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Category Archives: History

Throwback Thursday

I thought I would do a Throwback Thursday article.  This is a popular thing to do on Facebook, and yes I have commented on a picture or thrown a picture or two in myself.  Today I am showing a place in an old photograph and what it looks like today.  All older photographs are from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library or the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission and the newer photos have been taken by me.

Today, let us look at the intersection of 4th Street and Queens Road, which is the entrance to Myers Park.  Back when this photo was taken, the tree cover had not been planted yet:

Entrance to Myers Park (1912).  Picture courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Entrance to Myers Park (1912). Picture courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

According to the library, the trolley entrance was designed by John Nolen and built by the Stephens Company of Winnsboro, South Carolina.  Here what it looks like today:

Queens @ 4th II_2015

Queens at 4th Street 2015. Picture taken by the author.

While the trolley entrance is long gone, the two shelters are still there.  Please look for another entry next Thursday when I show you a location from the past and what it looks like now.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in History, Neighborhoods

 

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William W. Smith

Another forgotten Charlottean, William W. Smith (1862-1937)  was the city’s first African-American builder and architect designing such buildings as the Mecklenburg Investment Company (MIC) building located at the corner of 3rd and Brevard and Grace AME Zion Church (he and his wife were founding members of the congregation) located a couple of doors down on South Brevard Street.  He was also involved in his community through his membership in Paul Drayton Lodge # 7 (Prince Hall Affiliated Masons) in which he served in various positions in the Lodge. Although not formally trained as an architect, he apprenticed to another well known brick mason in the Brooklyn neighborhood, William Houser who taught him the ropes in designing and building beautiful buildings.  A couple of examples of his work include:

Mecklenburg Investment Company Building (1922).  Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images

Mecklenburg Investment Company Building (1922). Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images

Grace AME Zion Church.  Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images.

Grace AME Zion Church. Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images.

Born in Mecklenburg County and living at 409 South Caldwell Street at the time of his passing he designed his own mausoleum located in 9th Street Pinewood Cemetery in the same style as the MIC Building.  He, his first wife Keziah, father and sister are interred in this mausoleum:

Smith tomb_Pinewood Cemetery

Smith Mausoleum at 9th Street Pinewood Cemetery. Picture taken by author.

He also designed the mausoleum for the Jones family, which is located about 25 yards away.  I hope to get some more information about that family for a future article. If you want to know where I got my information from, here are my sites:

North Carolina Architects and Builders – A Biographical Dictionary, Smith, William W.  http://ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu/people/P000291

History of Prince Hall Free Masonary and Appendand Bodies in the Charlotte Area, 32nd and 33rd Districts by James E. Harrell, 33° (1994, Self Published)

Pictures of the MIC building, Grace AME Zion Church courtesy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in History, Places

 

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Want some books to read?

During this arctic weather spell, I went by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to find some books on local history good or bad – well, more along the lines of what happens beneath the surface of our fair city. Well, I found two books, both published by The History Press of Charleston, South Carolina.

Wicked Charlotte, The Sordid Side of the Queen City by Stephanie Burt Williams (2006) explores crimes dating back to the American Revolution including murder, prostitution, bootlegging and larceny from the murder of a well known sheriff with ties to the area’s prominent families to Henry Louis Wallace, the city’s first black serial killer.  She also explores the effects of the nation’s first gold rush on the region and how some people took advantage of other people in the pursuit of gold.

A sequel of sorts, Charlotte Murder, Mystery and Mayhem by David Aaron Moore (2008) explores more of the seedy underside of the city that the tourist books don’t tell you about.  His stories range from a 13 year old  church arsonist to a lynching that is that I never heard of until I read this book and touches on the 1965 firebombings of Fred Alexander and Dr. Reginald Hawkins.

Both of these books can be found at Park Road Books, located in the Park Road Shopping Center (which by the way was one of the first suburban shopping centers in Charlotte!) if they don’t have it in stock, they will be happy to order them for you.

