Ingleside sits as if on an oasis with suburban development almost completely surrounding it. The historic house almost got demolished to make way for new housing, however, at the request of the Lincoln County Historical Association, county commissioners, and the owners, Preservation North Carolina was brought in to help find a preservation solution for this important house.
Ingleside’s former owners, Caroline Clark and her family, who acquired Ingleside in 1951 agreed to donate the house and 5.75 acres to Preservation North Carolina in the summer of 2018, according to a press release from Preservation North Carolina, to ensure its permanent protection while allowing for new development around the house. This donation is one of the largest gifts of property the statewide nonprofit has ever received.
It took a while, but the house was sold to a family from New Orleans and will be protected in perpetuity under PNC’s protective covenants. It will continue to stand as an important part of Lincoln County history.
Darryl Saunders and his wife, Jie Zhu purchased the property on Aug. 9. Before relocating to Iron Station, Saunders and his family lived in New Orleans. His parents are living at Ingleside as well now.
“A hobby of mine is to get online and look at historic properties that are for sale across the country,” Saunders said. “It’s purely out of curiosity as opposed to constantly being on the lookout for something to live in. When we saw this property, it jumped out to us. Basically, because of the significance of the property architecturally, and because my parents lived in South Charlotte and then Lake Wylie for about 20 years. We were familiar with the area and intrigued that we’d never seen or heard of Ingleside.”
Ingleside had been kept in very good condition by the Clark family, Saunders added.
“My family and I had spent the last five or six months in quarantine in a city so something with a little bit of land intrigued us,” he said. “It’d been sitting on the market, I think, for about a year and a half and there hadn’t been a lot of serious interest.”
Ingleside was purchased as a residence for Saunders and his family to live in. He’s restored other historic properties in the past and converted them into apartments, all while maintaining the architectural integrity of the property.
“I like working with historic houses and I care about preserving them,” he said. “I think it’s important for us as Americans to preserve these sites and structures in order for us to understand our history.”
Saunders is starting to add his own improvements to Ingleside, many of which are being done to the exterior of the property. As an example, the massive boxwoods that were formerly in front of the house and blocking the view of it, have all been removed.
At one time, Ingleside sat on thousands of acres and was a self-sustaining plantation. Saunders is interested in the agricultural history of the property and is starting to plant fruit trees that may have been grown at one time at Ingleside. He’s put in a small apple orchard with apples that may be like what the Forneys grew to make cider.
“I think there’s a lot of research that can be done, that hasn’t been,” he said. “I’ve done some preliminary research on Daniel Forney and there were a lot of things that came to light that were easy to find, but no one has taken the time to do it yet. There are some great local organizations like the Lincoln County Historical Association, so it’d be nice to work with them. I think a lot could be achieved in telling the story of Ingleside.”
Prior to moving into Ingleside, while walking behind the property, Saunders found archeological artifacts like shards of pottery sticking out of the ground. When he came back a few months later, that entire area had been bulldozed. All the history associated with Ingleside, including the house, could have been completely lost to development if the property hadn’t been purchased.
“No research or archeological study had been done of the site and it’s gone now,” he said. “It’s been moved to another area so its context has been lost. It’s very easy to lose the fragile history that we have. It’s important, I think, for Lincoln County, especially in the eastern part, to preserve as much as possible. The development’s coming. Those are forces that are next to impossible to fight against, but I think we can do development sensitively so that we don’t lose the history but highlight it. For me personally, knowing some of the history and story of Lincoln County makes it a much more interesting and livable of a place rather than if I were completely ignorant of it. I think the more people know about the history here, it’ll give them pride in the county which I think is important.”
The press release included the following history of Ingleside.
The house was built in 1817 to impress and capture the heart of a woman, so the story goes. Harriet Brevard, whose father Captain Alexander Brevard had made a fortune in the manufacture of iron ore in Lincoln County, was being courted by more than one suitor. To help her decide and settle the matter, she announced that she would marry the man who built her the finest house.
Daniel Forney decided to accept that challenge. Although he was in Washington serving in Congress (in the seat that his father had previously held), he built Ingleside by utilizing the finest materials and crafts-men available. No one was surprised that Forney’s new house helped him win the heart and the hand of Miss Brevard. She married him that same year.
Family legend says that the elegant brick house was designed (at least in part) by Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol. The capitol, badly damaged during the War of 1812, was being rebuilt while Forney was a congressman. Further, Forney, his wife, and Latrobe were all of Huguenot descent, so it’s likely that they were social friends in the burgeoning new town of Washington.
Latrobe was an advocate for the Classical Revival style, and Forney’s house is one of the earliest and finest examples of Classical Revival architecture in the state. The house’s elegant staircase was modeled after Owen Biddle’s Young Carpenter’s Assistant pattern book. The main parlor is a remarkable showpiece of Federal style, especially in light of its rural setting. The woodwork may have been built by Jacob Steigerwalt of Cabarrus County, a talented cabinetmaker and builder of early pipe organs.
In 1834, the Forneys moved to Alabama where their descendants achieved major prominence, both politically and in business. The property was then sold to Alexander Gaston, the only son of Judge William Gaston, for whom Gaston County and Gastonia were named. Only a handful of other families owned the property until it was acquired by the Clarks in 1951.
Nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 as having statewide significance, this fine example of a Federal-style house has been featured in every major book about North Carolina’s historic architecture published since 1933. The tall imposing two-story brick house, beautifully laid in Flemish bond, was described by Catherine Bishir in North Carolina Architecture as “the grandest expression of the county’s 19th century planters and ironmasters,” and as one of the state’s finest antebellum Federal-style houses.
Meanwhile, Ingleside sitting on less than six acres is being surrounded by homes that’ll likely never have the historical significance that it does, but at least the house and its importance to Lincoln County is being preserved.