Commission wants historic designation for 1800s Mount Holly house

The Gaston County Historic Preservation Commission is pursing a historic property designation for the Augusta Rhyne Cannon House, which sits at 137 E. Charlotte Ave. The Gaston County Commission will vote on the request Dec. 9.

A 116-year-old Mount Holly house is one step closer to being designated a historic property.

The Mount Holly City Council recently approved a request from the Gaston County Historic Preservation Commission to declare the Cannon House a historic property.

The house, officially known as the Augusta Rhyne Cannon House, sits at 137 E. Charlotte Ave. just east of downtown Mount Holly. The Gaston County Commission will vote on the Historic Preservation Committee’s request at its Dec. 9 meeting.

A.P. Rhyne built the Cannon House in 1894 as a wedding gift for his daughter, Augusta, who married Ernest Cannon, according to a report prepared by the commission. The deed for the home was transferred to Augusta Cannon and her husband on July 5, 1901 for $2,700.

The third owner of the home, Paul Lentz, bought the house for $5,025 from Rush Torrence, and his wife, Ada, on April 29, 1913, and since then, it has been owned by his descendants.

Rhyne and Lentz were two locally prominent families that contributed substantially to the community. A.P. Rhyne was co-owner of the Mount Holly Cotton Mill, the oldest surviving mill today, which led residents to petition the N.C. General Assembly to incorporate Mount Holly in 1879.

Lentz owned a significant amount of property and businesses, including a grocery store, barber shop and hotel. He also served as the city’s mayor from 1906 to 1909. During his first term, he established electricity in the town in 1906 and the Cannon House was likely one the first houses to have power in the city.

In addition to having a rich history, the Cannon House is one of the city’s best examples of a 19th century home that portrays Queen Anne-style architectural details. The home has nearly all of its original exterior and interior architectural details that define its architectural significance as local historic landmark.

The 4,288-square-foot home has five bedrooms and three bathrooms. The historic designation also includes an outbuilding that was built between 1920s and 1940s. It was known by the owners as a cottage, but it possibly housed servants that served the Lentz family during that time period.

The current owner, Helen Springs, has owned the home since Dec. 12, 1975.

Property owners come to the commission to discover if their home meets the qualifications to be designated as historic, John Russell, chairman of commission, said. The commission puts the requests on a study list and investigates them as time and money becomes available.

“We have so many on the study list that we want to do, but it’s a question of time because the report and investigation takes a lot of time to put together,” Russell said. “The state has also required more detail on the architectural description in terms of more than what volunteers are able to do. It costs money to get an architect to do that.”

The commission decided to pursue Springs’ request since a Mount Holly home had not been deemed historic by members in years, Russell said. Also, Springs wanted protection on her home in case it one day fell into the hands of a new property owner that wanted to renovate the building or tear it down.

“If you want to renovate or tear it down, you start at the Historic Preservation Commission and ask for a certificate of appropriateness and the Historic Preservation Commission either recommends or doesn’t recommend it and then you take that to the town council and they have the final decision,” Russell said.

The house’s historic designation allows Springs to apply for an automatic deferral of 50 percent of the ad valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property, valued at $243,924.

The designation could add to Mount Holly’s efforts to revitalize downtown and take advantage of its historic buildings. The Mount Holly Community Development Foundation recently hired architectural historian Laura A.W. Phillips to review 19 commercial buildings in the 100 block of both South Main Street and Central Avenue in the city’s downtown. The study is part of the foundations push for a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for a Mount Holly Downtown Historic District.

Russell said that commission members are impressed with Mount Holly’s drive to preserve downtown.

“They aren’t just clear-cutting and building new stuff,” he said. “It is nice to see a community taking care of what they’ve got.”

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