DEVELOPMENT OF STREETCAR SYSTEMS IN NORTH CAROLINA
Walter R. Turner
Dilworth Latta, a classy dresser who operated men's clothing
businesses in Charlotte for several years, was ready for a new challenge.
Now thirty-nine years old and married with three small children, he had
traveled widely and understood how electric streetcars were beginning to
transform cities. Asheville and Winston (later Winston-Salem) had
already established streetcar systems, but he was determined to do something
even more impressive. With a new company and strong financial backing,
he made his move in 1890. Latta purchased Charlotte's horse-drawn
streetcar system, completely rebuilt it, and extended the lines to the
outskirts of the city to
creating the state's first major streetcar development.
Dilworth eventually encompassed residential sections for different economic
classes, a sprawling park, and an industrial district.
"Clanging, swaying, grinding along, the streetcar created the modern city;
rolled two generations of Americans to work, to the suburbs, to the ball
park, out to the laughter and bright lights of the Ferris wheels and roller
coasters. . . ."
During the period from 1886 to 1948, more than a dozen cities and towns in
North Carolina acquired streetcars, usually operated and owned by electric
utility companies or their subsidiaries. In most of these cities, streetcars
transported riders to work and play while greatly influencing the
establishment of suburban neighborhoods and recreation/amusement parks.
In the mid-nineteenth century, transportation companies in the nation's
largest cities developed "street railroads." Horses or mules pulled small
vehicles called "horsecars," which accommodated twenty to thirty passengers,
along railroad tracks on city streets. This method of transportation
became widespread, despite being slow, difficult to climb hills, and hard on
the animals. Some cities experimented with applying steam locomotives,
called "steam dummy locomotives," to street railroads, but they were never
The cable railway was
invented in the 1870s. A wire cable, powered by a steam engine at a
central power plant, was pulled through a trough below the tracks.
Streetcars were attached to this cable, providing power for movement.
By the 1890s, cable railways operated in twenty-eight cities, especially San
Francisco and Chicago.
Electric streetcars were the big breakthrough in streetcar technology, made
possible by the applying electricity to streetcar motors. Thomas
Edison developed a way to distribute electricity to large geographic
areas, beginning service to customers in New York City in 1882. In
1885, Raleigh became North Carolina's first city to obtain an electric
lighting system, and the state’s other cities enjoyed this service by the
end of the decade.
During the 1880s, numerous experiments were conducted to produce an
efficient electric railway operation. Among the challenges were how to
get electricity to the cars and how to transmit power from electric motors
to wheels? After his tour of duty, U.S. Naval Academy graduate Frank
J. Sprague (1857-1934), a Connecticut native,
worked as an assistant in Thomas Edison's electric light business and
then formed the Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company, designing and
selling electric motors. His big opportunity came in 1887 when he
contracted to build an electric railway system in Richmond, Virginia.
The system consisted of twelve miles of track with grades as steep as eight
percent (well beyond the capabilities of a conventional steam locomotive),
overhead electric wires, a central station power plant, and forty trolley
cars, each powered by two motors and connected to overhead power by a pole.
Upon its completion in May 1888, Sprague commented, "Fatigue and worry were
all forgotten in what was to us a supreme moment."
At the time, Boston had the world's largest trolley system, which used 8,000
horses to pull horsecars. The city was ready to convert to a cable
system, but instead opted for an electric system with Sprague motors after
seeing his achievement in Richmond. The new technology spread rapidly.
By 1890 there were more than 200 electric streetcars systems,
including Asheville and Winston, in the United States. These systems,
capable of operating efficiently in all kinds of weather, expanded quickly.
By the end of the nineteenth century, electric streetcars had replaced
horsecars and nearly all cable systems.
From the 1890s
to the 1920s, almost every city of at least 10,000 people acquired an
electric streetcar system that continued to expand. Typical fare was
five cents. Open cars were used in warm months, closed ones during
winter. State public service commissions regulated the companies.
Most streetcar employees, who worked six or seven days a week at low wages,
joined unions, especially workers in the Northeast and Midwest.
Between 1915 and 1919, increased operating costs and inflation, caused in
part by World War I, combined with public resistance to any fare increases,
led to the failure of some streetcar companies. In the 1920s, better
management fostered improved operating efficiency.
Open Car, Greensboro, N.C. Photo
Courtesy Duke Energy Archives
But the biggest (at first
unrecognized) threat to streetcars, especially during the decade of the
1920s, was the proliferation of automobiles, buses (often operated by
streetcar companies), and construction of paved highways.
The number of people commuting to work on trolleys increased while ridership
during off-peak hours and on Sunday to amusement parks declined.
Streetcar companies found it difficult to profitably serve residents in new
suburbs being built farther from city centers. Many people blame
General Motors for buying streetcar systems in order to replace them with
buses, a charge that the corporation denies. GM did not buy any
systems in North Carolina.
Beginnings in North Carolina
In 1881 the North Carolina General Assembly chartered street railway
companies for Raleigh and Asheville, authorizing use of “steam, animal or other power.”[10
Additional charters followed. The Raleigh Street Railway Company
opened the state’s first streetcar system on Christmas day in 1886.
The operation consisted of four miles of track and four light horsecars.
"I well remember the appearance of the first streetcars, drawn by mules,
with tinkling bells, and the crowds of people who were attracted by the
novelty," wrote R. C. Lawrence.
The Durham Street Railway Company, opened in 1887, ran from West Main Street
(near the present-day east campus of Duke University) to downtown. But
wagons often had accidents in Durham when crossing the tracks (which were
six to eight inches high), leading to financial problems, disbanding of the
system, and removal of the tracks. In 1888 the Wilmington Street
Railway started a five-mile, horsecar system in that city. The same
year, the Wilmington Sea-Coast Railroad opened a steam-powered railroad for
passengers and freight between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, a distance
of ten miles.
Charlotte's experience illustrates the challenges of starting a new
transportation venture. On January 26, 1883, the North Carolina
General Assembly chartered the Charlotte Street Railway Company, an action
quickly endorsed by the Charlotte Board of Aldermen. But the company's
local officers, unable to get the project off the ground, sold the charter
to Dr. J. R. Zearing and his investors from Chicago in August 1885.
Despite much publicity, the Chicago group bailed out two months later.
Finally in 1886, the city signed a contract with F. W. Dickson and his
associates from Georgia and Alabama, whose corporation already operated
streetcar systems in several cities. The Dickson company opened
Charlotte's streetcar system on January 1, 1887--consisting of three
streetcars, each one pulled by two mules and holding twelve passengers, and
tracks in three directions from the Square (corner of Trade and Tryon) that
connected with the city's two major railroad stations. By the end of
1887, horses had replaced mules and a line was extended from the Square
eastward to Sugar Creek (near present-day Central Piedmont Community
Mule Drawn Trolley
Courtesy of Duke Energy Archives
After these bumpy starts,
the extension of electricity into urban areas—coupled with
increasingly reliable electric streetcar technology—opened a dramatic
new transportation era in the nation and in North Carolina. The
state’s five largest cities took advantage of the opportunity. They
were Asheville (10,235), Winston and Salem (10, 729 combined), Charlotte
(11,557), Raleigh (12,678), and Wilmington (20,056).14]
Asheville was an isolated mountain town for many decades. But when
railroads finally reached the community from Salisbury in 1880 and from
Spartanburg in 1886, Asheville grew as a tourist and health resort.
But the two-mile trip from the depot to downtown was still a challenge.
This journey required climbing hills with a ten and a half- percent grade,
too steep for horsecar operation and too expensive for a cable system.
E. D. Davidson of Long Island, New York, who had financed a horsecar system
in Halifax in eastern Canada, came to Asheville in early 1888 to
explore opportunities. The city of Asheville authorized a charter for
an electric railway that would include lines from Pack Square to various
sections of the city, including the depot that served the Western North
Carolina Railroad (which ran east to Salisbury). Davidson agreed to
build the system in close collaboration with Frank Sprague, builder of the
Richmond system. John Barnard helped supervise construction and became
the company’s general manager. The line to the depot opened on
February 1, 1889. From the Public Square (now Pack Square), the line
extended down South Main Street (present Biltmore Avenue) and Southside
Avenue, and then was routed onto Depot Street (west of present-day McDowell
Street) to the depot, which was located on flat land in the railroad yard (a
half-mile west of Biltmore Village). Ida Briggs Henderson, an
eyewitness to the opening events, remembered the excitement: “I can still
recall the applause that was given by the people who stood along the
sidewalks, watching the demonstration which took place on that day.”
