Survey and Research
Report On The
Charlotte "New Look"
General Motors Buses
Nos. 1074 and 1076
1. Name and location
of the property: The property known as the Charlotte "New Look"
General Motors Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 is currently housed in the Charlotte
Area Transit System's bus barn on South Tryon St. in Charlotte, N. C. and in
the bus storage facility on North Davidson St. in Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, address, and
telephone number of the current owner of the property:
Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
2100 Randolph Road
Charlotte, N.C. 28207
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
photographs of the property: This report contains representative
photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting
the location of the property: This property is personal property.
Hence, no map is required.
Current Deed Book Reference to the property: Records of ownership of
the property are on file at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains a brief
historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
brief physical description of the property: This report contains a
brief physical description prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria for
designation set forth in N.C.G.S 160A-400.5.
a. Special significance in terms
of its history, architecture and/or cultural importance: The
Commission judges that the property known as the Charlotte "New Look"
General Motors Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 possesses special significance in terms of
Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
1) Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 are the
best-preserved Charlotte "New Look" General Motors Buses, which operated on
the streets of Charlotte from 1959-60 until 1992.
2) Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 are
important reminders of the role of public transit in the emergence of
Charlotte as a regional industrial, commercial, banking, and distribution
center of the two Carolinas.
3) Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 hearken
back to the moment when Modernist design was first introduced into
Charlotte's transit fleet; and
4) Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 are
representative of the type of bus that arrived in Charlotte in the early
1960s when the community was experiencing profound social change.
b. Integrity of design,
setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The
Commission contends that the physical description prepared by Dr. Dan L.
Morrill demonstrates that the Charlotte "New Look" General Motors Buses
Nos. 1074 and 1076 meet
Valorem Tax Appraisal: The property is personal property. Hence,
no Ad Valorem Taxes are due.
Date of Preparation of this Report:
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
A Brief Historical Sketch Of The
Charlotte "New Look" General Motors Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076
The significance of the
Charlotte "New Look" General Motors Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076,
which were purchased and put into service by City Coach Lines, Inc. in 1972, must be considered within the
context of the overall history of public transportation in Charlotte.1 Charlotte would never have emerged as a major
industrial, commercial, and banking center in the late nineteenth century
and the twentieth century without the availability of public transit. Trolleys and buses
provided an essential service. They carried workers conveniently
from home to factory, warehouse, or financial center and back.
Charlotte "New Look" General Motors Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 are part of a
long and locally pivotal story.
Streetcars and Trolleys (1887-1938)
The growth and expansion of Charlotte
in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was intimately bound up
with the installation and development of its public transit system.
Streetcar service began in 1887.
The Charlotte Street Railway Company began laying track
on West Trade St. on November 15, 1886, for mule-drawn, later horse-drawn
Built by the Brownell & Wright Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Mo., the
three streetcars were put into regular service on January 3, 1887. Each was
pulled by two mules, later horses, and had a seating capacity of twelve.3
One especially dramatic
photograph of Charlotte's horse-drawn streetcar system survives. Taken from
the southeastern corner of the Square sometime between November 30, 1887,
and March 22, 1891, it provides a panoramic view of the four 12-passenger
streetcars that local attorney E. K. P. Osborne and his company operated in
Charlotte. A pedestrian, handsomely attired in a white shirt, dark suit, and
a dapper hat, strides southward across E. Trade St. while teams of
well-groomed horses make ready to continue their runs.
On July 8,1890, Edward Dilworth Latta
joined with Mayor F. B. McDowell and four other residents of Charlotte to
create the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, locally known as the
Four Cs.4 With Latta as president and principal
driving force of the company, these investors hoped to profit from the surge
of industry, especially textiles, which seemed destined for Charlotte. Their
plan was to develop a suburb, named Dilworth, where they intended to sell
lots and residences to the city's burgeoning industrial population, which
composed the essential work force for the expanding industries. To
connect their suburb with the city as well as to reap additional profits
from fares, Latta and his associates decided to build an electric streetcar
system between downtown Charlotte and Dilworth. Having purchased the city's
old horse-drawn cars, the Four Cs in February 1891 contracted with the
Edison Electric Company for $40,000 to install new electric trolley lines
principally to serve Dilworth. The developers formed a subsidiary company,
the Charlotte Railway Company, to manage the streetcar system.5
The official opening of the electric streetcar line occurred on
May 20, 1891.6
The open-sided summer car
was used on the North Charlotte line. There were three cotton mills in
Eventually other trolley operators
came onto the scene. On June 6, 1910, Paul Chatham, a
native of Elkin and a real estate developer who had arrived in Charlotte in 1907,
submitted a petition to the Charlotte Board of Aldermen, requesting that his
company receive a franchise to operate trolleys in Charlotte.7
Not surprisingly, the Four Cs strongly opposed Chatham's petition because it
would end the company's monopoly of streetcar service. But Latta also
anticipated that he had more to fear than Chatham's incursion into the Four
Cs' exclusive domain of urban transportation. He suspected that James B.
