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The New South Neighborhoods: Fourth Ward

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by Dr. Dan L. Morrill and Nancy B. Thomas

"Our message is getting out. People from neighborhoods have been here and found out you can live comfortably in downtown Charlotte." -- Robin Cochran

Fourth Ward is nothing less than a miracle. When it was created in the mid-1800's, Fourth Ward was a political unit, not a neighborhood. As New South Charlotte began to blossom in the late 1800's, however, this district in the northwest quadrant of the old city began to fill up. Many of the newcomers were Yankees, like John Newcomb, who came to Charlotte in 1879 and built the Berryhill House at the corner of Ninth and Pine in 1884. Another sojourner from the North who decided to settle here was Vinton Liddell. A manufacturer of textile machinery, he sold his Fourth Ward home to S.S. McNinch, Mayor of Charlotte, in 1907. The Liddell-McNinch House still stands in all its Victorian splendor at 511 N. Church St. Built in the early 1890's, this Queen Anne and Shingle style home is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


The Berryhill House

Fourth Ward is the only pre-streetcar and pre-automobile neighborhood that retains several of its original structures. That's why the old houses are long and narrow. That's why residences, factories, stores and churches are jammed in together. When Fourth Ward began to take shape, walking, not riding, was the way you got around. No expressways or stop lights in those days. First Presbyterian Church was built in the 1850's to serve a walk-in congregation. The same was true for St. Peter's Episcopal Church, erected in the 1890's.

A visitor to Fourth Ward in the 1890's would have seen front yards filled with flowers and surrounded by ornate metal fences to assure privacy. He would have heard the hum of the Charlotte Cotton Mill, Charlotte's first, at the corner of Fifth and Graham. He would have witnessed the comings and goings at the Berryhill Store. Earnest Wiley Berryhill, John Newcomb's son-in-law, bought the store building in 1907 and operated it until his death in 1931. It was the commercial, social and political centerpiece of the community. The citizens of Fourth Ward went there to spin their yarns, to buy their groceries and to vote for their representative on the Charlotte Board of Aldermmen. Yes, Charlotte had district representation at the turn of the century.


The Crowell-Berryhill Store

The first three decades of the twentieth century were kind to Fourth Ward. St. Peter's Hospital, the oldest in Charlotte, was expanded in 1907 and 1922. The North Carolina Medical College dedicated its building at Poplar and Sixth in October 1907, making Fourth Ward the medical center of the community. The Poplar Apartments, an elegant edifice built in 1929 by the J.A. Jones Construction Company, graced the northern end of the neighborhood. But the Depression and its aftermath wrought havoc in the once-proud region. During the 1950's and 1960's, when cheap gasoline held sway, everyone tried to move to the suburbs where they could experience the joys and agonies of a large lawn. Of course, Fourth Ward lost its spit and polish. But has that ever changed. Beginning in the mid-1970's, a group of dedicated individuals and institutions began making Fourth Ward a crowning jewel of the center city again. Fourth Ward is back. It's nothing less than a miracle.