Various railway companies
organized and built lines to emerging neighborhoods north of downtown; to
outlying areas, including the Sulphur Springs resort west of the city; and
to Biltmore Village, a town near the emerging Biltmore estate. In 1907
Asheville led the state by carrying three million streetcar passengers
(total number of trips by riders), compared to Charlotte and Wilmington with
two million each. By 1915 the street railway reached its maximum size,
operating forty-three rail cars on eighteen miles of track, including one to
the newly opened Grove Park Inn.
The streetcar system continued to serve Asheville’s tourists and
growing population, which reached 28,000 in 1920 and 50,000 in 1930.
Thomas Wolfe, the noted
novelist who grew up in Asheville, described the city's streetcars in one of
his short stories. "The street-cars ground into the Square from every
portion of the town’s small compass and halted briefly like wound toys in
their old quarter-hourly formula of assembled Eight."
In 1900 most of the city’s railways were consolidated into the Asheville
Electric Company, the utility furnishing electricity to the city.
Although the majority of directors and officers were from Asheville, James
H. Cutler of Boston, an agent for General Electric Company, was a major
investor in the company. Asheville Electric became Asheville Power and
Light Company in 1912, with the majority of the directors at that time
coming from New York. In 1926 the company was sold to Raleigh-based
Carolina Power and Light Company (now Progress Energy).
Leaders of the growing tobacco-manufacturing town of Winston organized the
Winston-Salem Street Railway Company on March 11, 1889, a little more than a
month after Asheville opened its system. On July 14, 1890, the Salem
Band played and crowds cheered as the first cars rolled down the tracks.
Frank J. Sprague, who probably designed the system, attended the
celebration. The north-south line ran from the courthouse in Winston
down Main Street through Salem, further uniting the two towns. Another
line from the courthouse extended west one mile to the new, three-story,
Streetcar cars ran from the
courthouse in every direction by 1907, close to reaching the system’s
maximum size of forty-three trolleys using nine miles of track, operating on
ten-minute schedules. Even though the Zinzendorf Hotel had been
destroyed by fire in 1892, the availability of the streetcar helped to spur
growth of the West End neighborhood on the sloping hills beyond the hotel
site. Nissen Park was built at the end of the South Main Street line.
Tracks out Liberty Street to the north led to Piedmont Fair Grounds and east
along Third Street to City Hospital.
In 1891, after one year of streetcar service, the Winston-Salem Street
Railway Company merged with the local electric utility to form the
Winston-Salem Railway and Electric Company. Later in the decade
industrialist Henry E. Fries founded the Fries Manufacturing and Power
Company, which owned both the streetcar system and the area’s electrical
In 1913, however, the company was sold to Southern Public Utilities Company,
a subsidiary of Southern Power (forerunner of Duke Power) in Charlotte.
Trolley on Dilworth Road with the
Addison Apartment House in background.
Edward Dilworth Latta and five Charlotte entrepreneurs he recruited
Construction Company, known as the Four Cs, in 1890.[21
The company's first project was to upgrade the old horsecar system and
establish a new neighborhood, Dilworth, one and a half miles south of the
city center. Four Cs paid the Edison Electric Company (which Thomas
Edison helped organize) $40,000 to install an electric streetcar line along
the former horsecar lines and extend the route to Dilworth. As with
most horsecar-electric streetcar conversions, this required removing the
horsecar tracks and installing heavier tracks. The first trolley on
the new system ran on May 18, 1891. "While the prospect of
considerable profit certainly inspired Dilworth's formation, Latta's
thinking also evinced a broad streak of New South boosterism," wrote
Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett.
Trolley No. 19, Southern Public Utilities Company,
Charlotte, N.C. c 1910. Photo courtesy Duke Energy Archives
The neighborhood park,
Latta Park, helped attract
riders and prospective residents to Dilworth. In addition, a textile
mill and industrial area were established on the edge of the neighborhood.
Four Cs extended streetcar lines to other neighborhoods on the city's
outskirts. Later, during World War I, the War Department built
which trained up to 65,000 men, west of the city on a streetcar line.
Tobacco and textile
manufacturer James B. Duke established a new
utility, Southern Power Company, in Charlotte in 1905 and began building
hydroelectric plants along the Catawba River and the Piedmont region.
The company won approval for a streetcar franchise in 1910, despite
opposition from Latta. Shortly thereafter Latta sold his trolley
company, Charlotte Electric Railway Company, (consisting of thirteen miles
of tracks, thirty-nine trolley cars, and a car barn), to Southern Power for
$1,235,000. At the same time, Latta sold Duke his gas supply business.
Southern Power, at Duke's
initiative, also established the Piedmont and Northern Railway in 1911, the
state's only successful interurban electric railway and one of a few such
systems in the Southeast. The Greater Charlotte Club (now Charlotte
Chamber of Commerce) supported this move by raising and contributing
$300,000. Interurban lines operated between cities, also accessing
electricity overhead, but using multi-car trains that served freight as well
as passengers. P&N's Charlotte-Gastonia line opened in 1912 with its
own tracks and included passenger stops in Pinoca, Thrift, Mount Holly,
North Belmont, McAdenville, Lowell, Ranlo, and Groves. The railroad
also operated a passenger and freight line between Spartanburg and Anderson,
S.C. and an all-freight line from Mount Holly to Terrell, N.C. in Catawba
Charlotte, N.C. Car No. 64. Photo courtesy Duke
In 1913 Southern Power (which became Duke Power in 1924) organized a new
subsidiary, Southern Public Utilities Company, to operate streetcar systems
and expand the company's retail activities. The following year, the
company opened a new, forty-car barn. By 1930 Duke Power owned the
streetcar systems in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, and Salisbury.
The Charlotte system expanded to serve several new outlying neighborhoods
and reached a total of twenty-nine miles of trackage (ten of them double
tracks) utilizing fifty passenger cars.
Charlotte, N.C. Car No. 60 in front of
the Kress Store Photo courtesy Duke Energy Archives
According to one writer, "Raleigh was stung by the report that Charlotte had
beat it to electric car service."
Dr. S. J. Jacobs of Iowa purchased the existing
streetcar charter and announced ambitious plans. Arrangements
were made for Edison General Electric Company to furnish electrification and
four elegant trolley cars to be purchased from Philadelphia. Disputes
developed between the owners and construction company, and some electric
wires were removed. To resolve matters, Baltimore bondholders became
involved, and Raleigh residents bought $50,000 in bonds to finance
construction of the streetcar system. When he became unable to pay a
bill for machinery, Dr. Jacobs quietly left Raleigh and never returned.
The Raleigh Street Railway Company, however, began scheduled runs on
September 1, 1891. The system covered the same general route as the
mule-drawn system. From downtown, the tracks ran west along Hillsboro
Street (now Hillsborough)
as far as St. Mary's College, north on Blount Street to Brookside
Park near Oakwood Cemetery, and down Fayetteville and Cabarrus streets to
the depot southwest of downtown. When the company failed in 1894,
James H. Cutler of Boston, who already had streetcar interests in Asheville
and other southern cities, acquired more investors and reorganized the
company as the Raleigh Electric Company.
Carolina and Power & Light Company, organized in 1908 in Raleigh,
Raleigh Electric and its streetcars, other area utilities, and the newly
built Buckhorn dam and plant on the Cape Fear River. Only Fayetteville
Street, of all the streetcar routes, was paved at the time. Frank
Shearin, a conductor, recalled, “People in the residential areas used to
complain about the dust.”
To solve the problem, CP& L bought a 4,000-gallon capacity tank car to water
down the roads. This was only one example of how CP& L invested the
necessary funds to modernize Raleigh's streetcar operation.
By 1915 the system boasted twelve miles of trackage. It served the
state technical college (now N.C. State University) and reached the State
Fairgrounds, ran along New Bern Avenue to the east, and in (1912) arrived at
the new 100-acre Bloomsbury Park out Glenwood Avenue to the north. As
a student at N.C. State in the early 1930s, Willie York (developer of
Cameron Village Shopping Center and other
properties) recalled riding streetcars downtown to the California Fruit
Store to meet girls from Meredith College.