Happy reading!

 

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in History, People, Uncategorized

 

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Louis Asbury

People who have lived in Charlotte all of their lives may or may not have heard of this fellow Charlottean, but may have seen his work without knowing the person.  Well, let me introduce him.

Louis Asbury, born in Charlotte in 1877 and died in 1975 was one of the first full time, professionally trained architect licensed in North Carolina, holding license # 4 when North Carolina required architects to be licenced in order to practice in 1915.  A graduate of Trinity College (now Duke University) with additional training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he first started his practice in New York City and moved back to North Carolina in 1908.  His building style was influenced by a trip through Europe after graduating from Trinity, as evidenced by some of his work.

During his practice, he designed not only schools and churches, including Myers Park Methodist Church (he was one of the founding members) but also courthouses in Charlotte and Rutherfordton.  Here are some of the buildings that he helped design:

Parks-Hutchinson School now the Performance Learning Center.  Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission via Google Images.

Parks-Hutchinson School now the Performance Learning Center. Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission via Google Images.

Myers Park UMC.  Picture courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission

Myers Park UMC. Picture courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission.

 

Mecklenburg County Courthouse.  Picture courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images

Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Picture courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images

If you want to learn more about this visionary, please check out these sites (this is where I got most of my information):

http://ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu/people/P000449, written by William B. Bushong and Catherine W. Bishir with contribution by Dr. Dan Morrill and Charlotte Brown

http://www.cmhpf.org/ – This is the site for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, which has a lot of information on Charlotte and Mecklenburg County history.

 

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Buildings, History, People

 

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Belgrave Pavement

No I am not kidding, I was looking for anything that may give me a clue as to the location of Wream Field, home of the Charlotte Hornets from 1908-1948 before the owners built Crockett Park (another lost treasure, which I will explore in another article)  when I found this on a 1935 Charlotte City Map:

Belgrave Pavement_1935_

Okay, most of us are familiar with street naming, like Avenue, Street, Boulevard, and even some alleys from the early days of Charlotte but this one threw me for a loop.  Located in Dilworth, which is one of Charlotte’s earliest suburbs, similar to Myers Park was a planned neighborhood with wide winding streets with names such as Berkley, Romany and Buchanan centered around Latta Park, named for Edward Dilworth Latta, Founder and President of the 4C’s Company (Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company) and designed by the Olmsted brothers, one of the first architects and city planners who also designed Central Park in New York City.

Now known as Belgrave Place, it runs between Berkley Avenue and Romany Road ending at Latta Park.  Like many streets in Dilworth it is a tree lined peaceful street with speed humps and large houses of which many were built around the turn of the last century with some modern built homes which for the most of them they were designed to fit into the neighborhood.

Belgrave Place_Google Earth

Belgrave Place. Image courtesy of Google Earth 2015

If you want to learn more about the Dilworth Neighborhood, Edward Latta or about how our neighborhoods got started, please check out:

Sorting out the New South City by Dan Morrill (1998 University of North Carolina Press).  This can be ordered at Park Road Books located in the Park Road Shopping Center.  Written by the Historian at the Levine Museum of the New South located on North College Street, this was actually his doctoral dissertation and is a well written and through look at how Charlotte’s neighborhoods were shaped not only by geography, but politics and history.

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in History, Neighborhoods, Places, Streets

 

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Anyone remember this building before the State took it over?

This lonely building at the corner of West Trade and South Graham Streets sits in the shadow of BB&T and Bank of America Stadiums serves as a reminder of Charlotte in its small town days.  Serving as a full service Buick dealership, it was owned by C. C. Coddington (the first C standing for Charles) it was a showcase in its day.

The Coddington Building. Picture taken January 2015 by the author.

The Coddington Building. Picture taken January 2015 by the author.

