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Cornelius News

Local investors purchase historic downtown building

21320 Catawba Avenue

April 9. By Debbie Griffin.  Mecklenburg County property records confirm the sale of a century-old building at 21320 Catawba Avenue in Cornelius, piquing curiosity about its rich history and possible future.


Former owners Miriam Smith Whisnant, L. Rodney Whisnant and Lilyan Smith Hunter sold to Corner Oak which is owned by Gordon Cashion and

Robert Stamey.

Corner Oak owners could not be reached for comment before deadline, but the sale is the company’s third purchase of real estate in the area during recent years. Corner Oak

has also bought property at 21300 Catawba Avenue and 19724 Meridian Street – the “old Doc Washam” house.

The property at 21320 Catawba consists of 19,079 square feet of land – a little less than half an acre –along with a two-story, 3,400-square-foot building constructed around the turn of the 20th century. The sales price was $470,000.

The property is next to what will become the $25 million Cain Center for the Arts, which is expected to break ground next year.

Mrs. Whisnant said the sisters’ advancing age caused them to consider selling the downtown property. She said they get calls from developers “all over” the United States and didn’t want to sell the long rectangular property to just anyone.

“We were delighted he wanted it, because he’s local and his family has been here a long time,” Mrs. Whisnant said. 

The Cashion family is part of Cornelius history as well, first with a grocery store, and then the convenience stores in Cornelius and Huntersville.

The Smith sisters own the 600-acre Potts Plantation in Cornelius, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still an active farm operated by family members.

The downtown property is not part of the Register site, but it sits among buildings that hearken back to Cornelius’s earliest days as a tiny farming community with a local cotton exchange.

Corner Oak has assembled about an acre of property downtown. Possible uses include a boutique hotel and a parking deck.

This year the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission Survey Committee placed the “Smith Building” at 21320 Catawba on its study list of prospective historic landmarks.

Meetings minutes say the “study list” is a first step to the possible designation of a historic landmark, and is an organizational tool used by the commission and its staff.