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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

History

This magnificent commercial arcade opened in January, 1915 as the home of the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, locally known as the Four C's. The Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company bought the local horse-drawn streetcar system and electrified it. Trolley service began on May 20, 1891, and initially linked Charlotte with Dilworth, the streetcar suburb that the Four C's was constructing just to the south of the city. In 1910, Latta sold the streetcar system to James B. Duke's Southern Power Company and decided to concentrate his energies exclusively upon real estate development. Latta built the Latta Arcade on South Tryon Street in hopes that it would stimulate development in the area.

Close your eyes and imagine the cigar-smoking Latta descending the stairs from his second floor office. He was a hard-nosed businessman. Listen to him speak. "I realize we have attained that juncture when we must decide whether we will adopt the sluggish inactivity of the provincial town or aspire with zealous hope to become one of the independent cities of the New South." Those words speak volumes about what Charlotte has been about for over a century: Watch Charlotte Grow!

Architecture

The Latta Arcade ranks among the most significant early twentieth-century office buildings erected in Charlotte. Although the main facade has been substantially remodeled, the remarkable interior arcade survives largely intact, with parallel rows of shop fronts and office suites beneath the skylit roof. The design for the arcade was inspired by the Grand Central Palace Exposition, constructed in London in 1851, a building which was widely influential during the early twentieth century when a number of arcaded commercial buildings of similar design were built throughout the U.S. The design continues to reflect its original purpose, which was to accommodate a variety of small businesses as well as provide natural light for the grading of cotton, all within an architecturally sophisticated space.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • What keeps the roof up? The roof is supported by seven evenly spaced exposed metal fan trusses consisting of thin metal rafters and purling. Arched braces reinforce the truss tie-beams.
  • Exit the rear of the building to enter the open-air Brevard Court.

    ACTIVITIES

    At the site...

  • Don't just look at this building from the outside. If you do, you miss the best part! Go inside and see what an arcade really is! Notice all of the natural light coming in from the glass roof.
  • Sketch the structure of the roof. Include the metal trusses that span the roof and the metal that holds each glass plate in place. Notice the geometric patterns that appear and repeat in the arcade. Architecture really does depend on geometry!
  • Be sure to visit Brevard Court at the rear of Latta Arcade. This open-air area is a popular lunchtime spot. Look for similarities between this open space and the closed space of the arcade.

    On your own...

  • Create a Venn Diagram that shows similarities and differences between the Latta Arcade and Brevard Court. Look for details on how each space is designed and how each space interacts with nature.


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