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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Grace A. M. E. Zion Church

The first church built of the lot was a frame building of thirty by sixty feet, where the congregation worshiped until the present structure was built. By the end of the nineteenth century, the congregation had outgrown the original frame building, and the pastor, Dr. John Wesley Smith, began to raise funds for a new brick structure. In 1898, the frame building was moved to the back of the lot in preparation for construction of the new one. The young ladies of the church helped raise money by selling ice cream and fried fish on Saturdays.

The building was actually dedicated on July 13, 1902. Grace Church continued to enjoy steady membership and prosperity during the first half of the twentieth century. Located in the then flourishing black community of Brooklyn in Charlotte's Second Ward, it was a focal point for religious and social activities for both young and old. Its membership and pastorate have included a number of leading citizens who have contributed a great deal to the community, both black and white. Two of its outstanding members were Dr. J.T. Williams (1859-1924) and Thad L. Tate (1865-1951).

Dr. John Taylor Williams was a highly respected educator, physician, businessman and civil servant of the Charlotte community. Dr. Williams was twice elected to the Board of Aldermen, in 1888 and 1890. President McKinley nominated him for the post of consul to Sierra Leone, West Africa in 1898, where he served until 1907. After his service in Africa, Dr. Williams returned to Charlotte and resumed his medical practice. J.T. Williams Junior High School is named in honor of his service to the community.

Thad Tate was instrumental in improving the quality of life for the black community. He helped establish the Brevard Street branch of the public library, was a founder of the branch of the YMCA for blacks, and was an original director of the investment company which built the first office building in Charlotte (at 3rd and Brevard) to be used by black businesses and professions. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Morrison Training School in Hoffman, N.C. for black youths, where a building is named in his honor.

Mecklenburg Investment Company Building

In May, 1922, construction began on a building which was unique in the city of Charlotte. The MIC Building was the first structure planned and executed by some of the black leaders of the community to accommodate black businesses, professional offices, civic and fraternal organizations. It was built as an anchor for the business and social activities of the former Brooklyn community of Second Ward by the Mecklenburg Investment Company, an investment group organized for that purpose and from which the building received its name.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • The Grace AME Zion Church has many Gothic influences, like many other churches you have seen on the tour. Notice the pointed arches and tracery typical of Gothic Revival Architecture. Midway through the last century, designers adopted the increasingly popular Gothic Revival style. Most new congregations and many older ones built elaborate versions of medieval Gothic architecture, whose origins were strictly Christian and reflected little if any pagan influence. For this obvious reason the style remained dominant until well into this century.
  • On the Mecklenburg Investment Company Building, the unique and imaginative patterns worked into the main facade of stone and brick veneer make it a unique structure in uptown Charlotte.

    ACTIVITIES

    At the site...

  • Sketch the various brick patterns you see on the Mecklenburg Investment Company Building. Make a sketch of each of the patterns you see.
  • Sketch the large Gothic window you see on the front facade (on the sanctuary wall, to the right of the tower).

    On your own...

  • Compare the Grace AME Zion Church with other Gothic Revival churches you have seen on the tour. Look for these characteristics as points of comparison: building material, spires (are there any and, if so, where are they placed?), towers (are there any and, if so, where are they placed?), windows (size, shape, location, type of tracery), stone or brick patterns (identify each pattern). Compare this church with these: St. Peter's Episcopal, First Presbyterian, First United Presbyterian, and First United Methodist Church. You'll notice that there is quite a variety of buildings under the Gothic Revival umbrella!
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