THE CHERRY NEIGHBORHOOD
by Dr. Thomas W. Hanchett
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The Cherry neighborhood is among the oldest surviving black
residential areas of Charlotte, North Carolina. 1
According to local tradition, it was built as a servants' community
for the adjoining streetcar suburb of Myers Park, which began to develop in 1912.
2 Cherry is much older than that, however. It was
platted in 1891 by wealthy landowners John and Mary Myers.
3 Though Cherry has changed as the city has grown up
around it and its administration has passed through successive
generations of the Myers family, its early history appears to be
unusual among Charlotte's black neighborhoods. During John and Mary
Myers' lifetime, Cherry provided black unskilled and semi-skilled
laborers with rental housing, opportunities for homeownership, and
a number of urban amenities including a city park, school,
churches, and tree-lined streets.
The land on which Cherry was developed was part of a thousand
acre cotton farm that John Springs Myers had assembled since the
1870s along Providence Road outside the bustling cotton town of
Charlotte. 4 Myers' country cottage was on Providence
Road at a high point near where Ardsley Road crosses Hermitage Road
today. 5 A farm lane wound its way out from town through
the family's cotton fields to the back of the house. The lane
started from East Trade Street near McDowell Street, crossed Sugar
Creek, then threaded its way through a secluded hollow and up the
hill past a row of old, whitewashed slave cabins left by the land's
pre-Civil War owner. 6
In 1891 Myers filed a plat map at the county Register of Deeds
Office to lay out house lots in the hollow near the farm road.
7 The map indicated two streets off the curving lane,
which was to eventually become Main Street in Cherry. Angling off
it to the east was a more-or-less straight street which is now
Luther Street (originally Davidson Street). Most of the new house
lots were along this street, which in its earliest years ran all
the way up to Providence Road, coming out near Dartmouth Place.
From the intersection of Main and Luther streets, a short straight
street ran north to what is now Fourth Street. This last street was
Cherry Avenue or Cherry Street and may have been in existence as
early as 1886. 8
The name of both the street and the neighborhood was evidently
inspired by the cherry trees that grew on the hillsides of the
hollow. Eighty-seven year old Laura Foster Kirkpatrick remembers
that they were "not wild cherries. Real cherries. They made the
best pies." 9 Not everyone referred to the area as
Cherry (or Cherryton or Cherrytown). The city directory listed the
settlement as Myers Quarter well into the 1910s, despite the fact
that deed records indicate that the Myers themselves never called
it by that name. 10
When they were laid out in 1891, the early streets of Cherry
were beyond Charlotte's city limits, though probably no more than a
twenty-minute walk to the center of town. The nearest section of
the city was the predominantly black Second Ward, also known as
Brooklyn, half a mile away across Sugar Creek. The white streetcar
suburb of Elizabeth, to the north of
Cherry, was also platted in the 1890s but did not see much house
building until after streetcar tracks were laid up Elizabeth Avenue
in 1903. 11 It was fully twenty years before work would
begin on the transformation of the remainder of the Myers' cotton
farm into the Myers Park neighborhood. For most of its first two
decades, Cherry was a village distinct from Charlotte, following
the earlier pattern of such black settlements as Biddleville and Greenville elsewhere around
The Myers family had a reputation in Charlotte by the 1890s of
being concerned with the welfare of area blacks. John Myers'
father, W.R. Myers, had donated the land for the nucleus of what is
now Johnson C. Smith University and had been one of the most
prominent white Charlotteans to be involved in the Republican
Party, an organization known for its emphasis on black
participation. 12 Both W.R. and John Myers were
vestrymen of long standing at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.
13 That organization took the lead in Charlotte after
the Civil War in ministering to blacks, including construction of
St. Michael and All Angels Church, St. Michael's Training School,
and Good Samaritan Hospital,
which is believed to be the first privately-funded hospital
exclusively for blacks in North Carolina. 14
Only two direct clues have come to light concerning John Myers'
motives in establishing Cherry. One was planner Earle Sumner
Draper's recollection in a 1971 interview that Cherry was a
"so-called model Negro housing development" when Draper arrived in
Charlotte in 1915. 15 The second indication of Myers'
motives, and the only contemporary reference to Cherry yet
discovered, is to be found in a laudatory biographical newspaper
article published in the mid 1920s near the end of his life. After
discussing Myers' creation of Myers Park, the writer noted that
a rather expansive area near the creek premises which
Mr. Myers had already undertook to develop for the negro race,
giving them such modern conveniences as would make for their
contentment and comfort, laying out streets, helping them build
schools and churches and assisting also, by a financial
arrangement, in the building of homes for themselves.
Later in the article the author expanded on the point:
Mr. Myers is held in special regard and reverence by
hundreds of negroes for his aids to them. The settlement known as
Cherrytown, just east of Town Creek [an early name for Sugar
Creek], and numbering thousands of negro inhabitants, is the
product of his thought and helpfulness. He laid aside a spacious
area of his estate for the sole purpose of giving the negroes of
Charlotte a residential section with such improvements as would
make them better citizens, and sold them lots on easy terms so that
they would be encouraged into owning their own homes. As a result
of this assistance, hundreds of families out there own their own
premises and are thrifty, industrious, well-behaved and
constructive forces in their race. 16
The claim of "hundreds" of Cherry homeowners may be exaggerated,
but the Myers family did indeed offer a goodly number of house lots
for sale to blacks, as well as providing rental housing. One of the
earliest listings of Cherry residents may be found in the "colored
department" of the 1898 Charlotte city directory. It shows some
thirty heads of household in Cherry, a number which corresponds to
that indicated in the 1900 federal census. 17 By 1900,
deed records indicate that six Cherry lots had been sold to five
different black buyers, putting home ownership somewhere around
twenty percent. 18 For 1905, a different sort of
measurement is possible, because the United States Geological
Survey map drawn that year allows a rough count of actual houses in
place. 19 The map shows some fifty structures, compared
with thirteen property transfers through early 1905, putting the
percentage of owner-occupied dwellings as high as twenty-six
The pace of lot sales picked up in the mid 1900s and continued
at a high level into the mid 1920s, when John and Mary Myers turned
over control of Cherry to their children. 20 The family
sold some thirty-five lots between 1900 and 1909, and over 125 in
the decade 1910-1919. 21 Most lots cost forty or fifty
dollars, but could go as high as $100. This was no small sum, but
it was well below the $300 to $600 being charged in the early 1910s
in the middle-class black streetcar suburb of Washington Heights across town. 22 By
the beginning of 1925, grantor records show that some 198 lots in
Cherry had been sold to individual blacks. 23 By
comparison, a count of residents listed on Cherry streets in the
city directory that year produces a total of 305 heads of
household, all black, meaning that as many as sixty-five percent of
the residents could have been homeowners. 24
Information on Cherry residents is sketchy, but from city
directory, census, and chain-of-title records, it is possible to
create a picture of the early inhabitants of the Myers'
development. In its first two decades, almost all Cherry citizens
were unskilled or semi-skilled urban laborers. There were virtually
no household servants, despite the area's present-day reputation as
having been developed as a servants' quarter. There were also
virtually no representatives of the black middle class --
ministers, teachers, store owners, doctors, lawyers -- that was
much in evidence in other Charlotte black neighborhoods in the
period, including Brooklyn, First Ward, and Biddleville. This
absence is particularly noticeable among Cherry homeowners. The
Myers appear to have created in Cherry a place where urban laborers
could own their own modest dwellings, rather than being forced to
rent in the crowded back alleys of center city neighborhoods.
