A leisurely stroll of downtown Lincolnton affords an excellent glimpse of buildings and attractions that demonstrate the city's rich heritage.
Commentary on each stop is as close as your cell phone. A walking tour of Lincolnton is available via the Linc app for both Apple and Android phones. The app also offers a calendar of events, shopping, dining, and other attractions throughout downtown.
Find it on our app "The Linc," or www.visitlincolntonnc.com.
Your first stop, St. Luke's Episcopal Church and cemetery.
The history of St. Luke's began on November 29, 1841 when a group of thirteen citizens gathered in the Pleasant Retreat Academy to form a church.
The deed to the land was transferred on March 2, 1842 from Col. John Hoke to the newly organized parish trustees. Just a week later, a cornerstone was laid, and in July of 1843, the church was consecrated by the Right Reverend Levi Silliman Ives, the second Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. St. Luke's was admitted into the diocese at the convention of 1843 and in 1922 became a part of the Diocese of Western North Carolina.
The churchyard came into use with the building of the church. The earliest group of gravestones date from the 1850s to the 1870s. Two adjoining cast iron fences, dating from the late 1860s, enclose the graves of Major General Stephen Dodson Ramseur (1837 - 1864) and William and Edward Phifer, both of whom died in the Civil War. Ramseur, the youngest Major General in the Confederate Army, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia.
Several rows to the east of the Ramseur fence is the monument of William Alexander Hoke (1851 - 1925), who was elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1904 as an associate justice and served as chief justice of North Carolina until his death.
The most important signed monument was created by the well-known marbleyard of J. Baird of Philadelphia. It is the monument of Caroline Rebecca Guion who died in childbirth in 1854. In a shaded corner of the churchyard is a tombstone in the form of a six-legged table that marks the remains of Lorenzo Ferrer (1780-1875), a native of Lyons, France.
Heading south on Cedar Street toward Main is the Lincoln Cultural Center, built in 1922 as the First Baptist Church.
This is the third building to house the First Baptist Church in Lincolnton. They held their first meetings at the Old White Church, which became Emmanuel Lutheran Church. the congregation was officially organized in May 1859. Of the nine charter members, seven were women. The first church building, finished in 1883 or 1884 was located on East Water Street between the Court Square and South Academy Street.
The congregation purchased the lot at 403 East Main Street in 1919 for $6,200. The main building was designed by James M. McMichael, a Charlotte architect famous for his church designs. It's laid in the shape of a cross with a dome sitting in the middle. Construction was completed three years after it began, at the initial construction cost of $40,000. The congregation enlarged the building in 1951 by adding an educational wing at the building's rear. After the congregation built and moved into a new facility in 1979, the Main Street building became, for a time, the Lincoln Center of Gaston College.
It became the Lincoln Cultural Center in 1991 and is home to the Lincoln County Historical Association, the Lincoln County Museum of History, the Arts Council of Lincoln County, and the Lincoln Theatre Guild. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Turn right on East Main Street facing the Court Square and you will see the Lincolnton Post Office, built in 1937.
The most stunning feature of the post office is the mural that hangs on the west wall of the entry.
Richard H. Jansen's mural, "Threshing Grain," was painted in Jansen's studio in Milwaukee Wisconsin. It has a total approximate area of 63 square feet, painted in oil on canvas. It was transported to Lincolnton by train and hangs in the same place it has been since 1938. Jansen received $610 for the commissioned painting, which depicts a rural Lincoln County scene.
Thanks to contributions from the US Postal Service and local individuals and businesses, the mural was professionally restored in 2005.
Across the street from the Post Office stands Emanuel Reformed Church, built in 1913.
The church's origins date back to the earliest days of organized worship in Lincolnton when the combined Lutheran and Reformed congregations met in the Old White Church until it burned in 1893. The Lutherans built a new church on the site, but the Reformed congregation, reorganized in 1910, was without it's own building until 1913. The Gothic Revival style Emanuel Reformed Church was designed by Wilmington architect Henry E. Bonitz.
On April 20, 1991, lightning struck the church building. Fire destroyed most of the roof and damaged the northeast wall and part of the interior woodwork. Rather than abandon the site of the first and only Reformed church erected in Lincolnton, the congregation determined to restore the church and remain at this site. Cherryville architect James L. Beam, Jr. prepared the drawings for the restoration, and the construction work was completed by Howard Construction Company of Lincolnton.
The pews that were damaged or burned when the roof collapsed inward were repaired, refinished, and returned to use.
The first services in the newly restored church were held on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992.
Just a few steps west is the Mauney Building, once the Reeves Gamble Hospital built in 1930.
Dr. John Reeves Gamble, Sr., and his brother, Dr. Jesse Frank Gamble, founded and opened the Gamble Clinic in 1930. In 1934 it was renamed the Reeves Gamble Hospital, Inc.
