Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Charlotte, North Carolina

Notes from my Charlotte Tour, April 2016

While I was in Charlotte with Paul as he attended some classes for his job, I decided to take a city tour and get to know the history of Charlotte, and get a glimpse at the city layout.  It was a three hour tour and I enjoyed every moment of it.  I was writing notes all along the way, and probably missed sights because of that, but I was intrigued with the history and wanted to be able to recall some of it.  I will not promise the accuracy of my notes.  Whenever I am in Charlotte again, I for sure will take another tour.  Charlotte is a very pretty city with a fascinating story.

City of Charlotte:  Queen Charlotte was a German princess who married King George III when she was 17.  They had 17 children.  The city of Charlotte was named Queen City after her.  In 1768 it was changed from Queen City to Charlotte.  Charlotte declared its independence from England a year before the rest of the country.  Charlotte declared independence on May 20, 1775, and the rest of the country on July 4, 1776.  Captain Jack, responsible for Charlotte’s independence, was the hero of Charlotte.  The city now has a population of 820,000, with over a million residents in the county. 

Charlotte was not involved in the fighting of the Civil War.  The last meeting of the Confederate leaders was held in Charlotte at the St. Peters Episcopal Church.  Charlotte was the capital of the South at the end of the war for three weeks. 

Buildings:  The Bank of America is the largest bank in the USA, and is headquartered in Charlotte.  Charlotte is the largest banking city next to New York City.  The Bank of America building with the spires at the top is the tallest building in Uptown.  The spires represent Charlotte as the Queen City.  The banks bought out the retail stores in Uptown 25 years ago.  Many banks are headquartered here.  Duke Energy headquarters also located here, is the largest energy company in the United States.  Duke Energy is the tall building with a triangle top. The Westin Hotel in Uptown is the largest hotel in the area.    The Vue, another uptown building, is the tallest condo building, with condos for lease.  Carolina Medical Center is the largest business in town, not the banks.  The other medical facility in the area is the Presbyterian Medical Center.  The oldest church is a Presbyterian church built in 1821.

Colleges:  College Street used to have two colleges on it, but both have moved.  Queens College, built in 1857, originally a women’s college, was moved to Queens Street.  It became a coed college forty years ago. There are other colleges in Charlotte:  Johnson and Wales, a culinary/hospitality college located at the Gateway Center, one entrance to Uptown; University of North Carolina; and Central Piedmont Community College, which has five campuses and public schools.  It is the largest college in North Carolina.

Historic Area:  There is a cemetery from the 1700’s in the 4th ward park.  It was restored in the 1970’s.  The house at 412 Poplar is the oldest house, built in 1850, and is valued at $500,000.  The streets are narrow and the houses very close.  4th ward is the area of the oldest houses in Charlotte.    Elmwood Cemetery, 1853, is where the people who built the city of Charlotte are buried.  Randolph Scott, movie star, is buried here, as well as William Belk, founder of the Belk stores.  Confederate soldiers are also buried here. Church Street contains the French Quarter and has a few of the original buildings left.  Fourth Street is where the city and county government buildings are.  There were tunnels built under the street between the courthouse and the jail so prisoners could be transferred privately.  Tryon Street is named in honor of Governor Tryon, the Governor of North Carolina who was appointed by a king. 

Malls:  There are four malls in the Charlotte area.  On the north side is the Mills Outlet with over 200 stores.  On the south side is Carolina Place with over 150 stores.  James K. Polk, our 11th president was born near this area.  Also South Park Mall is located on the south side of Charlotte.  Not sure where the fourth mall is.

People:  Mr. Belk started his department store over 100 years ago, and today it is in more than 300 locations.  It is like a Macy’s.  The Belk Store at South Park is the most upscale of all the Belk stores.  Bojangles also came out of Charlotte and now has over 600 locations.  It is a chicken fast food chain with Cajun flavor.  Family Dollar Store started in Charlotte 50 years ago, and there are now over 8,000 stores. 

