The Law Offices of Michelle Gessner, PLLC are located at 435 East Morehead Street in the historic Mayes House. This house, built by John and Idella Mayes in 1902, is one of the last remaining homes of the grand residential boulevard that formed the northern boundary of Dilworth, Charlotte’s first suburb. The house is architecturally significant as one of the finest examples of the Shingle Style house, a style dating from 1874 to the end of World War I. A wooden version of the masonry Romanesque Revival, the Shingle Style house is considered by many architectural authorities to be the first truly American style of house.
The Mayes House was purchased by James F. Wyatt, III in February of 1993, and has been restored under the auspices of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. The Mayes House has been designated, both locally and federally, as an historic landmark.John Mayes (1856-1947) was born in Luftborough, England, and came to the United States after the death of his first wife Elizabeth. Mr. Mayes moved to Charlotte around the turn of the century, and spent most of his career as a textile machinery agent, mill designer and mill executive. Mr. Mayes married Idella Green Mayes (1869-1939) and purchased the lot for this house in 1901 for $2,000.00. Mr. Mayes and his wife lived in this house for 24 years and raised three daughters and one son. Their grandchildren include Frances Mayes, who wrote “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
The Mayes House is the only surviving turn of the century house remaining in Charlotte’s old Second Ward; one of the few remaining fine houses built on the once-fashionable Morehead Street; and a rare intact example of the Shingle Style in Charlotte. Built about 1902 by John Henry and Idella Green Mayes, the house features an asymmetrical form dominated by a cross-gambrel roof, shingle upper elevations, brick first story and raised basement. The interior is equally distinctive, highlighted by fashionable late Victorian elements which include a large living hall with a massive fireplace; a prominent staircase with steps cascading into the living hall; and a tripartite stained glass window lighting the landing. John H. Mayes ( 1856-1947) came to Charlotte around the turn of the century, and spent most of his career as a textile machinery agent and mill executive and designer, while his wife, Idella Green Mayes (c.1869-1939), raised their three children and participated in the social life of early twentieth-century Charlotte. They built their stately Shingle Style house, which they occupied for twenty-four years, in an upscale section of East Morehead Street at the edge of the city’s first suburb, Dilworth: their immediate neighbors included Stewart W. Cramer, a major New South textile entrepreneur, and William States Lee, who became the president of Duke Power Company and the Piedmont and Northern Railroad.
John H. Mayes was born in Luftborough, England, the son of John and Mary Ainsworth Mayes, and came to the United States at the age of fourteen. As a young man, he entered the textile industry, most likely in Massachusetts, where his oldest daughter was born. When he came to Charlotte around the turn of the century, Mayes was a traveling salesman for Stewart W. Cramer, a New South entrepreneur who is credited with designing and equipping about one-third of all the cotton mills in the South prior to World War II. For much of the first two decades of this century while Mayes occupied the East Morehead Street house, his career and that of Stewart Cramer were intertwined. Cramer (1868-1940) was a native of Thomasville, NC and a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy and Columbia University School of Mines. After graduation in 1889, he came to Charlotte and was in charge of the United States Assay office until 1893, when he went to work for Daniel Augustus Tompkins, a pioneer New South industrialist who also designed and supplied equipment for hundreds of mills throughout the South. In 1895, Cramer went into business for himself as the Southern agent for three Massachusetts manufacturers of cotton mill equipment in competition with Tompkins, and eventually acquired sixty patents for the improvement of textile mill machinery and mill air-conditioning. Cramer designed and equipped hundreds of mills in the South, developed an international reputation, and served on many state and national boards. His four-volume work on the design and equipment for cotton mills, Useful Information for Cotton Manufacturers (2nd edition, 1909) became a standard reference work for many years, and he is also known for organizing the Cramerton Mills and the mill town of Cramerton in Gaston County, NC.
It is reasonable to assume that Mayes came to Charlotte around the turn of the century to work for Cramer through the Massachusetts textile machinery connection. Although few details of his career are available, it appears that the relationship with Cramer proved to be an initially prosperous one, for he purchased land for a new house on the same block as Cramer’s mansion in 1901, and built a grand house the following year. In 1906, Mayes, Cramer and three others organized the Mayes Manufacturing Company, with J. H. Mayes as president, and built a cotton mill and village, Mayesworth, designed by Cramer, in Gaston County in 1907. The company maintained its offices in Charlotte, and Mayes continued to be a sales agent for Cramer. By 1910, however, Mayes no longer appeared as president of Mayes Manufacturing, and had apparently set himself up as an independent manufacturers agent for cotton mill machinery in Charlotte. In 1915, Stewart Cramer took over control of Mayes Manufacturing, changed the name to Mayes Mills, Inc. and began to greatly expand its capacity by adding a second plant. On December 9, 1922, Mayes Mills, Inc. was absorbed into the newly chartered Cramerton Mills, Inc., and the name of the mill village was changed to Cramerton. J. H. Mayes was one of the directors of the new company. In 1924, Cramerton Mills added a weave plant, which bore the name “Mayflower.”
It appears that John Mayes followed Stewart Cramer’s lead of branching out from manufacturer’s agent to mill designer and executive. When Cramer took control of Mayes Manufacturing in 1915, Mayes was chosen to be the “architect-engineer” (a term used at the time for a mill designer and outfitter) of a mill for the newly-organized Rex Spinning Company in Ranlo, Gaston County, NC and became its first president. Exactly how long he remained president of this company is unclear. In 1920, the 63-year-old Mayes was also the architect-engineer for another mill in Ranlo, the Pricilla Spinning Company. He was one of the organizers of the company and its first president, but his interests were bought out in 1921.
Sometime in the late 1800s, John Mayes and Cora Idella Green, of Margaretsville, Nova Scotia, were married; they subsequently had three daughters and one son. One of their daughters, Idella, was born in Massachusetts in 1894. Exactly when the family moved to Charlotte is not clear, but they appear in the Charlotte City Directory of 1899/1900 as residing on West Vance Street.
In August, 1901, John and Idella Mayes bought a house lot on Morehead Street for $2,000 from W. B. Ryder; Ryder had originally purchased a larger tract that included the lot from the City of Charlotte in May, 1897. The best available records suggest that the house was built in 1902 and that the Mayes family occupied it in the latter part of the year. S. W. Cramer built his own large house at the west end of the same block about 1896.
The Mayes family lived in the Morehead Street house from 1902 until 1926, while John H. Mayes pursued his career as a mill machinery manufacturer’s agent, mill designer and textile executive and Idella Green Mayes raised their children and participated in Charlotte’s social life. It appears that in 1926, at the age of 70, John Mayes decided to retire and no longer needed or desired to live in such a large house. Thus in 1926, the Mayes family sold the house to J. W Barber, a vice-president of the Cathey Lumber Company. John and Idella Mayes moved to 307 E. Kingston in Dilworth, and in the Thirties went to live with their daughter and son-in-law, Idella Mayes and Frank Hunter at 1815 S. Boulevard, where they lived out the rest of their days.
In 1939, the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation took over the house from the Barbers, and sold it to A. J. and Nannie Willoughby that same year. By 1942, the HOLC had again taken back the house, and the following year sold it to J. H. and Ada E. Bennett. John Bennett, who died in 1962, was a real estate agent. The house was conveyed by the Bennett heirs to Robert M. and Trudi N. Glenn in 1979, who also acquired the adjoining. 126 acre tract in 1986. In 1989, the property was sold twice: first to Euram, Inc. a North Carolina Corporation, then to Walter H. Fox. The property is now owned by attorney James F. Wyatt III, who rehabilitated the house in 1993 and has maintained the beautiful home as a law office since then.