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The New South Neighborhoods: Dilworth

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

"Thin people grow fat at Dilworth. The fresh air and general surroundings are so healthy they can't help it." -- Edward Dilworth Latta

On May 18, 1891, a "great and jolly crowd" gathered along S. Tryon St. to witness an exciting and extraordinary event. Reporters from as far away as Wilmington mingled among the boisterous and expectant spectators. Even the horses "pricked up their ears" as the wires above the middle of the street drew taut. Then it happened. With sparks flying and wheels grinding, Charlotte's first trolley rumbled from the Square and headed for Dilworth. Charlotte would never be the same again. The rush toward the suburbs was on.

The man responsible for all this clatter and commotion was Edward Dilworth Latta, a native of Pendleton, SC, and graduate of Princeton University who had come to Charlotte in 1876 to open a men's clothing store. In July 1890, Latta established the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company or Four C's, which bought about 250 acres of farm land southeast of the City and created Dilworth, Charlotte's initial streetcar suburb. In keeping with his commitment to excellence, Latta hired the Edison Electric Company to install the trolley system that made Dilworth possible.

The final stop on the trolley line to Dilworth was Latta Park. Between 1891 and 1909, this 90-acre amusement complex was the festive centerpiece of the entire community. Professional baseball teams, replete with baggy pants, knee-high socks and sprightly cloth caps, entertained their faithful fans who came to Latta Park. The University of North Carolina and Davidson College played football games there. Men with high hats and ladies with parasols paraded around the pavilion, attended plays at the theater next door or strolled along the paths that meandered by the lake and the lily pad pond. Even Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show visited Latta Park. It was really something.

Over the years, Dilworth acquired an impressive array of structures, both residential and industrial. In April 1893, the Atherton Cotton Mill started up its spindles The owner of this factory was D.A. Tompkins, the legendary New South industrialist and founder of the Charlotte Observer. Most people don't know that Dilworth contained a mill village. Remnants of it survive on Euclid Ave. just below Tremont. At the other end of the spectrum in the suburb were such imposing mansions as the Villalonga-Alexander House (1901) on Park Ave. and the Edward Dilworth Latta House (1902) on East Blvd. where the Greek Orthodox Cathedral now stands.

Atherton Cotton Mill

Dilworth grew so rapidly that it became part of Charlotte in 1907. By the way, it was Eighth Ward. In 1911, the Four C's hired the Olmsted Bros., the most prestigious landscape architects in the country, to design a curvilinear street system for the eastern end of the Dilworth. One can see the results of their expertise by driving along Dilworth Rd. East and Dilworth Rd. West. The Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company sold its last lots in 1945 and went out of business. But Dilworth endures.

For more information...

Neighborhood Guide: Dilworth - Part I
Neighborhood Guide: Dilworth - Part II