Charlotte Streetcar No. 85
This report was written on October 9, 1989
: There have been
significant developments in the status of the Charlotte Trolley since this
report was written. For more recent information, see the end of this report
for links to other streetcar-related areas of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmarks Commission site.
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Charlotte Trolley is temporarily located at the rear of Discovery Place in
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
1225 South Caldwell St. Box D
Charlotte, N.C. 28203
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: Because the
trolley is a piece of moving equipment, it is not appropriate that this
report should contain a map depicting its location.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: There is no deed
recorded on this property.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by John W. Hancock.
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains a brief physical description of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L.
8. Documentation of how 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 historical, prehistorical,
architectural, or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the
property known as the Charlotte Trolley does possess special significance
in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on
the following considerations: 1) the Charlotte Trolley is the only
restorable, known remnant of Charlotte's trolley fleet, which played a
decisive role in the physical evolution of this community; and 2) the
Charlotte Trolley, when fully restored and placed in service, will enhance
the historic image of Uptown Charlotte.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical
description by Dr. Dan L. Morrill which is included in this report
demonstrates that the essential form of the Charlotte Trolley meets this
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50%
of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes
a "historic landmark." The Charlotte Trolley has no current Ad Valorem Tax
value placed upon it.
Date of Preparation of this Report: October 9, 1989
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission
1225 S. Caldwell St. Box D
Charlotte, N.C., 28203
John W. Hancock
The history of the electric streetcar currently being restored behind
Charlotte's Discovery Place begins with the foresight of a well-known former
Charlottean - Edward Dilworth Latta. It was E.D. Latta's Charlotte
Consolidated Construction Company (created by Latta and five associates and
known locally as the Four Cs) which purchased the existing horse-drawn cars
from the city of Charlotte in late 1890 and contracted with the Edison
Electric Company in February 1891 to install new electric trolley lines.
Edward Dilworth Latta
A subsidiary, the Charlotte Railway Company, was formed by these
progressive late nineteenth-century developers to manage the new streetcar
system. At 3:00 p.m. on May 18, 1891 the first electric streetcar departed
from Charlotte's Square at the intersection of Trade and Tryon and headed
toward the recently-created suburb of
Dilworth. 2 A new era of transportation had dawned in a New
On January 1, 1910 the Southern Power Company (predecessor of the Duke
Power Company) entered into contract with E.D. Latta, president of the Four
Cs, to purchase the Charlotte Railway Company at cost plus 6%. 3
A writer in the Southern Public Utilities Magazine metaphorically
hailed the electric streetcar as providing the essential "blood" of the
expanding suburbs. 4 The Southern Power Company, and its
successor, Duke Power Company, successfully operated and managed Charlotte's
streetcar system until its eventual demise.
Advances in technology would eventually render Charlotte's electric
streetcar system inefficient and obsolete. On November 15, 1937 Duke Power
Company and the City of Charlotte applied to the North Carolina Utilities
Commission for authority to substitute motor buses in place of electric
streetcars in and around the city of Charlotte. 5 City Council
member J. S. Nance argued that such a substitution would be "one of the most
progressive moves that Charlotte has made in quite a long time." 6
City attorney Basil M. Boyd called it "one of the biggest and the finest
things that has perhaps ever happened to the City of Charlotte" and said he
did not know of "a single individual in the City of Charlotte who has voiced
any objection to the proposed change." 7 The new motor buses were
more flexible, safer and quieter than the outmoded streetcars. On March 14,
1938 streetcar number 85 traveled what was now a nostalgic trip 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.
8 The era of the electric streetcar in Charlotte was officially
Most streetcars were simply scrapped. An internal Duke Power Company memo
dated November 28, 1938 documents five streetcars (total value $5000), along
with thirty six streetcar bodies (total value $2940), to be salvaged. 9
This would account for most of the Charlotte fleet, which varied between
forty and forty-five cars. Some streetcars, however, were to continue
serving, but in different capacities. Some of the older model cars were sold
to enterprising cafe owners who converted them into dining cars and others
were to continue life as cottages. 10 The known history of the
streetcar currently being restored in Charlotte lends itself to both of
these historical alternatives.