With assistance from northern financiers, the Wilmington Street Railway
converted from a horsecar to an electric streetcar system in 1892. The
legislature also authorized the company to supply electric power to the
city. By 1900 two of the company's officers were from New York and one
was from Wilmington. In eight years
the company had not built any new tracks, despite the fact that
Wilmington, at nearly 21,000, was the largest city in the state. Both
the streetcar company and the Ocean View Railroad (formerly Sea View
Railroad) line to Wrightsville Beach, which suffered damage from a coastal
storm the year before, were losing money.
In 1902 Hugh MacRae of Wilmington formed Consolidated Railways, Light and
Power Company, and purchased the city’s street railways, light, and power
He had already established a company to generate electricity near Rockingham
on the Pee Dee River. In 1907 MacRae strengthened his holdings by
forming Tide Water Power Company, retaining ownership of the streetcar
Hugh MacRae [left] and grandson Hugh
Morton, c. 1940. Photo courtesy Hugh Morton.
MacRae converted the Wilmington-Wrightsville Beach line
into an electric system and consolidated the county's two rail systems.
Instead of starting their trips at a station at Ninth and Orange Streets, a
mile from downtown, beach passengers began boarding downtown. The
city's lines were extended to accommodate growth of suburbs on the city's
northern edge. Equally significant was the opportunity for trolleys to
encourage new neighborhoods along the beach route. Whereas the steam
train probably had no stops, the electric streetcar eventually served a
total of twenty waiting stations. These stations, one of which has
survived, consisted of attractive, small concrete shelters.[30
In 1905 MacRae opened Lumina, a pavilion located on the ocean at the last
southern trolley stop at Wrightsville Beach. Name bands played for dancing,
and movies were shown. Automobiles were not allowed on Wrightsville
Beach until the mid-1930s.
The streetcar lines also
served the Delgado Cotton Mill and its village on Wrightsville Avenue.
When the Carolina Shipyard opened in 1918 to build ships for World War I,
the streetcar lines were extended to the plant.
By 1925 Wilmington's streetcar system included twenty-two miles of
tracks (nine of them double tracks).
In summary, Asheville, Winston, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Wilmington
established electric streetcar systems during the 1889-1892 period.
The next phase of North Carolina’s streetcar development occurred in the
first decade of the twentieth century, when private companies built systems
in Greensboro, Durham, and Salisbury that operated until the 1930s.
When the Greensboro Electric Company, financed by New Yorkers, began
electric streetcar service on June 11, 1902, replacing a small horsecar
operation, everyone was excited about the Greensboro Patriots, a minor
league professional baseball team. With streetcars providing easy
access to the ballpark on Summit Avenue, the team led its league in
attendance. On the other side of town, the trolleys ran to Lindley
Park, where one could row a boat on the lake, bowl, dance, and watch movies
or vaudeville shows. The tracks to the park went by Greensboro College
(though students were not allowed to ride them as late as the mid-1920s) and
the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNC-Greensboro). St.
Leo’s, the city's first hospital, was built on the Summit Avenue line.
Because the lines ran by the mills and mill villages built by the Cone
brothers, the workers and their families could easily move around the city.
The streetcar had a major influence in the establishment of new suburban
neighborhoods, of all economic levels.
Trolley No. 40, Greensboro, N.C. Photo Courtesy Duke Energy
In 1909, the W. N. Coler Company of New York City purchased the streetcar
systems and electrical and gas utilities of Greensboro (eleven miles of
track) and the franchise for High Point, to organize a new company,
North Carolina Public Service Company. Based in Greensboro, the
company was controlled by officers and directors from the North, although it
included representatives from its N.C. service areas. By 1915 the
company had expanded Greensboro’s North Elm Street line to the upscale
Irving Park neighborhood and purchased utility companies (including
streetcar systems) in Salisbury and Concord. The company did not own
hydroelectric plants to generate its own electricity. Rather, Public
Service bought bulk or wholesale electricity from Southern Power Company and
then retailed the power in its service area for general electricity needs
and streetcar operations. In 1926 the North Carolina Public Service
Company was sold to Southern Power's successor, Duke Power Company of
Car No. 42, North Carolina Public
Service Company. Photo courtesy Duke Energy Archives.
The Durham Traction Company organized and opened the city's electric
streetcar system in June 1902. Entrepreneur
Richard H. Wright, company president, and other Durham civic leaders
were the owners of this company, which was also involved in the production
Because the city limits had been extended the previous year, Durham had well
over 10,000 people and would reach a population of 18,000 by 1910.
Within a short time, the trolleys ran six miles, including lines from the
Trinity College area (now Duke University's east campus) through downtown to
the town’s east side, and another line to Lakewood Park, an amusement park
the company established at the end of the southwest line.
Car No. 11, Durham Traction Line. Photo courtesy Duke
Although Durham Traction Company retained its name and most officers were
unchanged, Henry L. Doherty of New York and the H. L. Doherty Company
controlled ownership by 1912. F. W. Frueauff of New York, the only
non-Durham director in 1915, was president by 1920, when streetcar lines
extended eleven miles within the city. The company's name changed to
Durham Public Service Company in 1921. R. L. Lindsay, vice president
and general manager, had been manager of Durham Traction.
Salisbury, with a population of only 7,100 by 1910, was the state's least
populated area to acquire an electric streetcar system that survived many
years. About 1902 the Southern Development Company began building a
new subdivision, Fulton Heights, located a mile south of Salisbury. J.
M. Maupin, William Murdoch Wiley, and three men from elsewhere were the
investors. At the same time, Southern Railway was establishing a major
maintenance facility in a new town, Spencer, three miles northeast of
Salisbury. The Fulton Heights developers pushed for a streetcar system
that connected their neighborhood to downtown Salisbury and Spencer.
What strengthened the system was the steady expansion of the Southern
Railway facility (and Spencer) and Fulton Heights (which added an amusement
park). In fact, many managers of the railroad lived in Fulton Heights
and commuted to work on the streetcar.
Though the Salisbury and Spencer Railway Company, operator of the streetcar
system, maintained its name for several years, it involved different owners.
By 1911 the system was sold to North Carolina Public Service Company.
Shortly thereafter, another streetcar line was added from North Main Street,
near the Southern Railway
depot, north to the Yadkin Valley Fairgrounds (present site of the
Veteran's Administration Hospital). Activities at the fairgrounds
included circuses, races, and fairs. A traveling circus, Charles
Sparks' Circus, spent the winters there during 1912-1919. Southern
Power Company purchased the nine-mile system in 1919.
Ed Rankin, who grew up in
Spencer because his father worked for Southern Railway’s shops, recalls a
special treat streetcars afforded him. "When I was old enough to go by
myself, my mother would give me twenty-five cents on a Saturday morning, and
I would pay five cents to ride up town (to Salisbury), ten cents for a movie
ticket at the Victory Theater, five cents for a hot dog or candy bar, and
five cents for return trip. It was a great--and rare--treat in the
depths of the Great Depression."
Car No. 55, English Street. Photo courtesy Duke Energy
When James W. Tufts (1835-1902) of Boston began buying land and planning the
village of Pinehurst in the early 1890s, he needed a convenient way for his
guests to be transported the six miles from the Southern Pines railroad
station to Pinehurst. He therefore established an electric streetcar
company between the two communities by 1896, primarily for passengers
but also for freight. During the winter, there were seven scheduled
trips daily, costing fifteen cents per ride.
In 1905 Thomas Cotter, the
streetcar general manager, placed a sign, “Pinehurst Junction,” on the
Southern Pines depot. The meaning of the sign was interpreted
different ways and became a public controversy. The residents of
Southern Pines concluded that the Pinehurst Resort wanted to change the name
of their community. This controversy led to discontinuation of the
line in 1905, though the trolley line around Pinehurst, including the golf
course, operated for two more years. Leonard Tufts, who assumed
management of the resort after his father died, arranged with Seaboard Air
Line Railroad and Aberdeen and Asheboro Railroad for a direct Washington,
D.C. to Pinehurst train via Aberdeen, which operated until World War II.
