1804 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 

This is one of a row of four houses “spec built” by local contractor Wheatley & Co. The firm took out all four permits on the same day, April 22, 1955, to construct 1800, 1804, 1808, and 1812 Van Buren Avenue. The houses are not identical, though #1800 and #1808 are similar. This house may have resembled #1800 and #1804 prior to its front addition.

Rev. P.L. Ross, a Presbyterian minster who served small-town churches outside Charlotte, moved here with his family as soon as construction was complete. The Ross family occupied the dwelling continuously for more than six decades into the late 2010s (when this essay is written).

Rev. Paul Lawrence Ross (1919 – 1994) was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where his father William A. Ross, Sr., taught at Friendship College, a Baptist preparatory academy. The elder Mr. Ross was man of considerable learning, educated at prestigious Colgate University in Rochester, New York, at Hampton Institute in Virginia and at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. From Friendship College he moved to Winnsboro, South Carolina, where he became a longtime school principal. William and wife Beatrice raised six remarkable children. Among them:

  • The eldest, Dr. William A. Ross, Jr. (1917 – 2007), began his career as a school principal, then during World War II served three years as a surgical technician with the medical corps of the U.S. Army Air Corps (today the U.S. Air Force). He came out, went to medical school up north, and became a physician in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. His 53-year practice included two decades leading health services at historically black Lincoln University there. “Dr. Ross marched in the historic Selma to Montgomery march with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1962,” an obituary reported. “As president of the Jefferson City branch of the NAACP for thirty-five years, Dr. Ross was instrumental in the racial integration of numerous facilities and establishments in the region.”
  • Kathleen Ross “Kat” Crosby (1925 – 2012) became one of Charlotte’s most influential education leaders during the era of school desegregation. A graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, she joined the county school system as classroom teacher in 1946 and in the mid 1960s became Charlotte’s first director of Head Start. The federal program, which offered pre-school opportunities for children in poverty was “racially integrated long before the rest of the school system was,” writes UNC Charlotte history student Melinda Desmarais. Based on that success, in 1970 Crosby “was brought in as the principal of Billingsville Elementary in the early months of busing…. [S]he changed the school’s institutional culture, working and bringing together teachers, students, and parents of all backgrounds and turning what had been a troubled school into a successful model of school integration.” In 1976 the national CBS network featured Billingsville School and Principal Crosby in a television program and WBT honored her as Charlotte Woman of the Year. She moved into the top leadership at CMS, an Assistant Area Superintendent guiding twenty-five schools for a decade until her retirement in 1986. And she served on numerous boards including the one that governed the entire University of North Carolina system.
  • Paul L. Ross grew up in Winnsboro where he attended the high school his father led, Fairfield County Training School, then went on for additional work at Brainard Institute in Chester, South Carolina. It was one of a network of private high schools supported by the Presbyterian Church that helped the brightest African American youngsters get a better education than was possible in the underfunded segregated public schools. That Presbyterian network funneled top students to the historically Presbyterian college in Charlotte: Johnson C. Smith University. Ross earned a B.S. degree, stayed on to attain a degree in Theology at JCSU’s Seminary, then went off to Drew University in New Jersey for a Masters in Divinity.

Rev. Ross dedicated his career as a minister to working with country and small-town communities. He labored as a Sunday School Missionary in northern and central Georgia. Then he took a position at rural Harbison College outside Columbia, SC, a Presbyterian academy much like the one he himself had attended. Coming back to Charlotte to live, where his children could enjoy the advantages of city life, he found his long-time church home. He commuted to the cotton mill village of Belmont, across the Catawba River from Charlotte, to lead Love’s Chapel Presbyterian Church for thirty-three years. When other small congregations in that vicinity needed him, he did what he could to help, assisting at Good Hope Presbyterian in Kings Mountain and Ryburn Presbyterian in Shelby. At the end of his career, he drove regularly up to Lincolnton to serve as “supply minister” at Pine Street Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Ross and wife Eliza A. Ross raised three sons and a daughter here at 1804 Van Buren Avenue: Audwin Ross, Randal Ross, Marvin Ross and Rizpah Paulette Ross. Audwin became the neighborhood’s unofficial historian. Talented with his hands, he helped neighbors fix their TV sets and when a funeral took place he was often the organist; his collection of funeral programs and his recollections of McCrorey Heights personalities became a basis for the history now being written about the neighborhood. Eliza Ross and Audwin Ross still reside in this house in 2017.

VanBuren-1804-a-web

Architecture

Ranch style house, one-story tall in red brick. There is a front gabled wing which appears to be a later addition. Part of the front porch has been enclosed with wooden clapboard siding. There is a gabled wood-frame two-vehicle detached garage at the rear of the property.

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

VanBuren-1800-04-08-12-permits
Date issued: April 22, 1955
Owner: Wheatley & Co.
Contractor: Wheatley & Co.
Estimated Cost:
Other permit info: to build residence

Note that the permits for 1800, 1804, 1808, and 1812 Van Buren were all taken out the same day by spec builder Wheatley & Co.

First appeared in city directory

1957 – Rev.P.L.Ross. Pastor, Loves Chapel Presby Church

Resources

“Dr. William Albert Ross, Jr.,” FindAGrave.com website. On-line at: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=65633363

Genealogical query on-line at: http://www.genealogy.ceemaker.genealogy.com/forum/regional/states/topics/sc/6226/

Kathleen R. Crosby, oral history interview with Melinda H.Desmarais, UNC Charlotte. On-line at: http://nsv.uncc.edu/interview/ohcr0190.