The 25-bed hospital was equipped with an x-ray machine, laboratory, operating room, sterilizing equipment, and was one of the most modern hospitals in the state. Dr. Reeves Gamble died in 1942 and just a year later, Dr. Frank Gamble passed away.
In 1948, Dr. John Reeves Gamble, Jr., came to practice in Lincolnton and became president of the Reeves Gamble Hospital. Dr. Gamble was called to serve in the Army in 1954, and the hospital closed until his return in 1956.
As the city grew, so did the demand for healthcare. County leaders decided that the best solution was to build an entirely new hospital, and Dr. Gamble supported the construction of the Lincoln County Hospital, giving more than a half million dollars to the project. The last patient at Reeves Gamble Hospital was transferred to the new Lincoln County Hospital in 1969.
The building was sold at public auction in 1972, and purchased by Mary Ruth "Pris" Mauney. She renamed it the Mauney Building, and for a time it operated as a rooming house. Mauney built a small restaurant on one side of the building and remodeled the annex on the other side for retail use. Mauney converted the building to professional offices.
On the next block toward Court Square, take the stairs to the right at the bridge to access the Marcia H. Cloninger Rail Trail south under the bridge.
On your right is a mural depicting depict a railroad scene including a train engine and two rail cars containing a groundhog kiln and a textile loom. The subject matter highlights the historical significance of the railroad, traditional Catawba Valley pottery and textile manufacturing in Lincoln County. It was designed and executed by Gastonia native Tyler Hobson.
When you reach Academy Street, turn right.
Frank Beal House (1910) - The house on the comer at 204 South Academy Street is the Frank Beal House. Beal built his home just a few yards away from his place of work, R.F. Beal & Co. Feed & Sale, on East Water Street. Beal was in the Standard Oil business with C. H. Rhodes, who later owned the business under multiple names. The signs for Rhodes and Corriher can still be seen on the building on East Water Street.
The clipped north and south gable ends and the irregular form of the home reflect the influence of the late-nineteenth century Queen Anne style. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, Lincolnton saw an increase in population from 828 in 1900 to 3,390 by 1920. This increase precipitated the need for more houses, and there were 650 dwellings in the city limits of Lincolnton. Many of these houses were built in eclectic mixes of the Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, and bungalow styles. The only other architecturally comparable examples of dwellings built in the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival style near downtown Lincolnton are the Henry A. Kistler House on North Laurel Street and the John R. Moore House on South Cedar Street.
As you continue up Academy Street and back to Main, consider the first block of East Main Street a perfect example of retail establishments built before the 1920s.
Before the days of shopping malls, all of downtown was a busy place. Notable establishments have been Ramseur's Hardware, an A&P, Eagles and Roses Five and Ten Cent Stores, two theatres, the Rivoli and the Century, First National Bank, the Lincolnton Fire Department, Childs-Wolfe Drug Company, and a number of clothing stores.
One notable downtown business was the Wampum General Store (1905) at 132 East Main. The storefront was originally brick with key stoned lintel and granite detail and was erected between 1902 and 1906 when there was a tremendous building surge in the construction of brick buildings downtown.
Between 1911 and 1921, 124 East Main Street was built as an addition to the original building. In 1916, the Wampum Store became the Abernethy and Thompson Store which, in 1921 became Efird's Department Store. When Efird's vacated the building in the 1930s, it became a retail drugstore, which it remained – under different owners – until recent years.
During the 1940s and 1950s it was known as Lincoln Cut Rate Drugs and later simply Lincoln Drug offering a pharmacy and shopping as well as a lunch counter. In the mid-twentieth century, the building also served as a community meeting place, with a large dining room and kitchen on the second floor.
First United Methodist Church (1919) Continuing on Academy street you'll see First United Methodist Church at 201 East Main Street.
The building was designed by architect C. W. Carlton, and placed on the old home place of Vardry McBee, a saddle maker, merchant, farmer, and Clerk of Court. This classical revival-style church was dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1924.
This is the third building erected by a congregation established in 1816. Members held services for many years in a church located on the corner of South Aspen and Congress Streets about five blocks away from the current building.
Only the Old Methodist Church Cemetery remains at this site. It is 1.62 acres surrounded by a chain link fence. In 1828, Reverend James Hill, the first pastor of what is now First United Methodist Church, was the first person to be buried in the cemetery. At the time of his burial, the Methodist church was known as the Lincolnton Circuit, and it was a part of the South Carolina Conference. The last known burial was in 1944 for Nancy Elizabeth Mullen.
There are approximately 242 gravestones in the cemetery. After the last burial in 1944, interest in the cemetery declined greatly. By the second half of the twentieth century, many church members were unaware of its existence. The heavily shaded cemetery was the focus of an extensive restoration project in 2015.
