17. ST. PETER'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH:
There has been an Episcopal Church on this corner since 1857, and the present sanctuary was completed in 1893. Confederate president Jefferson Davis worshipped at St. Peter's in April, 1865, when he and the other members of the Confederate Cabinet were fleeing from the Yankees. Jane Smedberg Wilkes, the founder of St. Peter's Hospital, was a member. There is a memorial window for her in the church. Every Sunday morning John and Gussie Newcomb would walk from their big home on West Ninth Street on their way to the eleven o'clock service. Gussie always wore fancy hats. Edwin and Elizabeth Clarkson, founders of Wing Haven, the locally famous bird sanctuary and garden in Myers Park, belonged to this congregation. St. Peter's Episcopal Church has consistently reached to the broader community, including feeding the homeless in recent years.
Continue south on Tryon Street and stop in front of the tan-colored, brick church in the middle of the block.
The architect of this fancy structure was J. M. McMichael. A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania., McMichael moved to Charlotte soon after 1900. He joined First Baptist Church and convinced the minister, H. H. Hulten, that the congregation should take the revolutionary step for turn-of-the-century Charlotte and erect a church that had no steeple. McMichael took an enormous chance in selecting a Byzantine dome as the central element of his design. Stanford White, a world-famous architect, had used the same style in his Madison Square Presbyterian Church in New York City, and that building had failed acoustically. You could hardly hear anybody. Not the preacher. Not the choir. Folks wondered if the same fate would befall McMichael's First Baptist Church in Charlotte. For the dedication service on May 2, 1909, 1400 people packed the sanctuary. At the organ Mrs. Alexander Stephens led the throng in singing the hymn, "All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name." So special was the day that Dr. E. Y. Mullins, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, came to preach the sermon. He took his text from the Sixteenth Psalm: "I have a goodly heritage." The people marveled at the stained glass windows. The one on the south side of the sanctuary was given by Vinton Liddell in honor of his father, W. J. F. Liddell. The acoustics worked! The sound of the music was glorious. "J. M. McMichael has succeeded where the late Stanford White failed," a local newspaper boasted.
First Baptist Church is now the main performance space for Spirit Square, an Uptown center for the arts. As chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, Liz Hair led the effort to save the building from probable destruction in 1975. Let the good sounds continue!
Walk south along Tryon Street to the next intersection, which is Sixth Street. Look diagonally across the intersection at the skinny, ten-story, high-rise building.
19. THE MAYFAIR HOTEL:
The Mayfair Hotel, now Dunhill Hotel, was designed by Louis Asbury, Sr. and opened in November, 1929 at the former site of Tryon Street Methodist Church, where Mildred Morse McEwen worshipped as a child. In 1929, there were no fewer than 15 hotels in Charlotte. The largest were the Hotel Charlotte on West Trade Street and the Clayton Hotel at Fifth and Church Streets. Although not the largest, the Mayfair Hotel was noted for its elegance. Look at the top floor of the building, and you will see the porches for the fancy penthouse suite where Dr. J. P. Matheson, an owner of the Mayfair Hotel, lived. A newspaper reporter who toured the hotel when it opened was impressed by what he saw. The rooms were furnished in "living room style" with double or Murphy beds, "luxurious" carpets and "fashionable" wallpapers. The lobby had an inviting fireplace and was the only place in town where you could buy Martha Washington candy.
By the early 1980's, the building had become the James Lee Motor Inn, a flophouse hotel. None of the original interior of the Mayfair Hotel remains. The building was completely gutted when it was renovated as the Dunhill Hotel in 1983. It is again an elegant place to stay. Does anybody even make Martha Washington candy anymore?
Continue south on Tryon Street until you reach the next cross street, which is Fifth Street. Directly ahead is the building that originally served as the home of the Ivey's Department Store.
20. IVEY'S DEPARTMENT STORE:
Joseph Benjamin Ivey, the handsome son of a Methodist preacher, opened a small store room in rented space near the Square on February 18, 1900. He belonged to a distinguished list of storekeepers who came to Charlotte at the turn of the century to take advantage of the booming cotton mill economy. Ivey's first day's sales totaled $33.18. "We had to study carefully and push the lines that the other merchants did not make a specialty," the enterprising merchant explained many years later. "For instance, at one time brass buttons were quite the rage. I was careful to keep in a supply all of the time while the other merchants were not noticing and allowed their stock to get low." Among Mr. Ivey's early employees was David Ovens, a Canadian who joined J. B. Ivey & Company in 1904. "I would probably have been satisfied with a moderate business that would make something over a living," said Ivey, "but Mr. Ovens was ambitious to make J. B. Ivey & Company a big store and the business grew rapidly under our combined efforts." Ovens Auditorium on East Independence Boulevard is named for David Ovens.
