THE GROWTH OF CHARLOTTE: A HISTORY
by Dr. Thomas W. Hanchett
For much of its history, the South was the United States' least urban
region. Until the Civil War its economy was based not on trade and
industrial production, which tend to spur city development, but on
agriculture. Early Southern "urban centers" were villages and small towns,
most located on the rivers by which cotton and tobacco were shipped out of
Defeat in the Civil War and the end of slavery led Southern leaders to
push for non-agricultural development. The decades following the war were
ballyhooed as the "New South Era," and saw a radical transformation in the
character of the region. The South developed a manufacturing base, resting
largely on cotton textile production, and the small towns and villages grew
rapidly into cities. Inland industrial centers surpassed the old ports in
importance and population.
The new course was largely set by the 1930s. The original New South
entrepreneurs turned over their projects to a younger generation of
followers. Cities continued to expand in patterns established in the earlier
period, and the region slowly became less agricultural and less
impoverished. Leaders continued to celebrate the creation of a New South,
but to a large extent the transformation had taken place, and the
post-Depression decades consisted of fulfilling the goals established
The development of Charlotte, North Carolina is a model example of this
regional pattern. Its history may be divided into three phases. In the
first, from 1753 to 1880, Charlotte was established as an inland trading
village, growing to a small town after the arrival of the railroad in the
1850s. The second phase, the New South era, saw Charlotte transformed into
the Carolina's largest city, a textile and distribution center. By 1930 the
city's development patterns were set and many of the skyscrapers, fine
suburbs, and leading businesses we know today were in place. The third era,
since the Depression, has seen economic diversification and continued steady
growth which, while not as explosive as the New South era in percentage
terms, has greatly surpassed it in real numbers.
The national economic cycle has provided a counterpoint to the regional
trend. Charlotte's growth rate has been always upward, but the curve has
been far from smooth. Since the coming of the railroads in the 1850s, if not
before, the city has been firmly tied to the national economy. Charlotte's
growth reflects the national succession of boom decades and depression
years, a key factor in the timing of local building activity and
II. From Village to Small Town Settlement, 1750s-1760s:
The city of Charlotte is set in the midst of the Carolinas' Piedmont
region, a broad band of rolling hills that extends north and south from
Virginia to Georgia between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the
flat coastal plain along the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Until the 1750s,
what are now Charlotte and surrounding Mecklenburg county were inhabited
only by Catawba Indians, for whom the Catawba River at the western edge of
the county is now named. 1 The eastern part of the Carolinas had
already been settled for over a hundred years. By the mid 18th century, the
port towns of New Bern and Wilmington, North Carolina, and Georgetown and
Charleston, South Carolina, flourished where major river systems emptied
into the Atlantic.
The first pair of settlers within the present city limits arrived in
1753. 2 A plaque marks the site of the Thomas Spratt family cabin
near the corner of Providence Road and Crescent Avenue two miles from what
is now the city center. Thomas Polk arrived at almost the same time and
built his house closer to what is today the Square. 3 Slowly more
and more settlers arrived, clustering between Sugar (Sugaw) Creek and Irwin
Creek on the hilltop that is now the Central City.
The location of this settlement was largely an accident. Most major
inland towns of the era grew up where waterfalls hindered river navigation,
or at the mouths of mountain passes, or where some natural resource waited
to be exploited. Charlotte had none of these. It was merely a place where
two Indian trails crossed in the midst of an area of good farmland, one of
many crossroads in the region.
One ancient trail was by the 1750s known as the Trading Path, because
traders from eastern Virginia followed it south to trade with the Indians.
4 In North Carolina U. S. Highway 29 follows part of this route.
A spur of the path joined the Great Wagon Road somewhere near Winston Salem.
The Wagon Road was the Colonies' greatest highway, stretching from
Pennsylvania down through the Shenandoah Valley to North Carolina. The
majority of Mecklenburg's early settlers were Scotch Irish Presbyterians who
arrived at the port of Philadelphia then made their way south via the Great
Wagon Road. In Charlotte this trail became Tryon Street, named after
Colonial governor William Tryon.
The other trail was part of a route that took traders northwest to the
Blue Ridge from Charleston. A "mixed multitude of English, Scotch, Germans,
Huguenots and Swiss" followed the route up from Charleston over the years to
settle in Mecklenburg. 5 This trail became Trade Street. At the
crossroads the village grew.
The Courthouse Village, 1760s-1800s:
In 1762 Mecklenburg County split off from Anson County. 6
Several of the little crossroad communities that dotted the area wanted to
be the county seat, but after a fight led by Thomas Polk, Charlotte won the
honor and was incorporated in 1768. 7 Commissioners were
instructed to lay off one hundred acres in half-acre lots on which houses
would be erected. An anonymous surveyor laid out a grid-iron of streets
following the order, far in excess of what was needed at the time, defining
an area that would remain the entire village well into the nineteenth
century. 8 At the center of the grid where Trade and Tryon
streets crossed was a small square containing the county courthouse. The
courthouse assured Charlotte's position as the main trading city in the
county, because when farmers came to town on legal business they would
naturally do some trading at the same time.
The village stayed quite small for many decades. In the earliest years
Mecklenburg's rural residents were subsistence farmers, able to raise little
more than the food and animals they needed to live. 9 Gradually
small cash crops were grown: flax, livestock, and grain (which was converted
to liquor for easy shipment, probably down the Catawba to Charleston).
10 This small trade made for little growth, and when the first United
States census was taken in 1790 Charlotte had less than five hundred souls.
11 George Washington, passing through several years after the
Revolutionary War, remarked in his diary that the hamlet was a "trifling
There were moments of glory during the Revolution, nonetheless. According
to tradition, on May 20, 1775, a group of county leaders signed the
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, declaring themselves free from
England more than a year before the Continental Congress took the same step
in Philadelphia. 13 The original Declaration burned in a house
fire in 1800, causing doubts about its veracity. 14 Today the
signing date is part of the North Carolina state flag and seal, and the day
continues to be celebrated in the county. The intersection of Trade and
Tryon streets at the center of the city is called Independence Square in
commemoration of the event.
In 1780 a Revolutionary War skirmish was fought in the area. British
general Lord Cornwallis tried to occupy the hamlet, but met with such stiff
local resistance that he and his troops quickly left. Cornwallis muttered
that Charlotte was a "hornet's nest," and the citizens proudly adopted the
appellation as the village's nickname. 15
The Gold Mining Center, 1800s-1850s:
Not long after the Revolutionary War, Mecklenburg County took part in an
agricultural revolution that was to shape the urban development of the
South. In 1793 Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in Georgia. 16
The machine allowed cotton to be cheaply cleaned so that it could be spun
into thread. All over the South a plantation economy quickly developed to
produce short-staple cotton to fill the new demand. The plantations, run by
slave labor, were largely self sufficient, producing their own food,
clothing and implements and supplying adjoining small farmers. The
plantations had little need for urban manufacturing or trade, except with
river towns through which raw cotton was shipped to Northern or English
Mecklenburg never had plantations on the scale of the rich lands of the
low-country counties, but it was very much a part of the plantation economy.
Eventually Mecklenburg had thirty plantations each employing twenty-five or
more slaves, with dozens of smaller farms, most growing some cotton. 17
The finest estates were on the rich bottom lands along the Catawba River and
the creeks that fed into it. 18 Except when there were legal
matters to resolve, the plantations had little occasion to do business with
Charlotte, according to Davidson College historian Dr. Chalmers Davidson, an
expert on the era. 19 Cotton was usually shipped overland to
Cheraw, South Carolina, head of navigation on the Yadkin/Pee Dee river
system. If it had relied only on the plantation economy, Charlotte might
well have remained the sleepy courthouse village that George Washington saw.
Two events lifted Charlotte out of its minor place on the periphery of
the plantation economy. They were the discovery of gold in 1799 and the
coming of the railroad in 1852. These new stimuli assured that Charlotte
would grow as a trading town.
In 1799 farmer John Reed found a seventeen pound gold nugget on his farm
twenty-five miles east of the village of Charlotte, south of Concord in
Cabarrus County. 21 Reed used the rock as a doorstop until 1802
when a jeweler recognized it as gold, setting off the United States first
gold rush. As discoveries spread to nearby counties in North and South
Carolina, Charlotte became the trade center of America's first gold
production region. Two of the era's richest mines were less than two miles
from the Square: the Rudisill near Summit Avenue between Mint and Tryon
streets, and the St. Catherine near the corner of Graham and West Morehead.