Duke's Southern Power Company, incorporated in 1905 as the successor of the
Catawba Power Company, had instigated a scheme whereby Chatham would sell
his trolley franchise to Southern Power. By this plan, Latta insisted, Duke
and his major stockholders would enable their proposed interurban electric
railroad, the Piedmont and Northern, to gain access to the streets of
The Charlotte Board of Aldermen
approved Chatham's petition on July 25, 1910. In deference to the concerns
of the Four Cs, however, the board stipulated that the franchise was not
transferable. Chatham placed battery-powered streetcars on a separate line
along Central Avenue to the Plaza and then out the Plaza to Parkwood.
Any hopes that Latta might have held that this provision would keep the
Southern Power Company out of the trolley business in Charlotte were dashed
on August 30, 1910, when the Board of Aldermen awarded a franchise to the Piedmont
Traction Company, the trolley subsidiary of Southern Power.9
Recognizing that the Four C's lacked the financial resources
to compete with Duke and wanting to obtain more capital to develop
additional areas in Dilworth, Latta announced on November 27, 1910, that he
was selling his trolley line to the Southern Power Company.10
The initial buses arrived in
1934. They were built by Twin Coach. It is Model 23-R.
Buses (1934 -
Southern Power Company, later renamed
Duke Power Company, operated streetcars in Charlotte until March 1938.
As early as July 1934, Duke Power introduced motor buses onto the streets of
Charlotte to connect Dilworth to the Myers Park line.11
Streetcars were increasingly seen as old fashioned and noisy, and the cost
of laying new track for additional lines was far higher than placing buses
on new routes. Consequently, on November 15, 1937, Duke Power joined with the City
of Charlotte in submitting an application to the North Carolina Utilities
Commission for authority to substitute motor buses in place of electric
streetcars. Approval signaled the end of trolley
operations in Charlotte. On March 14, 1938,
Charlotte Streetcar Number 85 traveled from Presbyterian Hospital through downtown,
stopping at the Square for a special ceremony, and continuing to its last
stop at the South Boulevard car barn.12
Duke Power Bus Driver Hazel
|Fleet of Twin Coach 23-R Buses in front of
former streetcar barn on South Boulevard.
On October 22, 1954, Duke Power Company
agreed to sell its buses to City Coach Lines. A Duke Power official
announced that the company was "getting out of the bus business." Duke
Power filed a request with City Council on November 23rd, and final approval
of the transfer of the transit contract was given by the City on December
15, 1954.13 The principal vehicle used by Duke
Power Company and sold to City Coach Lines was the so-called
General Motors "Old Look" Bus.
|GM "Old Look" Bus. The writing
on the picture
states that this picture was taken on March 13, 1950, showing
Charlotte's first Diesel Engine Buses.
This 1974 photograph of the
S&W Cafeteria on W. Trade St. shows the front end of a GM "Old Look"
Derelict Charlotte "Old
Look" GM Bus photographed about 10 miles east of Mint Hill.
This c. 1952 photographs
shows a GM "Old Look" bus moving north on S. Tryon St.
GM "New Look" Buses (1959-1992)
In 1959, General Motors
introduced its "New Look" transit bus, nicknamed the "Fishbowl"
because of its expansive, projecting front windshield. Cities
throughout the United States and Canada, including Charlotte, greeted
"Fishbowl" buses with enthusiasm. Their riveted, aluminum bodies,
large windows, and overall streamlined appearance produced an aura of
optimism that was characteristic of the era and suggested that the future
would be ever brighter. Their design stood in marked contrast to that
of GM's "Old Look" buses, which the company had been manufacturing since
1940.14 The "New Look" buses were the
first in Charlotte to be air-conditioned.15
"Fishbowls" were the first
air conditioned buses in Charlotte.
