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Category Archives: History

Ceasar R. Blake, Jr. – A forgotten Charlottean

Ceasar R. Blake, Jr. (1886-1931) is one of those people that outside of the Prince Hall Masonic family here in Charlotte that no one knows anything about. Serving as the Imperial Potentate for the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Prince Hall Affiliated (A.E.A.O.N.M.S.) or better known as the Shriners, he also served as the presiding officer of Paul Drayton Lodge # 7, later serving the Prince Hall Grand Lodge as the Grand Senior Warden.

Ceasar R. Blake as Imperial Potentate.  Photo Courtesy of Willie Harris, Jr.

Ceasar R. Blake, Jr.  as Imperial Potentate of the Prince Hall Shriners. Photo Courtesy of P.P Willie Harris, Jr.of Rameses Temple # 51

In his private life, according to the 1912 Hills Charlotte City Directory (page 131), he was a clerk with Norfolk and Southern Railway (page 331) and lived at 411 East 1st Street which was between Brevard and Caldwell Streets in the old Brooklyn neighborhood.  When he passed away in 1931, he was buried at Pinewood Cemetery, which was set aside for blacks as it was custom and and law during this period.

Headstone for Ceasar R. Blake, Jr.  at Pinewood Cemetery.  Photo taken by the author April 2009

Headstone for Ceasar R. Blake, Jr. at Pinewood Cemetery. Photo taken by the author April 2009

I encourage you to read more about him or the period in which he lived.

I got my information from:

1912 Hills Charlotte City Directory (Hackley and Moale Printers) via DigitalNC.org

History of Prince Hall Masonry and Appendant Bodies in the Charlotte Area, 32nd and 33rd Districts, Formerly the 19th and 20th Masonic Districts & 14th and 24th OES Districts by James E. Harrell (self-published, 1994)

Photo Credits:

Picture of Mr. Blake courtesy of Mr. Willie Harris, Jr.

Headstone photo by the author taken April 2009

Update (01/11/15):  Thanks to my husband who reminded me that First Street did not cross Sugar Creek back in those days,  I went back to verify my information and to find the right place via the 1911 Sanford Fire Insurance Map located at:

http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ncmaps/id/2298/rec/6

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2015 in History, People, Streets

 

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Can anyone explain this?

Last year I was working with the After-School Enrichment Program at Myers Park Traditional (where I work this year as a Teacher Assistant). I had gotten off the bus at Queens University last April and saw this:

Taken in the common area at Queens University near the Student Union April 30, 2014 by the author

 

In the ending days of the Civil War, the Confederate Naval Yard was moved from Norfolk, Virginia to Charlotte.  Now while this may seem strange to have a naval yard so far inland, to the Confederates, it made sense as the Union Navy had effectively blockaded the entire Southern coastline since the beginning of the war.

Now here comes my question – the company that manufactured this manhole cover did not come into exsistance until the 1870’s and after the Naval Yard in Charlotte was dismantled. I hope that someone with knowledge of Charlotte history and the Civil War can answer some questions for me, like how did this end up at Queens University when the area was created in the 20th century?  Was this moved from somewhere in Center City Charlotte?

I hope that someone can help me with these questions.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in History, Places

 

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Traveling to Charlotte – 1950’s Style

While we take it for granted in 2015 that we can find a hotel that fits our budget and stay anywhere we want to regardless of race and that we can find our favorite hotel chain in any town.  But it wasn’t that way in 1950; due to the Jim Crow laws on the books travelers were restricted to hotels that catered to their race and most of the hotel chains such as Marriott, Holiday Inn and Hilton were not available here in town. But, the hotel that you stayed at also depended on how much money you were willing to spend for a good night’s sleep.

Charlotte had its upscale hotels such as the Hotel Charlotte on West Trade Street which was imploded in the mid-1980’s and the Hotel William Barringer on North Tryon Street which is currently being redeveloped after being used for years as a senior citizen’s resident facility.  For African-American travelers, they were directed via the “Negro Travelers Green Book” to the Hotel Alexander was touted in the City Directory as “The South’s Finest Negro Hotel” in First Ward or the Ebony Guest House located at 214 South Myers Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

Ad for the Hotel Alexander in the 1950 Hill's Charlotte City Directory (image obtained via digitalnc.org)

Ad for the Hotel Alexander in the 1950 Hill’s Charlotte City Directory (image obtained via digitalnc.org)

If you didn’t have the means to stay at the Hotel Charlotte, or you were traveling by car with your family, you have a choice between the Stonewall Hotel on West Trade Street near the Southern Railroad Train Station or the T & J Hotel Courts located on Wilkinson Boulevard.

Listing for the Stonewall and T & J Motor Court from the 1950 Hill's Charlotte Directory (images via Google Images

Listing for the Stonewall and T & J Motor Court from the 1950 Hill’s Charlotte Directory (images via Google Images

The Alexander, Stonewall, T & J or Ebony Guest House no longer exist.  The Alexander closed in the 1960’s after the Civil Rights Act desegregated hotel accommodations and was burned down by the Charlotte Fire Department in a controlled burn in 1973.  The Stonewall Hotel, which was later renamed the Travelers Hotel became a transient hotel which was later closed and torn down in the mid 1990’s.  T & J Hotel Courts became a Choice Hotel, but was condemned by the City in 2011 after years of calls to police for various things such as drug dealing, prostitution and other problems, it had also become a “rental by the week” hotel that catered to those who could not afford housing in an increasing expensive housing market.  There are no records as to when the Ebony Guest House closed and torn down, I hope one of my readers can help me out with that question.

Doing my research for this entry, I found the following web sites to be very helpful:

Motel Americana – North Carolina: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/wooda/motel/northcarolina/index.html

The American Hotel Blog by James Lileks: http://www.lileks.com/motels/NC/1.html

Mecklenburg County Real Estate Lookup (for the right address): http://meckcama.co.mecklenburg.nc.us/relookup/

I got my ads from the Hill’s 1950 Charlotte City Directory (via digitalnc.org)

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Buildings, History, Places

 

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I’m Back!

Well, after a hiatus due to school and work responsibilities I have come back. I could not remember my original password for this site so I had to create a new one.  I hope that you will rediscover me and come back.

I want to thank Mr. James Harrill, who is currently serving the North Carolina Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons as a District Deputy for discovering my original Lost Charlotte blog and posting one of my entries to Facebook – this was the inspiration for bringing it back.  Also a big thank you to Mr. Damajo Smith for his comments on Facebook, he currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Phylaxis Society which is the research arm for Prince Hall Affiliated Free and Accepted Masons.

There is a blog called “Retro Charlotte” that is authored by Maria David who is the archivist and research librarian for the Charlotte (NC) Observer.  While some people think that there is not enough material for more than one blogger, I have to disagree.  While Ms. David has the resources of the Charlotte Observer, which has been around for over a century (first starting off as the Charlotte Daily Observer) I have the heart and people that I can go to to verify anything that I have heard.

I hope that you will come back and take the journey with me to find out what Charlotte used to be like.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Buildings, History, People, Places, Streets

 

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