John Myers owned the cotton fields that were turned into an upscale community called Myers Park, starting in 1915, containing 1,000 acres.  Myers hired John Noland to plan the community lay out.  Queens Street runs through Myers Park.  Queens University relocated here from downtown.  The medians now seen in Myers Park are where the street cars once ran.  President Andrew Jackson was the first house built in Myers Park in 1915, on Hermitage Road. He had grown up in Stateline on the North Carolina, South Carolina border, but he eventually moved to Tennessee and owed The Hermitage in Nashville. 

Mr. Duke of Duke Energy built a home in Myers Park in 1915 that was 32,000 square feet.  It was called Duke Mansion.  Doris Duke, his daughter, inherited it when her dad died when she was 12 years old. A movie was made of her life.  The mansion is now used as a conference center and a bed and breakfast.  Mr. Duke had the First Baptist Church built to worship in.

Restaurants:  There used to be 40 cotton mills in Charlotte, and they have all been redeveloped.  Atherton Mill – Sola Salons is located at the corner of East Tremont and South Streets.  You can still see the old mill smoke stacks.  Air conditioning was invented and installed in this area of restaurants.  Grace Covenant Church, located here, is where Billy Graham attended church in his youth.  East Street finds all the homes converted to restaurants.  Every house on East Street is now commercial…no one lives in the houses.  Brixx Woodfire Pizza is the most popular pizza place in Charlotte.  Prices Chicken Coop is the most popular chicken restaurant in Charlotte. 

Sports:  The Hornets Basketball Arena is owned by Michael Jordan.  It is where Obama gave his acceptance speech for the highest office of the land in 2012.  The Democratic Convention was held on Trade Street in the Time Warner Cable Arena.  The Hornets moved to New Orleans, and changed their name to the Pelicans.  Then in 2015 Charlotte got the Hornets’ name back, and they are in the new coliseum, the Time Warner Cable Arena. 
The owner of Hardees fast food restaurant chain sold the franchise to Carl’s Jr. in California.   The proceeds were used to build the Bank of America Stadium in Uptown Charlotte.  It is where the Carolina Panthers play, and is a minor league baseball park, but the largest in the United States.  

Nascar Hall of Fame, across the street from the Convention Center, is the most popular attraction in the area.  The world’s largest white water park is located near the airport. 

Transportation:  Street cars were the mode of city transportation in the 1890’s to the 1940’s.  They are making a comeback in Uptown Charlotte…rails are being laid in streets.  The street cars are green and yellow and are free.  They currently only cover two miles, but will be expanded to cover ten miles.  About 8-9 years ago there was a trend to move back to Uptown, so high rises were built.  New apartments are being built along the rail system.  The city is also building a Greenway with parks and statues for walking, biking, other forms of exercising.  Amtrak is taking over the Uptown bus station on Trade Street.  The Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is located just a few miles from Uptown.  It has easy access to all parts of the country. 

Dr. Billy Graham:
The Billy Graham Parkway takes you to the headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Billy Graham Library.  His childhood home was relocated to the library grounds and can be toured.  His burial site is also there, along with his two partners in ministry, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows and their wives and of course Ruth Graham.  The Billy Graham Library is so well done and definitely deserves a couple of hours of your time to visit.  Here are some pictures from the Billy Graham Library:

 This childhood home of Billy Graham was moved here to the site of the library from just a few miles away where it was built by his father.  The markers shown above are placed where the home used to be...his birthplace.

This cow welcomes you to the library and tells you what Billy Frank was like as a boy when he milked her.

These are the grave sites of Billy and Ruth Graham.  The tombstone on the left is Ruth's, who passed away in 2007.  Billy, of course, is still living at this post.

Below are three pictures of George Beverly Shea's grave site:

 George grew up on a farm in Canada and loved to hear the dinner bell ring, calling them in from the fields to lunch.  He had a fascination with dinner bells and wanted one placed at his grave...a symbol of being called home to the greatest feast of them all after his labors on this earth were complete.

Charlotte, North Carolina, is one very nice city, a city with southern charm and hospitality, historic sites, and modern amenities.  A great vacation destination!  I look forward to my next visit!

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