1624 Madison Avenue

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

Built 1962 – 63 for physician Dr. Drayton P. Graham and his wife Carolyn. Later occupied for many years by Dr. Esther Page Hill, one of the pioneering African American professors at UNC Charlotte, and her husband Samuel Hill, a music educator.

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Drayton P. Graham was a medical doctor with offices at 1230 Beatties Ford Road. His wife Carolyn worked as a counselor at Johnson C. Smith University. Little is known of the couple’s history, beyond the detail that Dr. and Mrs. Graham were members of Charlotte chapter of The Links, the nationwide social organization for upscale African Americans.

The Grahams’ son Drayton P. Graham, Jr., who spent his capstone high school years in this house, followed his father’s footsteps into the medical profession. As he prepared to graduate from West Charlotte High, Charlotte Observer named him to its annual list of all-star high school scholars in 1965, alongside fellow McCrorey Heights teens Janice Belton and Herman Counts. Young Graham went off to college at Columbia University in New York City. He co-wrote a 1967 opinion piece in Columbia’s college’s newspaper describing the difficulties faced by black students in white institutions that were just then beginning to open their doors to African Americans. Notice of his wedding in the social column of the Pittsburgh Courier in 1970 mentioned that he was enrolled at Harvard Medical School. Drayton P. Graham, Jr., went on to practice medicine in the Los Angeles area, becoming director of respiratory services at a hospital in Marina Del Ray.

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Esther Page Hill was born the daughter of a minister in the eastern North Carolina railroad town of Rocky Mount. The family soon moved to Brooklyn, New York, part of the Great Migration of southern African Americans to the big-city north. Her parents sent her to private schools in Brooklyn and Bridgeport, Connecticut; she graduated from high school at Greater New York Academy. She did college work back down south at North Carolina Central in Durham, then finished at Columbia University Teacher’s College in New York City with a BA in Social Studies Education. Soon after she met and married Samuel Hill.

She loved teaching, taking positions at public schools in Virginia and New York, but her deepest passion was for art. After half a dozen years in the classroom she won admission to the Columbia University Teachers College program in art education. She gained a Masters in Fine Art and Arts Education with emphasis on textile design.

With degree in hand she came to Charlotte to take a position as Art Supervisor for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. UNC Charlotte, moving into its new suburban campus on Highway 49 in mid 1960s, lured her from CMS. White schools in the University of North Carolina system were finally beginning to integrate their professorial ranks. Mrs. Hill began as an Associate Professor of Visual Arts and a member of the graduate faculty. In addition to teaching, she continued to produce art herself; pieces are in collections including that of U.S. Congressman Mel Watt. She won a professional development fellowship from the University’s Board of Governors which allowed her to begin doctoral work at Florida State University. She earned a Ph.D. in Art Education, becoming Dr. Esther Hill — one of the very few black female Ph.Ds in her generation.

Esther Hill and husband Samuel moved into their sprawling house on Madison Avenue in the late 1960s and lived there for the rest of their lives, filling it with art and music and raising daughter Samesta. Samuel Washington Hill (7.19.1909 – 4.19.1998) grew up in Anniston, Alabama, where at age fifteen he served as organist and choir director at his grandfather’s church. He earned his undergraduate degree in music at Alabama’s Talledega College specializing in piano and organ. He went on to attain a Masters in Music and Music Education at Columbia Teachers College in New York City — perhaps where he met Esther.

Samuel Hill’s career as a music teacher and choir director began at Palmer Institute, the elite African American boarding school near Greensboro, N.C. He taught in Alabama, Virginia, New York and Charlotte, but his best known engagement was as Assistant Professor of Music at North Carolina College in Durham, N.C., now North Carolina Central University. Said his funeral program: “Mr. Hill’s choirs performed 249 eminently successful concerts in cities throughout the eastern United States.

“Through music, the lives of thousands of people have been touched by Mr. Hill. While serving in the U.S. Army as the Chaplain’s Assistant for two years, he performed personal piano concerts and directed the Male Choir at Camp Lee, Virginia. He served as the Minister of Music at Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn [N.Y.],  which boasted 5000 members and three choirs. Before retiring from sharing his musical talents with the community, Mr. Hill was minister of Music for several local churches in Charlotte; Director of Phi Pi Chapter Ensemble, Omega Fraternity, Charlotte; and director of the Charlotte Alumnae Chapter Ensemble, Delta Sigma Theta.”

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Madison-1624-b-web

Architecture

One of the largest and most stylish Ranch houses in McCrorey Heights, built with unusual yellow-white brick on an oversized corner lot. The layout forms an “L” with the main block of the house facing the street, then a rear wing extending along Creek Street and terminating a garage. There is likely a rear courtyard sheltered from the street in the crook of the “L.” The gable roofs have deeper eaves than is usual in McCrorey Heights, adding to the horizontality of the design. The front facade has an unusual horizontal stucco panel, bordered by brick laid in stack bond; no other house in Charlotte has a similar architectural feature. Windows are all wider than they are tall, including a strip widow adjacent to the front door. All in all, the design resembles the early Ranch houses built in suburban California in the late 1940s and early 1950s and publicized via Sunset Magazine, rather than the simpler examples typical somewhat later in the Southeastern U.S.

Building permit

Madison 1624 permit
Date issued: November 9, 1962
Owner: Dr. D. P. Graham
Contractor: H. W. Carriker
Estimated cost: $19,500
Other permit info: Build residence

First appeared in city directory

1964 – Drayton P. Graham & Carolyn or Caroline W.
He: Physician at 1230 Beatties Ford Rd.
She: Counsellor, JCSU.

1981 city directory — Esther P. Hill, retired

Resources

Lane, Barbara Miller, Houses for a New World: Builders and Buyers in American Suburbs, 1945 – 1965 (Princeton University Press, 2015).

“Flu and the Common Cold,” Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1982. On-line at: www.newspapers.com/image/169957345/?terms=”Drayton%2BP.%2BGraham”

The Links, photograph in Vermelle Diamond Ely, Grace Hoey Drain and Amy T. Rogers, Charlotte, North Carolina, in the Black America Series (Arcadia Press, 2001), p. 101.

“A ‘Special’ Student,” Columbia Daily Spectator, April 26, 1967. On-line at http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/columbia?a=d&d=cs19670426-02.2.7&e=——-en-20–38312–txt-IN-columbia—-#

“Toki Types” (Graham Jr. wedding), Pittsburgh Courier, September 26, 1970. On-line at: www.newspapers.com/image/39194037/?terms=”Drayton%2BP.%2BGraham”

“A Very Personal Collection,” Charlotte Observer, December 30, 2010. On-line at: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/entertainment/article9048758.html

“Wait, Who was an All-Star Scholar?” Charlotte Observer, June 9, 2014. On-line at: http://obsyoungachievers.blogspot.com/2014/06/