By 1835 production was so heavy that the U. S. Treasury decided to open a
branch mint in Charlotte. A fine NeoClassical building was completed in
1837. 22 Designed by noted Philadelphia architect William
Strickland, it stood near the corner of West Trade and Mint Streets until
1933 when it was dismantled and rebuilt in the Eastover neighborhood for use
as an art museum. 23 Between 1838 and 1861 the Charlotte mint
coined more than $5 million in gold pieces. 24 After the Civil
War the building reopened as an assay office until 1913, though Charlotte
had given up its lead in U. S. gold production with the legendary California
gold rush of 1849. Gold production largely ceased in the l910s, except for a
brief flurry during the 1930s Depression, but investors still hold the
mines, waiting for gold prices to rise enough to make production again
The Charlotte gold rush brought miners, engineers and metallurgists to
the city, and is credited with the establishment of banks here. As
important, it made the city the trading center not just for Mecklenburg, but
for a region of several counties as miners brought their gold in to be
assayed and smelted. By 1850 Charlotte had 1,065 people. 25
The Railroad Center, 1850s-1870s:
More than any other event, the arrival of the railroad in 1852 set
Charlotte on its way to being the largest city in the Carolinas. 26
When the Charlotte and South Carolina completed its track up from Columbia
in that year, it was one of the first railways in the western half of North
Carolina. Suddenly Charlotte had the advantage over the half-dozen similar
sized villages in the region.
In 1854 the State of North Carolina began work on a state-owned railroad
from Raleigh and Goldsboro to Charlotte, in part to connect the eastern
cities with the railroad to Columbia. 27 This North Carolina
Railroad, passing through Greensboro and Salisbury, made Charlotte an
important railroad junction. It also made the city for the first time truly
a part of North Carolina, for it was finally as easy to go east to Raleigh
as it had been to go south down the river valleys to Columbia and
Charleston, South Carolina.
Charlotte's importance increased with addition of two more lines in the
next seven years. In 1860 a railroad company grandly known as the Atlantic,
Tennessee, and Ohio began running trains out of the city. 28
Despite its impressive name, the line only went from Charlotte to
Statesville, North Carolina. Its rails were cannibalized by Confederate
forces late in the Civil War to repair more vital rail links, and it did not
reopen until 1874, as part of the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line. 29
In 1861 the first leg of the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford Railroad
connected Charlotte and Lincolnton, North Carolina. 30
With four railroads now converging on the city, Charlotte became an
excellent location for trade and industry. Between 1850 and 1860 the
population zoomed from 1,065 to 2,265. 31 By the eve of the Civil
War, Charlotte had grown from a village to a town.
In 1861 the South launched the bitter battles of the War Between the
States. Though Union raiders hit nearby settlements, and it was feared that
General Sherman planned to invade the town on his swing north from Georgia
near the end of the conflict, Charlotte survived the war untouched. 32
In fact, the conflict proved to be a great economic boost for the city, as
Charlotte became a center of wartime industry. The Mecklenburg Iron Works,
the town's major industry on the eve of the War, cast Confederate cannon.
Other factories here produced gunpowder, chemicals, woolen goods, and
Most important, and least likely for this landlocked city, Charlotte was
the home of the Confederacy's Naval Yard. 34 In 1862 it appeared
that the existing naval yard at Norfolk Virginia, might be lost to Union
forces. All machinery and stores were packed up and sent inland to Charlotte
for the duration of the war. Charlotte was chosen because of its already
established iron works and because of the railroad network that connected it
The new Naval Ordinance Works, next to the Charlotte and South Carolina
Railroad tracks near the site of the present Civic Center downtown,
"employed some 1500 men and boys, It consisted of a smithy, foundry, machine
shops, rigging loft, laboratory and other departments." 35 In
addition to military material it turned out "the necessary repair parts to
keep the South's locomotives, mining, textile, and farm machinery in running
order." 36 Many of the workers settled across East Trade street
in what is now First Ward, causing that area to be nicknamed Mechanicsville.
Though Union troops made raids as near as Salisbury, present-day
Gastonia, and Fort Mill, Charlotte never came under attack, In the closing
months of the war over 1300 refugees flooded the village. 38
Among them was the widow of Stonewall Jackson, who stayed on to become the
town's leading citizen for several decades. Confederate President Jefferson
Davis and his advisers held what may have been the Confederacy's last
cabinet meeting at a house on North Tryon street, whose site is now marked
by a plaque. 39
The refugees who stayed on and the skilled workers from the naval yard
and gold mines helped to form the basis for a boom period following the
war's end in 1865. In the first half of 1867 alone, "twelve stores and some
seventy-five other buildings, many of them dwellings, some of industrial
character were built in Charlotte," according to local historian LeGette
Blythe. "During the five years after the war the city grew remarkably, with
money from the reopened gold mines and capital furnished by northern
industrialists as the tonic that seeded development. In 1871 a fourth bank
was established, another indication that Charlotte was fast becoming a
leading industrial center." 40
Population virtually doubled from 2,265 in 1860 to 4,473 in 1870. 41
The village had begun to rise in importance in the county with the coming of
the railroads, and this trend continued as the end of slavery had its impact
on the self-sufficient plantation economy of the rural areas. Charlotte
contained only eight percent of Mecklenburg County's people in 1850, but
rose to thirteen percent in 1860 and eighteen percent by 1870. 42
An 1875 city directory summed up the changes:
Up to and even to the close of the late war, the commercial interests
of Charlotte were of much smaller significance than they are now, Ten
years of trade, which has poured into her lap since the last gun was fired
on the 24th of April, 1865, has added materially to the wealth, influence
and prosperity of the City of Charlotte. 43
This prosperity was not limited to Charlotte. It was part of a nationwide
boom following the Civil War, and the city's railroad ties enabled the city
to take part in it, Charlotte was now tied firmly to the national economy
and its fluctuations.
Charlotteans recognized how much their good fortune depended on rail
links, and they used the proceeds of the postwar prosperity to build new
lines. In 1872 the city added its fifth railroad, the Carolina Central,
which connected Charlotte directly with the port of Wilmington. 44
In 1874 the rails were re-laid on the pre-war line to Statesville and new
roadbed was built southeast from the city through Gastonia. 45
The result was christened the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line, and soon
stretched from Richmond to Atlanta. In a period when most of the capital for
a new line came from local public subscription, this new construction so
soon after the war was strong proof of Charlotte's economic vitality.
The key to the vitality was new trade, trade in cotton. Even before the
Civil War and long before the city saw its first cotton mill, Charlotte
boomed as a cotton trading center. An observer in 1875 wrote:
Up to the year 1852, the cotton raised in the vicinity of Charlotte. .
.not consumed immediately through the aid of the old fashioned loom, wheel
and cards was forced to seek a market. . .by being hauled to Fayetteville,
Camden, Cheraw, or Charleston by wagons. . . When the completion of the
Charlotte and Columbia Railroad took place in 1852, for the first time in
the history of Charlotte she had an outlet -- a highway to the sea. Three
years later and the iron chain which connects us with Norfolk, Virginia,
was finished, and a stimulus given to the cotton trade which no other
advantage could have conferred. Situated at the terminus of both roads,
competition between them at once enabled the cotton dealer here to pay the
very highest price for the staple.
