One Man’s Legacy

By David Hamrick

Most of us don’t think a lot about leaving a legacy, if we think about it at all. But one former Gastonia resident continues to touch the lives of many Gaston County residents on a daily basis. Many of you have never heard of Hugh Edward White, even though you may pass, or even enter his work every day. Mr. White designed many of the most prominent buildings in Gaston County.

Hugh Edward White was born in 1869 in fort Mill South Carolina. Unfortunately he and his two sisters became orphans when both of his parents passed away. He was raised by Miss Lizzie Culp, an aunt who came to live with them. His childhood ambition was to become a locomotive engineer. His early education was at Fort Mill Academy, and later a special correspondence course in architecture from a New York school.

Later, in 1918 , while working for the Charles Coker Wilson firm in /Columbia South Carolina, Hugh Edward White was sent to Gastonia to supervise the construction of the Joseph Separk mansion which still survives as a wedding venue on 2nd Street in Gastonia.

After stints as a working architect in Rock Hill, South Carolina, as an intern at an architectural firm in Atlanta, and the Office of Supervising Architect, Department of the Treasury, he arrived in Gastonia in 1921. Along with Charles J. Streeter and Carroll W. Chamberlain, they formed the firm of White, Streeter & Chamberlain.

The young firm quickly secured the commission to design and supervise construction of Gastonia High School (now Ashley Arms Apartments) which led to much more prestigious work that many Gastonia residents will recognize, such as the Samuel Pinckney Stowe house on South Central Avenue in Belmont. Curiously, the Stowe house burned in 1924, and we rebuilt from the same plans. It was during this time that the Bank of Belmont (formerly a Wells Fargo branch) at 32 north Main Street in Belmont was designed.

The demise of the firm came in 1926 after the firm had spent considerable time and resources designing an Oasis Shrine Temple that was to be built at the intersection of Dilworth and Morehead Street in Charlotte. The project was never built, and it is unclear how much, if any compensation the firm received for their efforts. From 1927 until his death in 1939, Hugh Edward White continued his solo practice.

Charles Edward White has been gone for 78 years, but his architectural legacy lives on in the form of the many beautiful structures we still enjoy today.

A partial list of structures designed and/or built by Hugh Edward White, or White, Streeter & Chamberlain:

  • Standard Hardware Building, Gastonia. Same block as Webb’s Custom Kitchen
    Gastonia High School (Now Ashley Arms Apartments)
  • S.P Stowe House, Belmont (Now a wedding and event venue)
  • Citizens National Bank building, Main Street Gastonia
  • Bank of Belmont, former Wells Fargo location, Mains Street Belmont
  • Webb Theater, now Webb Custom Kitchen, Gastonia
  • Cramerton Gymnasium, Cramerton
  • American Yarn & Processing, Mt. Holly (Now occupied by the Mount Holly Historical Society)

Black & White photos courtesy of Milican Pictorial History Museum in Belmont.