During the week of November 2, 1987 Mecklenburg county planners Carl
Flick and Sandra Albrecht were mapping land use on David Street on the
southern edge of Huntersville, N.C. Flick, a native of Philadelphia, Pa.,
which has the largest trolley system in the United States, spotted something
at the end of the street. "It appeared to be some kind of diner," he
recalled. 11 Flick called Dan Morrill, consulting director of the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, with news of his
Flick's on-the-spot historical analysis proved to be accurate. The
streetcar found on David Street had, indeed, been used as a diner/concession
stand near Huntersville at Caldwell Station, N.C., which is located on
Highway 115 approximately one-half mile north of the intersection of Highway
73 and 115. Many area residents recollected the streetcar concession stand.
Edith Brown and Mrs. W. R. Hager of Huntersville remember seeing the
streetcar at Caldwell Station during the 1940s. 12 Interestingly,
none of those interviewed remembered actually eating at the streetcar
concession stand. A possible explanation for this was provided by another
long-time Huntersville resident, Mrs. Leggett Blythe. Mrs. Blythe recalled
that gypsies often inhabited the land where the streetcar sat, and her
parents, undoubtedly like many others, forbade her to stop or patronize the
concession stand. 11
The name of the first resourceful owner of the streetcar concession stand
has not been established. Duke Power Company archival records do not
indicate individual streetcar sales when the fleet was disbanded in 1938.
There are no remaining McLeod Trucking Company business records for the
period prior to 1950. Mr. Jay Mumpower of Charlotte, a retired rigger for
the McLeod Trucking and Rigging Company, recalls hauling several streetcars
from the Duke Power car barn on South Boulevard to local sites, but does not
specifically recall moving a streetcar to Caldwell Station. A land deed
search revealed that the land at Caldwell citation where the streetcar sat
was respectively owned during the 1940s by a Mary Wilson, G. D. Moody and a
J. N. Barker, but the 1969 telephone book holds no listings for these names
and none of the area residents interviewed recognized these names when
The history of the streetcar after its use as a concession stand is
clearer. Daisy Mae Trapp Moore of Huntersville estimates buying the
streetcar from its Caldwell Station owners twenty-five to thirty years ago
and paying approximately $125 - $150 for it. 15 While she does
not recall the exact date of her purchase, an October 28, 1951 Charlotte
Observer newspaper, found stuffed behind the paneling as insulation when
the streetcar was found in 1987, may provide some evidence as to the date
Mrs. Moore bought the streetcar and moved it to David Street in
Huntersville. Mrs. Moore originally used the streetcar as housing for some
relatives who were down on their luck and Mrs. Moore's brothers, who were
carpenters, renovated the inside of the streetcar to make it habitable. The
newspaper's 1951 date roughly coincides with Mrs. Moore's recollection of
buying the streetcar approximately thirty years ago.
When the streetcar was found in November 1987, it was being used by Mrs.
Moore as a rental property. Clay Thompson, a backhoe operator for McCall
Brothers, had lived in the streetcar house since the early 1970's. 16
Shortly before the streetcar was found by Flick, the county had condemned
the streetcar house because it had no indoor plumbing.
On April 12, 1988 in Contract of Sale was made between Daisy Mae Trapp
Moore and the Emergency Properties Fund of the Charlotte Mecklenburg
Historic Properties Commission to sell the streetcar to the Commission for
$1000. 17 McLeod Trucking and Rigging Company of Charlotte
donated its services and transported the streetcar on a flatbed truck to
Charlotte on Friday May 6, 1988.
The streetcar currently resides behind Discovery Place in downtown
Charlotte and in the capable hands of professional restorer David Lathrop.
While Lathrop has not found any direct evidence of the streetcar being one
from the Charlotte fleet, he has found important physical evidence which
closely correlates the car to those used in Charlotte during the 1920s.
Surviving pictures of Charlotte streetcars of this era closely match the car
being restored. Undercarriage components manufactured by the J. G. Brill
Company of Philadelphia are the same style as those used by the Perley
Thomas Car Company of High Point, North Carolina, the builder of many
Charlotte streetcars. Also, the close proximity of the streetcar when found,
less than fifteen miles from downtown Charlotte, lends credence to the car
as being an original Charlotte streetcar.