Built in 1925 it served as his Buick Dealership (one of his officers was Lee Folger, who would go on to establish his own Buick dealership later) which was one of the first in the Carolinas.  When it was completed in 1925 at the west end of Center City Charlotte near the Southern Railway station on West Trade Street it was considered one if the finest buildings in the City. This building also housed WBT Radio (1110 AM), which Mr. Coddington brought in 1925 and used the call letters to help promote his dealership (Watch Buicks Travel).   I found this picture of the almost completed building on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Website:

Coddington Building, 1925.  Picture courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Coddington Building, 1925. Picture courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

After it was sold to the State of North Carolina and renamed the Polk Building for President James K. Polk of Pineville it was used for various state agencies until they moved out to the suburbs in the early 1990’s.  According to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Real Estate Lookup database, it was sold by the state to Trinity Capital Partners in 2006 which turned around and sold it to the Crosland Company and one of their subsidiaries in 2008. in It has stood as a lone symbol on West Trade Street of what the City used to look like; deteriorating with scaffolding that has been there for at least a decade it is a shame that the current owners try to rehab and bring it back to its glory it like they did with the old Charlotte Cotton Mills just one block over on West Fifth Street.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Buildings, History, People

 

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6th Street Bridge

I have been in Charlotte for over 30 years. While traveling around town, I had not always paid attention to this bridge located on 6th Street just west of Graham Street:

Southern Railway Bridge over 6th Street.  Picture taken by author.

Southern Railway Bridge over 6th Street. Picture taken by author.

Well, I finally got around to checking this bridge out.  It turns out that this was a bridge operated by the old Southern Railroad that led to the old railroad station on West Trade Street:

Southern Railway Station and Stonewall Hotel circa 1908.  Image courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Southern Railway Station and Stonewall Hotel circa 1908. Image courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

This station, designed by Frank Milburn in 1905 in the Mediterranean Style complemented an existing Seaboard Air Line train station on North Tryon Street at 16th Street.   When the station was closed in the 1960’s and the railroad tracks converted to freight traffic and raised above the street, it was thought that everything had been taken away.  Well, in two parking lots located on 5th Street on opposite sides of the street if you look hard enough, you can see the railroad tracks that they didn’t take up:

Old Southern Railway Tracks facing 6th Street.  Picture taken by author.

Old Southern Railway Tracks facing 6th Street. Picture taken by author.

And on the other side of the street, you can see one track but not the other:

Old Southern Railway Track part II.  Picture taken by author.

Old Southern Railway Track part II. Picture taken by author.

I managed to get a shot of the old Right of Way on the bridge looking north towards the silos at Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), I cannot began to describe my excitement as I found out that this actually served the old Charlotte train station:

Old Southern Railway ROW on the 6th Street Bridge.  Picture taken by the author.

Old Southern Railway ROW on the 6th Street Bridge. Picture taken by the author.

I wish I had gone on and find out when this bridge was built, but as I was by myself and the area was deserted I didn’t want to take a chance of running into trouble.  Also, there was ample warning signs that the area was owned by the State of North Carolina:

No Trespassing Sign installed by the NC Department of Transportation.  Picture taken by the author.

No Trespassing Sign installed by the NC Department of Transportation. Picture taken by the author

If you want to learn more about Charlotte’s transportation history and see images from not only the railroad stations, but its early streetcars and other forms of public transportation, please visit http://www.cmstory.org.  This site is run by the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and covers Charlotte and Mecklenburg County History from its beginnings to the present day.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Buildings, Business, History, Places

 

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Need to go grocery shopping?

Grocery shopping is easier today with all of the choices that we have.  We have stores such as Harris Teeter, Publix, and Food Lion for us regular shoppers.  For those who are looking for speciality stores we have Trader Joes, Whole Foods or Earthfare.  Back in the day when the city was smaller, we could go to our neighborhood grocer or to one of the early supermarket chains that had stores in the area.  While they were not the large stores that we are used to (and some of us expect!)  they filled a need for fresh food at good prices.

