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Cornelius News

Leading historian is hopeful sharecropper house will be saved

Jan. 12. By Dave Yochum. It’s looking like a historically significant sharecropper house on the Alexander Farm development site will be moved in time for construction to begin on the multimillion-dollar mixed-use project on 55 acres at Westmoreland and West Catawba.

Historian Dan Morrill, Preserve Mecklenburg’s consultant, says the group may have the wherewithal to move the one-story frame structure.

Historian Dan Morrill was honored by the Arts & Sciences Council in 2012

Where it goes is another question.

Extremely rare

The town is working with a “number of partners, both public and private to identify potential sites,” said Deputy Town Manager Wayne Herron.

The tenant structure is significant because so few are left in a once agricultural county where sharecropping was commonplace.

“We have a lot of farmhouses, but the tenant houses are gone,” Morrill said.

Wayne Herron

The building is apparently being saved because of a watershed survey that was conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers. According to federal rules, a historically significant building can’t be disturbed until there is a plan to move it.

Inspection Thursday

A structural engineer will inspect the structure on Thursday to make sure it can be moved, Morrill said.

Morrill said Preserve Mecklenburg has $15,000—available from the developer—and another $5,000 from an anonymous donor.

It’s unclear exactly how much it will cost to move the building because a site has not been identified.

Why last minute?

If it all seems last-minute, Herron says the town has been had its eye on the 55-acre farm soon after farmer Eugene Alexander passed away in 2014.

Alexander Farm at Westmoreland, Catawba

“The Town, since 2015, through our Historic Preservation Committee, has identified the structures on the Alexander Farm as significant and has sought to have the family allow for historic evaluation, or at a minimum, allow historical documentation of the structures. The Town has been repeatedly denied due to concerns of how historic designation may impact the development and sale of the property,” Herron said. 


Morrill said he is encouraged that the Town of Cornelius is considering the possibility of partnering with Preserve Mecklenburg in developing a preservation strategy for the tenant house.


The property changed hands in the last 30 days for an undisclosed amount, but the asking price was $18 million before being reduced to $12.5 million.

Interestingly, the plan for the property includes a 3.2 acre park. There are also two town-owned properties within walking distance: Westmoreland Athletic Complex and Robbins Park. Morrill said the cost to move a structure is largely determined by how far it must travel.

“It’s logical and appropriate to go to a site in Cornelius,” Morrill said.

The sharecropper house is in the upper left corner of parcel 00511105