I’m Sarai. I’m a volunteer at the Charlotte Museum of History and I’m currently a student at UNC Charlotte getting my PhD in public policy. I also have a bachelor’s degree from Charlotte in History. I’m very interested in historic buildings around Charlotte since there aren’t many left! So let’s get started with a new series about Charlotte’s historic apartments.
Charlotte frequently gets accused of razing through its history to make way for luxury apartments and breweries. And while there aren’t many buildings that are over 50 years old, if you pay attention, you can find some.
Amongst the brand new, Uptown Charlotte is home to several apartment buildings that date back to the 1920s. If you walk to the intersection of Church Street and 9th Street, left of the Fire Station you’ll find a 3-story brick building called the Frederick Apartments, built in 1927 by W. Fred Casey.
Today the Frederick Apartments are condos. Pictured April 22, 2021. Photo by the author.
The 1920s in Charlotte, like today, saw economic growth and a population increase that directly resulted in a local building boom to appeal to a shifting demographic. Residents of densely populated areas like Chicago and New York City had already begun to embrace apartment living in the 19th century and though acceptance was minimal in Southern states where land was cheaper, apartment buildings would explode in popularity by the early 20th century.
This popularity led to the commission of the Frederick Apartments by William Frederick Casey (1874-1957). Casey was in the construction supply business and moved to Charlotte from Tennessee with his wife in 1914. In 1927, he commissioned the construction of the Frederick Apartments in contract with the J.A. Jones Construction Company (known for constructing North Carolina’s first steel skyscraper, the Independence Building, demolished in 1981). J.A. Jones filed for a building permit in April 1927 and completed the project in just five months. The architecture reflects an Italian Renaissance Revival style and is a solid masonry structure. The National Register of Historic Places Registration form submitted in 2001 for the Frederick describes it as “unmatched in the 1920s-era architecture in Charlotte. The Frederick was designed with both Bachelor and housekeeping apartments, the former being smaller, usually with one room or no kitchen (for single men) and the latter being better suited for family life with a full kitchen and multiple other rooms. The first ads for the units appeared in September 1927 and by the next year, 30 of the 36 units were occupied.
An ad for Frederick Apartments in the September 15, 1927 edition of The Charlotte Observer.
The building housed Casey and his wife, along with other professionals including a dentist, a doctor, and a photographer. The most prominent tenant of the building was acclaimed author, Wilbur J. Cash (1900-1941), known for The Mind of the South, a controversial interpretation of Southern American history. Cash wrote a significant amount of the book while living at the Frederick Apartments.
Many of the tenants of the building stayed through ownership changes. Casey eventually defaulted on the loan used to purchase the building and Jones Construction took title and transferred it to the Jones family who retained ownership until 1979, meaning the Frederick was owned by the family of the original contractor for 50 years. It was added to National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Today, the Frederick has been renovated and consists of several condominiums.
We’ll learn about more historic apartments next week – stay tuned!
Sarai K. Lewis
PhD Student, UNC Charlotte
Volunteer, 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.
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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