CHARLOTTE — The brick house in the 2400 block of Mecklenburg Avenue is easy to miss, tucked away from the street and partially hidden by trees.
The colonial revival-style Victor Shaw House, named for the former Charlotte mayor, is a symbol of Plaza Midwood’s rise to prominence in the 20th century.
Local business and political elites moved into the grand homes on Mecklenburg and Belvedere Avenues in the late 1920s and 1930s. The brick house, built in 1928, was one of the first in the subdivision beside the newly constructed Charlotte Country Club.
That history was nearly lost.
Last year, the property’s owner filed paperwork for the home to be demolished. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission delayed the demolition by a year, but that delay would have expired at the end of this year. Thanks to the efforts of a new nonprofit, Preserve Mecklenburg, the historic landmark avoided the wrecking ball.
It’s one of several projects that the group, formed in April, has undertaken as it works to help preserve historic sites and combat Charlotte’s reputation of tearing down its history.
The organization is a long time coming for Charlotte. Cities like Wilmington, Asheville and Charleston have local nonprofit groups that have worked for decades to safeguard the structures of their past.
Its members say it has advantages over the county-funded Landmarks Commission. The group doesn’t need to wait for approvals from local officials. And its scope isn’t limited to buildings that are designated historic landmarks.
“Charlotte has been lagging far behind in private support for a preservation group,” said Dan Morrill, co-founder of the group and director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. “We’re trying to rectify that situation.”
Preserve Mecklenburg’s primary focus is to secure options to purchase historic buildings, which would give it the exclusive right to buy a property. Then, the group finds a buyer interested in preserving the home and puts in deed restrictions to ensure the historic structure is preserved.
That’s critical, because Charlotte’s growth also creates pressure to develop historic properties. Countless buildings have been torn down to make way for planned developments, from the Hotel Charlotte to the Coffee Cup restaurant.
But Morrill said the group’s goal is to work with developers to make preservation projects economically viable.
“No developer is going to do anything if they can’t make a profit,” Morrill said. “You’ve got to find ways to accommodate development and be sensitive to it for the historic resource.”
In June, Preserve Mecklenburg secured an exclusive option to purchase the Shaw House for $1, which ensures no one else can purchase the property while the group markets and finds a buyer who agrees to put preservation clauses in the deed.
The group has identified and is working with a prospective buyer to develop a site plan. The house will be preserved, but it’s likely that additional structures will be built on the lot, Morrill said.
Morrill said fees to purchase options vary, but it’s a more viable opportunity for a group like Preserve Mecklenburg that does not yet have funds to purchase and resell properties.
The group has also helped with negotiations between the owner and prospective buyer of the historic Edgewood Farmhouse, a 20-acre antebellum property in Huntersville. Preserve Mecklenburg will place deed restrictions on the property to preserve the house while still allowing for development on some of the land.