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Category Archives: History

Saturday Night at the Movies (who cares what picture you see?)

(The writer of this blog wishes to apologize to Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the original writers of the song for borrowing this song line for this blog entry – full credit will be below)

Saturday nights in Charlotte before WBTV went on the air in 1949 meant that you had a couple of choices to take your significant other.  You could take them to a swanky restaurant in the Barranger, Selwyn or Charlotte Hotels, or if you belong to the Charlotte City Club or the local country clubs you could go there.  If you couldn’t afford to do that or you didn’t belong to those clubs, you could take her to the movies.

For a town the size of Charlotte, we had plenty of theatres to choose from.  In the Uptown area we had the Carolina Theatre on North Tryon Street near 6th:

Facade of the Carolina Theatre 1927.  Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Facade of the Carolina Theatre 1927. Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

There was the Imperial Theatre on the South Side of the Square located on South Tryon Street and the Charlotte Theatre located on West Trade Street.  If you lived out in the neighborhoods of Dilworth, Myers Park and Midtown, you had your choices of the Dilworth located on South Boulevard, the Center on East Morehead Street and the Charlottetown Mall Theatre located across the street from Midtown Mall.

But because this was also the age of Jim Crow, they had to build separate theatres for African Americans.  In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Second Ward, they had the Savoy and the Lincoln and the Grand on Beatties Ford Road near Johnson C. Smith University.

The Savoy Theatre in the Brooklyn neighborhood,  date unknown.  Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Property Commission via Google Images.

The Savoy Theatre in the Brooklyn neighborhood, date unknown. Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission via Google Images.

While making sure I got my facts straight for this blog entry, I found this website, which talks about movie theatres that are open, closed or demolished and has them sorted by state. You can find Cinema Treasures at http://cinematreasures.org.  Now, for the song that I used as my title for this blog entry:

The Drifters “Saturday Night at the Movies”  by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, written in 1964, released as a single by Atlantic Records.

The images that I used were obtained from:

The Carolina Theatre – from the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Image Collection. The photo of the Savoy Theatre is from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission via Google Images.

 

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Posted by on March 19, 2015 in History, Places

 

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South Graded School – Throwback Thursday

Today’s Throwback Thursday article talks about a school that left us before its 100th Birthday.

Starting out as the North Carolina Military Institute by D. H. Hill and modeled on West Point, it was built in 1859 at what was that time just outside the city limits to the south on what would become Morehead Street at the corner of South Boulevard.  When the Civil War started in 1861, its facility and students took up arms and fought for the Confederacy.  During the war the building was used as  a hospital, prison and medical laboratory.  After the war, it served as the Mecklenburg Female College (1867-1869) and from 1873 to 1883 it served as the Charlotte Military Institute, a private school for boys.

In 1883 it was turned into an elementary school, known as South Graded School serving grades 1-10 (11th and 12th grades were added later) and served the growing southern suburbs of Dilworth and Wilmore .

South Graded School - 1920's.  Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

South Graded School – 1920’s. Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

But changing times, shifting population and the opening of schools in nearby neighborhoods including Dilworth, Wilmore and Eastover and the conversion of the building from a school to a maintenance supply warehouse spelled its doom as the building was torn down in 1954.  Now the Dowd YMCA sits on the site of the old school:

Dowd YMCA. Photo taken from Google Earth 03/05/15.

Dowd YMCA. Photo taken from Google Earth 03/05/15.

If you have a chance to go to the Carolina Room in the main branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library located on North Tryon Street at Sixth Street, please do as you will find a wealth of information including the story of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System by former superintendent Harry P. Harding (Harding University High School in West Charlotte is named for him) as well as other sources for this article.  I also consulted the J. Murray Adkins Library at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (GO NINERS!) for some of my information. :

Information about the South Graded School: From the Mary Boyer Collection of the J. Murray Adkins Library of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. (http://digitalcollections.uncc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15483coll1/id/912)

The 1920’s Image of the school: Robinson-Spangler Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (cmstory.org)

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Buildings, History

 

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Low Bridge anyone?

No this is not a title for a new Roger Corman film, but what truck drivers experience every time they encounter a bridge that is lower than the height of their trailer which may start at 13’4″ and taller (that fact was courtesy of some fellow Fb’ers on another city’s page).

The most infamous ones in the state are in Durham, which is known as the “can opener bridge”  has a clearance of 11’8″ and is featured on the blog 11 foot 8 (http://11foot8.com) located near Duke University’s West Campus and the bridge on Peace Street in Raleigh near Downtown, which has a clearance of 12’4″ and has had its share of trailers getting stuck under them.  In Charlotte, I found a bridge that has a clearance of 12’0″ and yes, has had its share of tractor trailers stuck under it.  What all of these bridges have in common was that they were built for the railroad before they mandated higher height clearances because trailers had become taller.  Around the Charlotte area, bridges were built by the Seaboard Airline Railroad and Southern Railroad.  I have not been able to find any trestles built by the Piedmont and Northern Railroad (P&N), although I think the remains of an old bridge on South Graham Street near Bank of America Stadium may have been built by P&N and if had still been intact would have been really low.

Built for the Seaboard Airline Railroad in 1929, this bridge carried the tracks to their Charlotte station located at North Tryon at 16th Street.  This has a 12’0″ clearance and when I went to take pictures, I could tell that trucks over the years have had their encounters with the bridge:

Clearance Sign for the Seigle Avenue Bridge.  Photo taken by the author.

Clearance Sign for the Seigle Avenue Bridge. Photo taken by the author.

Seigle Avenue Bridge.  Picture taken by the author.

Seigle Avenue Bridge. Picture taken by the author.

Faceplace showing Seaboard name and year.  Picture taken by author.

Faceplace showing Seaboard name and year and damage done by trucks stuck underneath the bridge. Picture taken by author.

To learn more about Charlotte’s Railroad History, please check out the updated Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story website sponsored by the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at http://www.cmstory.org.  The Historic Properties Commission has done studies of some of the railroad depots including the P&N Depot at Paw Creek and has included the history of transportation in the Charlotte area; they can be found at http://www.cmhpf.org.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in History, Transportation

 

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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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