Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Harris House

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Institution Name: Queens University of Charlotte
Original/Historic Place Name: Cameron Morrison House
Location on Campus: 1830 Selwyn Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1919original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: masonry
Walls: brick
Roof: slate
ca. 1919-1927private residence (of Cameron Morrison)
ca. 1927-1970private residence (of Harris family)
ca. 1972-1989other (Presbyterian Career and Personal Counseling Center)
ca. 1989-present (2007)academic department building (continuing education, Monart School of Art)

Significance: architecture, culture, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The mansion was constructed in 1919 and is a nice example of the Colonial Revival style. It is historically noteworthy due to its original owner. Cameron Morrison (1869-1953) was a native of Richmond County, North Carolina, and he studied law in Greensboro in 1892. He practiced law in Richmond County and began his political career there in the 1890s as the leader of the White Supremacist Red Shirt Movement. He was Mayor of Rockingham, NC, in 1893 and was elected to the State Senate in 1900. He moved his law practice to Charlotte in 1905.

According to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, Morrison commissioned a home in Myers Park in 1919, although the University inventory of buildings shows a construction date of 1915. (This discrepancy has yet to be resolved). In 1919, Morrison was President of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Soon after the family moved into the house, his wife, May Tomlinson Morrison, died.

In 1920, Cameron Morrison again entered the state political arena when he ran for Governor. He defeated O. Max Gardner in the Democratic primary and going on to win the general election as well. He maintained his Charlotte residence while in office (1921-1925). Morrison's primary platform centered on the good roads program. He secured funding to upgrade primary roads and relieve counties of the burden of road maintenance. The program, he claimed, would "bring North Carolina out of the mud." These primary roads would be hard-surfaced and would connect county seats with important towns. A number of the newly paved roads led to Charlotte, which aided in the city's growth. The connecting highways both north/south and east/west positioned North Carolina as a progressive and mobile southern state, increasing the flow of commerce/transportation and unifying the state. Morrison was thus known as the "Good Roads Governor." He was also interested in education and spearheaded improvements in the buildings at the University (UNC-Chapel Hill), State College (NCSU), and Women's College (UNCG), as well as construction of county primary and secondary schools. Despite his early political background, he supported African-American education. A training/reform school for Negro boys was established in Richmond County and named for Governor Morrison. He also worked to improve state medical facilities, specifically those facilities dealing with the treatment of mentally and emotionally ill patients. He is credited with the final overthrow of Republicanism in the state.

In 1924, Morrison married Sara Ecker Watts, a millionairess and widow from Durham, NC. After his term of office was over, the Morrisons returned to Charlotte to live. Morrison was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1930. He filled the seat left vacant by the death of Lee S. Overman. He did not, however, win reelection. In 1942 he was elected to Congress, where he generally supported Roosevelt's wartime policies.

Mrs. Morrison was very active in charity work in the Charlotte area and was a trustee at Queens University of Charlotte from 1929-1940. She also donated the funds to build the first "new" building on campus, Morrison Hall, in 1927. The Morrisons began construction on a new house soon after returning to Charlotte. Morrocroft was a huge country estate and farm located at the very outskirts of Myers Park. According to the Historic Commission, the house at 1830 Queens Road was sold. However, it stayed in the family for a number of years and became the residence of James J. and Angelia Morrison Harris. Mr. Harris was a member of the Board of Trustees of Queens University of Charlotte from 1941-1986 and was influential in the growth of Charlotte. Harris was not only the President of James J. Harris & Co., an insurance company, but also served on thirteen corporate boards (Wachovia, NCNB, and American Credit), as well as charitable, University, and medical boards.

In the 1970s the residence became the Presbyterian Career and Personal Counseling Center, established by the Synod of North Carolina in 1972-1973. It served the piedmont and western North Carolina and provided personal and vocational counseling and testing. All services were available to Queens students. In 1989, the Counseling center moved. The University named the building Harris House in honor of James J. Harris. It is the head quarters of the Continuing Education Program.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Crabtree, Beth G. North Carolina Governors 1585-1974 Brief Sketches. Raleigh, NC: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1974.

Powell, William S. "Cameron Morrison." Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991, 328-30.

Cameron Morrison papers. Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Public Library, Charlotte, NC.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections
Government Offices

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