The arrival of "Fishbowl" buses
coincided with a period of significant social upheaval in Charlotte.
Charlotte teetered on the edge of racial conflict in the early 1960s. There
were sit-in demonstrations at eight local lunch counters on February 9,
1960. Store managers refused to serve the African Americans and closed
down. Seven did resume operations on an integrated basis the following
July. Black dentist and Presbyterian minister Reginald Hawkins led
hundreds of Johnson C. Smith students on a protest march on May 20, 1963,
against racial segregation in buses, restaurants, theaters, hotels, motels,
or any other business establishment that served the general public.
Hawkins, a native of Beaufort, North Carolina, had a
penchant for publicity. He purposely chose the 188th anniversary of the
alleged signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 to
stage his protest. "There is no freedom as long as all of us are not free,"
the tempestuous dentist and preacher shouted. The crowd greeted his remarks
with "Yeah" and "No." "We shall not be satisfied with gradualism,"
Hawkins proclaimed. "We want freedom and we want it now." As the students
began to disperse, Hawkins issued a threat to the white leadership of
Charlotte. "Any day might be D Day . . . . They can either make this an
open or democratic city or there is going to be a long siege. They can
choose which way it's going to be."16
An African American stands
on May 20, 1963, in front of the Plaque Commemorating the
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Reginald Hawkins
insisted that "Jim Crow" and the
pronouncements of the Declaration were incompatible.
Mayor Stan Brookshire asked Ed
Burnside, president of the Chamber of Commerce, to call a meeting of the
Chamber's executive committee. These actions culminated in the Chamber of
Commerce's approving a resolution on May 23rd calling upon businesses in the
community to open their doors voluntarily to African Americans. "May 23,
1963, could be the day leading to a major breakthrough in human
relationships for the Queen City and the Carolinas," stated a Charlotte
Observer editorial. " . . . once the leadership of this community has
set its course, regardless of the individual problems encountered," the
newspaper continued, "it will not swerve from it until all citizens can
breathe free in the public ways." This prediction was borne out in the
weeks and months that followed. Legal racial segregation, including the
separation of bus passengers by race, ended voluntarily in Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County in 1963. "I positively think that this voluntary action
enabled us to avoid the violence of murder, riots, arson, and looting, which
plagued many of our cities," declared Brookshire shortly before his death
from lung cancer in 1990.17
Charlotte "New Style" GM Bus
No. 1051 and others on West Trade St. in 1974.
A "Fishbowl" moves south on
Tryon St. in 1974.
Legal challenges played a significant
role in GM's decision to launch the "Fishbowl." General Motors
produced the vast majority of the buses used in the United States in the
1950s -- 84 percent of the market. The U.S. Justice Department filed
an antitrust suit against GM in July 1956 to break up this virtual monopoly.
In November 1956, GM agreed to a consent decree that compelled the company
to sell its patented bus components free of royalties to its
competitors for ten years. The GM sales department urged the company
to introduce a new design to help the company continue to outdistance its
rivals. GM responded by developing the "Fishbowl," "New Look" bus, which
was inspired by famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy's Greyhound
Scenicruiser, also built by General Motors.18
GM produced the Scenicruiser for
Greyhound Motor Lines. It inspired the design of the "Fishbowl."
GM "New Look" buses formed the
backbone of Charlotte's transit fleet in the 1960s and 1970s. City Coach
Lines purchased approximately 8 buses yearly to supplement its fleet, and
buses Nos. 1074 and 1076 were put into service in 1972.19
By the early 1970s, however, for-profit operation of the transit system by a private
company was becoming increasingly untenable. City Coach Lines was
plagued by labor unrest; ridership was falling; and fares continued to rise.
In August 1973, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce brought forth a report
urging the Charlotte City Council to buy the bus fleet of City Coach Lines.20
"But if the city expects to meet its obligation to provide mass
transit for its citizens, then public ownership of the bus system seems the
only viable alternative," declared the editors of the Charlotte Observer
September 11, 1974.21 The Charlotte
City Council eventually bowed to public pressure and voted on November 25,
1974, to take over the bus system and establish a regional transportation
authority to operate it, thereby ending 87 years of private bus and
streetcar operations in Charlotte.22
|Covenant United Methodist Church
used this "Fishbowl" bus in 2000. This writer recently visited the
site and did not see the bus.