Southern Pines Railroad Station, c.
1900. Note the streetcar waiting to take arriving train passengers to
Photo courtesy S. David Carriker.
Business leaders in Burlington, led by J. W. Murray of Burlington and Junius
H. Harden of Graham, started the Piedmont Railway & Electric Company in
1912. The company ran streetcars between Burlington, with less than
5,000 citizens; Graham, the county seat of Alamance County; and Haw River, a
community that included a concentration of textile mills along the river
(Haw River). Riders could change cars at Harden Park (later Piedmont
Park) in Graham. Investors from Richmond purchased the local streetcar
and utility company, renamed Piedmont Power and Light Company. Fares
were five cents, except for the Burlington-Haw River run, which cost ten
costs. The system operated until about 1922.
In 1906, businessmen from New York started a company to provide an
electric streetcar system (which probably lasted only a year) for High Point
and interurban lines to Greensboro and /or Winston-Salem (never built) as
well as electric lighting and gas systems. In 1912, the North Carolina
Public Service Company purchased and reactivated the streetcar system,
extending lines to several of the city's textile mills and furniture plants.
The streetcar lines eventually consisted of about six miles of track.
Car No. 53, High Point, N.C., c.1915. Photo courtesy Duke
Some towns experimented with different kinds of street railroads. When
the North Carolina Railroad came through Concord, the depot was located a
mile west of downtown. Residents wanted a better way to get to the
depot than by buggies and wagons. Beginning about 1889, the Concord
Railway Company built tracks and operated a steam railroad, nicknamed the
“dummy line,” from the depot to downtown and Locke Mill (later Randolph
Mill). Because of controversy over the train’s speed and other
problems, the company lasted only a few years, and then the tracks were
removed. In 1911 a company operated by men from Philadelphia began
service with battery-powered streetcars developed by the Edison Electric
Company. New tracks were built along routes similar to the dummy line,
but also including South Union Street and Gibson Mill (later Cannon Mills
Plant 6). Though popular at first, the storage battery cars had too
many mechanical problems. Passengers sometimes had to help push the
trolleys. After years of no service, the North Carolina Public Service
Company converted the lines to handle electric streetcars, which ran during
The Piedmont and Northern Railroad started a traditional streetcar system in
Gastonia in 1913 to complement the company's interurban Gastonia-Charlotte
service. The streetcars ran for four miles--from Groves Mill in
eastern Gastonia to the P&N station downtown at Franklin and Broad streets
and to the Loray and Parkdale mills on the city's west side. In
addition, streetcars connected Belmont to P&N's interurban line at North
Belmont. The Fayetteville Street Railroad operated in Fayetteville
around the 1908-1909 period. Its first single streetcar was powered by
steam and connected the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad depot to the old
fairgrounds on Gillespie Street. When the huffing and puffing of the
steam bothered horses on the streets, the company experimented with gasoline
engines, but that didn’t work either. Other companies later tried to
establish an electric streetcar system, but operations lasted for only a
In New Bern, developers of a
new neighborhood (Ghent) and a popular park with a recreational pavilion and
casino two miles west of the town, were responsible for developing the
town’s streetcar line. With help from Virginia investors, they
organized the New Bern-Ghent Street Railway. The company began
operation 1913 from various points in New Bern, including the new (railroad)
Union Station, to Ghent. The streetcar system started with storage
battery-type cars (similar to Concord’s) but shortly switched to an electric
system that lasted until the late 1920s.
Other communities in the
state experienced mixed results with streetcars. The Goldsboro
Traction Company, with the involvement of outside investors, operated a
two-mile, electric streetcar system in Goldsboro from 1910 to 1912. The
Goldsboro Electric Railroad Company, with all officers and directors from
Goldsboro, expanded the system during the 1915-1920 period to five miles of
Small companies in Hendersonville, south of Asheville, operated horse-drawn,
steam street railroads, and electric streetcars, running from the Southern
Railway depot to other parts of town.
The town of Statesville granted streetcar franchises to different companies
and at one time communicated with North Carolina Public Service Company
about a possible system in Statesville, but no action was taken.
Many other communities made attempts to obtain streetcar service, but such
efforts failed because of a lack of community support and financial funding.
Streetcar Influence on Suburban
During the 1890-1920 period, towns and cities in North Carolina experienced
great change and expansion. The state made huge advances in education,
technology, and industrial growth, particularly in tobacco, textiles, and
furniture. At the turn of the century, railroads still dominated long
distance travel, while trolleys increasingly provided transportation within
cities. But automobiles, trucks, buses, and improved highways were in
the early stages of development and enjoyed phenomenal growth by the 1920s.
In addition to skyscrapers,
another remarkable physical change in cities during this time was the
establishment of attractive, suburban neighborhoods and developments, a
trend initially facilitated by electric streetcars and later by the
automobile culture. One of the best examples of this movement was the
creation by Edward Latta of Dilworth subdivision in Charlotte, North
Carolina's first urban streetcar development. By 1911 he expanded
Dilworth by hiring the Olmsted Brothers of Boston to design curving streets
that complemented the rolling terrain and by extending the streetcar tracks
down Dilworth Road.
In the first two decades of the twentieth century, Raleigh, Durham,
Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Asheville, and Wilmington created their own
versions of the Charlotte example. The model was to establish a well
planned, primarily residential, development and a recreational park to serve
as the city’s entertainment complex, located on the outskirts of the city
and connected to the city by streetcar line.
Between 1905 and 1910, four suburban, middle-income neighborhoods in Raleigh
were platted on former plantations. Riding the trolleys from downtown
westward on Hillsboro (now Hillsborough) Street, Boylan Heights was on the
left with Cameron Park further out on the right (between present N.C. State
University and Cameron Village Shopping Center). The streetcar line
out Glenwood Avenue northward led to the Glenwood and Brooklyn
neighborhoods. The streetcars of Durham and Greensboro, manufacturing
towns, affected a bigger variety of neighborhoods. Durham’s streetcars
boosted the middle-income suburbs of Trinity Park (east and
northeast of Duke University’s east campus) and Lakewood off Chapel Hill
Road as well as the developments of Morehead Hills (upper-class), Club
Boulevard (mix of upper and middle-income), and low-income Needmore/The
Bottoms (now Lyon Park).
But the lines also served the Walltown (blue collar) and East End
(black) communities. Greensboro’s system served the middle-class areas
of College Hill and Lindley Park, Fisher Park (middle and upper-income mix)
and elegant Irving Park. It also included Proximity and other mill
villages in northeast Greensboro as well as the working-income Glenwood and
Piedmont Heights subdivisions.
Winston-Salem’s trolleys influenced the middle-income areas of West End (a
hilly development between downtown and current Hanes Park) and Washington
Park (south of Old Salem). Asheville’s streetcars helped develop
several neighborhoods north of downtown, including middle-class Chestnut
Hill and the more upscale Montford and Grove Park suburbs. Extending a
line across the French Broad River to the town of West Asheville encouraged
that town's consolidation with Asheville in 1917. The Wilmington
streetcar lines helped develop the Carolina Place neighborhood (working and
middle-income), Carolina Heights (upper middle-income), and Winoca Terrace
(middle-class). Stops were added on the line to Wrightsville Beach as
the middle-income subdivisions of Winter Park, Audubon, and Oleander
developed. Streetcar systems helped to develop Fulton Heights
neighborhood in Salisbury and Ghent in New Bern, each of which included a
Building upon Dilworth's success, developers established streetcar suburbs
surrounding the city. John Nolen, soon to be a nationally prominent city
planner, designed Myers Park in Charlotte (as well as Irving Park in
Greensboro). The prestigious Charlotte development, begun in 1911,
included a streetcar line through the area’s central boulevard, Queens Road
West, and small parks in their natural settings. By the 1920s, it was
the neighborhood of choice for the city's elite and an enduring model for
the entire South. Other streetcar communities in the city included
Elizabeth, Western Heights,
Wilmore, Rosemont, Wesley Heights, and
In 1912, white developer W. S. Alexander financed development of
northwest of Biddleville, which was probably the first black neighborhood in
the South originally established as a streetcar suburb.
Following the Reconstruction era in the United States, African-Americans
faced growing discrimination and segregation. In a key 1896 ruling,
Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned the "separate but
equal" doctrine. Yet according to urban historian David Goldfield,
"Despite the codification of Jim Crow [which derived from the name of a song
and refers to racial segregation in turn-of-the-century South] in the 1890s,
strict racial residential segregation in southern cities was unusual."
One consequence of the trend toward suburban developments, however, which
became widespread in the first decade of the twentieth century, was the
segregation of people by race and class. It was understood at the time
that streetcar suburbs and parks were exclusively for whites. In order
to buy a lot in such neighborhoods, many developments required signing a
contract that forbade the occupant from selling their house to a non-white.
In 1899 the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation requiring railroads and
steamboat companies to "provide separate but equal accommodations for the
white and colored races at passenger waiting stations or waiting-rooms, and
also on all trains and steamboats carrying passengers," with exemption for
servants or express trains.
Streetcar companies followed the railroad precedent. In 1907 the
General Assembly passed similar legislation for street and interurban
railways, but this time specifically mandated that "white passengers" sit
toward the front of each car and "colored passengers" sit toward the rear.
This legislation was expanded in 1939 to provide details of maintaining
segregated seating in buses.
Streetcar Influence in Establishing Parks
To encourage ridership (especially during off-hours, weekends, and summers)
streetcar companies developed recreational and amusement parks. The
parks were typically located at the end of a streetcar line in an area that
developers, often including streetcar company owners as partners, were
developing as residential neighborhoods. The variety of entertainment,
attractive landscaping, and innovative use of electricity made the parks
very popular, and, in nearly all North Carolina cases, the first parks of
substantial size in their respective towns and cities. The typical
early park included a lake for boating, a bandstand or pavilion for music,
and sports facilities (such as a baseball field or bowling alley).
Some included silent movies, swimming, theater performances, arcades, and
other attractions. Though several parks eventually included
merry-go-rounds, only three in the state featured roller coasters and could
be considered true amusement parks--Lakewood Park in Charlotte, Bloomsbury
Park in Raleigh, and Lakewood Park in Durham.
In June 1888, the Raleigh
Street Railway Company opened Brookside Park just north of the city near
Oakwood Cemetery, connected to the mule-drawn streetcar system by a spur
track. Baseball was a major attraction, along with a merry-go-round
and picnicking. The same year, the city opened Pullen Park on the
western edge of the city.
Brookside Park was developed to a greater extent than Pullen, probably
because it was privately owned and on the streetcar line. By
1912 Raleigh was growing fast and there was no room to expand Brookside.
CP& L, at that time owner of the city’s
electric streetcar system, opened Bloomsbury Park on 100 acres located three
miles out Glenwood Avenue. Using 8,000 lights, the park was nicknamed
the “electric park.” The park’s features included an octagon-shaped
pavilion where orchestras played for dances; a Dentzel carousel with a
Wurlitzer organ, costing $12,000; a roller coaster; and a penny arcade.
In the meantime, Edward Latta
enlarged Latta Park in Charlotte to ninety acres of entertainment. By
1902 the park included a pavilion, bowling alley, baseball park, theater,
10,000-square-foot greenhouse, merry-go-round, and skating rink. A
fairground was added the same year, which featured horse racing,
exhibitions, and fairs.
The park included a pavilion
for blacks to gather for picnics and meetings. Blacks apparently had
access to much of the park, including the ballpark, where black semi-pro
teams played. That openness ended in 1903, when a growing sentiment
for segregation led the Charlotte Observer to recommend that whites
and blacks not mingle together at Latta Park. Edward Latta closed the
black pavilion at the park and built a new one near Biddle Institute.
On July 9, 1910, Latta
opened Lakewood Park, so that
he could dismantle nearly all of Latta Park to provide more residential land
for Dilworth. Located on the streetcar line just outside the city
limits on the northwest side, Lakewood Park featured amusement rides,
including a roller coaster which cost $15,000 and a 100-seat merry-go-round,
as well as a lake for rowing and swimming, a zoo, and a dancing pavilion.
Latta leased Lakewood to Southern Public Utilities before selling it to the
company in 1916 for $50,000. The parents of Billy Graham met while
attending a picnic in the new park. Lakewood Park developed a
tradition of extending its season an extra week in the fall for
Streetcar parks appeared across the state. Asheville’s Riverside Park,
located on the French Broad, was the state’s only such park with a river
setting. While the water provided a scenic outlook, it and the flood
of 1916 destroyed the park as well as many of the city's streetcars.
When Greensboro’s Lindley Park (1902-1918) was discontinued, that park’s
lake was drained and the area transformed into an attractive neighborhood
with the same name.
Durham had a park and surrounding neighborhood, each named Lakewood Park,
located in southwest Durham.
In Alamance County, a streetcar rider could visit Harden Park in Graham,
Spoon Lake for swimming, or Haw River for promenading “across the wooden
trestle bridge by the grist mill.”[60
New Bern had Ghent Park, with a pavilion as the centerpiece, featuring a
skating rink, dance hall, casino, and porches overlooking the baseball
fields. The town's current YMCA occupies the site of the former
Though not a park, Lumina at Wrightsville Beach was the best known
entertainment center in the state located on a streetcar line. Opened
in 1905 as the last stop on the beach's southern streetcar route, this
pavilion was famous for name bands that played for dances on a huge dance
floor. A visitor also could swim in the ocean or, in the evenings, sit
on the beach and watch silent movies. One writer concluded, “It
established a legend among seaside pavilions and stands today  as a
reminder of generations of fun and frolic on this beach.”
Rail Bending Machine. Photo courtesy of Duke Energy
Each streetcar typically required two workers, a motorman who operated the
car and determined speeds and a conductor who collected fares, announced
stops, and kept order. The hours were long and pay low.
Charlotte’s early trolley workers worked six days a week, twelve hours per
day. Their only holiday was Christmas, when Edward Latta gave the
employees a banquet. The workers were paid eight cents per hour the
first two years, eleven cents the next year, and twelve cents thereafter.
Greensboro, N.C. Streetcar in paint shop. Photo courtesy
Duke Energy Archives.
In December 1903 conductors
and motormen of Charlotte walked off the
job, protesting the company’s decision not to turn on electric heaters in
the trolleys. A few days later, Latta announced that the heaters would
be turned on, but that none of the striking workers would be reinstated in
their jobs. “Latta behaved with the traditional hostility to labor
organization that was characteristic of most capitalists who came to the
forefront in the New South,” summarized Prof. Dan Morrill.
A later strike in Charlotte had a more violent outcome. In August
1919, workers went on strike for higher wages and union recognition.
As officials of Southern Power Company, by then the
streetcar owners, hired new employees to keep the trolleys running, tensions
increased. On August 25, 1919, police, in trying to control a crowd at
the car barn, killed five men. Two weeks later, a settlement was
reached and all employees returned to work without joining the national
In 1913 Asheville’s conductors and motormen, members of the Amalgamated
Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America since 1899,
began a strike demanding a higher salary than twelve cents per hour.
(Wilmington's workers were also members of this union.) The strike was
settled a week later when the company agreed to a salary increase to
nineteen cents per hour, with future provision to twenty-five cents. A
new salary scale was set in 1920, which paid beginning workers forty-five
cents hourly and up to fifty-six cents in the second year of employment.
When CP&L purchased the Asheville operation in 1926, the workers initiated a
strike demanding sixty-one cents per hour. After the company began
hiring non-union replacements, employees returned to their jobs at the same
Durham, N.C. Billy Hamlet and Bob Tippett posing in
streetcar, c.1929. Photo courtesy Duke Energy Archives.
Streetcar companies in North Carolina purchased trolleys from different
manufacturers. The J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia was the
nation's largest manufacturer, claiming about half the market. It is
estimated that the St. Louis Car Company had a twenty percent share and the
Cincinnati Car Company, fifteen percent. In his book, The Time of
the Trolley, William D. Middleton lists the “principal car builders and
suppliers" in North America. That list includes only two companies in
the Southeast, both located in High Point: Southern Car Company and its
successor, Perley A. Thomas Car Works.
