had probably completed houses on them by 1922. Clyde L. Herman bought a parcel for $1,000 in September which was located at 304 Fifth Street SE. In 1918 Herman had obtained a bookkeeper's position with the First National Bank of Hickory, and was subsequently promoted through several positions until at his retirement in 1970 he was vice-president and cashier. Dr. Nicholson's second house (206 Fifth Street SE) had been completed in 1922 and he lived there for seven years before selling it to the Robert G. Abernethys. Abernethy was operating the Abernethy Transfer and Storage Company and his wife Lovie Miller Abernethy was the vice-president and bookkeeper.
Between the years of 1922 and 1925, six more houses were erected in the district, and three of them were built on adjoining lots along the north side of 2nd Avenue. William P. Bowman, who operated a lumber business in Hickory, built a large bungalow (439 Second Avenue SE) on a lot he had purchased in 1922. In that same year his daughter Ila and her husband Frederick O. Bock built a finely detailed bungalow (445 Second Avenue SE) on the adjacent lot. Soon after his father and brother-in-law had built their houses Wade Vance Bowman built a bungalow (505 Second Avenue SE) adjacent to the Bock's house. An officer in W.W. I and later a hosiery manufacturer Wade sold the house to his brother Herbert in 1925 who in turn transferred it to Matthew and Corinne Lowrey in 1933. Lowrey had purchased the Chero-Cola Bottling Company which he operated until his retirement.
The 1920s had seen the rapid growth of the Kenworth District as newcomers to Hickory sought homes in the city's first subdivision. Both Hickory natives and the newly arrived contributed to the development of Kenworth's unique character. These people constructed homes on building lots of equal size which carried deed restrictions as to setback and the minimum value of improvements. Furthermore, the district's planned appearance influenced the unity in the houses' form, scale, and type of building materials, as well as the landscaping.
Population growth in Hickory had forced the school board to enlarge the South graded school in 1919, and by the middle of the decade other facilities had to be built throughout the city. In addition to new schools and houses Hickory's citizens were erecting new church buildings for their growing congregations. Having met since 1908 in the old First Presbyterian Church, (located in the vicinity of present South Center Street and First Avenue SW), the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church built a new edifice (410 Second Avenue SE) in the district in 1926.
Development in the district since the late 1920s has been limited by the availability of lots. The Andrew J. Borders House at 226 Fifth Street SE was built about 1940, and the Joseph H. Hardy House (247 Fifth Street SE) was added about 1948. Even though the lot had been sold to Mrs. W.G. Fox in 1921, the Borders' house had apparently not been built until after he purchased it in November 1939.
The Kenworth Historic District had assumed its present form by about 1948, three years after the Hickory Land and Development Company was dissolved. Although it comprises only about one-fifth of the total Kenworth subdivision — much of which was never developed due to the rugged topography — the Kenworth Historic District is an important element in the early twentieth century history of Hickory.
Perhaps greater significance, however, lies in the Kenworth Historic District's testimonial to the group of men who founded the Hickory Land and Development Company. Leaders in the community's business and financial spheres, they revealed through the design of the Kenworth subdivision their vision of a suburban landscape much different in form than those which characterized Hickory at that time. Their far-reaching business ties exposed them to the latest concepts in planning and landscape architecture. As a result, when the company was ready to create its first subdivision it turned to Charlotte for the technical expertise required to transform a vision to reality.
Kenworth became home for both newcomers and long-time residents of Hickory, and at least for a number of years it was one of the most popular residential areas in the city especially, it seems for younger businessmen and their families. Today, the Kenworth Historic District is home for a number of young professionals and their families as well as now retired businessmen, some of whom have lived there for fifty or more years.
Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion
The Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for architecture. The period of significance begins in 1915 — the year the Josiah J. and Cecelia Willard House (443 Fifth Street SE) and the Everett C. and Ethel H. Johnson House (436 Third Avenue Drive SE) were built — and extends to 1952, encompassing the majority of the resources in the neighborhood. The Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion contains properties south of the original district on both sides of 5th Street SE, the south side of 5th Avenue SE and on both sides of 3rd Avenue Drive SE. The expansion area also extends west of the original boundary on the south side of 2nd Avenue SE to include two residences and north on the west side of 5th Street SE to incorporate one residence. The locally-significant Kenworth Historic District contains an eclectic mix of nationally popular styles and vernacular forms common to suburbs that developed in North Carolina in the first half of the twentieth century. Charlotte architect Louis Asbury designed the Josiah J. and Cecelia Willard House, which is one of the earliest and most imposing buildings in the district. The bulk of the resources were constructed from 1940 to 1952. Dwellings executed in the Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Period Cottage, Minimal Traditional and Ranch styles are the predominant property types.
The Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion is also eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in the area of Community Planning and Development. The Hickory Land and Development Company, formed in response to an urgent need for housing created by Hickory's rapid increase in population during the first decades of the twentieth century, acquired fifty acres in southeast Hickory and planned the city's first subdivision. The company engaged the Charlotte civil and landscape engineering firm of Blair and Drane to design the Kenworth subdivision. Holmes Blair and Brent Drane, who had been involved in the expansion of the Dilworth subdivision in Charlotte, laid out a picturesque system of streets which conformed to the irregular topography of the area but allowed for 150 building lots of near equal size. The Kenworth Historic District expansion area encompasses a portion of the Kenworth subdivision which was platted in 1913 but not heavily developed until the years following World War II.
There are twenty-eight primary and twelve secondary resources in the Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion area, eighty-three percent of which are contributing. The noncontributing resources, which are modest Ranch houses and recently constructed sheds, garages and carports, do not overwhelm the contributing resources.
As the new century dawned, Hickory, like the rest of the state, was poised for growth and expansion. Most residents worked in the growing number of furniture, textile and hosiery mills or in auxiliary service enterprises. Furniture manufacturing provided the most jobs in Hickory by World War I, with a steady stream of new businesses including Hickory Furniture Company (1901), Martin Furniture (1902), Hickory Manufacturing Company (1903), Hickory Novelty Company (1906), Hickory Chair Company (1912) and Southern Desk Company (1913). Piedmont Wagon Company, textile mills such as the Hickory Spinning Company and A.A. Shuford Mills, Hickory Hosiery (1906), Elliot Hosiery (1910) and The Best Hosiery (1913) were also big employers. The population of Hickory doubled in the first two decades of the twentieth century — growing from 2,535 residents in 1900 to 5,076 in 1920.
Hickory was not alone its rapid growth, nor in the fact that much of the development was occurring in newly platted subdivisions. The majority of North Carolina's cities saw their populations double or triple between 1900 and 1930. People moved to Charlotte and Greensboro to work in the textile mills, to Winston-Salem and Durham for textile and tobacco manufacturing jobs, to Wilmington for shipping and railroad work and to Raleigh to work in state government or at State College. Following these primary economic engines were banks, construction firms, restaurants and retail outlets that created even more opportunities for a regular paycheck.
Most people inundating towns and cities during this time were from rural areas: farmers and farm laborers tired of scratching a living from poor land. Newcomers had to adjust to the noise, pollution, and rigid working hours that accompanied urbanity. Furthermore, the ancient notion of the city as a "den of iniquity" and the countryside as healthy became more firmly entrenched every time a technological advance increased the pace of city life. In reaction, urban planning that idealized separation of commercial and residential uses — as well as the separation of classes and races — took on an unprecedented importance, particularly once it was facilitated by transportation improvements. Industry, commerce, and homemaking were each given their own sector of town, with homes preferably built along winding, tree-lined streets. Suburban lawns and shade were meant to create a sanctuary for the urbanite and bring a bit of the country to those newly relocated from a farm or crossroads town. Planners based "rural" residential retreats that were within or close to a city in large part on nineteenth century cemeteries and parks: their curving drives, trees, flowers, planned vistas, and sculpture were meant to provide relief from the city's gray stone, steel, and concrete. Towards the end of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century, better transportation made it possible for developers to build houses in similar park-like settings carved from outlying open land previously inconveniently distant from downtown.
