Survey of Historic
Buildings and Structures in Center City Charlotte
Statement of Purpose.
This Survey attempts to identify
those buildings and structures in Center City Charlotte that possess the
requisite special significance to be eligible for designation as local
historic landmarks or local historic districts and have not yet been so
designated. Such designation would assure that the identified
properties are not inadvertently destroyed and that the impact of future
developments upon these properties is considered as part of the
comprehensive planning process. Hopefully, this Survey will allow
historic preservation to be an initial consideration when determining
whether an intended action in Center City Charlotte is or is not in the
public interest or how that intended action might be altered to accommodate
the needs of historic preservation.
additional purpose of the Survey is to provide sufficient contextual
background so that the identified properties can be processed for historic
landmark designation without preparing a Survey and Research Report on each.
It is anticipated that this approach will expedite the designation of the
identified properties as historic landmarks and thereby put into place more
quickly the legal safeguards associated with such designation. Intense
developmental pressures suggest that haste is essential and prudent if
historic preservation is to play a significant role in the planning for the
future of Center City Charlotte.
This July 2003
photograph shows two historic buildings being demolished on E. Trade St.
to make way for the new Uptown arena. Efforts to save the building
were "too little, too late."
Methodology. Dan L.
Morrill and Stewart Gray, the principal investigators, identified Center
City Charlotte as that area bounded by I-77, I-85, and I-285; and, as a
general rule, they included buildings and structures in that area that were
erected in 1960 or before. Morrill and Gray used the information
already available for those properties identified by the Commission either
through the conducting of surveys or the preparation of Survey and Research
Reports. Especially useful was Dr. Thomas Hanchett's comprehensive history
of the physical evolution of Center City Charlotte, developed for the
Historic Landmarks Commission in the early 1980s.
places the identified properties within one of the following six contexts.
A. High Rise Buildings.
High-rise buildings have occupied an important place in the built or
man-made environment of Charlotte since the construction of the Realty or
Independence Building in 1908-09. They have served as compelling
symbols of economic power and progress.
Click here to see the implosion of
the Independence Building in September 1981.
Charlotte, a crossroads town, has been impacted by railroad tracks since the
arrival of the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad in October 1852.
A major challenge has been to allow traffic, especially after the advent of
the automobile, to navigate over these tracks. The solution has been
the construction of a series of railroad bridges, some of which possess
special historic significance.
C. Industrial/Commercial. Charlotte emerged as a major
industrial and commercial center during the second half of the nineteenth
century. Principally but not exclusively based upon textiles, this
industrial base is reflected in Charlotte's built or man-made environment.
The coming of the railroad also stimulated the growth of Charlotte as a
wholesale and retail commercial center.
|Charlotte's Union Bus
Terminal was demolished in May 2004 to make way for part of the Johnson
and Wales Campus. This was Charlotte's best surviving example of
Art Moderne style architecture.
Above: Post-WWII Queen City of the South promotional
booklet published in 1945 by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, under the
leadership of Executive Vice-President Mr. C.O. "Booster" Kuester.
Click here to read the entire booklet.
D. Institutional. A major component of the so-called New South
philosophy of progress was the expansion of public schools, including
schools for African Americans. Also, Charlotte's leaders were
interested in constructing imposing public buildings, including courthouses
and city halls. Finally, several churches survive in Center City
E. Residential. What is now Center City Charlotte was
essentially the entire city until the early twentieth century.
Accordingly, Uptown Charlotte contains several residential structures, both
individual houses and apartment houses.
F. Retail. Charlotte
emerged as a major retail center following the arrival of the Charlotte and
South Carolina Railroad in 1852. The Center City has retained that
status over the decades, as the nature of the built environment has changed
in response to market forces.
Survey identified 52 individual properties and 3 districts that appear to
be eligible respectively for designation as local historic landmarks or
local historic districts. Click here
for the list of properties and districts.
Implementation Strategy. As noted above, it is essential that
the results of this survey become part of the comprehensive planning process
for Center City Charlotte. In our opinion, historic preservation has
too long been relegated to the sidelines as far as planning for Center
City Charlotte is concerned.
The Art Deco style
Charlotte Observer/Charlotte News Building was demolished in 1970 with
no serious attention having been given to its preservation.
Preservation has never been a vital part of comprehensive planning in
A. Increasing Public Awareness. The
Commission should make every reasonable effort to increase community
awareness of the findings of the survey and, just as importantly, of what
the implications of local historic designation mean. Many in the
general public continue to believe that historic designation mandates that
the structure be saved. That is not what it means. Historic
designation requires instead that the historic significance of the structure
be considered in future planning. In some instances preservation is
warranted. In others partial preservation or photograph
documentation might be the proper course to follow. Also, many people
continue to think that historic preservation is exclusively involved with
the preservation of beautiful old buildings, as one sees in Charleston, S.
C. or Savannah, Ga. The Commission needs to underscore the importance
of Charlotte's buildings as "historic artifacts" that document the history
of this community. To build public awareness and support, the
Commission should work with local media to publicize the findings.
Also, presentations should be made to Historic Charlotte and local
representatives of Preservation North Carolina, and other appropriate
historic preservation advocacy groups, such as the Mecklenburg Historical
These humble abodes are
the only textile mill workers' houses that remain in Center City
Charlotte. Because they were designed by D. A. Tompkins, they are
significant historic artifacts of this community. They are
B. Processing Endangered Properties. Certain
properties in Center City Charlotte are endangered and require immediate
attention if their fate is to be taken into account as part of the planning
process. The Commission should move forward with seeking historic
designation by the Charlotte City Council for the following endangered
historic resources. The usual
designation procedures will be followed, including the solicitation of the
attitudes of owners, which the Commission can take into account as it
chooses. Click here to view a list of
ten properties that may merit immediate attention.
Consulting With The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. The Commission should arrange with the
planning staff to make a presentation to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning
Commission of the findings of this Survey and to solicit its input as to the best means available, including
historic designation, to assure that the identified properties are taken
into account in future planning for Center City Charlotte.
D. Processing Remainder Of Identified
Properties. After consultation with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Planning Commission, the Commission should move forward with
seeking historic designation by the Charlotte City Council of the remainder
of the identified historic resources in Center City Charlotte. The
usual designation procedures will be followed, including the solicitation of
the attitudes of owners, which the Commission can take into account as it