One of those early chains was Colonel Stores.  Started as Pender’s Stores in Richmond, Virginia in the early part of the 20th century they grew into the Carolinas and had several stores in the Charlotte area, including one located at 209 North College Street which was demolished and is now the Wake Forest School of Business and the Holiday Inn Center City.

Colonial Store "Rooster Logo" via rkpuma.com and Google Images

Colonial Store “Rooster Logo” via rkpuma.com and Google Images

I wish that I could have found a picture of the old store but could not find one.  I know that I will be exploring these old stores in future blog posts.  For more history about grocery stores both here in the Charlotte area and in other parts of the South, please check out the Grocerteria blog at http://www.groceteria.com.  You will not only learn about the history of familiar chains such as Winn Dixie and A&P, but also where they were located and what may or may not be there now.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Buildings, Business, History

 

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School Days (or daze depending on your point of view!)

I work as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System (CMS) at one of the oldest schools that is still using their original building (built in 1927, opened in the fall of 1928).  While the City of Charlotte still has a tendency to get rid of  buildings that are deemed “old”, CMS has tried to use their older buildings as much as possible.

Now while some of the older schools like North School, which was located on North College Street, Alexander Street and Myers Street Schools are long gone, there are still some school buildings still in use that pre-date the Great Depression. Several were designed by the late Louis Asbury, who was one of the first professional architects licensed in the State of North Carolina.  Two examples are the old Parks-Hutchinson School which was built in 1926 on North Graham Street (formerly known as Hutchinson Avenue), which is now the Performance Learning Center:

Parks-Hutchinson School now the Performance Learning Center.  Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission via Google Images.

Parks-Hutchinson School now the Performance Learning Center. Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images.

A year earlier, he also designed Morgan School in the Cherry neighborhood, which is not being used by CMS, but is now a Charter School:

The former Morgan School now Community Charter School.  Image from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images.

The former Morgan School now Community Charter School. Image from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images.

Of course I cannot forget to show off the school that I work at, Myers Park Traditional:

Original Entrance to the school.  Image from myschoolrocks. com via Google Images

Original Entrance to the school. Image from myschoolrocks.com via Google Images

There is a high school building that pre-date the Great Depression that is still being used.  Central High School located in the Elizabeth neighborhood was built around 1923 and is now owned by Central Piedmont Community College and is used for classrooms as well as other college services.  Here is a picture dating back to the early 1950’s, when it also housed Charlotte College, which later became UNC-Charlotte:

Central High School, early 1950's.  Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission via Google Images.

Central High School, early 1950’s. Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images.

There is also Middle School pre-dating the Depression still in use.  Piedmont Middle School (at the time it was built it was called Piedmont Junior High) was built in 1925. There have been additions made over the years as the student population has grown, but the basic bones of the building are still there:

Piedmont Middle School.  Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission via Google Images.

Piedmont Middle School. Image courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission via Google Images.

I will be exploring more old schools in future blog entries.  Please explore with me and if you know of a school that has kept their original building or hasn’t altered it too much, please let me know.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Buildings, History

 

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Remember Ice and Coal Dealers?

Westside Ice and Fuel Company ad-1953 Directory

I was looking for another business that I saw on a post on Facebook when I came across this ad in the 1953 Hills Charlotte City Directory for the Westside Ice and Fuel Company.  When I looked up the former address it was located where Johnson C. Smith University has built student housing with ground level retail.

I am not sure when this company went out of business, but when I arrived in Charlotte in 1982, the site was known as Carostate Ice and the parking lot facing Duckworth Avenue held ice machines that the company owned that was either broken or awaiting transportation to area stores to hold bags of ice for sale.

Charlotte before 1960 had several dealers for block ice (this was in the days of iceboxes, which required blocks of ice to help keep foods cold or frozen in the days before substantial freezers on refrigerators)  and coal, which was used to heat homes and sometime business buildings (including schools) in the winter.

I will be exploring these type of businesses in future writings.

I found this ad in the 1953 Hills Charlotte City Directory, courtesy of digitalnc.org

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Business, History, Places

 

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