The Briggs Car Company of Amesbury, Mass., began building lightweight,
wooden, electric streetcars in 1890, but the company moved its operation to
High Point as Southern Car Company in 1904 to take advantage of better
timber (and probably lower labor costs). In 1910 Perley A. Thomas left
employment with a carbuilding company in Cleveland and moved to High Point
to join Southern, helping the company make the transition to building steel
cars. But Southern, unable to compete with the larger manufacturers,
went out of business in 1917. That same year Perley Thomas started
Perley A. Thomas Car Works in a different building in High Point and hired
several former, Southern workers. Winston-Salem ordered the first
Thomas trolleys, two in 1918 for $4,000 each. New York City and High
Point followed with orders. The Thomas company manufactured a total of
400 streetcars before converting from streetcars to buses in 1936.
Streetcar ridership in the state continued to grow during the 1915-1920
period despite a recession. More than 10,000,000 passengers, many of
them soldiers at Camp Greene training for World War I, rode Charlotte's
streetcars in 1918, an all-time high for North Carolina. Charlotte
still led the state in 1920 with 7,800,000 riders, followed by Asheville
(5,900,000), and Winston-Salem (4,100,000).
During the decade of the
1920s, government policies did not benefit streetcar companies. North
Carolina constructed an impressive highway system while car ownership in the
state tripled. In 1922 the chairman of the state's Corporation
Commission summarized the plight of the streetcar: "The increasing
competition with automobile and auto bus traffic has made it exceedingly
difficult for street railway utilities to provide necessary equipment and
extension to keep pace with rapid growth of our cities. . . ." He also
mentioned the financial difficulty that streetcar companies faced since they
were required to pave and maintain roads they used as right-of-way. As
auto and truck traffic mounted, such maintenance became ever more costly.
Raleigh, and Greensboro managed to increase ridership in the 1920-1926
period, while most other systems experienced a decline. By the
mid-1920s, many streetcar companies were supplementing their service with
buses to outlying areas not served by the trolley lines. The state's
smaller systems—such as Concord, Burlington, Goldsboro, and New Bern—
terminated services. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great
Depression were further blows. Asheville, Greensboro, Durham, and
Raleigh ended service by 1934, High Point the next year, Winston-Salem in
1936. Charlotte and Salisbury survived until 1938. On April 18,
1939, W. R. Savage, who had operated the first electric car in Wilmington,
also piloted the city's last one, closing the state's era of traditional,
electric streetcar companies. Automobiles and buses replaced trolleys
across North Carolina. Ida Briggs Henderson in Asheville spoke for
many when she reacted to the streetcar-bus transition by observing that
streetcars had "become entirely out-of-date" and that now "we have
In the meantime, Piedmont and Northern Railroad continued interurban
passenger service on its Charlotte-Gastonia route. "Old Ironsides," a
streetcar that had operated exclusively in Gastonia since 1916, made the
last P&N passenger run between the two cities on September 21, 1948.
Remains of Streetcar Operations and Future Plans
Neighborhoods are the most
obvious and impressive reminders of the trolley era. According to
Claudia Brown of the State Historic Preservation Office, "Streetcar
neighborhoods are among our city's most vibrant communities--largely intact
and extremely desirable places to live." In addition, Brown says,
"They are well built, easily accessible, and represent a wise use of the
When streetcar lines were discontinued, tracks were either taken up or paved
over. Some were made available for scrap metal during World War II.
Occasionally, city crews still discover track remains while working on
streets. This happened in 1976 when Raleigh converted a four-block
section of Fayetteville Street to a pedestrian mall. In other
locations, including New Bern and Salisbury, the tops of tracks can still be
seen, especially where tracks make a ninety-degree turn.
After several years of vigorous efforts, Dan Morrill, historian and
preservationist, succeeded in organizing the Charlotte Trolley Museum
in 1988 to preserve streetcar history and restore streetcar service to
Charlotte. The organization owns five vintage trolleys that are in
various stages of restoration. One of them, streetcar 85, which
operated in Charlotte from 1927 to 1938, has been beautifully restored.
The museum offers rides on this streetcar along a track south of downtown,
providing a peek at Charlotte's past and future. This includes
buildings housing one of the city's first A&P grocery stores, Price's
Chicken Coop, Edward Latta's Charlotte Trouser Company, and the 1914 car
barn. The line also passes construction of condominium and apartment
buildings. Ahead one can see the rising Westin Hotel and the city's
skyline. By 2003 this rail line will extend northward across I-277,
through the Charlotte Convention Center, and as far north as 9th Street.
first segment of a new mass transit system, a light rail line between
downtown and Pineville, will utilize this same line beginning in 2006.
In the meantime, streetcar 85 will proudly travel uptown every day,
reminding riders and onlookers that streetcars helped move Charlotte and
North Carolina forward.
Streetcar Statistics for North Carolina
of electric streetcar operation
miles of track
number of trolley cars
Passengers in 1920
Figures based primarily on North Carolina Corporation
*Estimates based on available information
**Piedmont and Northern also operated interurban
service between Gastonia and Charlotte
***Figure for 1919
Willia D. Middleton, The Time of the Trolley (Milwaukee: Kalmbach
Publishing Company, 1967), front flyleaf.
Middleton, The Time of the Trolley, 12-51.`
Jack Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company (Raleigh: Edwards &
Broughton Company, 1958), 7-10.
 Using steam locomotives for steep grades in
cities was not practical. The steepest railroad grade in the
United States is in Saluda, N.C., which is less than five percent.
Middleton, The Time of the Trolley, 73.
Middleton, The Time of the Trolley, 65-73. A notable cable
survivor was San Francisco.
Stanley Mallach, "The Origins of the Decline of Urban Mass
Transportation in the United States, 1890-1930," in American Cities,
A Collection of Essays (New York: Garland Publishing, 1996), 6:244.
The terms "streetcar" and "trolley" are interchangeable in this paper,
particularly when used as nouns.
"The Origins," 239-255. The Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly in
the U.S. Senate held hearings in 1973 about whether General Motors's
played a role in the decline of electric traction in U.S. cities.
Critics contended that GM worked "aggressively and sometimes nefariously
from the mid-1920s on to replace fixed-base transport with rubber-wheel
vehicles." GM responded that "it was the negative economics of electric
traction and public preferences, not the machinations of the
corporation, that led to the almost complete substitution of buses
for trolleys in the nation's cities by the late 1950's." The debate was
unresolved. Mallach, "The Origins," 253.
Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company, 10.
R. C. Lawrence, "A Boy's Life in the 1880s," The Uplift, March
11,1944, reprinted in David Perkins, ed., Raleigh, A Living History
of North Carolina's Capital (Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 1994),
Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company, 17-19; Jean Bradley
Anderson, Durham County (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990),
187; Andrew J. Howell, The Book of Wilmington, 1730-1930
(Wilmington, circa 1930), 170, 171; Riley, Carolina Power & Light
Dan L. Morrill, "A Brief History of the Mule-drawn Or Horse-drawn
Streetcar System In Charlotte, North Carolina, 1883-1891," unpublished
article, November 27, 1991.
United States census figures for 1890, cited in John L. Andriot,
Population Abstract of the United States (McLean, VA: Andriot
Associates, 1983), 574, 575.
Ida Briggs Henderson, “One of the First Street Cars,” The State,
January 8, 1938, 16.
Track mileage stated in this paper during the 1900-1940 period is
documented in the annual and biennial reports of the North Carolina
Corporation Commission, which regulated the street railways. These
figures are for main tracks both inside and outside city limits but do
not include sidings, switches, or tracks to car barns.
Thomas Wolfe, “The Lost Boy,” in Francis E. Skipp, ed., The Complete
Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe, (Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York,
David C. Bailey, Joseph M. Canfield, and Harold E. Cox, Trolleys in
the Land of the Sky, Street Railways of Asheville, N.C. and Vicinity
(Forty Fort, Pa: Harold E. Cox, 2000), 5-32; Riley, Carolina Power &
Light Company, 93-112; Chris Morton, “The Electric Street Railway in
Asheville,” The Ledger, January 2002, 1, 4, 5; Henderson, “One of
the First Street Cars”; Letter of transmittal, North Carolina
Corporation Commission, annual report for 1907 (Raleigh: Edwards &
A native of Salem, Henry Elias Fries (1857-1949) attended Davidson
College, served in the General Assembly and as mayor of Salem, and was a
founder of North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now
N.C. State University). He and his brother Francis organized the
Winston-Salem Southbound Railway from Winston/Salem to Wadesboro in
1909. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, s.v. “Fries,
Frank Tursi, Winston-Salem, A History (Winston-Salem: John F.