Since that time railroads have been added to, until we have the network
alluded to in the former sketch. Over the Richmond and Atlanta Air Line
Railroad (originally Charlotte and Atlanta), the great short route between
New York and New Orleans, and which penetrates some of the richest country
tributary to our market, Charlotte has received an immense impetus to the
cotton trade, The Atlantic, Tennessee and Ohio (the line to Statesville)
has poured a considerable trade into our market The upper section of the
Carolina Central, leading from Lincolnton to Charlotte, has been equally
instrumental in increasing the cotton trade here. Countless numbers of
bales have been brought to Charlotte from the direction of Chester and
Rock Hill, in South Carolina, over the Charlotte, Columbia, and Augusta
Railroad (originally the Charlotte and South Carolina), while the North
Carolina Railroad gives the people all along its line, from Charlotte to
Lexington, however paradoxical it may seem, a market in Charlotte for
their cotton. 46
The essay went on to trace the growth of Charlotte's cotton trade since
the first line opened:
In 1855, the annual sales of cotton on this market was less than three
thousand bales. In 1860, on account of this railroad influence, the trade
had gradually become of more importance, and had reached twelve thousand
bales . . . With the crop of 1866, business in this line was again
resumed, with about the same amount in the market as in 1860 -- 12,000
bales -- since which time it has increased annually until for the fiscal
year ending August 31st, 1874, the actual sales reached forty thousand
It is worth noting that four years of war, including the closing of the
railroad to Statesville, had little effect on cotton production in the
The scope of country of which Charlotte is the commercial cotton
centre. . .includes. . .fourteen counties in North Carolina and at least
eleven in South Carolina. . .. (S)he has reached the exalted position of
being the first and principal cotton market in the state. , .. (I)n future
years when we shall be able to . . .convert her into a manufacturing town,
as will most assuredly be done. we may justly look forward to a brighter
career of prosperity than has ever dawned upon us. 48
The writer noted that Charlotte had also become an important wholesale
market for a variety of goods, but, he said, "The cotton interest. . . is
here superior to all others." 49
The village was now a bustling small town, but it was not until the
next decade that Charlotte was able to move into manufacturing. The city's
integration into the wider national economy meant being part of the bad
times as well as the good. In 1873 the United States began to slide into a
major depression. According to historian Alan Nevins, it was "one of the
worst in American history," with half a million men out of work by the
beginning of 1875. 50 The effects were felt first in the more
industrialized Northeast, but by the mid-1870s "the South -- along with
the rest of the nation -- was. . . in the grip of a severe depression, and
hard times did not disappear until the end of the decade." 51
III. The New South Transformation: From Small Town to City
The New South Era:
Before we trace Charlotte's development from town into city, it is
necessary to look at the background of the New South movement. Prior to the
Civil War the people of the South saw great virtue in the region's non-urban
character. Historian Paul Gaston writes that Southerners proudly "viewed the
Southern way of life as fundamentally different from and superior to that of
the North." 52 The moral "cleanliness" of the countryside
compared to the "evil" of the city, and the sharply structured social system
inherent in the plantation society, from planter to slave, were seen as
contributing to a near-perfect society. Not only did Southerners not have
large cities by the standards of the rest of the United States, they did not
want large cities.
It was in this context that antebellum Charlotte existed. As late as
1860, North Carolina's largest town, the port of Wilmington, had only 9,552
people. 53 The port of Charleston was the region's only large
city, with 40,519 residents; South Carolina's second largest city was the
capital of Columbia with but 8,052. 54 All of the major towns
were located on rivers in the coastal plain. Charlotte was back in the
Piedmont and ten miles from the nearest river. Its gold mining interests and
new railroads made it North Carolina's sixth largest "urban place," but it
was little more than a village with 2,265 people, an indication of the
state's rural character. 55
The Civil War changed the region's anti-urban bias. As Gaston writes, it
"completely destroyed the myth of invincibility and made it increasingly
difficult to maintain the corollary myth of superiority." 56 The
war exposed the region as a land of "poverty in plenty," with abundant
natural resources but no manufacturing capacity to utilize them. Atlanta
Constitution editor Henry Grady traveled the region stirring Southerners
to action with the woeful story of a Georgia burial:
They cut through solid marble to make his grave; and yet a little
tombstone they put above him was from Vermont. They buried him in the
heart of a pine forest, and yet the pine coffin was imported from
Cincinnati. They buried him within touch of an iron mine, and yet the
nails in his coffin and the iron in the shovel that dug his grave were
imported from Pittsburgh. . .. They put him away. . . in a New York coat
and a pair of breeches from Chicago and a shirt from Cincinnati. . . . The
South didn't furnish a thing on earth for that funeral but the corpse and
the hole in the ground. 57
Grady's tale colorfully articulated the basic theme of the age. The South
had to recreate itself in an urban, industrial mold if it was to prosper.
This movement for a "New South," as proponents proclaimed it, had its
beginnings even before the last shot was fired in 1865, and gained momentum
in the Reconstruction era of the late 1860s and early 1870s. After the 1870s
depression ended, the movement blossomed. 58
By that time a new postwar generation of New South leaders was in
control. These men, often sons of the old planter elite, often trained in
the North, unquestioningly worshipped all that was new, modern, and
The battlecry of the New South era was the slogan "Bring the Mills to the
Cotton." 59 The South's climate and soil had made it the United
States' cotton grower since 1793, but the mills that turned the cotton into
clothing were primarily located in New England. There had been several good
reasons for this. One of the most important was that New England's rocky
river valleys provided the waterfalls needed to run water-powered machinery.
In the 1870s, however, steam power took over from water power. Now the mills
could move anywhere that there was a continuous supply of water to make
steam. Investors began to heed the New South's boosters' cries and build
their mills in the South.
By the time the early New South leaders turned their power over to the
next generation in the 1910s and 1920s, the change in direction had been
accomplished. 60 The South had a manufacturing base in textiles
and was diversifying into other fields. It was becoming urban, with
one-fourth of North Carolina residents living in urban places, the largest
of which were unquestionably cities. In contrast to the antebellum period,
the South now wanted cities and eagerly financed such urban symbols as
suburbs and skyscrapers, even in places which really had, as Charlotte
journalist W. J. Cash observed, "little more use for them than a hog has for
a morning coat." 61
The First Boom -- the Mills Came to the Cotton, 1880-1893:
Already a leader in cotton trade, Charlotte entered the cotton
manufacturing era after the 1870s depression. In 1880 the city got its first
successful cotton mill. 62 The Charlotte Cotton Mill established
by R. M. and D. W. Oates "initially contained 6,240 spindles and employed
approximately seventy people, mostly women." 63 Part of the
original mill survives on West Fifth street at Graham in Fourth ward, a one
story building with arched window openings in the style of the most
up-to-date New England mills of the day. The Charlotte Cotton Mill, said the
Charlotte Daily Observer, "will add much to Charlotte's material
prosperity no one doubts, and some predict that it will be the means of
bringing similar enterprises into operation." 64
D. A. Tompkins proved the paper right when he came to town in 1882.
65 A relative of John C. Calhoun, Tompkins was a native of Edgehill,
South Carolina, and a prototypical New South leader who went North to earn a
civil engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He returned
south to Charlotte in charge of selling Westinghouse steam engines and
machinery to the new mills and industry of the region. In 1883 he struck off
on his own and founded the D. A. Tompkins Company which specialized in
setting up cotton mills. 66 The company was also a pioneer in
developing cotton seed oil plants, creating a new regional industry from the
previously discarded cotton seed. Over the next twenty years Tompkins' firm
designed and built all or part of 250 cotton oil mills and more than 100
cotton mills. 67
Tompkins authored books on mill development that set forth standard
designs for mills and mill villages throughout the South. He spoke widely
urging industrialization, devised investment plans to attract new mills,
helped set up colleges at Clemson and Raleigh to teach textile engineers and
chemists, and lobbied strenuously for favorable legislation. 68
Even Atlanta, which considered itself the center of the New South,
recognized Tompkins' pre-eminence. Atlanta Constitution editor Clark
Howell stated flatly that Tompkins "did more for the industrial south than
any other man." 69 Today historians consider Tompkins one of the
most important of the New South leaders. 70
D. A. Tompkins' activities helped make Charlotte the center of the
developing Carolina Piedmont textile region. He also constructed four cotton
mills in the city between 1889 and 1893 at the height of the nationwide
building boom that swept Charlotte. Three opened in 1889 for other owners:
Alpha at Twelfth and Brevard and the Ada at Eleventh near Graham,
both at what was then the northeastern edge of the city, and the Victor mill
on what is now Clarkson Street which was then just outside the city to the
1893 Atherton Mill, then far south of the city at what is today
South Boulevard and Tremont streets, was all Tompkins'. 72 It was
the first mill owned and operated, as well as erected, by his company, and
Tompkins used it to demonstrate his new ideas. These included his belief
that mill workers with their rural backgrounds should not be corrupted by
closeness to town, indoor plumbing, or quarters more spacious than "one
operative for each room of the house." 73 The best preserved
house in the Atherton mill village has been designated a local Historic
Property: a three-dimensional illustration from his influential 1899 book,
Cotton Mills: Commercial Features. 74
The boom of the 1880s attracted other cotton-related industries. By 1889
the city directory listed the four cotton mills, plus six industrial
machinery sellers led by the long-established Mecklenburg Iron Works and the
new Liddell foundry, three clothing factories, two cotton ginners, one
cotton oil mill and a manufacturer of cotton bagging and ties. 75
A fifth cotton mill opened in 1892, Highland Park Manufacturing Company #1
headed by W. E. Holt and C. E. Johnston. 76 With all this
industrial development the town of Charlotte grew into a small city.
If D. A. Tompkins had been the New South leader most responsible for
Charlotte's industrial growth, Edward Dilworth Latta was the leading force
in the town's physical transformation into a city. A prototypical New South
leader, he was a South Carolina descendant of Mecklenburg County plantation
owner James Latta, and he had traveled North to what is today Princeton
University for his education. 77 Edward Dilworth Latta opened a
clothing store in Charlotte in 1876 and soon expanded into pants
manufacturing. 78 In 1890 he joined with five associates to form
the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, known as the Four Cs.