First United Methodist Church on Main Street and its cemetery on South Aspen Street are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Pleasant Retreat Academy/Memorial Hall (1817-1820) – Continue north on Academy Street until it crosses Sycamore Street and intersects with Pine.
The Pleasant Retreat Academy/Memorial Hall is located at 129 East Pine Street. Chartered on December 10, 1813, this two-story Federal-style brick building was built between 1817 and 1820, making it the oldest remaining brick building in Lincolnton.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a local historic landmark, it has served many purposes, beginning as a boys academy.
Pleasant Retreat Academy educated some of the county's most famous figures. Among its students were Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke, Maj. Gen. Stephen Dodson Ramseur, Georgia Gov. Hoke Smith, NC Gov. William A. Graham, and Texas Gov. James Pinckney Henderson.
Ari early newspaper advertisement shows that the academy opened its doors on February 1, 1820, under the leadership of the Reverend Joseph E. Bell, formerly of the Union Seminary in Sewanee, Tennessee.
During the years between 1878 and 1908, the building had a variety of uses. It served as a private residence for a time, but during much of this period a number of private schools were conducted on the ground floor. Miss Sallie B. Hoke conducted a private school in the building in 1884- 1885, and between 1900 and 1904, Miss Kate Shipp conducted the Mary Wood School there.
On August 27, 1908, the building, no longer a school, was dedicated as the Confederate Memorial Hall and the meeting place of Lincolnton's Southern Stars Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The bottom floor served as a the first public library from 1923 to 1965.
As you walk down Main, before you is the Lincoln County Courthouse, arguably the most iconic building in Lincoln County and the centerpiece of downtown.
The three-story Classic Revival building has Doric columns on each side. Built in 1923, it is the fifth courthouse built since 1785 when Lincoln County was named the county seat.
The building was designed by architect James A. Salter of Raleigh. Construction began on September 20, 1921. It took two years to finish and cost the county $350,000. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Several monuments stand on the grounds of the Court Square. A monument to the Confederate Soldiers of Lincoln County is made of granite and shelters a water fountain. This monument was built in 1911. To commemorate the 1780 Battle of Ramsour's Mill, a plaque on a large rock known as Tarleton's Tea Table, sits on the north side of the Courthouse. The Jacob Forney Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution moved this rock from the battleground to the courthouse lawn. The Lincoln County War Memorial sits on the east side of the Courthouse and honors veterans from the both World Wars, Korea, Granada, Lebanon, and Vietnam.
As you continue clockwise around Courtsquare, You will come to the building at 101 Court Square Drive.
The Goodson, Jonas, and Hoyle Building (1924), was erected as a fuel oil company with offices on the second floor accessed by a doorway with an unusual balustraded transom area located at the southeast corner of the building.
The first story housed a distinctive angled brick corner automobile service station that was recessed beneath the second story with a drive-through and large open bays. At one point the businesses was known as Bumgarner's Service Station, and in 1957 was listed in the city directory as the Central Service Station. Bob Ramseur purchased the building in 1970 and soon therafter enclosed the open bays, converting them to storefronts for a sandwich shop and a yarn shop.
At some point the adjacent, ca. 1925, one-story brick building facing North Aspen Street was joined by an inner passage to the Goodson, Jonas, and Hoyle Building. Although the form of the two-story building is unusual for Lincolnton, the details clearly reflect the 1920s Commercial Style.
Continuing around Court Square at 101 West Court Square is the Reinhardt Building. Built in 1909 by local contractor Henry A. Kistler, it is the oldest in the "Reinhardt Block," situated between West Main Street and West Sycamore Streets. Subsequent buildings constructed for R.S. Reinhardt in 1910, 1913, and 1915. Reinhardt was the owner of the Elm Grove Cotton Mill and involved locally in both real estate and banking. His name and building's construction dates are visible at the top of several of the buildings.
The Reinhardt building is one of four three-story buildings in the Lincolnton Commercial District, a National Register District. The Classical Revival building is considered "one of three stylistically pivotal buildings in the district," the other two being the Lincoln County Court House and First United Methodist Church.
The brick building's rounded corner is truly one of its most defining features. It rests on a finished basement that was originally used as a pool room and lunch room. The top two floors have always housed offices, but the first floor was once the home of the Lincolnton Post Office.
Strolling west, you'll find First Presbyterian Church on the next corner, 14 West Main Street. The building you see today was built in 1917 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
This building is the third church building erected in Lincolnton by a congregation which dates to 1815. Organized as Emanuel's Presbyterian Church, the congregation was the third to be established in a community which then, in 1815, had only Lutheran and Reformed churches.
