1615 Oaklawn Avenue

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

Built 1963. An earlier house stood on this site, built in 1933 by and for Buel D. Hendrix, the white superintendent of Oaklawn Cemetery across the street. Hendrix moved to a new house (today’s 1601 Oaklawn) about 1951 and let his previous dwelling fall into disrepair. African American bricklayer James G. Conner bought it about 1962 intending to remodel, but found it too deteriorated, so demolished it and built the current brick Ranch-style house for himself and wife Elin Vaughn Conner.

Conner was one of half a dozen brick masons who lived in McCrorey Heights. Historically, brick-making and brick-laying was the work of skilled African Americans in the era of slavery. In the decades from the Civil War into the 1960s, African Americans retained a key place in the building trades across the South. The ability of brick contractors to manage large projects, marshaling materials and work crews, put them in the “upper middle-class” economic and social bracket — thus part of the McCrorey Heights neighborhood.

When Mrs. Elin Vaughn Conner died, Mr. Conner remarried in 1967 to Allean Gatson Conner. Born in Barnwell, South Carolina, she came to Charlotte to earn her undergraduate degree at Johnson C. Smith University and stayed on as an elementary classroom teacher and a reading specialist in the public schools. She did graduate work at Temple University and earned a Masters at Appalachian State, finishing her CMS career as Assistant Principal at Paw Creek Elementary in the 1980s. She then took charge of Charlotte’s black Catholic school at Our Lady of Consolation Church on Statesville Avenue, serving as its Principal in its final years.

James and Allean Conner lived together in this house for over half a century, into the late 2010s.

Oaklawn-1615-b-web
Oaklawn-1615-c-web
Oaklawn-1615-e-web

Architecture

Ranch. 1-story, blond brick, hip roof. Projecting front bay holds a large “picture window,” a favorite feature of the Ranch style. Car-port under the main roof is part of the original design. With three bedrooms and 1776 square feet it is among the larger dwellings in McCrorey Heights.

Building permits

Oaklawn-1615-1627-permit
Date issued: October 10, 1950
Owner: B. D. Hendrix
Contractor: Colonial Rfg & Const.
Other permit info: Alter room

Oaklawn-1609-1615-permit
Date issued: November 3, 1953
Owner: B. D. Hendrix
Other permit info: repair chimney of residence

Oaklawn-1615-permit
Date issued: February 1, 1962
Owner: James G. Conner
Contractor: owner
Estimated cost: $8,000
Other permit info: Remodeling permit issued, but when they tore into the house found that damage was done by water & termites. Got a demolishing permit & decided to build a new house.

Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

First appeared in city directory

1965:  James G. Conner & Elin V.
He: Bricklayer. She: No occupation listed.

City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Resources

“Black Catholic School is a Tradition Worth Saving, Parents Say,” Charlotte Observer, April 7, 1988.

Conner, Allean Gatson and Sean Langley, oral history interview with Tom Hanchett, September 14, 2018.

“Conner-Gatson” wedding notice, Charlotte Observer, October 8, 1967.

“Mrs. James G. Conner,” death notice in Charlotte Observer, May 2, 1966.