79 This company became the prime agent in Charlotte's urban
development into the early twentieth century.
streetcars began running down the center of Trade street and Tryon
street in 1887. 80 In 1890 the Four Cs bought the franchise and
under the personal direction of Thomas Edison completely rebuilt it as an
electric trolley car line. 81 This was part of a movement that
swept the nation in the five years after the first reliable electric transit
system was perfected in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888. 82
In Charlotte electric cars started operation on two lines May 18, 1891.
83 One followed its overhead wire the length of Trade street from
McDowell street on one edge of town to the railroad station on West Trade on
the other. At the Square it crossed the second track, which ran on Tryon
street from the Carolina Central station at Twelfth street all the way out
South Tryon. But there the cars did not stop at the edge of the city. They
kept right on going out into the farmland where the Four Cs were developing
Dilworth was Charlotte's first suburb, the beginning of the city we
know today. Businessmen had been commuting to their new suburban homes in
the big cities of the North since the 1870s, and the New South leaders were
determined to bring this new urban fashion to Charlotte. The Four Cs offered
both lots and completed homes for sale and used an aggressive advertising
campaign to lure buyers out of the city. After an initial burst of
enthusiasm, however, few lots sold. D. A. Tompkins kept the project afloat
by purchasing a block at the southern edge of the suburb for his Atherton
mill village in 1892. 84 Even with Charlotte's first long-term
payment plan -- "buy a house with your rent money" ran the slogan -- there
were less than one hundred houses in Dilworth as late as March, 1898.
By the early 1890s Charlotte was a little city with big-city ambitions.
The 1890 census counted a respectable 11,557 people, but still less than the
capitals of Columbia and Raleigh and far behind the Carolinas' ports of
Charleston and Wilmington. 86 Despite the fact that the town was
still small enough for easy walking it now had a costly trolley network and
a suburb, built and kept alive by New South leaders who believed that
Charlotte's growth would soon justify them.
The Second Boom, 1897-1914:
In June 1893 the stock market crashed and the nation entered another
depression. Nationwide this depression was felt more sharply than the one of
the 1870s, but Charlotte began to pull out quickly. 87 H. S.
Chadwick established the Louise Cotton Mill on the Seaboard Railroad outside
the city to the east near what is now Hawthorne Lane and Central Avenue in
1897. 88 More mills quickly followed: the Magnolia in 1899, the
Chadwick and the Elizabeth in 1901, the
Highland Park #3 and the Mecklenburg in 1904, the Savona in 1908 and the
Johnston in 1913. 89
Other textile industries joined the mills during this boom which lasted
until the First World War. Barnhardt Manufacturing, for instance, started in
1900 to reprocess cotton waste for upholstery padding. Several companies
grew up to supply mill machinery to the region. 90 In 1911 Clark
Publishing began printing the weekly Southern Textile Bulletin.
91 It was read throughout the South, another factor in the city's
leadership in the textile field.
Though cotton remained the mainstay of the economy in this period, the
city also attracted non-textile industries. Some that continue in 1982 are
Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, established in 1900 and now credited "as being
the oldest cast iron and soil pipe plant in America." 92 Cole
Manufacturing, founded the same year, still produces agricultural equipment
in its handsome brick factory, designed by leading Charlotte architect C. C.
Hook, off Central Avenue. 93 In 1913 salesman Philip L. Lance
began roasting peanuts and selling peanut butter crackers, a novel idea that
has grown into one of the nation's major snack food companies, Lance,
These boom years also saw the start of stores that became the city's
three leading department stores. W. H. Belk, who had begun his merchandising
career in nearby Monroe in 1888, decided to tackle Charlotte in 1895.
95 Charlotte today is the headquarters for more than 400 Belk stores
throughout the South. Competitor J. B. Ivey started the first store of what
was to be another major chain in 1900, and in 1902 the first Efird's store
opened, the beginning of a regional chain that eventually merged with Belk.
As important as the growing industries, the wholesalers, and the
retailers were Charlotte's banks. They provided capital for new development
not only in Charlotte but increasingly for the entire Piedmont. Many of the
institutions that make Charlotte the banking center of the Carolinas today
started during the boom following the 1893 depression. Charlotte National
Bank, founded in 1897, grew by mergers to become part of the present
Wachovia Bank and Trust Company. 97 Southern States Trust,
founded in 1901 by real estate developers F. C. Abbott, George Stephens and
Word Wood, is the basis for today's mammoth NCNB Corporation. 98
Present day First Union began in 1908 as Union National Bank. 99
In the period Charlotte's most successful capitalists moved easily from mill
ownership to banking to real estate development and back again.
The boom years saw the beginning of a shift from steam engines to
electric power in the cotton mills, a shift that furthered Charlotte's
position as center of the Piedmont textile region. James B. Duke was an
extremely wealthy North Carolina native who built the immense American
Tobacco Company headquartered in New York at the turn of the century. In
1897 Duke began buying water power sites along the Catawba River, convinced
that the opportunity for many dams along its gentle drop would make it an
important producer of hydroelectric power. 100 The electric
industry was still in its experimental stage, so J. B. Duke and his brother
Ben teamed with another pair of brothers, Dr. W. Gill Wylie and Dr. Robert
H. Wylie, who were pioneering hydroelectric technology with the help of an
engineer, William States Lee. The partners' Southern Power Company began
delivering electricity to customers in 1904. 101 It slowly won
over mill owners who had used steam, and the low rates were instrumental in
attracting hundreds of additional industries to the region over the next
decades. Today known as Duke Power, the company is still headquartered in
Duke also added the city's seventh rail line at the height of the
pre-World War I boom period. His Piedmont and Northern Railway was an
electric interurban line which ran from Charlotte to Gastonia beginning in
1911. 102 It symbolized Charlotte's power over surrounding
smaller cities, whose residents would regularly ride the interurban or one
of the other railroads into the big city to shop and do other business. The
P & N tracks are still in use today, though they were converted to diesel
power in 1950 and are now part of the Seaboard system. 103
Charlotte's final new railroad came to town in 1913. 104 The
Norfolk and Southern track came from Virginia via Albemarle and Raleigh, and
today is part of the Southern. By the height of the New South boom years,
Charlotte was the hub of rail lines stretching in eight directions.
With the booming economic growth came tremendous physical expansion.
Between 1900 and 1910 the city grew from 18,091 to 34,014 people, an 82
percent increase, larger than any other decade in this century. 105
A band of suburbs sprang up completely ringing the city. Downtown, the
commercial core expanded upward and outward, symbolically capped by the
completion in 1909 of the
Independence Building (originally Realty Building) on Independence
Square, the Carolinas' first steel-frame skyscraper. 106
Two maps from the period illustrate the growth. One dated 1892 shows the
old grid city almost completely surrounded by farms beyond McDowell Street,
Twelfth Street, Graham Street and Stonewall. 107 The only
outlying developments are Dilworth and the proposed streets of Belmont. A
single trolley line leads out of the central city.
A 1917 map by planner John Nolen shows great changes in twenty five
years. Now nine streetcar lines give access to downtown from every point on
the compass. 108 Along each line are "streetcar suburbs"
following the boundaries of the old farms, creating a ring completely
surrounding the old city. In fact, in 1907 the city boundaries had been
expanded to reflect the new growth. The new city covered 12.76 square miles,
a 570 percent jump over the previous boundary drawn in 1885. 109
The prosperity and growth drew a sizable number of architects to the city
for the first time. Prior to 1900 only C. C. Hook and his partner Frank
Sawyer, and Frank Milburn and his protege L. E. Schwend were active in the
city, all arrivals during the 1890s. 110 They were joined by
James M. McMichael in 1901, William H. Peeps and the partners L. L. Hunter
and Franklin Gordon in 1905, M. I. T.-trained Louis Asbury in 1908, and
Bungalow specialist Fred Bonfoey in 1908, among others. 111 No
longer did Charlotteans get their building designs just from published
pattern books or talented local carpenters. By the height of the 1900s boom
Charlotte had a true architectural community.
Dilworth prospered, and dozens of new subdivisions were created in these
years, completing the city's first suburban ring. More research is needed in
county plat records before they can all be identified. Many have passed from
memory, absorbed in larger neighborhoods. Even F. C. Abbott, a leading real
estate developer in the period, had forgotten some early ones by the time he
wrote the memoirs that are today one of the best sources on Charlotte
growth. Only a few of the important developments can be named here.