From 1815 until 1839, the church held services in the Old White Church built by the Lutheran and Reformed congregations. In 1839, the congregation completed its first church on Water Street and renamed itself the Lincolnton Presbyterian Church.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, the fortunes of the church rose during the long-time ministries of the Reverend Robert Newton Davis and the Reverend Robert Zenas Johnston. In the 1880s, church trustees acquired a portion of the former Phifer estate, a lot at the corner of West Main and Government Streets. Here they built a fashionable Gothic Revival style church in 1891-1892.
In 1916, the congregation built a new building on the site of their second church. The impressive Late Gothic Revival style church as a pair of twin towers flanking the gable-front facade. The well-finished and well-preserved church impressively represents one of several modes in which the Late Gothic Revival style was rendered across North Carolina in the opening decades of the twentieth century.
Just down the sidewalk and across Government Street is the Michal-Butt-Brown-Pressly House.
In 1806, Conrad Michal purchased this lot for $80 and built his house before 1819. The amount and sophistication of the house's Federal style detailing, along with documentary evidence, suggests that the house was built by Michal in the 1810s. In 1825, Michal, who had just moved to South Carolina, sold the lot to his son, John Michal, for $850. In 1841, the younger Michal was forced to sell his home on West Main in order to satisfy the claims of his creditors
The house passed to John Hoke, one of the owners of the early nineteenth-century cotton mill at Laboratory. After his death in 1845, the property was sold to Dr. Zephaniah Butt, a physician. It's likely that Dr. Butt was responsible for the Greek Revival modifications to the house. In 1860, Dr. Butt, one of Lincolnton's most successful physicians, moved to Florida and sold his house and lot four to Martin L. Brown, another physician, for $2,500. A year before the purchase of the property, Dr. Brown had married Catherine E Bost, and the couple had two daughters, Violet and Lily.
Although Dr. Brown died in 1876, the house has remained in the ownership and occupancy of his descendants. In 1884, Violet Brown married physician John Pressly, but he died seven years later at the age of only 31. Violet Brown Pressly survived until 1922. The Pressly's granddaughter is the current owner.
This house is a contributing building in the West Main Street National Register Historic District.
As you follow the sidewalk west, Shadow Lawn is at the corner of High Street and West Main. It is the last of Lincolnton's early nineteenth century brick residences still standing.
This Lincolnton landmark was built in 1826 by Paul and Ann Kistler. Kistler was a successful businessman who owned and operated a tannery between Water and Church Streets. Ann Kistler was the sister of David Smith, who built the remarkably similar East Lincoln residence known as Magnolia Grove only two years earlier.
The two-story Federal style home was built with Flemish bond brickwork and is five bays wide and two bays deep over a full basement. The gutter boxes at the facade are dated "1826" and the one-story ells at the west and south elevations are later additions.
When Mr. Kistler died in 1848, the house passed to his family. Augustus Pinckney and Mary McCullough James purchased the house from the estate of Lawson Kistler in 1871. The James family occupied the house from 1871 until 1935, when Charles Raper and Annie Elliott Jonas purchased it. Jonas was a prominent Lincolnton attorney and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1952 until 1972.
The house is listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places, and is a contributing building in the West Main Street National Register Historic District.
As you stroll back toward Court Square, make sure to circle back in a counter-clockwise direction. On the side of a brick building in the Emmanuel Lutheran Church parking lot, is a mural by painter Joe McKenney. It depicts an iron furnace, an industry for which Lincoln County was known.
Your last official stop will be Emmanuel Lutheran Church, diagonally across the intersection from the site of the Old White Church.
The Old White Church was a building shared by the Lutherans, the Reformed Church, and the Presbyterians, and was used for public worship, burials, and as a school house.
The brick church built near the site of the Old White Church was entirely Lutheran. Emanuel Reformed Church moved to East Main Street, and the Presbyterians moved to West Main. The current church was built in the early 1920s, and represents the Gothic style and the floor layout in the shape of a cross. Emmanuel Lutheran Church and the Old White Church Cemetery are both listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
About the Old White Church Cemetery: The first church deed recorded in Lincolnton was January 10, 1788 for two acres at a cost of ten shillings, plus tax, which was $2.40. This lot would be the site of the Dutch Meeting House, the Old White Church, and the first brick church in town.
Reverend John Gottfired Arends arrived in Lincoln County in 1785 to organize the local Lutherans. Reverend Arends died in 1807 and was buried under the Dutch Meeting House. His gravestone is inscribed in German, and was the first burial on this site. The last burial in this cemetery was Elizabeth Schrum Little in 2013.
Inside of the decorative fence that encircles the cemetery is the John Hoke family tomb.
We hope you enjoyed your walking tour. Along your return to the starting point, make sure to check out some of Lincolnton's unique downtown businesses, and please come back soon!