Kenneth C. Menzies, William B. Menzies, J.L. Riddle, J.D. Elliot and H.E. Elliot formed the Hickory Land and Development Company in 1913 in response to the urgent need for housing created by Hickory's rapidly growing population. They acquired a fifty-acre parcel of land in southeast Hickory and hired the Charlotte firm of Blair and Drane to design Hickory's first subdivision, Kenworth. Blair and Drane was involved in the extension of the Dilworth subdivision in Charlotte, designed by the Olmsted Brothers, so they were well aware of the national trend toward subdivisions with winding roads and naturalistic landscaping that created a picturesque, park-like setting.
The Hickory Land and Development Company derived the name of their newly created subdivision from the names of two key developers: Kenneth Menzies, president of First National Bank of Hickory and Worth Elliot, president of Elliot Building Company. They targeted the middle and lower middle class with modest houses on relatively small, inexpensive lots. Six houses were constructed in the subdivision prior to World War I. Hickory, like most of the nation, saw little development during World War I, but the population grew from 5,076 in 1920 to 7,363 in 1930, once again creating the need for additional housing.
Although building costs remained high in the early 1920s, the Hickory Land and Development Company actively promoted Kenworth as "the most attractive residential section of Hickory...a community of pretty houses, on good streets, with water, lights and other modern improvements and in easy reach of the South graded school." The company offered to sell lots or erect homes for prospective buyers and provide financing through the building and loan association. The northwest corner of the subdivision, encompassed in the original boundaries of the Kenworth Historic District, was developed first. This section of the neighborhood contains finely detailed bungalows, a few Colonial Revival style houses, the (former) Christ Lutheran Church and the Kenworth School. Subdivision covenants mandated that houses in Kenworth should be set back at least twenty feet from the road, share driveways where necessary to facilitate off-street parking and be worth at least $3,000.
The Kenworth subdivision experienced its greatest period of expansion from the 1940s through the early 1950s, when the GI Bill helped returning World War II veterans like Harold Sigmon, Fred Mull and Calvin Mull pay for houses. The post-war population influx expanded neighborhoods and resulted in rapid growth in Hickory's size and urban nature. The majority of properties in the Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion — roughly fifty-five percent — were constructed during this time, easing an apparently severe housing shortage. Interviews revealed that some families doubled up and shared single-family homes during the period. Nationally, housing shortages — common in this era — generally resulted from years of slow development during the Depression.
In the decades since, the character of the Kenworth neighborhood has remained remarkably stable, maintaining a mix of homeowners and renters, young professionals and retirees. The relatively few buildings that post-date the period of significance are of the same type as those constructed during the period and have been rendered in compatible scale. The Kenworth neighborhood still retains its early-to-mid-twentieth century suburban character.
The dwellings and small outbuildings in the Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion represent the architectural styles and forms that were common in Hickory and throughout Piedmont North Carolina from the early twentieth century through the post-World War II era. During this period, architecture reflected the social and economic changes occurring as Hickory transformed from a quiet town to a bustling industrial center. As the population of Hickory grew and neighborhoods adjacent to downtown filled, residents began moving farther from the central city. With the advent of the automobile in the twentieth century, development continued to move into more suburban areas of North Carolina's town and cities. In cities such as Hickory, this push outward from the central downtown often translated into the construction of houses on streets only one or two streets beyond main arteries and commercial areas. As the twentieth century got under way, it was common for bank presidents and prosperous merchants to live only one street away from store clerks and carpenters. While professionals and workers continued to live in relative close proximity to their work places and each other, the differences in the two groups' income and social standing were made clear by the size of their houses and the lots they occupied.
As the automobile allowed for increased mobility, national trends in architecture began to exert a greater influence on house styles in the Kenworth neighborhood. The earliest houses in the boundary expansion area are Bungalows and Foursquares with Craftsman details. The 1915 Josiah J. and Cecelia Willard House (443 Fifth Street SE) is one of the earliest and most imposing houses in the neighborhood. Situated on a rise at the corner of 5th Street SE and 5th Avenue SE, the two-story, brick, Foursquare has a hip-roofed wrap-around porch with brick corner posts, tapered wood posts on brick piers and a wood railing as well as a gable-roofed porte cochere with brick posts.
The Bungalow enjoyed national popularity in the late 1910s and 1920s and architects designed fine examples for clients from coast to coast. Scaled-down versions of the style proved immensely popular in towns and suburbs across North Carolina into the early 1930s. Building plans for these houses, with their wide overhanging eaves, open arrangement of rooms, and inviting porches, appeared in national magazines and catalogs. The Bungalow was inexpensive and easy to construct and appealed to families' desires for a modern house.
The Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion contains only three Bungalows, as most dwellings of this style were included within the original Kenworth Historic District boundaries. The 1915 Everett C. and Ethel H. Johnson House (436 Third Avenue Drive SE) was one of the first houses constructed in Kenworth. The one-and-one-half-story, frame Bungalow manifests Craftsman details including wood shingle siding, a cross-gable roof, a single-leaf entry with sidelights, a shed-roofed front porch with colonettes on brick piers and wood railing, exposed rafter ends and eave brackets. The Claude S. and Iva A. Abernathy House (450 Third Avenue Drive SE), built on the corner of 3rd Avenue Drive SE and 5th Avenue SE in 1930, is a one-and-one-half-story, frame Bungalow with wide weatherboards, a cross-gable roof, shed-roofed corner porches with truncated wood posts on brick piers, exposed rafter ends, eave brackets, a stone foundation and steps and interior stone chimneys. Hugh E. Fritts, the Secretary-Treasurer of Carolina Land Company, and his wife Ada Mae built a one and one-half-story, frame Bungalow with a side-gable roof, a shed-roofed front porch with grouped square wood posts, exposed rafter ends and eave brackets at 431 Fifth Street SE in 1923.
The fifteen Bungalows in the original section of the Kenworth Historic District are similar to those in the boundary expansion in size, scale, form and massing. They are predominantly frame, one or one and one-half story dwellings with gabled roofs and porches. The 1923 Frederick O. Bock House at 445 Second Avenue SE reflects a combination of Craftsman and Asian influences in its engaged corner porch with tapered posts on brick piers spanned by a brick kneewall that support a lightly flared roof, wood-shingle siding on the shed dormer and the gable ends and exposed rafter ends. The Nicholson-Abernathy House, built at 206 Fifth Street NE in 1922, is a one-story, brick-veneered Bungalow with a front-gable roof and a gabled porch supported by paired posts on brick piers spanned by a brick kneewall. Half-timbered and stuccoed gable ends lend a Tudor Revival flavor to the dwelling. The 1921 Speas-Duval House at 252 Fifth Street SE is a one-story, front-gable-roofed Bungalow with weatherboards and wood shingle siding, a stone foundation and interior and end stone chimneys. Its porches are supported by truncated post on stone piers spanned by a wood balustrade.
By 1930, the population of Hickory had grown to 7,363. Some construction occurred in the Kenworth Historic District expansion area during the 1930s, despite the Great Depression. The buildings from the period were modest dwellings with classical or Colonial Revival nuances. The 1930 P. Cephus and Laura J. Setzer House at 334 Third Avenue Drive SE is a two-story, frame house with German siding, a side-gable roof, a large shed-roofed dormer on facade, single-leaf entries, and a front-gable-roofed entry porch supported by Tuscan columns. The Christ Lutheran Church Parsonage (410 Second Avenue SE), built in 1930 adjacent to the church, is a two-story-on-basement, brick house with a side-gable roof, a single-leaf entry with sidelights, a front-gable-roofed entry porch supported by square posts and a brick end chimney. The 1941 Peter N. and Helen C. Kovachi House at 514 Fifth Avenue SE is a transitional Craftsman/Colonial Revival dwelling. The one-story, brick house has a soldier course water table, a clipped-side-gable roof, a single-leaf entry with sidelights, a front-gable entry porch supported by paired colonettes on brick piers and an end chimney.