The first post-depression suburb was
Elizabeth on the east side of the city. Developed in 1897 by W. S.
Alexander's Highland Park Land Company, it now forms a small part of the
Elizabeth neighborhood. 112 Other subdivisions encompassed by
present-day Elizabeth neighborhood include Piedmont Park, created by
Piedmont Realty (F. C. Abbott, George Stephens and B. D. Heath) about 1899
from the old W. R. Myers farm, and Oakhurst, begun circa 1900 by B. D.
Heath. 113 This last was not the present neighborhood known as
Oakhurst but rather a subdivision along Central Avenue between Louise Street
and Thomas Avenue.
W. S. Alexander also platted the northwest side's first streetcar era
suburb in 1897. 114 Western Heights, north of West Trade Street
below what is now Johnson C. Smith University, was originally settled by
whites. In 1913 an important event took place further out Beatties Ford
Road. Charlotte's first streetcar suburb developed by black capitalists for
black residents opened. 115 It was called
Washington Heights after black educator Booker T. Washington. Street
names honored the city's leading black residents, J. S. Saunders and Thad
Tate, as well as national black leaders Booker T. Washington and
abolitionist Frederick Douglass. A second "colored suburb" called
Douglassville was platted along Oaklawn Avenue on the other side of Beatties
Ford Road shortly thereafter, today part of the area known as McCrorey
Two turn-of-the-century streetcar suburbs called Woodlawn and Irwin Park
platted the avenues between Sycamore and Cedar streets in what is now called
Third Ward downtown. 117 The old Vail dairy farm roughly between
Providence Road, Caswell Road, Vail Avenue, and Laurel Avenue was platted as
Colonial Heights and
Crescent Heights between 1907 and 1913. 118 The Pegram-Wadsworth
Land Company developed large parts of north Charlotte including Matheson
Avenue and Pinckney Avenue beginning about 1907. 119 Abbott
Realty created Wilmore on the old Wilson and Moore farms at the end of South
Mint Street in 1914. 120 About the same time Chatham Estates
began selling lots along the Plaza, Thomas Avenue, and Nassau Avenue, today
the heart of
Plaza Midwood. 121
The finest developments of the pre-World War I boom years were Myers Park
and an extension of Dilworth, the city's first suburb. They showed the New
South spirit at its best. George Stephens, son-in-law of one of the county's
largest landowners, was a banker and real estate developer whose
characteristically "New South" belief in modernity extended to city
planning. He hired John Nolen, a budding national leader of the new
profession, to lay out the vast suburb of
Myers Park south of the city in 1911. 122 Stephens'
backing allowed Nolen to devise a "unified suburban design" for the 1220
acre tract far in excess of the small city's needs at the time. Detailed
down to the individual lot plantings, it was a state-of-the-art achievement
that had few parallels in the South or elsewhere in the United States. Myers
Park became a model for numerous other suburbs in the region, and Nolen went
on to become one of the United States' most important early planners.
At the very same time, another planning firm of even greater stature was
at work in Dilworth. Edward Dilworth Latta, the city's New South streetcar
and real estate magnate, had hired the famous Olmsted Brothers of Boston to
plan what is today the Dilworth Road East and West area. 123 The
Olmsted Brothers' father, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., is known as the
founder of American city planning and his sons matched his standard of
excellence in projects ranging from the White House grounds to the Duke
University campus. The Olmsteds' work in Dilworth was not as extensive as
Nolen's in Myers Park, but their design has been as enduringly popular.
The fact that two planning firms of the Olmsteds' and Nolen's character
were active at the same time in this small city of 34,000 is remarkable. It
shows the civic pride of the New South era, and also the city's prosperity
in these textile boom years. It is a testament to the first generation of
New South leaders, men who were willing to get the best of what was new,
even if it meant going outside the region and spending a great deal of money
to do so. The planners' work represented almost as radical a change in the
city's fabric as had the first suburb twenty years earlier. Nolen's and the
Olmsteds' designs caused the city to forever abandon its tradition of
grid-iron planning, and to instead adopt the use of tree-lined winding
residential streets which followed the natural landscape.
Not all of the era's New South leaders were as thoughtful in their
adoption of big city ideas. At the same time that Myers Park and Dilworth
were being landscaped, downtown was stripped of its trees in the name of New
South progress. Tryon Street was to be lined with electric lights and become
"The Great White Way," a small-time imitation of New York City's Broadway.
Visiting Cambridge landscape architect Paul B. Forest protested that the
scheme was "the grossest error," but Mayor C. A. Bland, his Board of
Alderman, and Duke Power had their way. 124 In winter of 1912 the
trees came down.
Charlotte's rate of expansion dropped somewhat in the late teens when U.
S. entry into World War I put a stop to most civilian construction. By that
time, however, Charlotte was clearly a city. It was headquarters of a large
textile region, with a diversified economic base including banking, power
generation and wholesaling. A bustling mass transit system, the backbone of
big-city growth, now served an expanding ring of suburbs. In the 1910 census
Charlotte pulled far ahead of Raleigh in population and finally overtook the
port of Wilmington to become North Carolina's largest city, symbolizing the
shift in the state's economy from cotton and tobacco export to textile
production. 125 Only the port of Charleston, South Carolina,
remained larger in the Carolinas, and Charlotte was catching up fast.
The Third Boom, The Roaring Twenties:
Nationwide the World War I lull in construction continued through a mild
postwar depression that lasted until the early 1920s. Charlotte proved no
exception to the national trend. Beginning about 1923 the city underwent a
period of tremendous growth which lasted until the Great Depression of 1929.
126 Large sections of present day Charlotte date from this period
The 1920s, unlike the city's two earlier booms, seem to have been a
period of consolidating previous gains rather than setting new directions.
By the twenties the first generation of New South leaders was either dead or
ready to pass their power on to younger decision makers. D. A. Tompkins died
in 1914, George Stephens departed for Asheville in 1922, and Edward Dilworth
Latta made the same move shortly before his death in 1925. 127 In
the hands of their successors, economic development, urban growth and even
architecture followed increasingly conservative patterns.
The city continued to develop as a distribution center. By 1920 more than
700 traveling salesmen lived here, a large percentage of the workforce.
128 They sold not only textile related products but an increasingly
diverse array of goods. Film Row along Church Street was built beginning
about 1925 as the motion picture distributing center for North and South
Carolina. 129 By 1929 the Chamber of Commerce could boast:
All national film companies maintain exchanges in Charlotte and the
movie establishments of the Carolinas are served through this city. The
aggregate volume of business transacted annually by these film exchanges
is approximately $2,250,000. 130
Sometimes distribution led to other things. The Ford Motor Company made
Charlotte a distribution point for repair parts for the South in the early
teens, and by 1915 was shipping parts in quantity for Charlotte laborers to
assemble into complete automobiles. 131 In 1925 Ford opened a
vast new assembly line plant on Statesville Road that turned out 300 Model
Ts per day for the Southern market. 132
In the 1920s the Victor Corporation, later RCA Victor, chose Charlotte as
a regional distribution center for its radios, phonographs, and records.
When the company began to send field teams south to record phonograph
records, Charlotte's Victor operation became a major recording center. WBT
radio, the earliest station in the Carolinas, was instrumental in attracting
top talent to the city, and the city's large population of mill workers
drawn from rural areas provided an eager audience for early country music
stars. 133 Such well known performers as the Carter Family, Grand
Old Opry star Uncle Dave Macon, and bluesman Luke Jordan recorded for Victor
in Charlotte beginning in 1927. 134 The most important records
were made by Bill Monroe, who began his recording career in Charlotte from
1936 to 1938. 135 Monroe went on to found the "Bluegrass Boys"
string band , credited with popularizing "Bluegrass" music and providing its
Vital to Charlotte's growth as a distribution center was the network of
paved highways that began to converge on the city in the 1920s. They were
the result of North Carolina's "Good Roads" program initiated in 1921 by
Governor Cameron Morrison who was, not coincidentally, a Charlotte resident.
137 The new highways helped the city to continue to grow as a
wholesaling point, and also to develop as a trucking center for the whole
southeastern United States.