Blair, 1994), 146-148; Manly Wade Wellman, “Transportation and
Communication,” Winston-Salem in History (Winston-Salem: Historic
Winston, 1976), 4: 23, 24, 31, 32; North Carolina Corporation
Commission, annual reports for 1900, 1905, 1910, 1915, and biennial
report, 1920, State Archives.
Edward Dilworth Latta (1851-1925), a native of Pendleton, S.C., attended
Pennington Seminary in New Jersey and moved to Charlotte to open a
clothing store in 1876. By the late 1880s, he established
Charlotte Trouser Company to manufacture pants, which employed 120
workers. In addition to developing Dilworth, he built several
downtown buildings. He moved to Asheville in 1923.
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, s.v. “Latta, Edward
Dilworth”; Thomas W. Hanchett,
Sorting Out the New South City, Race, Class, and Urban Development
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 55.
Hanchett, Sorting Out the New South City, 56.
James Buchanan Duke (1856-1925), who grew up in Durham and attended New
Garden School (later Guilford College), worked in the family’s tobacco
manufacturing company before organizing the American Tobacco Company in
1890. When the federal government initiated anti-trust actions
against his company early in the twentieth century, Duke turned his
energies to hydroelectric power. Though Duke’s primary homes were
in the New York area, he purchased a house in the Myers Park
neighborhood of Charlotte in 1919. Dictionary of North Carolina
Biography, s.v. “Duke, James Buchanan.”
Author's telephone interview with Dan L. Morrill, February 1, 2002.
An enthusiastic trolley fan, Morrill is professor of history at UNC-Charlotte,
consulting director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
Commission, and founder of Charlotte Trolley Museum.
Morrill, "Edward Dilworth Latta, ”North Carolina Historical Review
42 (July 1985) 293-316; Dan L. Morrill, “Edward Dilworth Latta and
the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company,” (Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmarks Commission, survey and research report online at
http://www.cmhpf.org Dan L. Morrill, “Dilworth: Charlotte’s Initial
Streetcar Suburb,” in the unpublished report by Little-Stokes and
Morrill,” Architectural Analysis: Dilworth”; Thomas T. Fetters and Peter
W. Swanson Jr., Piedmont and Northern, the Great Electric System of
the South (San Marino, Calif.: Golden West Books, 1974), 15-17;
Robert F. Durden, The Dukes of Durham, 1865-1929 (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1975), 185; North Carolina Corporation Commission,
biennial report for 1931-1932, 252; Sarah McCulloch Lemmon, North
Carolina’s Role in the First World War (Raleigh: Department of
Cultural Resources, 1975), 57; email from Dennis Lawson, Duke Energy
Archives, to author, February 8, 2002.
Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company, 24.
Harry Ethridge, “Men Reminisce About Local Streetcar Era,” News and
Observer (Raleigh), December 10, 1967.
Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company, 21-29, 53-61; Phil
Pitchford, "Rolling Out the City," Raleigh Times, August 24,
1987, in Perkins, Raleigh; "Memories Of Street Car System Are
Preserved In Keepsake Form," North Carolina, July 1976, 56-58,
86; Treva Jones, "DOT workers track ties to city's past," Raleigh
Times, September 6, 1986; North Carolina Corporation Commission
reports for 1900, 1905, 1910, 1915, and 1920-1921.
Hugh MacRae (1865-1951), a native of Wilmington, studied at Bingham
School in Asheville and graduated from Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. He worked in the N.C. mountains as a mining engineer,
bought Grandfather Mountain (now run by his grandson, Hugh Morton), and
became president of Wilmington Cotton Mill. He established
communities near Wilmington for European immigrants. Tide Water
Power Company remained an independent company until sold to CP&L after
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, s.v. “MacRae, Hugh.”
Stations added to the Wilmington-Wrightsville Beach streetcar line
included Oleander, Audubon, Winter Park Gardens, Greenville, MacCumber
Station, and Hammocks. Edward F. Turberg, National Register of
Historic Places nomination form for Audubon Trolley Station, Wilmington,
N.C., 1993, on file at State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh,
N.C., Section 8, Page 1.
The Carolina Shipbuilding Company was built on a 100-acre site on the
Cape Fear River to build steel ships for the war effort. Although
the war ended before any ships were completed, eight steel freighters
and two tankers were constructed before the plant closed in 1921.
Liberty Shipbuilding Company, located north of Carolina, was likely also
served by the streetcar. The sites of these former shipyards are
currently used by North Carolina State Ports. Claude V. Jackson
III, "Carolina Shipbuilding Company," The Cape Fear--Northeast Cape
Fear Rivers Comprehensive Study (Wilmington: U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, 1996), 241-244.
Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company, 267-283; Turberg, Audubon
Trolley Station; Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina, An
Architectural and Historical Portrait (Charlottesville: University
Press of Virginia, 1984), 272-274; Howell, Book of Wilmington,
170, 171, 175, 194; North Carolina Corporation Commission,
biennial report for 1925-1926.
Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro, An Architectural Record (Greensboro:
Preservation Greensboro, 1995), 41, 42, 61, 62, 151, 179, 380, 381; Jim
Schlosser, "Wake-up Call: Lindley Park Fights Back," News & Record
(Greensboro), October 7, 1996; Jim Schlosser, "Streetcars: Late Arrival
Brings Lasting Changes," News & Record; January 4, 1999; Raymond
E. Manieri, “Streetcar Speculators: The Role of Street Railway Promoters
in Development of Suburban Neighborhoods in Raleigh and Greensboro,
North Carolina, 1886-1923,” master’s thesis, North Carolina State
University, 1982, 76-86; North Carolina Corporation Commission report,
for 1910, 706-709; North Carolina Corporation Commission report
for 1915, 684-687; Robert F. Durden, Electrifying the Piedmont
Carolinas: The Duke Power Company, 1904-1997 (Durham: Carolina
Academic Press, 2001), 45-54.
Richard Harvey Wright (1851-1929) was born in Franklin County and
educated at Louisburg Male Academy and Horner Preparatory School.
He financed and led companies manufacturing tobacco, traveled the
world as salesman for Washington Duke's company, owned large tracts of
real estate in Durham, and was a leader in the city's development of
public utilities. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography,
s.v. "Wright, Richard Harvey."
Jean Bradley Anderson, Durham County (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1990) 187, 263-265; Joel A. Kostyu and Frank A. Kostyu,
Durham, A Pictorial History (Norfolk: Donning Company, 1978), 80,
North Carolina Corporation Commission
reports for 1905, 1910, 1915; North Carolina Corporation Commission
biennial reports for 1920-1921, 1925-1926, and 1931-1932.
James S. Brawley, Rowan County (Raleigh: Department of Cultural
Resources, 1977), 119-121; Kaye Graybeal, National Register of Historic
Places nomination form for Fulton Heights Historic District, Salisbury,
N.C., 1999, on file at State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh,
N.C.; Duane Galloway and Jim Wrinn, Southern Railway's Spencer Shops
(Lynchburg, Va.: TLC Publishing, 1996), 7-13; North Carolina Corporation
Commission Reports for 1910 and 1915.
Email from Edward L. Rankin Jr. to author, January 29, 2002.
The principle railroad serving Southern Pines was Raleigh & Augusta
Air-Line Railroad until it was sold to Seaboard Air Line Railroad in
1900. S. David Carriker, Railroading in the Carolina Sandhills
(Matthews, N.C.: Heritage Publishing Company, 1985), I: 151-165.
James Tufts sold and popularized soda fountains and soda fountain
supplies. One of his purposes in establishing Pinehurst was to
provide a vacation destination for those from the North who could not
afford to travel to Florida. Pinehurst is most famous for its golf
courses, including one designed by Scottish golfer Donald J. Ross.
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, s.v. "Tufts, James Walker"
and "Tufts, Leonard."