The Charlotte Area Transit System
(CATS) announced on January 17, 1992, that it would retire from service at
the end of the month the 29 GM "New Look" buses remaining in its fleet.
CATS also stated that it would donate two of the buses to the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) "to restore and
preserve." A public ceremony was held on January 31, 1992, and HLC
Chairman J. Andrew Scales was given the keys to the two buses.23
The two buses have been stored in various locations since 1992 -- the parking
lot of the former Thrift Mill on Mt. Holly Road, the former Southern Public
Utilities Streetcar Barn on South Boulevard, and now in the CATS garage on
South Tryon St. One of the two buses is scheduled for restoration in
the near future. They are significant artifacts of Charlotte's public
This is a promotional painting
for the GM "New Look Bus
This photograph and caption
appeared in the Charlotte Observer in January 1992 announcing
the donation of the two GM "New Look" buses to the Historic Landmarks Commission.
The buses are not "Silverside" buses.
Physical Description Of The
Charlotte "New Look" General Motors Buses Nos. 1074 and 1076
Like the GM "Old Look" design, the
"New Look" or "Fishbowl" buses have monocoque construction, meaning that the
chassis and the body were built integrally and that the outer skin of the
body carries the entire weight of the vehicle. Buses Nos. 1074 and
1076 are 40 feet long and 96 inches wide, are powered by diesel engines
mounted transversely in the rear, have fully hydraulic automatic
transmissions, and rest upon air suspension systems.
Promotional Piece For "New Look"
Buses No. 1074 and 1076
The design of the "New Look" bus
emphasizes light, airiness, and speed. The most predominant feature is
a protruding, six-piece front windshield, which gives the vehicle the
moniker "Fishbowl." Four forward-slanting, two-paneled, sliding
picture windows on either side of the bus combine with forward-slanting standee
lights, a large wraparound rear window, and a driver's window, to open the
interior to additional sunlight. A wraparound front bumper and
fluted aluminum side and rear panels add to the streamlined appearance of
the "New Look." The front and rear passenger doors are of the
"slide-glide" type, which have greater glass area than the doors of the "Old
Look" and give greater visibility for the driver. Paired headlights within
elliptical aluminum surrounds are at either end of a front aluminum grill
with the letters "GMC" at the center. Parking lights in wraparound
grills are at either end of the front; and the rear has four, circular brake
lights in one-over-one pairs on either side. A destination sign,
tilted downward for easier reading, is above the front windshield, and a
small destination sign is at the front of the standee windows on the street
side of the coach.
The interiors of GM "New Look" Buses
Nos. 1074 and 1076 are largely intact, except for replacement passenger
seats. Two steps provide access to the interior of each bus at the front
door and at the rear door. Seats are arranged in pairs on either
side of a center aisle extending from the front to a rear seat located above
the engine compartment. Fluorescent lights are above, and rubber
matting covers the aisle between the seats. The fluorescent tubes are
mounted in a continuous fixture running longitudinally down the center of
the coach. The driver's seat, steering wheel, and dashboard are original.
Record of Donation of Property to the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, February 18, 1992.
Document are on file at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
Charlotte Chronicle, November
14, 16, 24, 1886; Charlotte Chronicle, January 24, 1889.
Charlotte Chronicle, November 24,
1886, January 4, 1887. The operations of the Charlotte Street Railway
Company were not entirely free of difficulty. On August 9, 1887, an
embarrassing event occurred, when a 447-pound teenage boy, appropriately
named Leroy Stout, who was on his way to nearby Mt. Holly to be exhibited at
the fair, fell through the vestibule floor and caused a streetcar to be
taken out of service for repairs. Charlotte Chronicle, August 10,
1887. A more serious mishap transpired on October 15, 1888. John McCall, an
inexperienced driver, left his car unattended at the end of the line on West
Trade St. to get a drink of water. Unfortunately, the horses took this
opportunity to bolt toward the Square, pulling the empty streetcar behind
them. This incident ended when the runaways moved through the Square and
slammed into another streetcar that was traveling west on East Trade St.