More new skyscrapers joined the Independence Building downtown,
reflecting the economic growth. In 1924 a group of Charlotte business
leaders realized their vision of a grand hostelry and meeting place for the
city. Their ten-story Hotel Charlotte is today listed in the National
Register of Historic Places. 138 Textile magnate R. Horace
Johnston hired New York City architect W. L. Stoddart to create the sixteen
story Johnston Building in 1924, a landmark on the skyline for decades to
come. 139 Two years later the twenty-story First National Bank
tower (now known as One Tryon Center) arose a block north on Tryon Street,
and the ten story Wilder Building opened nearby at the same time. 140
Retailing and banking continued to expand as well. Iveys and Efirds built
large new stores on North Tryon Street in the decade and the third major
department chain, Belks, greatly enlarged its East Trade premises. New bank
buildings sprung up, from the towering First National to the delicate
three-story Greek temple built for the Industrial Loan and Investment Bank
on Church Street. The biggest news in banking was the opening of a branch of
the Federal Reserve in 1927. 141 Charlotte already had "more
banks, capital, deposits, and resources than any other city in North
Carolina.'' 142 The new facility maintained the cash reserves of
the region's banks and made cash loans to them, moved currency and coins in
and out of circulation, and provided swift inter-bank check clearing, and it
gave Charlotte a new financial edge on other cities in the area. 143
In 1928 the city boundaries expanded to encompass a total of nearly
twenty square miles, reflecting the new growth. 144 Suburbs
continued to grow but became increasingly segregated by economic class.
Developments of the 1890s-1910s had usually combined a grand boulevard of
wealthy homes with side streets for the middle class. Piedmont Park, for
instance, had fine Central Avenue and modest Jackson Avenue, and the
Olmsteds' Dilworth had both impressive Dilworth Road and homey Sarah Marks.
Even Myers Park had Dartmouth Road bungalows along with its Hermitage Road
and Queens Road mansions. The 1920s suburbs, by contrast, were all of a
piece. Only middle class people lived in Roslyn Heights off Rozells Ferry
Road, created in 1923-25. 145 Only the city's wealthiest lived in
Eastover, built off Providence Road under the direction of landscape
architect Earle Sumner Draper during the 1920s. 146
Even the style of the homes became conservative by the late 1920s.
Charlotte's early New South leaders had experimented freely with the newest
styles, Victorian variations in the 1890s, the Rectilinear, Bungaloid,
Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival styles of the 1900s through early 20s.
By the late 20s, however, the Colonial Revival was adopted as the single
acceptable architectural motif, with Tudor Revival variations being the only
alternative. While this was part of a nationwide return to historical motifs
in architecture, it seems to have been particularly rigid in Charlotte.
Endless blocks of Myers Park, Eastover, and the new streets of Dilworth were
developed in the 1920s with variations on the two-story brick Colonial box.
At the end of the decade 82,675 people lived in Charlotte, a 78 percent
increase in just ten years. 147 The city pulled ahead of
Charleston to become the largest in both Carolinas. The Piedmont textile
manufacturing region had triumphed over the old coastal agricultural export
In 1927 textile production in the South officially surpassed that in the
old New England area. 148 Charlotte was on the crest of the wave.
It was, according to the city directory:
the center of a textile manufacturing territory having 770 mills,
operating over 10,000,000 spindles, and consuming more cotton than any
other section of the world. . .the largest center in the South for textile
mill machinery and equipment, practically all the large companies in the
United States and England handling their entire business in the South
through Charlotte offices and plants. 149
Not only did suppliers have representatives in the city, but increasingly
the textile mills themselves had Charlotte offices, and many of the mill
owners lived not in the small mill towns that dot the Piedmont but in Myers
Park and Eastover. At the center of networks of railroads and now paved
highways, Charlotte continued to build a broad economic base of banking,
distribution, and wholesaling, in addition to textiles.
IV. To The Present:
The Great Depression and Beyond, 1929-1983:
The stock market crash of 1929 triggered the United States' greatest
depression. In Charlotte the rate of growth fell sharply as it did elsewhere
across the nation. But, perhaps due to the diversity of the local economy,
growth did not stop altogether as it did in many U. S. cities.
Between 1930 and 1940 the city population increased by 18,224 people,
finally topping one hundred thousand, a respectable 22 percent rise.
150 Though the number of building permits issued fell, streets of new
houses continued to spring up even in the early thirties at the depth of the
Depression. Building activity increased in the last months of the decade,
then dropped to nothing when U. S. entry into World War II (1941-45)
necessitated building restrictions. 151
It took the nation most of the rest of the 1940s to replace supplies of
building materials depleted by the War. By 1948 the country was ready to
build again and an unprecedented boom occurred. 152 The returning
G. I.s, ready en masse for homes of their own, were aided by the new
Veterans Administration mortgage program and the recently established
Federal Housing Administration loan guarantee program. 153 With
these, almost anyone could afford a house. This was a great change from the
pre-war era when the "suburban dream" had been mainly for the middle and
upper class, even with programs like Edward Dilworth Latta's
Beginning in 1948 a whole new ring of suburbs sprang up around Charlotte.
As before, these included middle class areas, like Maryland and Sterling
streets at the edge of Myers Park. Now, however, there were also blue-collar
suburbs, such as Smallwood Homes out West Trade Street. After the initial
postwar boom came a brief lull in the early fifties, then steady growth into
the 1960s. 154 Much of the built environment of present day
Charlotte dates from this postwar era.
The backbone of this new development was no longer the streetcar system,
which ceased operation in 1938. 155 Starting with Independence
Boulevard in 1946, a network of expressways and widened thoroughfares cut
through the city. 156 They sped commuters to distant new suburban
tracts and also, to the surprise of their proponents, encouraged businesses
to leave downtown for new sites in the cheap farmland at the edge of the
When the U. S. began its Interstate Highway program Charlotte became a
center in this new net also. The first local leg of east-west I-85 opened in
1958, eventually linking the city with Atlanta, Durham, and Richmond.
157 In 1965, construction began on north-south I-77 through the city,
a link to Columbia, South Carolina, Roanoke, Virginia, and the Midwest.
158 The Interstates reinforced Charlotte's position as the Piedmont's
distribution center, particularly for trucking. According to some observers,
only Chicago is home base to more tractor trailer rigs today than Charlotte.
The rise of trucking is one of three major changes in Charlotte's economy
since the 1920s. The second is the declining importance of textiles. Textile
production still dominates the region around the city, but in Charlotte
itself all of the mills that hummed sixty years ago are now silent and
cotton buyers no longer throng Brevard Court downtown.
With the decline of textile activity has come the growth of banking. It
is almost as if the descendants of the textile entrepreneurs gradually
purified their trading activities to the point that the cotton disappeared,
leaving a trade purely in money. Charlotte has become the financial center
of the Carolinas. Deposits held by banks operating in Mecklenburg exceed
that for any comparable area between Philadelphia and Dallas, and bank
offices dominate the Charlotte skyline. 160
THE GROWTH OF CHARLOTTE: A HISTORY
1 LeGette Blythe, "'Tis a Gude Place," in D. R. Reynolds, ed.,
Charlotte Remembers (Charlotte: Community Publishing Co., Inc.,
1972), p. 2.
2 Dannye Romaine, Mecklenburg: a Bicentennial Story
(Charlotte: Independence Square Associates, 1975), p. 13.
3 Ibid., p. 14.
4 Mary Norton Kratt, Charlotte: Spirit of the New South
(Tulsa, Oklahoma: Continental Heritage Press, Inc., 1980), pp. 18, 23, 24.
5 James W. Clay, ed., Atlas of Charlotte Mecklenburg,
2nd ed. (Charlotte: Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University
of North Carolina at Charlotte, 1981), p. 1.
6 LeGette Blythe and Charles R. Brockman, Hornets' Nest:
the Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (Charlotte: McNally of
Charlotte, 1961), p. 21. See also David L. Corbett, The Formation of the
North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943 (Raleigh: State Department of
Archives & History, 1950, p. 147-148.
7 Romine, pp. 14-15.
9 Chalmers G. Davidson, telephone interview with Thomas W.
Hanchett, August, 1982.
11 Romine, p. 31.
12 Dick Young, Sr., "The Presidents Come to Town," in D. R.
Reynolds, ed., Charlotte Remembers, p. 44.
13 Blythe and Brockman, pp. 31-62.
15 Kratt, pp. 32-35.
16 Blythe and Brockman, p. 103.
17 Chalmers G. Davidson, The Plantation World Around
Davidson (Davidson, N.C.: The Mecklenburg Historical Association, 1969),
18 Today, Beatties Ford Road, parallel to the river, passes
near many of these houses including Latta Place, Holly Bend, and Cedar
Grove. See Davidson, The Plantation World. . ., passim.
19 Davidson interview. A note at the end of the 1810 federal
manuscript census for Mecklenburg County indicates that in that year the
county had "103 cotton gins. . .3512 bags of cotton. Each bag about 250 wt.
. . . and all sent to market principally Charleston, South Carolina."
20 A good example of a sleepy Southern courthouse town that
never developed further is Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, the hamlet where
the Civil War ended, today preserved by the National Park Service.
