1708 Van Buren Avenue

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

Built about 1959 and occupied by Herman L. Counts, Jr., and wife Doris H. Counts, members of a history-making family in Charlotte’s Civil Rights era.

His father, Dr. Herman Counts, Sr., was Professor of Theology at Johnson C. Smith University and also pastored a series of small churches in the Charlotte region. Professor Counts’ wife Oleathea (Herman Jr’s mother) taught at the Oaklawn Center, a social work site that aimed at assisting residents in the low-income Double Oaks and Fairview Homes housing projects. The couple would build in McCrorey Heights at 1604 Patton Avenue in about 1959.

In 1957, while the family still lived in a older cottage near JCSU, Herman, Sr’s daughter Dorothy Counts (younger sister of Herman Counts, Jr.,) made international headlines as she became the first black student at white Harding High School. Photos of her braving a mob of hecklers — with future McCrorey Heights neighbor Prof. Edwin Thomkins at her side — appeared in newspapers as far away as a Paris, France. Famed African American essayist James Baldwin credited the photo with inspiring his own involvement in the Civil Rights movement.

Herman L. Counts, Jr., continued his father’s tradition of involvement with JCSU. Young Herman worked in University administration as Inventories Officer when he and his wife moved into 1708 Van Buren Avenue. She was a teacher, first at Lincoln Heights Elementary nearby, and later at Druid Hills Elementary. In 1966, after seven years working at JSCU, Herman got an offer to become director of purchasing at Dennison College in Ohio, where he served into the 1970s.

VanBuren-1708-b-web

Architecture

Ranch style house, one-story tall in red brick. It has a main gable-roofed block and a projecting gable-roofed front wing. Windows are somewhat unusual: the living room has a bay window, a rare feature in McCrorey Heights, and all of the front windows are larger in proportion than is commonly seen on Ranch houses in the neighborhood.

Note that dwellings exist only on this north side of Van Buren Avenue. Houses on the south side were demolished or moved about 1968 to allow construction of the Northwest (Brookshire) Freeway. Today the Freeway’s tree-covered embankment rises above the Avenue.

 

Building permits

No permits found.

First appeared in city directory

1960 – Herman L. Counts, Jr, & Doris H.
He: Inventories Officer, JCSU.
She: Teacher Lincoln Hgts Elem School.

1961 – Herman L. Counts, Jr, & Doris H.
He: Inventories Officer, JCSU. Both? work at West Charlotte 5 & 10, 2116 LaSalle.
She: Teacher, Druid Hills School
(His dad lives at 1604 Patton Av)

Herman was brother to Dorothy Counts, who famously desegregated Harding High school in 1957.

1981 city directory listed Harold Smith, employed Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, at this address.

Resources

“Group Appoints Herman Counts,” Newark [Ohio] Advocate, August 27, 1971.  On-line at: https://www.newspapers.com/image/293671267/?terms=%22Herman%2BL.%2BCounts%22

“What’s Up at Denison,” Newark [Ohio] Advocate, November 30, 1970.  On-line at: https://www.newspapers.com/image/293847554/