Luckily, nobody was hurt. Charlotte Chronicle, October 16, 1888.
4. Charlotte News, July
9, 1890. Latta's partners in creating the Charlotte Consolidated
Construction Company were F. B. McDowell, Dr. M. A. Bland, E. K. P. Osborne,
J. L. Chambers, and E. B. Springs, all prominent citizens of Charlotte. The
only manuscript sources concerning the activities of Latta and the Four Cs
are the private papers of E. B. Springs held by Mrs. Katherine Wooten
Springs of Mecklenburg County.
5. Charlotte News,
February 12, 1891; Mecklenburg County Deeds, Office of the Register of
Deeds, Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Charlotte, Book LXXXVIII, 313,
hereinafter cited as Mecklenburg County Deeds.
6. Charlotte News, May
19, 1891; Morning Star (Wilmington), May 22, 1891. The most
definitive and comprehensive analysis of the evolution of streetcar suburbs
in an American city is Sam B. Warner, Jr., Streetcar Suburbs: The Process
of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900 (New York: Atheneum, 1971). Warner
delineates the factors that influenced the development of Boston's streetcar
suburbs during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Although
certain aspects of his explanation are applicable to Charlotte, especially
the dynamics of what he calls "romantic capitalism," others, such as the
massive influx of immigrants from Europe, do not pertain to the Queen City.
The construction of an electric streetcar system in Charlotte was part of a
broad movement that was sweeping the South in the late nineteenth century.
Howard N. Rabinowitz, a historian of the urban South, points out that
electric streetcars were especially popular in southern towns of
approximately 10,000 inhabitants, The first community in the United States
to obtain a citywide electric trolley network was Montgomery, Alabama, in
1886. But it was the ability of the Union Passenger Railway to surmount the
hills of Richmond, Virginia, in 1888 that proved the practicability of the
electric streetcar. Thereafter, at least until the panic of 1893, the
replacement of horse-drawn streetcars spread throughout the South. Electric
trolleys first appeared in North Carolina in Asheville in 1889. Work began
on the Raleigh system in June, 1891, a month after the Charlotte lines had
started operating. Howard N. Rabinowitz, "Continuity and Change: Southern
Urban Development, 1860-1900," in Blaine A. Brownell and David R. Goldfield
(eds.), The City in Southern History: The Growth of Urban Civilization in
the South (Port Washington, New York: National University Publications,
1977), 113; Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, "Raleigh-An Example of the 'New South'?"
North Carolina Historical Review, XLIII (July, 1966), 283;
Charlotte News, May 29, 1891.
7. Minutes of the Charlotte
Board of Aldermen, June 6, 1910, Book XI, 470, Charlotte City Hall,
Charlotte, North Carolina, hereinafter cited as Minutes of Charlotte Board
8. Charlotte News, June
22, 1910; Charlotte Evening Chronicle, June 22, 23, 1910. For the
activities of James Buchanan Duke (1856-1925) and the Southern Power
Company, see Robert F. Durden, The Dukes of Durham, 1865-1929
(Durham: Duke University Press, 1975), 177-198.
9. Charlotte News, July
26, 1910; Charlotte Daily Observer, July 26, 1910; Minutes of
Charlotte Board of Aldermen, August 30, 1910, Book XI, 495-496.
10. Charlotte Daily Observer,
November 27, 1910.
11. Charlotte City Council
Minutes Book 23, pp. 474-477.
12. Charlotte Observer,
March 14, 1938.
85 was restored and put back into service in 1992
13. Charlotte City Council
Minutes Book 35, pp. 413-415. Duke Power was also abandoning bus
service in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, Spartanburg, S.C., and
Greenville, S.C. (Duke Power Magazine, January 1955, p. 5).
14. For information of the
history of GM New Look Buses, see John McKane, The General Motors New
Look Bus Photo Archive (Hudson, Wisconsin: Iconografix:
18. McKane, The General Motors New
Look Bus Photo Archive.
Record of Donation of Property to the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, February 18, 1992.
Document are on file at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
Commission. Charlotte Observer,
April 12, 1973
20. Charlotte Observer,
November 28, 1973.
21. Charlotte Observer,
September 11, 1974.
22. Charlotte Observer,
November 26, 1974.
release issued by Loeffler Ketchum Mountjoy (January 21, 1992).