21 Mary Frances Barnes, "Eureka! Gold!," in D. R. Reynolds,
ed., Charlotte Remembers, p. 71.
22 "Report to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historical Properties
Commission from the Mint Museum of Art," 1975, on file at the Properties
24 Ibid. and Barnes, p. 78.
25 Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, "1950 Census Data"
(Charlotte. Chamber of Commerce, 1950). This report conveniently includes
citywide and ward data back to 1850.
26 Blythe and Brockman, p. 260.
27 Ibid. John Gilbert and Grady Jefferys, Crossties Through
Carolina (Raleigh, N .C.: The Hellos Press, 1969), p. 6.
28 Blythe and Brockman, p. 261. Gilbert and Jefferys, p. 8.
29 Ibid. Researcher Janette Greenwood has found an 1864 appeal
to Charlotte slave owners to donate workers for track "repair." It may be
this crew that took up the rails. Western Democrat, July 5, 1864.
30 Blythe and Brockman, pp. 261-262. Gilbert and Jefferys, p.
31 Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, "1950 Census Data."
32 Janette Thomas Greenwood, "On the Home Front: Charlotte
During the Civil War" (Charlotte: History Department of the Mint Museum,
1982), p. 14.
33 Ibid., pp. 10-11.
35 Ed Smith, "Drama in April 1865," in D. R. Reynolds, ed.,
Charlotte Remembers, p. 33.
37 Charlotte Observer, February 20, 1927. 38
Clyde Osbourne, "The War: Charlotte's Role," in D. R. Reynolds, ed.,
Charlotte Remembers, p. 31. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce's "1950
Census Data" compilation puts the city's population in 1860, on the eve of
the War, at 2,265.
39 The marker at 700 North Tryon Street, placed in 1977 by the
North Carolina Division of Archives and History, reads, "Confederate Cabinet
with President Davis held last full meetings April 22-26, 1865, in a house
which was located here."
40 Blythe, p. 13.
41 Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, "1950 Census Data."
43 Beasley and Emerson's Charlotte Directory for 1875-76.
. (Charlotte?: Beasley and Emerson, publishers, Observer Job Office,
printer, 1876?), p. 139.
44 Blythe and Brockman, p. 261. Gilbert and Jefferys, p. 9.
45 Blythe and Brockman, p. 261. Gilbert and Jefferys, p. 9.
46 Beasley and Emerson's Charlotte Directory for 1875-76.
. .. pp. 131-141.
47 Ibid., p. 141.
48 Ibid., p. 140.
49 Ibid., pp. 140, 142.
50 Dictionary of American History, rev. ed., vol. 5
(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976c), p. 207.
51 Paul M. Gaston, The New South Creed: a Study in Southern
Mythmaking (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), p. 41. See also Broadus
Mitchell, The Rise of Cotton Mills in the South (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins Press, 1921), pp. 62, 146 and further Broadus Mitchell and George
Sinclair Mitchell, The Industrial Revolution in the South (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Press, 1930), p. 29;
52 Gaston, p. 21.
53 U. S. Bureau of the Census, Tenth Census: 1880, Part II,
Social Statistics of the Cities: Southern and Western States, p. 93.
54 Ibid., pp. 95, 105.
55 James W. Clay, et al., ed., North Carolina Atlas:
Portrait of a Changing Southern State (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1975), p. 54.
56 Gaston, p. 22.
57 Ibid., pp. 70-71.
58 There has been debate among scholars concerning the opening
of the New South era. Broadus Mitchell maintained that its flowering began
in 1880. C. Vann Woodward in his pathbreaking Origins of the New South,
1877-1913 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951) defended
the dates set forth in the book's title. Dwight Billings, Jr., in
Planters and the Makings of a "New South:" Class, Politics and Development
in North Carolina 1865-1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1979) looked to the close of the Civil War. Gaston systematically
traced the term to its first use in 1862, then showed how the movement grew
to full strength in the 1870s and 1880s.
59 Charlotte Observer, "Carolinas Industrial Edition,"
March 2, 1928. Gaston, p. 38. Mitchell, pp. 113, 146, 157.
60 Most scholars have noted the difference between the early
New South leadership and subsequent generations. Mitchell wrote, "when the
student of Southern industry meets one of the few surviving members of this
company, he at once feels himself in touch with the spirit that was the
South's salvation." A successor to this first generation, "exalting in what
has been called 'juvenile capitalism,' had little of the affection of the
old man for the enterprise." pp. 104-105. The change is a central point of
Gaston's book" "At the opening of the new century several fundamental
patterns had been established. . .(and) the New South movement itself was
simultaneously ended." p. 221.
61 W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South (New York: Vintage
Books, 1969), p. 224. The book was originally published in 1941.
62 Dan L. Morrill, "A Survey of Cotton Mills in Charlotte,
North Carolina. . ." (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties
Commission, 1979), p. 2.
64 Charlotte Daily Observer, May 27, 1880, quoted in
Morrill, "A Survey of Cotton Mills. . .," p. 2.
65 Kratt, pp. 75-77. (Morrill says 1883, see note 64).
66 Dan L. Morrill, "Atherton Mill House: Survey and Research
Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission,
68 Charlotte Observer, May 17, 1981.
69.Quoted in Ibid.
70 Gaston lists Tompkins, Grady, Manufacturers Record founder
R. H. Edmonds, Raleigh newspaper editor Walter Hines Page, and Louisville
newspaper editor Henry Watterson as "the principal spokesmen for the
emerging New South movement." pp. 48-52. See also Mitchell and Mitchell. pp.
9, 78-80; Mitchell, pp. 109-110, 117, and passim; Billings, pp. 124-125.
71 Morrill, "A Survey of Cotton Mills. . .," p. 2.
72 Morrill, "Atherton Mill House. . ". 73. 74.
73 Quoted in Charlotte Observer, May 17, 1981.
74 Morrill, "Atherton Mill House.
75 Hirst's Directory of Charlotte. . . (Charlotte:
Hirst Printing and Publishing House, 1889), pp. 41-61.
76 Morrill, "A Survey of Cotton Mills. . .," p. 3.
77 Morrill, "Edward Dilworth Latta. . ." manuscript, p. 3.
78 Dan L. Morrill and Nancy B. Thomas, "Dilworth" in The New
South Neighborhoods brochure series (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg
Historic Properties Commission, 1981). Kratt, p. 87. Morrill, "Edward
Dilworth Latta. . ." manuscript, p. 11.
79 Kratt, p. 78.
80 Morrill, "Edward Dilworth Latta. . ." manuscript, p. 3.
81 Dan L. Morrill and Ruth Little-Stokes, "Architectural
Analysis: Dilworth: Charlotte's Initial Streetcar Suburb" (Charlotte:
Dilworth Community Association, 1978), section 2, page 2.
82 Ibid., section 2, p. 1.
83 Morrill, "Edward Dilworth Latta. . ." manuscript p. 3.
84 Ibid., pp. 10, 12.
85 Ibid., p. 13.
86 United States Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census: 1940,
vol. 1, pp. 772, 976.
87 Woodward, p. 265. "There was also a depression in the
South, and the indications are that it lasted longer and was more heavily
felt, in some respects, than in other parts of the country."
88 Morrill, "A Survey of Cotton Mills. . .".
90 D. R. Reynolds, "Business, Finance and Industry" in D. R.
Reynolds, ed., Charlotte Remembers, p. 159.
92 Blythe and Brockman, p. 275.
93 Ibid. Dan L. Morrill, interview with Thomas W. Hanchett,
94 Blythe and Brockman, pp. 276-277.
95 Reynolds, "Business, Finance and Industry," p. 151.
96 Ibid., pp. 151-152.
97 Ibid., p. 153.
100 Joe Maynor, Duke Power, The First Seventy-Five Years
(Charlotte?: Duke Power Co., 1979?), p. 14.
101 Ibid, p. 32. Kratt, p. 68.
102 Thomas T. Fetters and Peter Swanson, Jr., Piedmont and
Northern, the Great Electric System of the South (San Marino,
California: Golden West Books, 1974), p. 15 and passim. William H. Huffman,
"Piedmont and Northern Railway Station: Survey and Research Report"
(Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1982).
103. Fetters and Swanson, Jr., pp. 127-142-145.
104 Blythe and Brockman, p. 263. Gilbert and Jefferys, p. 9.
105 United States Bureau of the Census, Nineteenth Census:
1970, vol. 1, part 35, table 7.