Carole Watterson Troxler and William Murray Vincent, Shuttle & Plow,
A History of Alamance County (Burlington: Alamance County Historical
Association, 1999), 394, 395; Durward T. Stokes, Auction and Action:
Historical Highlights of Graham, North Carolina (Graham: City of
Graham, 1985), 268-275; Gail and Bob Knauff, The Story of Haw River,
North Carolina (Haw River: Haw River Historical Association, 1996),
27; North Carolina Corporation Commission report for 1915,
697-700; North Carolina Corporation Commission biennial report
for 1919-1920, 168-170.
Martha Clontz, "Riding in Style," High Point Enterprise; North
Carolina Corporation Commission report for 1910, 706; David F.
Burnette, "Tar Heel Traction," Headlights, June 1973, 5.
E. Ray King, “Dummy Line Railroad First Hauled Freight,” Concord
Tribune, September 26, 1965; Clarence E. Horton Jr., A Century of
Progress: The Concord Telephone Company, 1897-1997 (Concord: Concord
Telephone Company, 1997), 45-47; Middleton, The Time of the Trolley,
113; Clarence E. Horton Jr., ed., A Bicentennial History of Concord
(Charlotte: Delmar Printing Company, 1996), 339.
Weeks Parker, Fayetteville, North Carolina, A Pictorial History
(Norfolk: Donning Company, 1984), 118, 119; Carriker, Railroading in
the Carolina Sandhills, 44, 53, 91, 102.
Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven
County, North Carolina (New Bern: Tryon Palace Commission, 1988),
152, 435, 436; John B. Green III, A New Bern Album (New Bern:
Tryon Palace Commission, 1985), 123, 225; “Street Cars Here Be Running
Soon,” New Bern Weekly Journal, December 3, 1912; North
Carolina Corporation Commission, annual report, 1915, 680-683;
North Carolina Corporation Commission, biennial report, 1919-1920,
North Carolina Corporation Commission, report for 1910, 703-705;
North Carolina Corporation Commission, biennial report for
Bailey, Trolleys in the Land of the Sky, 75-80; North Carolina
Corporation Commission, Report 1915, 677-679.
Dameron H. Williams, "Farewell to 'Old Ironsides,'" The State,
October 23, 1948, 3, 4, 17, 18; Homer M. Keever, Iredell, Piedmont
County (Statesville, Homer M. Keever, 1976), 392.
S. David Carriker, Electric and Trolley Companies among the North
Carolina Railroads (Charlotte: Heritage Publishing Company, 2002),
The Olmsted firm was started by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., who designed
Central Park in New York City in the 1850s. His sons, John Charles
Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. continued the firm.
Biddleville was a black neighborhood started in the late nineteenth
century across from Biddle Institute (now Johnson C. Smith University).
Catherine W. Bishir and Lawrence S. Earley, eds., Early Twentieth
Century Suburbs in North Carolina, Essays on History, Architecture and
Planning (Raleigh: Department of Cultural Resources, 1985);
Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southern, and Jennifer F. Martin, A
Guide to Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 263, 264, 277-281, 295;
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic
Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1996), 207, 208, 257-259; Hanchett, Sorting,
David R. Goldfield, "North Carolina's Early Twentieth-Century Suburbs
and the Urbanizing South," in Early Twentieth-Century Suburbs in
North Carolina, 18.
Pauli Murray, ed., States' Laws on Race and Color (Athens,
University of Georgia Press, 1997), 344.
Murray, States' Laws on Race and Color, 347, 348; Charles Weldon
Wadelington, "Jim Crow and Public Transportation in North Carolina:
1900-1965," November 2000, North Carolina Historic Sites, Raleigh, N.C.
In 1991 Walter Elijah Campbell III completed a Ph.D. dissertation, “The
Corporate Hand In An Urban Jim Crow Journey” at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. Written from a national perspective, the
paper explores how Jim Crow streetcar legislation developed, including
the role of streetcar companies.
Pullen Park, located on the edge of N.C. State University, exists today.
Manieri, Streetcar Speculators, 15, 16; Lynne Wogan, “Bloomsbury
Park exists in memories,” Raleigh Times, undated. Dentzel
carousels, made in Philadelphia, were immensely popular rides and
featured hand-carved wooden animals upon which riders sat. Dentzel
built many carousels in the East and South before the company went out
of business as the Great Depression began in 1929. The Bloomsbury
Park Dentzel carousel was moved to Pullen Park in 1921, where it remains
(restored and on the National Register of Historic Places) today.
Morrill, “Edward Dilworth Latta,” 299, 305, 312; Mary Kratt Norton and
Mary Manning Boyer, Remembering Charlotte, Postcards from a New South
City, 1905-1950 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
2000), 55, 56, 59, 60; Hanchett, Sorting, 119; Tom Bradbury,
Dilworth, The First 100 Years (Charlotte: Dilworth Community
Development Association, 1992), 15-26. Lakewood Park covered 92 acres
and was a typical amusement park. It also had a roller coaster
with 2,200 feet of track and purportedly the largest carousel in the
country (in 1910). Attendance slumped greatly by 1933. A
tornado hit in 1936, and rain destroyed the lake’s dam. Repairs
were never made, and the park closed. www.members.aol.com/somekick/lakewood.html.
Bailey, Trolleys in the Land of the Sky, 26-28.
Schlosser, "Wake-Up Call: Lindley Park Fights Back."
Roberts, The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory,
Gail and Bob Knauff, The Story of Haw River, 27.
Interview with Callaghan Joseph Patrick "Callie" Newman, February 27,
1992, Memories of New Bern Oral History Program, Interview 1502, New
Bern Craven County Public Library, New Bern, N.C.
Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company, 273.
Dilworth Latta,” 309. Two years later, in January and February
1905, roundhouse workers at Southern Railway's maintenance facility in
Spencer came close to a strike over the issue of inadequate heat in that
Dilworth, 71-81; LeGette Blythe and Charles Raven Brockmann,
Hornet's Nest (Charlotte: McNally of Charlotte, 1961), 437, 438.
The year 1919 was a time of general unrest and labor turmoil in the
Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of American was
founded in 1892. The name was changed in 1905 to Amalgamated
Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America.
Many of the union's strikes in the early years involved violent
confrontations. Today, this union, now called, Amalgamated Transit
Union, has 175,000 members representing transit workers in the U.S. and
Canada. Scott Molley, Trolley Wars, Streetcar Workers on the
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996), 3; web
site, Amalgamated Transit Union, www.atu.org.
Bailey, Trolleys in the Land of the Sky, 26, 28, 29.
Substantial inflation in the years immediately after World War I
(reflected in the 1920 raise) was a cause of much labor unrest during
Middleton, The Time of the Trolley, 420-425.
Clint Johnson, From Rails to Roads, The History of Perley A. Thomas
Car Works and Thomas Built Buses (Raleigh: Lifescapes Corporation,
North Carolina Corporation Commission, biennial report for
Henderson, "One of the First Street Cars," 16. Bailey, Trolleys
in the Land of the Sky, 29; Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company,
Author's telephone interview with Claudia R. Brown, Supervisor, Survey
and Planning Branch, N.C. State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh,
N.C., November 17, 2002.
Jim Schlosser, “Lindley Park, Still youthful as 100,” News & Record
(Greensboro), May 18, 2002.
Two streetcar waiting stations are located across the street from each
other at 4th Street and Queen's Road in Charlotte and one at Hermitage
Road and Queens Road. A trolley walk at 7th Street and Greenway
Avenue in the Elizabeth neighborhood has also survived. Morrill
interview, February 1, 2002.
The Art Deco car barn and automobile garage was constructed by CP & L in
1925 on the block bounded by West Jones, North Harrington, North West,
and West Edenton Streets in Raleigh. Brad Brewster, National
Register of Historic Places nomination form for (former) Carolina Power
& Light Company Car Barn and Automobile Garage, Raleigh, N.C., 1997, on
file at State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, N.C. The
Audubon Trolley Station was built by Tide Water Power Company at the
corner of Park Avenue and Audubon Boulevard in Wilmington about 1911.
"The structure's Mediterranean Revival style and unusual Greek cross
plan of reinforced concrete walls anchored to a concrete foundation slab
and supporting the pyramidal roof exemplify form and functionalism
expressing innovative engineering and simple design detail."
Turberg, Audubon Trolley Station, Section 7, Page 2.
Morrill interview, February 1, 2002.