1601 Oaklawn Avenue

This is a draft, now being reviewed by members of the McCrorey Heights Neighborhood Association. Please share comments with Tom@HistorySouth.org 

Oaklawn-1601-a-web Built about 1950. The first owner-occupant was Buel Hendrix, manager of Oaklawn Cemetery across the street. The Hendrix family was white, the only whites known to have lived in this black area. An important later resident in the mid 1960s was Isaac T. Graham, principal of rural Torrence-Lytle School 1937 – 1966 — one of the longest-serving principals ever in Charlotte-area schools.

Buel D. Hendrix, Jr. managed Oaklawn Cemetery across the street, a privately developed burial ground begun in 1915. The Hendrix family deeded it to the city in 1956 and it began accepting African American burials in the 1960s.  About 1955, when his family was preparing to sell the cemetery, Buel Hendrix moved away from this house and an African American family moved in here: Roscoe Trimmier and wife Susie E. He was a driver for Kraft Foods, with no occupation listed in the city directory for her.

A subsequent owner, contractor H.E. Kiser, filed a permit in 1962 to add to and enclose the original side porch, giving the house the horizontal lines characteristic of Ranch style houses of the late 1950s and 1960s.

A noteworthy later occupant in the mid 1960s was Isaac T. Graham.  The 1965 city directory listed him as Principal at rural Torrence-Lytle School in Huntersville north of Charlotte, and his wife Lois N. Graham as Office Secretary at Amay James School.  Built in 1937 as a “union school” with grades one through eleven, Torrence-Lytle offered the only high school classes available to African Americans in the northern part of Mecklenburg County. Isaac Graham led it as principal for its entire existence until it closed in 1966, part of a wave of closures of black schools as students moved to larger previously-white facilities nearby. (The school complex still stands in 2016, an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.) Indeed, Graham was one of the longest-serving principals in the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

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Oaklawn-1601-c-web

Architecture

Compact WWII-era “pre-ranch.” Wood-frame construction with a main gable roof and small front gable. A 1962 side addition gives the house Ranch-style horizontal lines. The original wooden clapboard siding is now covered with blue aluminum siding. The residence is located on a narrow sliver of land with the front facing Oaklawn Avenue and the back facing directly on Washington Avenue.

Architecturally, the house at 1601 looks like a 1940s dwelling, compact in form except for the side extension (a former porch, extended and enclosed in 1962 according the building permit). The house that is numbered 1607 today looks like what one would expect for a circa 1957 – ’59 house built by major businessman Jimmie McKee, a sprawling brick ranch.

Building permits

Oaklawn-1607-permit
Date issued: December 1, 1949
Owner: B. D. Hendrix, Jr.
Other permit info: Build residence

Oaklawn-1601-permit
Date issued: July 12, 1962
Owner: H. E. Kiser
Contractor: H. E. Kiser
Estimated cost: $1,000
Other permit info: Addition to existing porch, enclose porch

Note that two permits exist for building a house at 1607 Oaklawn, one by owner B.D. Hendrix in 1949, the other by owner James McKee in 1959.

Tom Hanchett believes that the first permit is actually for 1601, which he believes was originally numbered 1607 but then renumbered about 1958.

First appeared in city directory

1951 – ’53 – Buel D. Hendrix, Jr.  (white) Manager, Oaklawn Cemetery.

1955 – Roscoe Trimmier & Susie E.
He: Driver, Kraft Foods. She: no occupation listed

1965 – Isaac T. Graham & Lois N.
He: Principal, Torrence-Lytle School
She: Office Secretary, Amay James School

1982 – Mrs. Dora Clark. Retired.

Roscoe and Susie Trimmier are first listed at 1607 in 1955, but then “jump” to 1601 by 1958.

Resources

Hope Murphy and Stewart Gray, “Torrence-Lytle School: Survey and Research Report,” Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 2004.  On-line at:  http://www.cmhpf.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/surveys&rTorrenceLytle.htm

“Oaklawn Cemetery” page in the “Cemeteries of Mecklenburg County” section of the CMstory website maintained by the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. On-line at: http://www.cmstory.org/content/oaklawn-cemetery