106 Dan L. Morrill, "The Independence Building: Survey and
Research Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties
107 Butler and Spratt, "Map of Charlotte Township, Mecklenburg
County, North Carolina, From Recent Surveys. . .1892." Copies are in the
collections of the History Department of the Mint Museum, Charlotte, and the
City of Charlotte Historic Districts Commission.
108 John Nolen, "Civic Survey, Charlotte, North Carolina:
Report to the Chamber of Commerce" (Cambridge, Massachusetts: typescript,
1917), oversized handcolored map. The only known surviving copy of this
survey, a treasure trove of data on the city, is in John Nolen's papers at
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
109 "City of Charlotte, North Carolina: Indicating Years in
which Corporate Limits Extended, Area and Population," Charlotte map 3, in
the map case at the Carolina Room of the Public Library.
110 Dan L. Morrill, "Charlotte City Hall: Survey and Research
Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission,
1980). Morrill, "The Independence Building. . .".
111 Dan L. Morrill, "North Carolina Medical College: Survey
and Research Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties
Commission, 1979). Dan L. Morrill, "Court Arcade: Survey and Research
Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission,
1980. Charlotte Observer, February 21, 1925. Charlotte Observer,
September 25, 1930. Dan L. Morrill, "Charles Moody House: Survey and
Research Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties
Commission, 1981). William H. Huffman, "Jake Newell House: Survey and
Research Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties
112 Dan L. Morrill and Nancy B. Thomas, "Elizabeth" in The New
South Neighborhoods brochure series (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg
Historic Properties Commission, 1981). F. C. Abbott, Fifty Years in
Charlotte Real Estate, 1897-1947 (Charlotte: privately published,
1947?), pp. 17-18.
113 Abbott, pp. 9, 18, 26.
114 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office, map book 101,
115 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office, map book 230,
p. 228. C. H. Watson, ed., Colored Charlotte: Published in Connection
with the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Freedom of the Negro. . .
(Charlotte: A.M.E. Zion Job Print, 1915), pp. 6, 22, 27, 30.
116 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office, map book 230,
p. 258. Watson, pp. 6-7.
117 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office, map book 224,
p. 100; map book 230, pp. 9, 230; map book 332, p. 189; map book 3, p. 47;
map book 722, p. 570; map book 165, p. 663.
118 Abbott, p. 25. Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds
Office, map book 230, pp. 20, 24, 143, 222; map book 218, p. 419.
119 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office, map book 230,
120 Abbott, pp. 25, 27.
121 Abbott, p. 18. Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds
Office, map book 230, pp. 162-63, 206-207, 306-307.
122 Dan L. Morrill and Nancy B. Thomas, "Myers Park" in the
New South Neighborhoods brochure series (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg
Historic Properties Commission, 1981). For more on the creation of Myers
Park see the section of the present report on that neighborhood.
123 Olmsted Brothers, job 5109 "Dilworth": sheet 7 and
revisions. Drawings are on file at the Olmsted National Historic Site,
Brookline, Massachusetts. For more on the creation of the neighborhood, see
the Dilworth section of the present paper.
124 Charlotte Observer, June 27, 1982.
125 United States Bureau of the Census, Nineteenth Census:
1970, vol. 1, part 35, table 7, and vol. l, part 42, table 7.
126 "City of Charlotte."
127 Morrill and Little-Stokes, section 2, p. 12. Charlotte
Observer, July 2, 1922; Hey 17, 1981.
128 "Facts: Charlotte, North Carolina" (Charlotte: Charlotte
Chamber of Commerce, 1920c). In John Nolen collection, Cornell University
Archives, box 23, folder 2.
129 Charlotte Observer, February 28, 1950.
130 "Know Charlotte, Queen City of the South" (Charlotte:
Chamber of Commerce, 1929). Pamphlet in the collection of Lindsay Wiggins of
131 Kratt, p. 101.
132 Ibid. and Blythe and Brockman, p. 301.
133 Blythe and Brockman, p. 386. Radio proved a deciding
factor in the emergence of Nashville as the major Southern recording center
by the 1940s. Its station WSM had a clear channel signal that beamed the
Grand Old Opry live country music show across much of the United States. Top
stars tended to gravitate there.
134 Brian Rust, The Victor Master Book, vol. 2.
(Stanhope, New Jersey: Walter C. Allen, 1970), pp. 146-148, 406-408, 571,
583-585, 599-604. John Rumble, Oral Historian for the Country Music
Foundation, Nashville, letter to Thomas W. Hanchett, June 15, 1982.
Charlotte Observer, July 18, 1982. The Delmore Brothers whose music
lives on in the playing of Doc Watson today, the Blue Sky Boys who authored
the country standard "Are You From Dixie?", and the Morris Brothers who
popularized the song "Salty Dog" are among the dozens of other entertainers
who recorded at the Charlotte studios. There is evidence that Decca and
other companies may have used the facilities as well.
135 Ibid. Jim Ringer, Bossmen: Bill Monroe and Muddy Waters
(New York: Dial Press, 1971), pp. 29-32. Monroe recorded in Charlotte with
his brother Charlie. Many of the songs from these sessions are still in
print on the RCA album "Feast Here Tonight." As the last sessions were being
recorded, Bill decided to break with his brother and create a new, larger
band with fiddle, banjo, and bass in addition to guitar and mandolin. The
first edition of the "Bluegrass Boys" recorded in Atlanta two years later
and their early sound owed much to the previous Monroe Brothers recordings.
136 The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
(London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980), p. 812, defines bluegrass music
as "a style of American country music that grew in the 1940s from the music
of Bill Monroe and his group, the Blue Grass Boys."
137 Dan L. Morrill, "Morrocroft: Survey and Research Report"
(Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1979).
138 Edward S. Perzel, "Hotel Charlotte: National Register of
Historic Places Nomination Form," 1975. On file at the North Carolina
Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.
139 Charlotte Observer, January 20, 1924. Charlotte
Observer, May 6, 1978.
140 City directories, 1920-1930.
141 "The Charlotte Branch, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond:
Fiftieth Anniversary, 1927-77," pamphlet in the files of the Carolina Room
of the Charlotte Public Library.
143 Charlotte Observer, "Carolinas Industrial Edition,"
March 2, 1928. Business: North Carolina, 3:7 (July 1983), pp. 35-38.
144 "City of Charlotte, North Carolina: Indicating Years in
which Corporate Limits Extended, Area and Population," Charlotte map 3, in
the map case of the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Public Library.
145 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office, map book 3,
146 Ibid., p. 317.
147 United States Bureau of the Census, Nineteenth Census:
1970, vol. 1, part 35, table 7.
148 Mitchell and Mitchell, p. 3. In 1927 the South had 62% of
the mills in the United States, and the value of North Carolina's product
surpassed the former U. S. leader, Massachusetts.
149 "Miller's Official Charlotte, N.C., City Directory"
(Asheville: The Miller Press, 1929), p. 8.
151 City of Charlotte, "Growing Bigger" (Charlotte: City of
Charlotte, 1953), p. 11.
152 Ibid. United States Bureau of the Census, Historical
Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington,
D.C.: U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1975), series N 111-117, N 156-169.
153 Henry J. Aaron, Shelter and Subsidies: Who Benefits
from Federal Housing Policies? (Washington, D. C.: The Brookings
Institution, 1972), pp. 77-80. See also Sam Bass Warner, Jr., Streetcar
Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900 (Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University and the M.I.T. Press, 1962), pp. 117-124.
According to Eric Clark at Charlotte's First Union bank, another important
factor was development of the logarithmic mortgage formula that allowed
continuous equal payments. Previously house loans had consisted of a series
of separate "notes", each for a lump sum due at intervals of several months.
The new formula was created by Fischer at the University of Chicago in the
early 1930s, according to Clark.
154 City of Charlotte, "Growing Bigger." United States Bureau
of the Census, Historical Statistics. . ., series N111-117, N156-169.
155 Dan L. Morrill, "Myers Park Streetcar Waiting Stations:
Survey and Research Report" (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic
Properties Commission, 1980).
156 Dan L. Morrill, "The Road that Split Charlotte,"
Charlotte Observer, May 2, 1982, "Parade" section, pp. 12, 15, 19.
157 Charlotte News, undated 1980s clipping in the
"Charlotte Roads and Highways" vertical file in the Carolina Room of the
Charlotte Public Library.
159 Roy Covington, "Truck Stop," Charlotte Magazine,
July-August, 1969, p. 18. See also Charlotte Observer, 1975 article
in the "Charlotte Trucking" vertical file in the Carolina Room of the
Charlotte Public Library.
160 Greater Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, "Research Report:
the Charlotte Economy" (Charlotte, Greater Charlotte Chamber of Commerce,