A devout Methodist, Ivey insisted that the curtains be drawn in his store windows on Sundays, so that the pedestrians would not be tempted to consider matters of this world on the Lord's day. Can you imagine a merchant doing such a thing today? Hardly. Our cultural values have undergone radical change since Ivey's day.
J. B. Ivey had a wide range of interests. He was an avid traveler. He also devoted great amounts of time and energy to growing flowers, especially tulips, dahlias, and gladiolas. Many people remember that the restaurant in Ivey's Department Store was named the Tulip Terrace. Ivey's home in Myers Park was surrounded by gorgeous tulip beds. There was even a miniature Dutch windmill in the yard.
This elegant building at Fifth and North Tryon Streets was designed by architect William H. Peeps and opened as the new home of J. B. Ivey & Company in 1924. The store was renovated and enlarged in 1939. On May 4, 1990, Ivey's was purchased by Dillard's, another department store chain. The building has recently been converted into luxury condominiums.
Continue south on Tryon Street. You have returned to the Square where the walking tour began. Continue straight across West Trade Street and stop at the skyscraper next to Polk Park on your right. Polk Park is named for Thomas Polk. Remember him?
21. FIRST NATIONAL BANK BUILDING:
The First National Bank Building was the tallest skyscraper in the two Carolinas when it opened in 1926 on the Tryon Street edge of Third Ward. Skyscrapers with banks in them have dominated the Charlotte skyline ever since the early 1900's. The architect of this imposing Neo Classical style edifice was the seemingly ubiquitous Louis Asbury, Sr. Look up and you will see some wonderful examples of the classical ornamentation that Asbury employed. High up on the building are Buddhas, lions, and pharaohs. The magnificent archway over the front entrance is decorated with beehives, owls, and other symbols of thrift and industry. Go inside and look at the historical exhibit in the display window in the elevator lobby. It will tell you all about the First National Bank Building.
The president of First National Bank was H. M. McAden. Like so many of Charlotte's New South business leaders, McAden had made his money in the textile industry. That he went into banking is no surprise, because the rise of Charlotte as a banking center was tied directly to the emergence of Charlotte and its environs as a major cotton mill region at the turn of the century. Indicative of Charlotte's importance as a financial center was the establishment here of a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. Its initial location was on the top floors of the First National Bank Building. Keep your eyes open for bankers on South Tryon Street. They're not hard to spot. Look for conservative business suits.
Continue south on Tryon Street, cross Fourth Street, and stop at the skyscraper in the middle of the block.
22. JOHNSTON BUILDING:
Skyscrapers are cultural totem poles. They dominate the landscape and convey a sense of power and pride. That's one of the reasons that Charlotte's business leaders like them so much. The Johnston Building is named for Charles Worth Johnston. It was designed in the Neo Classical style by New York City architect William Lee Stoddart and opened in 1924. The lavish elevator lobby is worth a visit. The Johnston Building is situated in the very heart of Charlotte's financial district. Elegant homes once occupied these lots, but they have long since given way to commercial development.
Charles Worth Johnston was born in 1861 in neighboring Cabarrus County and entered the textile business soon after graduating from Davidson College. He moved to Charlotte in 1892 to become Secretary of the Highland Park Manufacturing Company. He became president of the Highland Park mills in 1911 and went on to have a controlling interest in several other mills, including the Johnston Mill on North Davidson Street in Charlotte and the Anchor Mills in the North Mecklenburg County town of Huntersville. The Charlotte Observer described Johnston as a "Titan among textile industrialists" at the time of his death in 1941. "His career and achievements memorialize the old-fashioned virtues of thrift, frugality, self-reliance and industry, the honorableness of hard work, the virtue of business honor and integrity," the newspaper proclaimed. The Johnston Building now houses the Charlotte headquarters of United Carolina Bank.