Among the thirty Cherry heads of household gleaned from the 1898
city directory, one listed his occupation as drayman, and four were
"farmers," but the remainder said they were laborers. The 1900
census provides a similar picture. At least a dozen of the blacks
in the Cherry area had distinctly urban occupations, particularly
cotton oil mill worker, drayman, and laundress. There were a like
number of "day laborers," an occupation distinct from "farm
laborer" in the census records. 26
Information on lot buyers in Cherry indicates that most were
laborers. either working for one particular concern, or hiring
themselves out on a day-by-day basis. 27 Such was James
Crawford (who purchased 624 Cherry Street in 1911), listed
variously as a general laborer, a porter with J.I. Blakely, and
finally a laborer at the Southern Cotton Oil in the years before he
bought his property. So too were Matt Ross (1615 Luther Street,
1899), listed as a general laborer and a laborer for the Southern
Railway; Edward Holmes (1805 and 1809 Luther Street, 1904),
consistently listed as a general laborer; and John P. Alexander,
Jr. (1926 Luther Street, 1909), also a laborer.
A handful of others worked as their own bosses in semi-skilled
occupations. The small number of single women listed as heads of
households worked as laundresses, including Mary McHenry (1505 and
1509 Luther Street, 1893, demolished), Annie Griffin (1816 Luther
Street, 1905), and Lizzie Harris (1922 Luther Street, 1909).
Richard Torrence (1701 Luther Street, 1900), and Andrew Byers (1812
Luther Street, 1904) listed their occupation as drayman, meaning
they had a cart and a horse, mule, or ox and made deliveries around
After Myers Park opened in the 1910s, maid and gardener would
become commonplace occupations in Cherry, but in the neighborhood's
first two decades, only one household servant has been identified
among lot buyers. He was Jones Ross, who purchased a piece of
property on Luther Street with his wife Janie in 1901. Ross worked
as butler to the family of Hamilton C. Jones, who had a large house
on East Trade Street near Caldwell Street and was a relative by
marriage of John Springs Myers. Though Ross made his purchase in
1901, he evidently did not build until 1907, for the city directory
lists him as living elsewhere.
Among the preponderance of unskilled and semi-skilled homeowners
in Cherry were a small number of heads of household who held
skilled positions. Andrew Wallace worked as a laborer before he and
his wife Dorrina bought their lot at 1704 Luther Street in 1909,
but afterwards was listed as a blacksmith. John Lewis ran a
shoe-making and cleaning shop in the heart of the black Brooklyn
neighborhood for some twenty years before he and his wife Carrie
purchased property at 628 Cherry Street in 1918. Perhaps the most
highly skilled craftsman was Robert S. Jackson. City directories
indicate that he was accomplished at cabinetmaking, furniture
construction and upholstery, and that he passed his skills to black
youths as an instructor at St. Michaels Training School. He lived
in Cherry for many years, evidently as a renter, before buying
property on Baxter Street near the corner of Cherry Street in 1906.
The earliest dwellings in Cherry today are found along Luther,
Cherry, and Baxter Streets and date from the first decade of the
twentieth century. The earliest single-family housetype is one
found often on tenant farms and in mill villages throughout the
Carolinas in the late nineteenth century. The main part of the
house is a one-story, gable-roofed block that is two rooms wide and
one room deep. 29 To the rear are one or more wings that
add extra space to the basic two-room plan. Numbers 1515 Luther
Street, 1816 Luther Street, and 1820 Luther Street, evidently
erected between 1900 and 1910, all follow this plan, as do numbers
1800 and 1804 Baxter Street. These dwellings were all
owner-occupied by 1910, though similarities between 1816 and 1820
Luther indicate that they may have been built at the same time for
rental and later sold to tenants. 30 Each house has a
broad front porch.
Harder to date, but likely of the same era, are a series of
identical rental duplexes scattered throughout the neighborhood,
all of which remained in the Myers family until recent years. Each
duplex is square in plan and is topped by a high hip roof with
shallow eaves. Each apartment within has two rooms. The floor plan
is laid out so that the four fireplaces -- one for each room -- are
back-to-back at the center of the structure and feed into a single
central chimney. The arrangement appears to be extremely efficient
in giving heat, providing sound insulation between units, and
minimizing construction expense. According to black architectural
historian Richard K. Dozier of Tuskegee, Alabama, this housetype is
uncommon in early-twentieth century black neighborhoods in the
South. 31 Recent demolition has claimed several examples
along Luther Street, but two survive in good condition at 404-406
Cherry Street and 412-414 Cherry Street.
Along with the simple gable-roofed single-family cottages and
hip-roofed duplexes, a few other houses appear to date from before
World War I. These include 708 Waco Street, the last remaining
shotgun type house in the neighborhood. This distinctive housetype
with its long, narrow arrangement of rooms was common in Southern
black neighborhoods into the 1910s, and scholars have recently
traced its roots to African architecture. 32 In a more
Victorian mode are 1700 and 1701 Baxter Street. Both use high hip
roofs with a profusion of smaller gables to achieve the sort of
complex roofscape beloved by Victorian builders. Also with
Victorian touches is 1915 Baxter Street, a substantial edition of
the gable-roofed cottage found elsewhere in the neighborhood but
here enlivened by an ornate porch with turned balusters and
scroll-sawn "gingerbread" trim around the attic vent in the front
After World War I, the pace of building apparently picked up in
Cherry. Numerous dwellings survive today that show influence of the
Bungalow style popular in middle- and upper-income white
neighborhoods of the 1920s. Cherry cottages of this era have low
gable or hip roofs with rafters left exposed in the eaves. Often
gable ends are extended and supported by brackets. Siding is either
weatherboard or horizontal tongue-and-groove "novelty" siding.
33 Duplexes with these characteristics include: 1616,
1618, 1704, 1900, 1904, and 1906 Luther Street; and 1902-1904,
1906-1908, and 1910-1912 Baxter Street. Among the single-family
examples are: 1400, 1433, 1509, and 1912 Luther Street; 1819, 1823,
and 1829 Main Street; 417, 501, and 624 Cherry Street; and 1801,
1805, 1819, 1900, 1901, and 1907 Baxter Street. All continued the
tradition of front porches seen elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Also in the 1920s, the Myers family began experimenting with
other building materials in addition to wooden weatherboard siding.
Among the earliest structures to use brick is the pair of dwellings
at 1717 and 1735 Baxter Street. Each has a jerkin-head gable roof
with brackets and wooden novelty siding in the gables. The brick
walls are laid in a variation on the common bonding pattern with
one course of alternating headers and stretchers followed by seven
stretcher courses. The durability, natural insulating qualities,
and freedom from repainting made brick a natural material for
A contemporaneous grouping of four brick structures on Cherry
Street has notably unorthodox brickwork. Rawlinson Myers owned an
interest in a brickworks in Monroe, North Carolina and these houses
are said to have been built as experiments in the material.
34 Numbers 500, 502, 504, and 506 feature oversize
bricks with unusual, rough, reddish-orange finish similar to terra
cotta. They are laid in Flemish bond, alternating stretchers and
headers in each course, an unusual practice in Charlotte in the
period. Three of the structures are single-family bungalows while
the fourth is a two-story quadraplex. Adjacent to the brick
bungalows are a pair of concrete block bungalows that share the
same plan and window arrangement as the brick dwellings. It is
likely that these structures at 508 and 510 are part of the same
Myers family experiment with new building materials; all of the
houses in the 500 block of Cherry Street have been renter-occupied
since their construction.
By working-class standards of the day, the Cherry houses of the
1900s were desirable living quarters, on the level of what might be
found in an average white mill village. 35 Each unit had
enough land for its own kitchen-garden, something seldom found in
the crowded alleys of Second Ward. The design of the hip-roofed and
later Bungalow-style duplexes likely made them easier to heat than
the standard urban shotgun with its strung-out room arrangement.
But by contemporary white middle-class standards, the Cherry houses
were less than ideal. All had outdoor privies. Few had more than
two to four small rooms, and lots were smaller than found in better
white middle-class suburbs. Few had enclosed foundations, but
rather perched atop brick stilts, and all were heated by fireplace
rather than furnace.
Along with providing rental housing and lots for sale to blacks,
John and Mary Myers ensured that Cherry would have such amenities
as churches, a school, and even tree-lined streets and a
neighborhood park. Before more than a dozen residents had arrived,
the Myers were able to sell two lots for church sites. The family's
third property transfer of any kind in their new development was to
the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Association on November 2, 1892.
The site was on Luther Street near its outlet onto Providence Road.
Blacks had worshipped under a brush arbor on the spot since at
least the 1870s. 36 Since the 1890s, Pleasant Hill
Church has moved twice and now occupies a large modernistic 1959
structure by architects Wilbur, Kendrick, and Workman at Baldwin
and Baxter streets in the heart of the neighborhood.
In 1896 a second denomination purchased a Cherry site. The
Lutheran Church's Missionary Board of the Evangelical Lutheran
Synodical Conference of North America for Mission Among Heathens
and Negroes paid fifty dollars for a large lot near the center of
the fledgling neighborhood. The street the property overlooked,
originally Davidson Street, became Luther Street (or Lutheran
Street in some city directories). It is something of a mystery how
the Lutherans became involved in Cherry, considering the Myers'
Episcopalian background and the exceedingly small Lutheran presence
in Charlotte as a whole. The Missionary Board soon erected a New
England picture-book chapel of white
weatherboard, complete with a Gothic-influenced steeple. It remains
a neighborhood landmark today, known as the Mount Zion Church of
God Holiness after the Lutherans' departure in 1946.
The former Lutheran Church
The third major Cherry church site dates from near the end of
John and Mary Myers' direct involvement in the community and was a
donation by the family. In 1919 the couple deeded a large parcel on
Cherry Street near the corner of Baxter Street to the trustees of
the Myers Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church with the condition that:
It is to be used for a new church which shall be
completed within ten years from this date otherwise this lot shall
revert to the legal heirs of John S. and Mary Myers ... and if said
lot shall ever cease to be used for church purposes it shall
The congregation was one that had grown out of the new
community, organized in 1901 and worshipping in a wooden chapel for
several years. 39 In 1919 its trustees included Kelly O.
Alexander and Stephen Alexander, two Cherry landowners, as well as
Major White, Albert Shropshire, Daek Peron, Rawson Hall, and D.D.
Watkins. The final trustee was George Wiley Clinton, a First Ward
resident who was one of the city's most prestigious black citizens.
Charlotte was known in the period as a national center for the
African Methodist Episcopal Zion religion, second only to its New
York City headquarters. Clinton, former director of the prolific
A.M.E. Zion publishing facility in Charlotte, was a long-time
bishop of the denomination. His participation in the Myers Chapel
building project was one of his last acts before his death in 1921.
Today Myers Chapel is a commanding presence in the Cherry
neighborhood. Its facade features a gabled central block flanked by
two towers, one flat-topped, the other surmounted by a crenelated
parapet. The structure's stucco finish and chunky buttresses give
it a Spanish-flavored solidity and massiveness that contrasts
strongly with the surrounding sea of small cottages. The
congregation evidently had no trouble meeting the Myers' ten-year
deadline; the cornerstone reads:
MYERS CHAPEL A.M.E. ZION CHURCH
By Rev. B.B. Moore
At about the same time, the Myers family provided land for a
school near the center of the neighborhood. According to a 1950
story in the Charlotte Observer:
Like his father, John Myers was interested in improving
the education facilities and methods of the state, particularly
those in Charlotte. He deeded to the city a valuable tract of land
in the Cherrytown district for a graded school, later giving
another tract nearby for a park and playground.
In 1925 the school lot became the site of the Morgan School,
named after a member of the Myers family. 42 The red
brick, two-story building was one of half a dozen schools erected
throughout the city in 1925 and 1926. 43 According to
school superintendent Harry P. Harding:
Morgan School in
Cherrytown on a lot 180' x 120' ... the building cost $36,309.00.
There were ten class rooms, Principal's office and Nurse's office
.... Dr. Strayer and Dr. Englehardt of Columbia University ... were
consulting Architects in the planning of these buildings.
Throughout its history, Morgan was one of the city's smallest
elementary schools. 45 It finally closed in 1968, and
the building is now used for a city program to aid pregnant
Across Torrence Street from the school building is Morgan Park,
occupying an entire grassy block. It is not known when the Myers
created the park, but at the time that the City Parks and
Recreation Commission was initiated in 1927, Morgan was one of five
parcels of parkland it administered. 47 The Cherry
facility was the first city park in a black neighborhood and seems
to have been the first intended primarily to serve a working-class
area. The park is near the center of Cherry and strongly recalls a
small-town New England green, with the school on one side, the
Pleasant Hill Church on another, and a 1920s community store near
one corner. A section of adjoining Main Street was closed to
traffic in 1977 to provide additional play area for small children.
48 Today Morgan Park continues to be a heavily-used
neighborhood gathering spot, a unique feature in Charlotte.
Along with providing a park, the Myers also had trees planted
along Cherry's streets. Floretta Gunn, a teacher at Morgan School
beginning in the 1920s, remembers the trees as one of the area's
most striking attributes even then. 49 Today's Cherry's
tree-cover ranks among the finest in Charlotte, and a comparison of
size with those in Myers Park or Elizabeth indicates that the
Cherry specimens were planted early, probably when streets were
In 1925 John Springs Myers passed away. 50 By that
time Cherry's street system had grown to nearly its full extent.
Fox and Cecil (originally Bronson) streets had been the first added
to the original Luther, Main and Cherry streets, finished in time
to appear on the 1905 United States Geological Survey Map. In 1906
the Myers had sold the first lot on Baxter Street, a major new
avenue parallel to Luther Street on the south side of Main Street.
51 In 1909 local engineers had laid out the angled grid
of straight streets south of Baxter Street. 52 Today
these are known as Avant Street (originally Woodward), Welker
Street, Waco Street (originally Wallace), and the last blocks of
Baldwin Avenue (originally Morgan), Torrence Street (originally
Converse), and Cherry Street. Many of the Cherry street names
commemorated Myers and Springs family members and relatives,
including Baxter, Woodward, Eli, Davidson, and Morgan.
In 1912 Luther, Baxter, and Main streets, which originally had
run up the hill to Providence Road, had been cut short by the new
boulevard of Queens Road, part of the Myers Park development for
whites. The few houses occupied by blacks in the Myers Park section
were moved down the hill into the central part of Cherry, primarily
along Avant Street. 54 There were to be no more changes
in the neighborhood's boundaries until the 1950s.
So by the time of Myers' death, Cherry's western boundary was
Cecil Street, with the bed of Sugar Creek a further barrier between
it and adjacent Dilworth and
Brooklyn. The streets of the 1909 plat formed the southern extent
of the neighborhood, separated by a branch of Sugar Creek from the
large houses of Myers Park. The steep hill to Queens Road clearly
marked Cherry's eastern edge. On the north side, the least clearly
defined boundary, the back property lines along Luther and Cherry
streets served to separate the black neighborhood from the
bungalows of the adjacent white Torrence subdivision.
Shortly before John Springs Myers' death, he and his wife had
deeded the balance of their holdings in Cherry to their children.
55 Rawlinson Myers assumed title to some lands in 1918.
A bachelor, there is some evidence that he had overseen early
development of Cherry for his parents. Earle Draper remembers, "Mr.
Myers' son ... managed it and I think laid it out. He collected
rents and maintained it." 56 Family members recall that
by the 1920s a Mr. T.C. Wilson handled the actual rent collection,
but that Rawlinson was quite active in arranging lot sales and also
setting up construction financing for buyers through Mutual
Building and Loan, of which he was an officer. 57 By
1922 John and Mary Myers had given each of their children a portion
of Cherry's rental housing and undeveloped land. 58 The
beneficiaries were Mary Myers Dwelle and her husband Harold,
Richard Myers and his wife Marguerite, and Rawlinson.
The children made no more additions to Cherry's street pattern
or urban amenities, but they did continue to administer Cherry as
their father had. This may have been due to the watchful presence
of mother Mary Morgan Rawlinson Myers, who lived until 1939.
59 Between 1925 and the end of the 1930s, grantor
records show that some thirty additional Cherry lots were
transferred to individuals. 60 This was a somewhat
smaller number than in previous periods, but significant in the
face of the national economic depression.
In the late 1920s, each part of the family developed and managed
its own holdings individually. 61 During the course of
the 1930s and 1940s, grandsons John Dwelle and Brevard Myers took
control of rentals and new development. 62 The men
slowly added indoor bathrooms to the existing houses and gave them
enclosed foundations, supplementing the brick piers that supported
many of the rental dwellings.
They also constructed a number of new rental units in the oldest
section of the neighborhood, filling up vacant land and
occasionally replacing early wooden structures. Brevard Myers
remembers that one of his first post-World War II buildings in
Cherry was the duplex that stands at 505-507 Waco Street. It
contains no wood inside the units; walls are of concrete block,
windows are steel framed, and the floors are of poured concrete "so
that we could just hose it out after a family left," according to
Most of the new rental units were brick. Their long, low forms
recall the suburban Ranch style houses that were becoming popular
throughout the nation in the 1950s. Today much of Main Street,
which had only a handful of frame dwellings before the Second World
War, is lined with these structures. Scattered other examples are
found throughout Cherry. Also from this period are the two-story
brick quadraplex apartments on Baldwin Street that face Morgan
Park. They were built for John Dwelle by contractor C.T. Brown, a
prolific Charlotte apartment builder.
The 1950s saw an expansion of Cherry's boundaries as well,
though this was not the work of the Myers family. For decades
Cherry's small houses had backed up to the middle-class bungalows
of the white Torrence subdivision to the north. The Torrence
property had once been part of a farm owned by S.J. Torrence in the
late nineteenth century, which straddled the eventual path of
Elizabeth Avenue. After trolleys began running up Elizabeth Avenue
in 1903, the Torrence lands had been gradually subdivided into
house lots. 64 Streets created included much of Torrence
Street, Baldwin Avenue, Lillington Avenue, and Ranlo Avenue. The
four square blocks between Luther Street and present-day Third
Street were evidently laid out around 1910, and by the 1920s they
were lined with comfortable, one- and one-and-a-half-story
The line between the white Torrence subdivision and black Cherry
remained inviolate until the late 1950s when, in the words of
Brevard Myers, "the color line broke all over town." 65
Soon blacks occupied most of the properties up to Third Street.
Adjoining Amherst Place, developed in the early teens as a bungalow
block of Myers Park, also became predominantly black. Today both
Amherst and the Torrence property are considered part of the Cherry
Even as Myers and Dwelle built new rental units in Cherry, they
recognized that Cherry's place in the urban structure of Charlotte
was changing. By now the city's growth meant that Cherry was no
longer isolated on the edge of the city, but was among its central
neighborhoods. Cherry's land was becoming too well located for its
"highest and best use" to continue to be low-income housing.
This fact was accentuated by post-war developments. In the late
1940s the city's first expressway, Independence Boulevard, cut
through Cherry's northern edge. 67 Soon a second new
thoroughfare was built to connect affluent Myers Park directly to
the highway. Kings Drive followed the path of Sugar Creek along
Cherry's western boundary. In 1958, Charlottetown Mall was
completed at the Kings-Independence intersection. 68 The
showy shopping complex was one of the first enclosed shopping
centers in the South, and it was literally a stone's throw from the
humble frame houses of Cherry.
Even before construction began on the mall, John Dwelle and
Brevard Myers, who were real estate developers by profession, began
increasing their holdings in Cherry. By the 1950s many early
residents were reaching old age, and sometimes their heirs had left
Charlotte as part of the vast out-migration of Southern blacks to
the industrial cities of the North. Nevertheless, Brevard Myers
remembers it often took numerous visits and "a lot of porch
rocking" before he could convince some owners to sell.
69 By the 1970s, "resident property owners constituted
only about 17% of the nearly 1800 persons living in Cherry."
Cherry was also one of the few black neighborhoods near
Charlotte's center to escape federally-funded Urban Renewal in the
1960s. During the decade, thousands of houses and hundreds of
businesses were bulldozed in the Brooklyn, Greenville, First Ward,
and Third Ward sections. 71 According to Vernon Sawyer,
who directed the city's Urban Renewal program, Cherry was spared
because Planning Commission studies showed it to be one of
Charlotte's least substandard neighborhoods for blacks.
72 It may not have hurt, as well, that Brevard Myers
served a term on City Council in the period and strongly opposed
the city's wholesale clearance policies in general, arguing that
property owners in Brooklyn and elsewhere should be pushed to
improve their own holdings. 73
What Dwelle and Myers planned to do in Cherry, as market
conditions permitted, was to clear the oldest portion of the
neighborhood, including Luther Street and Cherry Street, and
redevelop the land for stores and offices along the highways, with
upper-income apartments near Myers Park. 74 Said
In the lower end of Cherry, from about Baxter Street to
Queens Road, most of the people there own that property and should
be respected as homeowners.... But the property around Independence
Boulevard in the upper end of Cherry should be allowed to go
commercial because the houses there are too old to rehabilitate.
Though redevelopment of this major Kings-Independence
intersection seemed to make good sense as a real estate
development, it did not sit well with Cherry residents. Despite the
fact that Cherry had few homeowners, an active residents'
organization known as the Cherry Community Development Association
grew up in the late 1960s under the leadership of Phyllis Lynch,
Torrence Powell, and others. 76 Because of its
activities, city fathers felt pressure to direct some of the
federal urban redevelopment dollars flowing into the city to
Cherry. The city's Neighborhood Improvement Program proposed
installation of sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and storm drains for
Cherry in the mid-1970s. 77 Like most older black
neighborhoods in the city, Cherry had no such facilities.
Officials were surprised at the Cherry residents' reaction.
Instead of welcoming the belated improvements, neighborhood
residents stood up in meeting after meeting to say that the great
need of their area was improvement of housing that was substandard
by modern measurements. and an end to the absentee landlordship
that had been growing since the 1950s. After a battle that
stretched over several years, the residents won much of their
proposal. A 1980 Charlotte Observer article summarized the
Three years ago residents in the neighborhood of 370
homes ... decided it made no sense to get new sidewalks while their
homes were falling down. So they formed a corporation and persuaded
the city to spend $1 million to buy out the major Cherry
landowners, Brevard Myers and John Dwelle. The new corporation, the
Cherry Community Organization periodically buys some of that
property from the city and hires contractors to rehabilitate the
houses with city-sponsored low-interest loans. CCO maintains, and
collects rent from, the remaining city-owned property .... It has
been heralded by the federal government as one of the most
innovative community projects in the country.
The effort began slowly, with the first Cherry Community
Organization director being replaced after an initial year in which
only nine of twenty-six promised units were renovated.
79 The new director, Charlotte native James Ross, has
been largely successful in getting the organization to meet its
goals. Numerous houses have been renovated, and many of the most
deteriorated have been bulldozed. Construction is underway on a
thirty-two unit low-rise public housing project at Cherry and
Luther streets, and five smaller projects are scattered throughout
the neighborhood, the first major new construction in Cherry since
Brevard Myers and John Dwelle stopped building rental units about
The recent developments in Cherry have not been without effects
to the area's historic character. Myers and Dwelle's projects in
the 1950s produced a scattering of new structures throughout the
neighborhood and replaced the last of the owner-occupied houses of
the 1890s. Since 1980 more than seventy additional dwellings have
been destroyed by the City of Charlotte. Myers and Dwelle continue
to control large tracts of land along Kings Drive and Independence
Boulevard, and nibble away at the neighborhood's housing stock as
they succeed in petitions for commercial zoning.
Yet, in the heart of the neighborhood, hints remain of Cherry's
early flavor. Architecture encompasses a diversity of construction
periods ranging from the 1900s to the 1950s, but the structures
possess a unity of appearance. They are predominantly duplexes and
single-family cottages. The compact structures all have gable or
hip roofs, and almost all are one-story. Every house has a front
Homeownership is much lower than the figure achieved in the
1950s, but Cherry's residents continue to be low-income blacks,
just they were in John and Mary Myers' time. The amenities that the
Myers helped to provide, including the land for the Morgan School
building, Myers Chapel church, and especially Morgan Park at the
center of the neighborhood are still important features of the
area. Most striking to the visitor are the street trees which the
Myers planted in the neighborhood's earliest years. Today they are
near full maturity, sheltering Cherry in a soaring summer canopy of
1 John Nolen mapped some eight or nine black
neighborhoods in the city and its surroundings in 1917. Only two of
these, Cherry and Biddleville, survived the urban renewal area of
the 1960s and 1970s. The third early black neighborhood in the city
today is Grier Heights-Billingsville, begun as a farm village, and
outside Nolen's survey area in 1917. John Nolen, "Civic Survey,
Charlotte, North Carolina: Report to the Chamber of Commerce"
(Cambridge, Mass.: typescript, 1917). The only known surviving copy
of this document is in John Nolen's papers at the Cornell
University Department of Manuscripts and Archives, Ithaca, New
2 Nolen planned Myers Park in 1911, and construction
began early in 1912. By the 1920s it had become the most desirable
neighborhood for wealthy Charlotteans. For more on the neighborhood
see the Myers Park chapter of this
3 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: map
book 230, p. 202. See also 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.
4 The first tract of the farm was purchased by John
Myers' parents and given to him in 1869. Mecklenburg County
Register of Deeds Office: deed book 11, p. 13. Brevard Myers,
interview with Thomas W. Hanchett in Charlotte, March 1984. See
also "Myers Park" vertical file in the Carolina Room of the
Charlotte Public Library.
5 Butler and Spratt map, 1892. "Myers Park" vertical
file. According to Brevard Myers, John and Mary Myers lived
primarily in their large downtown residence on East Trade Street.
The small country dwelling no longer stands.
6 Butler and Spratt map, 1892. A 1911 article in the
"Myers Park" vertical file includes the information that the
"plantation became the property of Mr. J.S. Myers. In 1870 he built
the old house.... Many of the old landmarks of "Befo' De War" are
still standing. The rows of whitewashed cabins remain as silent
witnesses of bygone days." According to Brevard Myers, city crews
found sections of old log "corduroy" road beneath Main Street when
they rebuilt the street in the 1950s. Brevard Myers interviews with
Hanchett, March and September 1984.
7 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: map
book 230, p. 202. Butler and Spratt map, 1892, shows Cherry Street
and Luther Street lot lines.
8 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: deed
book 51, p. 422; deed book 69, p. 314, transfer Myers property on
"Cherry Avenue'' in 1886 and 1890, respectively.
9 Quoted in Mary Kratt and Thomas W. Hanchett, "Myers
Park History," 1984, Chapter 2, page 1. Manuscript in the
possession of Kratt. There was eventually a family with the surname
of Cherry in the neighborhood, but records indicate that they did
not arrive until many years after the area had been named. See
Minnie Cherry's 1918 purchase of a lot on Cherry Street,
Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: Deed Book 392, p.
10 No Cherry deeds from the Myers family ever use the
term "Myers Quarter." Early deeds merely refer to street names,
while by the 1910s the area is consistently referred to as
11 Dan L. Morrill and Nancy Thomas, "Elizabeth" in
the New South Neighborhoods Brochure series (Charlotte: Charlotte
Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1981). For more on the
neighborhood, see the Elizabeth chapter of
12 Inez Moore Parker, The Biddle-Johnson C. Smith
Story (Charlotte: Charlotte Publishing, 1975), p. 5.
13 J.S. Myers' contribution to the church is
mentioned in Joseph Blount Cheshire, "St. Peter's Church,
Charlotte: Thirty Years of Its Life and Work," 1921, p. 28.
Photocopy in the "Episcopal Church" vertical file at the Carolina
Room of the Charlotte Public Library. Information that W.R. Myers
was "one of the founders of St. Peter's Episcopal Church and at 23
years of age was secretary of the first vestry of the church" comes
from the Charlotte Observer, February 18, 1950. Bishop
Cheshire remarked on the vestry's sensitivity to black concerns in
his 1921 memoir: "In entering upon the work of the parish [in
1881], I could not fail to observe the large negro population of
Charlotte .... It is gratifying to me to know that the vestry of
the parish were deeply interested in this matter," pp. 30-31.
14 Charlotte News, June 25, 1936. William H.
Huffman, "Good Samaritan
Hospital: Survey and Research Report," (Charlotte: Charlotte
Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1984). Dr. Mary V.
Glenton, Story of a Hospital (Hartford, Conn.: Church
Missions Publishing Company, 1937), p.18. Most Charlotte sources
claim that Good Samaritan was the first in the entire South, but
data assembled in the Journal of the American Medical
Association Vol. 93:13, March 30, 1929, lists the Georgia
Infirmary (1832) in Savannah, Georgia, the Freedman's Hospital
(1865) in the District of Columbia, and the North Carolina State
Hospital at Goldsboro (1880) as being earlier. Additional research
may confirm that it was indeed the first privately-funded hospital
exclusively for blacks in the South.
15 In 1971 the Myers Park Homeowners Association
asked Draper's son Earle Sumner Draper, Jr., to interview the
retired planner, who was living in Vero Beach, Florida. In response
to his son's query, "Was this property [Myers Park] originally a
cotton plantation?" Draper, Sr., responded, "This property was
originally the plantation of Mr. John Myers, the father of Mrs.
George Stephens. I think there was about 1500 acres, as I remember,
in the property and was arranged so that the payments were made
under a release clause provision by Mr. Myers whenever a lot was
sold. Adjacent to this property on the west side was so-called
model Negro housing development, developed by Mr. Myers' son ...."
Transcript of the tape-recorded interview is in the collection of
the archives of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
In the period when the Myers began their work, a number of noted
American philanthropists were beginning to take an interest in
improving the housing conditions of the country's urban working
poor. Low-income people were not able to make use of the
county-funded poorhouse that aimed at helping the most destitute,
and neither were they served by federally-supported public housing,
which would not become a reality until the 1930s. Philanthropists
worked to create housing projects that, while far from luxurious,
were better than the standard speculative tenements and still
modestly profitable. They hoped to demonstrate
"that the providing of good homes for Negroes is a
profitable business undertaking in cities, and thus inspire
building operations on a scale to aid materially in relieving the
present bad conditions in many places, when the fact comes
generally to the attention of investors."
T.J. Woofter, Negro Problems in Cities (New York:
Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1928), p. 169.
If Cherry was indeed a model project for blacks, literature on
the subject indicates that it may have been one of the first in the
United States. See Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream: a
Social History of Housing in America (New York: Pantheon Books,
1981), pp. 120-123, 129-130. James Ford, Slums and Housing. With
Special Reference to New York City: History, Conditions, Policy
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936), volume 2, pp.
740-748, 868-870. Lawrence M. Friedman, Government and Slum
Housing, a Century of Frustration (Chicago: Rand McNally,
1968), pp. 75-79, 82, 101. Devereaux Bowley, Jr., The Poorhouse:
Subsidized Housing in Chicago, 1895-1976 (Carbondale, Ill.:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1978) pp. 7-13. Thomas Lee
Philpott, The Slum and the Ghetto: Neighborhood-Deterioration
and Middle-Class Reform, Chicago, 1880-1930 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1978) pp. 203-208. Only one source has come to
light detailing such attempts in the South, all early twentieth
century, primarily industrial housing, including projects at Baden
and Winston-Salem in North Carolina: Better Houses for Negro
Homes (New York: The Commission on the Church and Race
Relation, Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America,
1925). This informative work is on microfilm at the Schomberg
Center of the New York Public Library.
Recent scholarship on urban history and black neighborhoods in
the South makes no mention of any project similar to Cherry. See
David R. Goldfield, Cotton Fields and Skyscrapers : Southern
City and Region, 1607-1980 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1982). John Kellog, "Negro Urban Clusters in the
Post-Bellum South" Geographical Review 47 (July
1977):310-321. John Kellog, "The Formation of Black Residential
Areas in Lexington, Kentucky, 1865-1887" The Journal of Southern
History 48 (February 1982):21-25. Paul Groves and Edward
Muller, "The Evolution of Black Residential Areas in Late 19th
Century Cities," Journal of Historical Geography (April
1975):169-191. The South did have a history of rural black new
towns, mostly established immediately after the Civil War. See
Rodney Carlisle, The Roots of Black Nationalism (Port
Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1975), pp. 90-92. Joe Mobley,
James City: a Black Community in North Carolina, 1863-1900
(Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina Division of Archives and
History, 1981). Cherry, of course, evidently received no publicity
outside the immediate area. Future research in other Southern
cities may point up other philanthropic black housing projects
aimed at showing local investors that one could provide more humane
quarters while still turning a profit.
16 Article dated August 13, 19??, in the "Myers Park"
vertical file at the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Public
17 Due to laxity in record keeping in the period, it
is impossible to arrive at precise figures for anything concerning
Cherry, particularly before it became part of the city in 1907. It
is possible to trace a number of Cherry residents through
successive editions of the city directory, despite annoying gaps.
The 1898 directory is the most complete of the pre-World War I
editions in its coverage of Cherry. The 1900 manuscript census is
probably more accurate, but it gives no indication where Cherry's
boundaries were. Data were compiled for this essay by researcher
Janette Greenwood for Enumeration District #41, sheets 29 through
36. These sheets include a number of whites, plus a number of black
farm owners and farm laborers who likely lived along Providence
Road, in addition to families known to have resided in Cherry.
18 Data on Cherry property transfers and individuals
were assembled by Joseph Schuchman and Thomas Hanchett through a
combination of methods. All grantor records for Myers' transfers of
Cherry properties were listed chronologically through the 1910s.
Title searches were conducted for selected properties, particularly
those along Cherry, Luther, and Main streets. Names of all original
owners gleaned from the title searches -- no matter when they
purchased land -- were tracked through city directories from 1890
to 1916 to get an understanding of occupation and residence
patterns. Most Cherry citizens held a variety of jobs and moved
19 United States Geological Survey, "Charlotte
Quadrangle, 1:62500," surveyed 1905, printed 1907, reprinted
20 Some property was transferred to son Rawlinson
Myers in 1918, but most of the transfers took place in 1922.
21 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office:
22 For instance, see Mecklenburg County Register of
Deeds Office: deed book 312, pp. 264, 272, 296, 297, 299, 309, 310,
311, 324. All of these transfers took place in 1913. For more on
Washington Heights, see the chapter devoted to
it in the present manuscript. Both Cherry and Washington
Heights lots were usually 50' x 100', small but adequate by white
suburban standards, and spacious compared with the 25' x 100' sites
in downtown alleys.
23 A random check of these names against city
directory records indicates all were black. In addition, a handful
of lots went to white real estate man Charles Lambeth, and a dozen
or so were transferred to Mutual Building and Loan, which likely
was helping black borrowers to build.
24 The number was undoubtedly somewhat lower than
sixty-five percent in reality. A small number of blacks bought more
than one lot, for speculative purposes, and others seem to have
waited several years between purchase and construction. Future
researchers into Cherry's history will want to complete the
time-consuming task of title-searching each piece of property in
order to arrive at precise information on homeownership patterns
25 The desperate character of most black housing is
illustrated in a paper read before the Charlotte Women's Club by V.S.
Woodward, general secretary of the Charlotte Associated Charities
in 1915: "Housing conditions among the Negroes in general are very
bad; and in some places much worse than the worst of the white
section. In one place six and a half blocks from the Square, there
is one toilet for the use of nine Negro families. It has no inside
hook, and being located on a public alley, is constantly used by
the public .... According to the 1915 city directory, there are
more than fifty alleys and rows along which dwelling houses for
white and colored families are erected. Of course none of these is
suitable for a residential highway. In Charlotte the size of the
lots fronting on these alleys is generally not more than 25' x 100'
feet, and often smaller. Many of these four-room, two-family houses
have already been built on small lots and continue to be built. The
cost of such a house, including the lot, is about $700.00. Rentals
at 50cts. per week per room bring an income of more than 14 1/2% on
the investment. Counting out taxes, repairs -- which are rarely
made -- and insurance, the net income on this class of property in
Charlotte is about 10% in normal times. This is a greater
percentage of profit than is to be had from the rentals of medium
and first class property." A copy of this paper, entitled "Housing
and Its Relation to Health in Our City," is in the John Nolen
Collection at Cornell University. It includes 1915 photographs. For
much later photographs of the same sort of alleys, still unpaved in
the 1960s, see Rev. DeGranval Burke, The Brooklyn Story
(Charlotte: Afro-American Cultural and Service Center, 1978).
26 As noted above, the 1900 manuscript census does
not indicate directly whether residents were in any particular
neighborhood, but comparison with city directory records indicates
that Cherry and surrounding listings are included in sheets 29
through 36, Enumeration District #41.
27 Throughout this chapter, except where noted,
biographical information on individuals is taken from the city
28 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: death
certificate book 378, p. 309. Jackson's house burned in 1918,
killing its owner, who was by then seventy.
29 Doug Swaim, "North Carolina Folk Housing," in
Swaim, ed. Carolina Dwelling (Raleigh: North Carolina State
University, 1978), p. 41.
30 The Luther Street houses have symmetrical facades
with central front doors, while the Baxter Street examples are
slightly smaller and asymmetrically composed.
31 Richard K. Dozier, interview with Thomas W.
Hanchett in Charlotte, North Carolina, February 1982. Dozier is
creator of the traveling exhibit "Places and Spaces: the
Contributions, Aspirations, and Aesthetic Values of Afro-Americans
as Reflected in Architecture," under the auspices of the Montgomery
Landmarks Foundation, Montgomery, Alabama, 1982.
32 John Michael Vlach, The Afro-American
Tradition (Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1977), pp.
122-138. "The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts: Notes on
the Exhibition" (Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1977), p.
33 John Dwelle remembers that he personally designed
many of the rental houses he had built, making use of mechanical
drawing courses he had taken in his youth. In particular, the
series of bungalows with false-shutters are his design.
Construction was left to a black contractor, Milton Swift, a
Georgia native who Dwelle recalls as being hard-working and
efficient despite little formal education. A son, Henry Swift, is
now a plasterer in Charlotte. John Dwelle, interview with Thomas W.
Hanchett, September 1984.
34 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, September
35 Perhaps the definitive sourcebook on mill housing
in the period was Charlottean D.A. Tompkins' Cotton Mill,
Commercial Features (Charlotte: D.A. Tompkins, 1899). For a
present-day analysis of the era see Brent Glass, "Southern Mill
Hills: Design in a 'Public' Place," in Swaim, ed., Carolina
Dwelling. Glass indicates that trees, parks, indoor plumbing
and other urban amenities were not generally part of white mill
villages until the late 1920s, when Earle Sumner Draper and other
city planners brought new ideas to the mill owners.
36 Kratt and Hanchett manuscript, Chapter 2, pp.
37 Charlotte News, January 5, 1959. In 1981
the Church convinced the city to close the block of Waco Street
behind the sanctuary. A new education wing and parking lot now
occupy that area. Charlotte News, March 18, 1981.
38 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: deed
book 392, p. 604.
39 Data from the cornerstone of the present
40 William J. Walls, The African Methodist
Episcopal Zion Church: Reality of the Black Church (Charlotte:
A.M.E. Zion Publishing House, 1974), p. 584.
41 Charlotte Observer, February 18, 1950.
42 Harry P. Harding, "The Charlotte City Schools"
(Charlotte: typescript by the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System,
1966), pp. 79-80.
45 Floretta Douglass Gunn, former teacher, interview
with Janette Thomas Greenwood in Charlotte, July 1984. Gunn
remembers that children who lived close to Myers Street school in
Brooklyn were required in some years to walk over to Cherry in
order to fill the classrooms. According to Gunn, Mary Myers Dwelle
took a personal interest in the school, leading classes on tours of
the otherwise whites-only Mint Museum of Art, among other
46 Charlotte News, July 25, 1968.
47 LeGette Blythe and Charles R. Brockman,
Hornets' Nest: the Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
(Charlotte: McNally of Charlotte, 1961), p. 378.
48 Charlotte Observer, August 9, 1977.
49 Gunn, interview with Greenwood, July 1984.
50 Sophie Stephens Myers, "Ancestors and Descendants
of William R. Myers," 1984 loose-leaf manuscript in the Carolina
Room of the Charlotte Public Library.
51 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: Deed
Book 212, p. 505. For Cecil (originally Bronson) Street see Deed
Book 202, p.145. For Baxter Street see Map Book 332, p. 317.
52 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: Map
Book 230, p. 47.
53 In addition Converse, the original name of
Torrence Street in Cherry, may be a variation on the family name
Convert. Only one street is known to have been named for a black.
Lee Hood, who died about 1957 according to Brevard Myers, was a
long-time family chauffeur. An undedicated street (abandoned in
1983 to allow new public housing construction) off Luther Street
parallel to Cherry Street was named Lee's Court in his honor.
Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, September, 1984.
54 Kratt and Hanchett manuscript, 1984. Also Brevard
Myers, interview with Hanchett, September 1984. Myers remembers
that some of the old houses had haylofts above the living area, and
had brick fireplaces with cast iron arms meant to hold cooking
kettles. The Pleasant Hill Baptist cemetery remained along Queens
Road for many years until the present Little Theatre building was
constructed on its site. John Dwelle remembers that Charlotte
lawyer John Small arranged the deconsecration of the burial ground.
Dwelle, interview with Hanchett, September 1984.
55 The Grantor Books at the Mecklenburg County
Register of Deeds Office indicate that Rawlinson Myers assumed
title to some lands in 1918. For the majority of transfers, see
such transactions as Deed Book 482, p. 425; Deed Book 831, p. 500;
Deed Book 462, p. 98, all from the spring of 1922.
56 Earle Sumner Draper, interview with Thomas W.
Hanchett at Vero Beach, Florida, March, 1982. Transcript in the
files of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties
57 Brevard Myers and John Dwelle interviews.
58 See note #55.
59 Sophie Myers, "Ancestors and Descendants".
60 Half that number were sold by Dwelle family
members and half by Myers family members.
61 Brevard Myers and John Dwelle interviews.
63 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, March
64 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: deed
book 190, p. 420; deed book 209, p. 459.
65 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, March
66 "Neighborhood Definition Study" (Charlotte:
Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Commission, 1979).
67 For more on Independence Boulevard see Dan L.
Morrill, "The Road That Split Charlotte" Charlotte Observer,
May 2, 1982, "Parade" section, pp. 12, 15, 19.
68 Charlotte Observer, April 23, 1961.
69 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, September
1984. For some of Dwelle's transactions see Mecklenburg County
Register of Deeds Office: deed book 1434, p. 106; deed book 1404,
p. 70; deed book 3315, p. 15.
70 Charlotte Observer, November 21, 1977.
71 The best single indication of the Urban Renewal
program's impact on black Charlotte may be found in the one-page
summary "Statistical Summary of Urban Renewal Program: October
1972" (Charlotte: Redevelopment Commission of the City of
Charlotte, 1972). A study done in the early 1970s indicates that
Charlotte lost 54.1% of its low-value rental housing between 1960
and 1970, more than any major Southeastern city. See Jack L.
Bullard and Robert Stith, Community Conditions in Charlotte,
1970: a Study of Ten Cities Using Urban Indicators with a
Supplement on Racial Disparity. (Charlotte:
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relation Committee, 1974), p. 70.
For more on the Urban Renewal era, see the chapter of the present
manuscript dealing with the Center City.
72 Vernon Sawyer, telephone interview with Thomas W.
Hanchett, September 1984.
73 Charlotte Observer, January 19, 1960. Myers
74 Brevard Myers mentioned the apartment plan in the
interview with Hanchett, March 1984.
75 Charlotte Observer, November 21, 1977.
76 For instance, see Charlotte News, August
77 For instance, see Charlotte News, January
78 Charlotte Observer, July 19, 1980.
79 Charlotte Observer, October 25, 1980.
80 Ed Straight, City Housing Authority, interview
with Joseph Schuchman, June 1984.
SIGNIFICANT SITES IN THE CHERRY NEIGHBORHOOD
|404-406 Cherry Street
||best preserved examples of turn-of-the-century rental
|412-414 Cherry Street
||best preserved examples of turn-of-the-century rental
|509 Cherry Street
||Myers Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church (1920-1925)
|1605 Luther Street
||(former) Mt. Zion Lutheran Church (1896)
|1816 Luther Street
||best-preserved examples of turn-of-the- century owner-occupied
|1820 Luther Street
||best-preserved examples of turn-of-the- century owner-occupied
|500 S. Torrence Street
||(former) Morgan School
MYERS CHAPEL A.M.E. ZION CHURCH
509 Cherry Street
The Myers Chapel congregation was Cherry's first indigenous
church. It was formed in 1901, some ten years after the
neighborhood was founded, and by 1903 was worshipping in its own
chapel. It was fitting that the church be of the African Methodist
Episcopal Zion denomination. In the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries Charlotte was a A.M.E. Zion national center
second in importance only to the Mother Church in New York City.
Charlotte was the site of the religion's publishing house and
newspaper. and the city's parishes were a favorite training ground
for potential bishops.
In 1919 John and Mary Myers, founders of Cherry, donated a large
parcel on Cherry Street for a new Myers Chapel sanctuary. The land
was to revert to the grantees if the new building was not completed
in ten years. The Chapel's trustees, which included Cherry property
owners Kelly O. Alexander and Stephen Alexander as well as A.M.E.
Zion bishop George Wiley Clinton, evidently had no trouble meeting
the deadline. The structure was completed by 1925, a massive design
with a gabled nave flanked by two towers, one flat-topped and the
other boasting a crenelated parapet. A rose-window-like circular
front window, other windows and doorways with pointed arches, plus
buttresses on the towers recall Gothic precedents. Today however
the structure is sheathed in thick, tan-colored stucco, which lends
a Spanish air to the design. Whatever its stylistic antecedents,
the Myers Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church is the most imposing piece of
architecture in the Cherry neighborhood today.
(FORMER) MT. ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH
1605 Luther Street
In 1896 the Missionary Board of the Evangelical Lutheran
Synodical Conference of North America for Mission Among Heathens
and Negroes paid fifty dollars to the Myers family for this tract
of land. It was near the heart of the Myers new "model Negro
housing development," though there were as yet only a handful of
residents nearby. It is something of a mystery how the Lutherans
became involved in Cherry, because the Myers family were staunch
Episcopalians, and Charlotte had few Lutherans among its citizens.
Soon after their purchase, the board evidently erected the present
church structure, and the street it faced -- originally Davidson
Street -- became Luther Street. The mission maintained the church
until 1946 when they sold the property back to Myers descendant
Harriette C. Dwelle. Since 1979 the structure has been the property
of the City of Charlotte, and continues to be used for religious
purposes by the Mount Zion Church of God Holiness.
The chapel itself is today one of the last frame houses of
worship extant in the City of Charlotte. It is a delightful
adaptation of Gothic motifs, a white weatherboard tabernacle that
reminds one of something out of a New England picture book. The
church is simply detailed, as would befit a small mission church.
Windows and doors feature lancet arches, a Gothic trademark. A
hip-roofed belfry is centrally placed at the front of the ridge
line, and an entrance gable is sheathed in rectangular-cut wood
EARLY OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSES
1816 Luther Street
1820 Luther Street
These two dwellings represent the best-preserved grouping of
turn-of-the-century houses in Cherry which were originally owned by
their residents. This pair of dwellings represents a housetype that
was found often on tenant farms and in mill villages throughout the
Carolinas in the late nineteenth century. The main part of the
house is a one-story, gable-roofed block that is two rooms wide and
one room deep. To the rear are wings that add more space to the
basic two-room plan. Each house has a broad front porch.
1816 Luther Street was sold by the Myers family on December 18,
1905 to Annie Griffin. Early city directories list Griffin as a
laundress. Neighboring 1820 Luther Street was transferred to
Adelaide Alexander on January 7, 1910 by the Myers. No occupation
is listed for her in the directories. Both of these women were
500-522 South Torrence Street
The Morgan School is an architectural focal point on Morgan Park
in the center of Cherry. John and Mary Myers planned their model
housing development to have educational facilities as well as
housing, churches, and a park. The Morgan School was erected by the
city in 1925, one of several schools erected under the supervision
of Columbia University scholars Dr. Strayer and Dr. Engelhardt in
the decade around the city. The large brick structure may have
replaced an earlier wooden building. The new building cost $36,309
and had ten classrooms. It operated until 1968 when it was closed
by the school system due to its number of rooms. Today it is used
for a city program that aids pregnant teenagers.
The Morgan School Building is typical of the simply detailed,
functional educational structures erected during the early
twentieth century throughout the United States. Its parapet roof
and carved stone central entrance provide a hint of Neoclassical
detailing. A central two-story pavilion is recessed and flanked by
two projecting wings of equal height. The brick walls are laid in
stretcher bond. Nine-over-nine pane sash windows provide ample
light to the classrooms, and are set in plain surrounds. The
building is in good original condition.