Dan Morrill and Bill Huffman of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic
Properties Commission estimate it will cost $250,000 to make the streetcar
operable once again. 18 A fundraising drive is currently underway
to raise the necessary money. Charlotte Trolley Inc., a private non-profit
organization, wants to operate the streetcar on the abandoned Norfolk and
Southern rail line between the ninety-three year old Seaboard station on
12th Street to Dilworth, a distance of about 1.3 miles.
It would be a fitting tribute to the early visionaries of Charlotte, such
as E.D. Latta and others, to have a streetcar clambering once again along
Charlotte's streets, headed toward Dilworth almost a full century after the
first streetcar left the Square. Perhaps the crowds would turn out amid much
hoopla, as they did in May 1891, to usher in the restoration of an important
part of Charlotte's history.
1 Morrill, Dan. "Edward Dilworth Latta and the Charlotte
Consolidated Construction Company (1890-1925): Builders of a New South City.
" North Carolina Historical Review. Volume LXIII, Number 3, July
2 Charlotte News May 23, 1891.
3 Letter from H. W. Anderson, President of Archival
Consultant, Inc. Winston-Salem, N.C. to Marilyn Usher, Charlotte, N.C.
January 10, 1987.
4 "Parable of Transportation." Southern Public Utilities
Magazine. April 18, 1918, p. 1.
5 Docket no. 1128. Courtroom of Utilities Commission. Raleigh,
North Carolina. November 15, 1937, p. 1.
6 Nance, J. S. Docket no. 1128. Courtroom of Utilities
Commission. Raleigh, North Carolina. November 15, 1937, p. 9.
7 Boyd, Basil M. Docket no. 1128. Courtroom of Utilities
Commission. Raleigh, North Carolina. November 15, 1937, p. 5.
8 Charlotte Observer, March 14, 1938.
9 Folder A-842. Duke Power Company Archives. Charlotte, N.C.
10 Charlotte News, January 7, 1938.
11 Charlotte Observer. November 10, 1987.
12 Interview conducted with Edith Brown at White Hall
Retirement Homes, Huntersville, N.C. September 14, 1989.
13 Telephone interview conducted with Mrs. W. R. Hager of
Huntersville, N.C. September 22, 1989.
14 Land Deed search conducted at Mecklenburg County Tax
Office, 720 East Trade St., Charlotte, N.C. September 22, 1989.
15 Interview of Daisy Mae Trapp Moore conducted by Bill
Huffman of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission. April
16 Charlotte Observer, November 10, 1987.
17 Contract of Sale. Mecklenburg County, N.C. Pursuant to N.C.
Gen. Stat. 160A-399.3
18 Charlotte Observer. May 7, 1988.
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
October 9, 1989
When located in 1987 at the end of David St. in Huntersville, the
Charlotte trolley or electric streetcar was in a deteriorated condition.
Customarily, when an electric company such as Duke Power placed its
streetcars up for sale, it would remove the trucks, motors, control systems,
and all interior features, including the seats, so that the car could be
more easily transported. Such was the case with the Charlotte Trolley. Also,
because the trolley had served as a residence for many years, a panel had
been removed from the center of one side, providing a opening for the front
door, and a small wooden addition, containing a kitchen, had been placed at
one end of the car, and a door of the trolley itself had been removed to
provide easy access into this space.
Documentary evidence demonstrates that the Charlotte trolley was
constructed by the Perley Thomas Car Company of High Point, N.C., most
likely in the late 1910's. The J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia, Pa.,
manufactured the mechanical systems. It is a double-truck, double-ended car,
originally with flip-over wooden seats. Unfortunately, the original wooden
ceiling and floor were not salvageable, nor were the bumpers, the car ends
or the knee braces. Happily, the great majority of the main body was
restorable, and a major portion of the time spent to date has been devoted
to refurbishing the body, including sandblasting and putting the prime
layers of paint on the car. Also, new bumpers, knee braces, and car ends,
replicating the originals, have been fashioned and are in process of being
placed on the car. A new, beaded board ceiling has been constructed on the
car, as has a magnificent, red oak floor. When completed, the Charlotte
trolley will have reproduction flip-over wooden seats, vintage mechanical
gear, and will be carry its original "South Public Utilities Company"