There were only three Colonial Revival houses in the original Kenworth Historic District, and, like those in the boundary expansion, they are relatively modest expressions of the style. The Annie McDowell Ervin House, built around 1920 at 253 Fifth Street SE, is a two-story, three-bay, hip-roofed dwelling with a single-leaf entry flanked by sidelights and hip-roofed entry and side porches supported by square posts. The 1921 Kennedy-Setzer House at 306 Third Avenue Drive SE is a bit more elaborate, two-story, three-bay, hip-roofed dwelling with entry and side porches supported by Tuscan columns, a single-leaf entry with sidelights, a modillion cornice and an end chimney. The John N. Bohannon House, built in 1923 at 311 Third Avenue SE, is a one-story, five-bay, frame house with a side-gable roof, a single-leaf entry flanked by narrow sidelights, a gabled dormer and German siding.
Period revival styles appeared throughout the South in the 1920s and in the Kenworth neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s. Inspired by English or Tudor cottages, Period Cottages were typically small, side-gabled dwellings with steep front gables and facade or end chimneys. The 1935 Walter J. and Clara C. Williams House (506 Fifth Avenue SE), was executed in stone veneer complete with a crenellated stone facade chimney. The one and one-half story Period Cottage had a side-gable roof with front gable, arched windows in front and side gables, and an arcaded front gable entry porch. The 1939 William M. and Blanche Busby House (346 Third Avenue Drive SE) is the only Period Cottage in the neighborhood with a stuccoed and half-timbered gable typical of the style. The one and one-half story, brick house has a soldier course water table, a side-gable roof with two front gables, a projecting front gable entry bay and an arcaded corner porch on the north end of the facade. World War II veteran Fred M. Mull and his wife Frankie built another brick Period Cottage at 502 Fifth Street SE in 1947. The one-and-one-half-story house has a brick soldier course water table, a side-gable roof with a projecting front gable entry bay, an arched front gable window, an arched single-leaf door, a hip-roofed side porch with metal posts and brick facade and interior chimneys.
When World War II war ended, Hickory's population rose to 14,755 as soldiers returned home. As construction revived after the war, some North Carolina families sought the comfort and reassurance of building in styles of the past such as the Colonial Revival, but, more commonly, new houses took on a decidedly modern appearance. The Minimal Traditional style began appearing just before the war and proved very popular in the last half of the 1940s. In the Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion, Minimal Traditional houses took several forms including a side-gabled dwelling with or without a front-facing gable or a one-story L-shaped form. The 1949 Jason C. and Nellie S. Jones House (449 Third Avenue Drive SE) is a rambling brick Minimal Traditional complete with an attached garage. The one-story house has a side-gable roof with a central front gable, a single-leaf entry with fluted pilasters and a denticulated cornice and an interior brick chimney. Harold H. and Inez Price Sigmon built a one-story-on-basement Minimal Traditional house at 422 Fifth Street SE in 1951. The frame house has weatherboard siding with brick end walls, a side-gable roof, metal casement and multi-pane picture windows, a recessed front porch and a roof patio over an attached carport at the rear.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Ranch house, with its low-pitched roof and open floor plan, enjoyed popularity throughout Hickory and in the Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion. The Ranch style originated in California in the 1930s and by the middle of the century it had been adapted throughout the country to meet the needs of families who desired a low-cost dwelling with living area on one level and enough space for all its members to enjoy their privacy. Ranch houses in Kenworth Historic District have brick and synthetic siding exteriors with broad chimneys, minimal detailing and rear patios. The 1952 Albert G. and Melba Bowman Miller House at 410 Fifth Street SE is a long, low, brick Ranch distinguished by a side-gable roof that faces the street. The James C. and Dorothy J. Barker House (417 Fifth Street SE) features the same brick soldier course water table as several Period Cottages in the neighborhood in addition to a Modernist rectangular stone chimney that accentuates the facade.
Two one-story, low-side-gable-roofed Ranch houses were built in the district in 1964 and 1981. Due to their lack of architectural and historical significance, these buildings have been classified as noncontributing.
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‡ Kirk F. Mohney, Consultant to the City of Hickory, Kenworth Historic District, Catawba County, NC, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
‡ Heather Fearnbach, Edwards-Pitman Environmental, Inc., Kenworth Historic District Boundary Expansion, Catawba County, NC, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
2nd Avenue SE • 3rd Avenue Drive SE • 5th Avenue SE • 5th Street SE