Continue south on Tryon Street and cross Third Street. In the middle of the next block, at 316 South Tryon Street, is the Latta Arcade. Enter the building and walk to the glass-roofed arcade in the rear.
23. LATTA ARCADE:
This magnificent commercial arcade, designed by architect William H. Peeps, opened in January, 1915 as the home of the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, locally known as the Four C's. The owner was Edward Dilworth Latta. Latta, a South Carolinian, had come to Charlotte in 1876 to open a men's clothing store with his brother. Later he went into the men's trouser manufacturing business. His greatest fame came in 1890, when he and several other local entrepreneurs established 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!
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 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.
Return to the Tryon Street entrance to the Latta Arcade, turn right on Tryon Street and walk to the intersection of Tryon Street and Second Street. Cross Tryon Street and turn right again and proceed to the former Ratcliffe Flower Building, which is in the middle of the block, at 431 South Tryon Street.
You have now entered Second Ward, the last of Charlotte's original four wards. All were established as voting districts in 1869. Here along Tryon Street commercial buildings have again replaced what was once a fashionable residential neighborhood.
In 1917, Louis G. Ratcliffe, a native of Henrico County, Virginia, opened a florist shop next to the Latta Arcade. After military service during World War I, he returned to Charlotte and was a civic leader in this community for more than 50 years. He died in 1961. So successful was Ratcliffe at supplying flowers for weddings, funerals and other special occasions that he decided to erect his own building. In 1929, he hired architect William H. Peeps to design the new home for Ratcliffe Flowers. Of course, Ratcliffe was familiar with Mr. Peeps's talents, because the same architect had designed the Latta Arcade for Edward Dilworth Latta.
The Ratcliffe Flower Building is an almost whimsical expression of Mediterranean motifs. To capture the mood of the Mediterranean, Peeps used a variety of materials and forms in the design of the front facade. Four stylized columns separate the second-story openings from each other and the rest of the facade. The shafts of these columns have a spiral groove cut into them; a Mediterranean motif. No doubt the front bay window was used to display the wonderful flower arrangements that Louis Ratcliffe could supply for seemingly every occasion. In those days store windows were essential, because folks used to walk along the sidewalks instead of meandering through air-conditioned overstreet walkways. Ratcliffe Florists moved elsewhere in 1983, but its sign remains because the building is a local historic landmark. A restaurant now occupies the space. Go in and ask to sit at the table in the window. You might even look like a flower.
Continue south on Tryon Street, cross First Street, and stop in front of the church on the corner.
25. ST. PETER'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH:
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church was established in 1851 mainly to serve the Irish who were laboring in gold mines in and around Charlotte. Two of the largest mines, the Rudisell and the St. Catherine's, were close by. That's probably why St. Peter's located on what was then the southern edge of town. The current church building, which was erected in 1878, is the only 19th century structure remaining on South Tryon Street, except for the fanciful Victorian Eastlake style rectory next door, which was completed in 1897. Notice the rectory's keyhole window.
The Roman Catholics of St. Peter's have contributed greatly to the quality of life in Charlotte over the years. Charlotte's Mercy Hospital, now located in the Elizabeth neighborhood, originated with the Sisters of Mercy in 1906 in a frame building that used to stand behind the church. More recently, in 1987, Father John Haughey secured the services of artist Ben Long to fashion a magnificent religious fresco on the front wall of the sanctuary. Definitely go inside to see this wondrous work of art. The sanctuary is open 10 AM-12 PM and 1-4 PM Monday through Saturday.
Continue south on Tryon Street and turn left at Stonewall Street. Cross the street in front of the Charlotte Convention Center. In the parking lot opposite the Convention Center is the current end of the trolley line. You can get a ride on the trolley here.
See the trolley route. There is other trolley-related material on this site as well. Please explore!
Note: If you are with a school group and have limited time, you can take a one way trolley ride and have your transportation meet you at the Trolley Barn, next to the historic Atherton Cotton Mill at 2100 South Blvd. Otherwise, you may return to the Square by walking back towards the Convention Center from the trolley station. On Stonewall Street, turn left and proceed to S. Tryon St. Turn right on S. Tryon St. and proceed back to the Square.
This site was created using a Macintosh Performa 6290 by Bruce Schulman. This site is maintained for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission by Bruce R. Schulman.