The story behind Mint Hill’s “big white house”

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The big white house on Lebanon Road . . . I think they are remodeling it.  Does anyone know the history of the house?

A simple question posted on “What’s Up Mint Hill?” on July 17 garnered over 135 responses and led to a second post with 89 more.  Many of the responses were wild rumors.

I assume it was part of a plantation because of the way it’s set up.  Only this morning did I notice there was a second house next to the big house.

A guy built it for his wife, and either she passed away before he finished it or she left.  I don’t remember exactly, but it never came to be.

I had always heard a Charlotte hornet lived there!  Or that he built it back in the 80s.

The truth behind the colonial architecture of “the big white house” reminiscent of Gone with the Wind is both less sensational and more interesting than the rumors.

Growing up on a mill hill, Lyndell Thompson was no plantation owner or Michael Jordan.  “Christmas was another day,” says son Emory Thompson, recalling the poverty in which his father grew up, “another day he watched mom come out of the the mill punching her time card.”

But Lyndell Thompson maintains that he got a better education growing up poor.  At the age of 19 with no training in drafting or construction, Lyndell walked into builder Charles Ervin’s office looking for a job.  When Ervin asked why he should hire someone who had never done this before, Lyndell confidently said, “You hire me for one month. If you like me, you keep me and pay me.  If you don’t, you don’t owe me a thing.”

Lyndell earned his keep and became Ervin’s right hand man at the Ervin Company, which would grow to become the largest homebuilder in the Southeastern United States by 1964.  Lyndell worked as a draftsman and property manager and had a hand in designing and managing familiar properties like Amity Gardens shopping center on Independence. Lyndell worked for the Ervin Company for 25 years before founding his own company, Lyndell Thompson Construction.

Lyndell found the house that currently sits cattycorner on the multi-acre property facing Pine Lake Lane and Lebanon Road in a professional builder’s magazine.  He loved the look of the house so much that he flew to California to see it in person. When he came back to Charlotte, he went to work in his office in their home on Amity Place.  “After three or four nights, he came out,” recalls Emory. “Fixed himself a drink and sat at the table with mom and unrolled the plans. ‘This is our house,’ he said.”

The original kitchen had dark cabinets, an L-shaped island, and medium-brown wood floors that ran through much of the home’s lower level.
The layout of the kitchen remains similar to the original with updated cabinetry, appliances and lighting and a large, rectangular island with seating.

In a few weeks the plans, which still sit in Emory’s truck, were finalized.  They started construction (which included relocating a house already sitting on the property) shortly after Hurricane Hugo devastated much of the Charlotte area.  “We had pumps going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to dig the basement,” recalls Emory of the winter after Hugo.

The original master bath had dark cabinetry and flooring, a jacuzzi tub, and a standing shower.
The renovated master bath is much lighter and brighter with a large soaker tub and a relocated shower.

Lyndell Thompson and his wife Yvonne lived in the house until they passed away.  The tragic rumor about a man who built a house for the wife he loved dearly only to have her pass away had a touch of truth in it.  Yvonne was diagnosed with cancer before the couple moved in, but she lived another thirty years, surviving Lyndell himself by four years and passing away only two years ago this February.  

After Lyndell and Yvonne had both passed, the big white house sat vacant.  Emory and his wife Mary Beth ran the family business from the home but couldn’t decide what to do with it.  They tossed around ideas like turning the house into a Bed & Breakfast or hosting events, but there was one idea that was never on the table: selling it.  One day, Emory turned to Mary Beth and said, “You know what? My dad loved you, my dad trusted you. You took care of my parents in their dying days. You go do what you want to with that house and make it yours.”

The half partition between the family room and study showcases the dark woodwork that dominated much of the original home.
Renovations included painting much of the dark woodwork white, refinishing the wood floors to a more modern gray, and closing in the opening to the study with a fireplace.

In February of this year, the Thompsons held an estate sale and gutted the house, removing cabinetry, tile and other decor original to the late 80s construction.  The renovation has included some repair – a new roof, new gutters and some new plumbing – but focuses mainly on updating the space and bringing the nearly forty-year-old home into the modern era while maintaining its original character.

The impressive entry with its original chandelier and dark tile.
The renovated entryway with new tile and lighting and updated flooring.

The project, staffed whenever possible by Mint Hill locals, is being managed by Patsy Starnes of Home Again Restoration.  Emory and Mary Beth’s future home marks her largest project to date. “I have spent a lot of time, love and care updating the awesome home to restore a traditional home to an updated version to its original luster,” says Starnes.

“I just hope one day I can quit calling it ‘my parents’ house,’” says Emory, who had already moved out and married when Lyndell and Yvonne moved in.  “Maybe I just call it The Thompson Homeplace. My parents will always be there in our hearts. My son bounced basketballs in there. He threw baseballs and footballs in that house with my dad.  I hope we live a life to enjoy grandkids the way LT enjoyed our son.”

Emory Thompson hopes to enjoy the holidays in his new old home.

“There was never anything really fancy about the house,” concludes Emory, who hopes to be settled in The Thompson Homeplace for the holidays.  “It was a big beautiful house outside, but inside it was a home.”

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: