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A Postcard's-Eye View of Historic Charlotte

Charlotte, like any major American city, is constantly changing. Buildings are erected. Buildings are demolished. Mary Lynn Morrill's collection of Historic Postcards provides a fascinating glimpse into Charlotte's evolving townscape. Many of these structures are gone. A few remain. Look at these images and take a trip back in time.

The Osborne Corner

This picture was taken sometime between 1891 and 1908. It shows the Osborne House, an early 19th century, Federal style dwelling that stood on the northwestern corner of the Square. Notice the blur of the trolley moving along Trade St. The building on the far left is the Selwyn Hotel that stood at Trade and Church Sts. New South industrialist D. A. Tompkins lived here for many years.

Charlotte Southern Railroad Station

Architect Frank Milburne designed this Spanish Mission style station soon after 1900. It stood on West Trade St. and the railroad tracks, about where the Bus Station presently sits. Milburne fashioned a series of stations in this style. Indeed, Salisbury still has and has restored its Spanish Mission style railroad station. Legend holds that President Woodrow Wilson once asked whether the Charlotte Station was fireproof. When told that it was, Wilson supposedly said, "What a pity." The building was demolished in 1962.

Charlotte Carnegie Library and Charlotte First Baptist Church

Architect James McMichael designed both of these buildings in the first decade of the twentieth century. The building on the right was the Charlotte Carnegie Library. Many Charlotteans remember sitting by the open windows in the main reading room on lazy summer afternoons, feeling the breeze brush across their faces. The building on the left was the First Baptist Church, now part of Spirit Square. Notice that McMichael liked domes. McMichael insisted that the Library, which was built second, be compatible in design with the church next door. Would that Charlotte architects remained so sensitive to the concept of streetscape.

Steward's Hall at the North Carolina Military Institute

This imposing edifice was built in 1859 at the southern edge of Charlotte as a dormitory and classroom building for the North Carolina Military Institute. It stood about where the Central Y.M.C.A. now sits. The Superintendent of the Institute was South Carolinian Daniel Harvey Hill. The school closed at the outbreak of the Civil War when the students went to Virginia to fight the Yankees. The building was later used as a public school. Notice that the postcard says that the building was used as a prison for Federal troops during the Civil War. The building was demolished in the 1950's to make way for Independence Boulevard.

Charlotte Central High School

This building was home to thousands of high school students from the 1920's to the 1960's. Students remember teachers like Janet Robinson, a specialist in religion, Karl Sawyer, a mathematics teacher, and his brother George, who taught Biology. George was especially adept at dissecting frogs. And who could forget Mary Balle? She insisted that correct grammar be used. The building, which has been insensitively altered, is now used by Central Piedmont Community College.

Charlotte Memorial Stadium and Armory

Long before crowds gathered at Ericsson Stadium, throngs went to Memorial Stadium to watch football games, even professional teams. There was a professional football game going on when word arrived on December 7, 1941, that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. College games occurred here regularly. Johnson C. Smith University still plays some of its games here. The Armory Building eventually burned. The site is now occupied by Park Center.

Mayfair Hotel

The Mayfair Hotel was built at North Tryon and Sixth Sts. in the 1920's. By then homes along Tryon St. were beginning to give way to high rise buildings like this one. If you look at the very top of the Mayfair you will see a penthouse. The owner of the house that occupied the site before the building was erected insisted that he be given living space at the top of the hotel. The architect of the Mayfair was Louis Asbury, who fashioned many notable building across Charlotte and the region. Happily, the building still stands. It is now the Dunhill Hotel.

Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts

This 1950's motel was designed as "logo architecture." This means that all buildings erected by the company were the same. This allowed motorists to recognize the chain as they drove across the country. Clearly, buildings like the Alamo Plaza were reflective of the automobile era, when gasoline was cheap and folks wanted to drive their cars right up to the door. The Spanish Mission style Alamo Plaza, which stood on North Tryon St. when that was a major entryway into Charlotte, is no more. But we still have oodles of "logo architecture."




This site was created using a Macintosh Performa 6290 by Bruce Schulman. This site is maintained for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission by Bruce R. Schulman.