Fact Friday 307 – The 1774 Alexander Rock House & the Beginnings of CMH - Powered by the Charlotte Museum of History
The history of the 1774 Alexander Rock House has quite a few twists and turns from when it was built till today. Along the way, many families owned the house, and there were many efforts to restore it to its original glory.
Blueprint of the Rock House from 1970 completed by the architect firm Middleton, Wilkerson, McMillan. Source: The Charlotte Museum of History.
The Rock House was built in 1774 for Hezekiah Alexander and his family. The home was constructed by stonemasons who used rocks that were quarried from the property in a style reminiscent of homes in Maryland where the Alexander family originally lived. Until 1826, the house remained in the Alexander family, passing from Hezekiah in 1805 to his youngest son Oswald. In 1826, Oswald died without a will and his widow, Mary, petitioned for ownership of the Home which she received in 1828. From 1828 until the 1940s, many families owned and lived in the Rock House until 1943 when the last private owner, Eugene M. Cole, gave the house to the Western Conference of the Methodist Church. The Church gave the tract along with the other lands for the creation of the Methodist Home for the Aged in 1945. In 1949, the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R) leased the house and land for 99 years.
This new chapter in the Rock House brought along many attempts to restore the home led by the D.A.R and other organizations. Restoration of old homes is a generally tricky business. It is difficult to find records of everything that was included in the home, especially since so many different families lived in the house over the years. Something that helped the renovators was the use of an article that was published in 1878 in The Southern Home titled “Homes of the Signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration.” The article contained details that helped historians and contractors ensure they made historically accurate decisions during the renovation. After the D.A.R’s first restoration in the 40s, there was another push in the 70s to attempt to restore the Home in a more historically accurate fashion.
Undated photo of restoration from the south view, most likely from the 1970s. Source: The Charlotte Museum of History.
After years of fundraising, the house eventually passed into the hands of the Mint Museum and the City of Charlotte which helped complete the restoration. Some of the renovations included enclosing the staircase after ghost marks—markings on the wall which indicate where a wall had previously been—were found and placing historically accurate furniture in the home. Some of this furniture is still in the Rock House today! Further projects occurred in the 90s and early 2000s which continued to update the historical accuracy of the home and surrounding area. A lot of time and energy has been spent trying to recreate the Rock House as it was when the Alexander family lived there and we hope you stop by and visit soon!
Until next week,
UNCC Graduate Student
Summer Intern, The Charlotte Museum of History
About The Charlotte Museum of History
The Charlotte Museum of History exists to save and share the Charlotte region’s history, helping create a better understanding of the past and inspiring dialogue about the future. The museum is the steward of the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander Rock House and homesite, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Visit charlottemuseum.org and follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The museum is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The Charlotte Museum of History exhibit, “Solving the Rock House Mysteries.”
“Homes of the Signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration, The Southern Home.” July 19, 1878. The Charlotte Museum of History Archives.
Unpublished preliminary historic property report by Bradley Holt. December 10, 2019.
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“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass