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Category Archives: History

Things that have happened.

10th and Graham Streets – Then and Now

North Graham looking towards 10th Street.  (Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Collection Charlotte Mecklenburg Library)

North Graham looking towards 10th Street. (Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Collection Charlotte Mecklenburg Library)

I’m sorry that I haven’t put an entry in for a couple off weeks – I have been busy with some other stuff including school, but I’m back now!

While surfing the web on one of my favorite sites  www.cmlibrary.org, I was looking at this photo taken circa 1950 that is in the collection of the Robinson-Spangler Image Collection of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library.  This is about five minutes from my house and in located in the Fourth Ward area of Uptown Charlotte.  The neighborhood has changed a lot since this photo was taken, if you don’t believe me, here is a picture taken this year.

Photo taken by author

Photo taken by author

I hope that everyone has a great weekend and enjoy the great fall weather!

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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in History, Places, Transportation

 

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Reflections on Charlotte and the Civil Rights Movement

Okay, I wasn’t alive in September 1963 (but would be born the following February) when events in Birmingham, Alabama, Washington, DC and Charlotte occurred.  But they have made a great impact on my life and the lives of everyone that I know.

I have spent this weekend at our first (of many I hope!) Prince Hall celebration weekend.  For those of you that are not familiar with Freemasonry let me give you a little history.  Prince Hall, who was a free “Man of Color” along with 14 other men petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a charter so that they could become a ” “regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons”. From those men, who chartered as African Lodge # 1 (later changing to African Lodge # 457).  In North Carolina, Prince Hall Masonry got started in 1865 with the establishment of King Solomon Lodge # 1 in New Bern, North Carolina under the guidance of the New York State Grand Lodge.  Paul Drayton Lodge # 7 here in Charlotte was the first Lodge established in this area and chartered September 19, 1872.  Other Lodges in the Charlotte area soon followed and according to James Harrell, who wrote the history of the old 19th and 20th Masonic District which is now split into the 32nd and 33rd Masonic Districts, grew and prospered.

Sunday, September 15 in Birmingham, Alabama.  African-Americans were still rejoicing in the spirit of the March on Washington which had occurred just three weeks before while segregationists were reiterating that they would not change and would do anything to maintain the status quo.  At the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which had been used as a rally point for civil rights protests in Birmingham (which had the unofficial nickname of “Bombingham”) it was just a typical Sunday morning, which was about to change.  At 10:22 AM, while people were getting ready for the 11:00 AM service sticks of dynamite planted by members of the KKK exploded and killed four young girls. I cannot begin to image what was going through their parent’s minds when they were frantically searching for their loved ones in the rubble and finding out that your daughter is an innocent victim of someone who is willing to kill to maintain segregation of the races.

Charlotte would not experience that type of violence until 1965, although it had its share of moments during the Civil Rights movement.  In 1957 Dorothy Counts, now Scoggins attempted to integrate Harding High School. Images from Charlotte Observer photographer Don Sturkey which made papers around the world shows a young woman attempting to maintain a calm demeanor while walking through a crowd of jeering people:

Photo taken by Don Sturkey - Charlotte Observer via Google Images

Photo taken by Don Sturkey – Charlotte Observer via Google Images

While there were scuffles during the lunch counter sit-ins at McCrory’s in Uptown Charlotte, the city managed to escape most of the violence that engulfed other Southern cities until November 1965.  In the early morning hours of November 22, the houses of Dr. Walker Hawkins, City Councilman Fred Alexander and his brother Kelly Alexander were firebombed.

Repairs to Fred Alexander's House - December 1965.  From t

Repairs to Fred Alexander’s House – December 1965. From the Kelly Alexander Papers (UNC Charlotte Special Collections) via Google Images

While no one was injured or killed that morning, the city was wakened out of its complacency about its slow and baby steps towards civil rights.  Fred Alexander, the first black elected the Charlotte City Council in 1962 and who would later help remove the fence between the white Elmwood Cemetery and the black Pinewood Cemetery was also serving with the reconstituted Mecklenburg Chapter of the NAACP and as Secretary for the North Carolina Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

While events such as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings or the firebombing of Fred Alexander’s house may not seem relevant today, the lessons that we could take is that while people may go to extreme measure to maintain a way of life, other people must make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Where did I get my information for today?  My pictures and information came from:

Don Sturkey’s photo of Dorothy Counts walking up the stairs at Harding High School – Charlotte (NC) Oberver photograph from tommytomlinson.com via google images (downloaded September 15, 2013)

Repairs to Fred Alexander’s House – Fred AlexandeRr Papers in the UNC Charlotte Special Collections via google images (Downloaded September 15, 2013)

Brief History of the Charlotte Area Prince Hall Masonic Lodges – History of Prince Hall Free Masonry and Appendant Bodies in the Charlotte Area 32nd and 33rd Districts formerly 19th and 20th Masonic Districts and 14th and 24th Order of the Eastern Star Districts compiled by James E. Harrell 33° (Charlotte:Self-Published) 1994

16th Street Baptist Church Bombing – Siblings of the Bombing-Remembering Birmingham Church Blast 50 Years on by Jessica Ravitz (CNN.com, September 15, 2013 updated at 2:05 PM EDT)

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in History, People

 

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The Commemorative Classic

Yesterday (Saturday, September 7) was the annual game between Johnson C. Smith University and Livingstone College.  Now called the Commemorative Classic it brings together two historically black colleges together in football.  Started in 1892, this was the first football game between two black colleges and while the story is not that well known to most Charlotteans, it deserves to be told.

It was December 1892. Johnson C. Smith University (then known as Biddle College)  offered a challenge to Livingstone College, just up the road in Salisbury, North Carolina to play a game of football.  Livingstone accepted the challenge and female students from the Industrial Science Department at Livingstone made Livingstone’s uniforms.  There are no records that exists about how Biddle obtained their uniforms.

It was snowing on the day of the game, December 27, 1892.  The teams got together in Salisbury on the front lawn of Livingstone.  The game was close despite the weather, with Biddle scoring the only touchdown.  After a fumble recovery by Livingstone was ruled out of bounds despite the fact that the snow had obscured the lines and to the spectators, it could not be determined where the lines were, the game ended with Biddle winning the game.

There was no newspaper coverage of the game in the Charlotte or the Salisbury newspapers.  There is some documentation of the game that has been handed down through the years, but the significance of the game is priceless.  It was to help spawn football programs in other black schools, most of them survive to this day.

I normally recommend websites and books on a subject if you want to know more, but as there is not a lot of information out there I would encourage you to check out the history of college football and do your own research.  You just might find out something that we didn’t know about.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in History

 

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Boundary Street – Where did you go?

Among the things that Charlotte has lost because of growth are its streets.  Some roads have been altered or cut off, others may have had their named changed to honor someone or a community (an example is Thrift Road in West Charlotte which becomes Tuckaseegee Road at the Fifth Street Extension) or erased entirely like Spring Alley, or the Fourth Street Alley.  Today, I will be talking about Boundary Street which was erased from the map when the John Belk Freeway (also known as I-277 or the Uptown Loop) was created.

Located south of Stonewall Street, it was the southern boundary for the Brooklyn neighborhood which was also called the Second Ward or Log town.  Bordering on what would be the neighborhoods of Myers Park and Dilworth, it seemed logical that most of its residents worked “in service” to the white families in those neighborhoods.

Map of Boundary Street 1911 - Courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Room Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Map of Boundary Street 1911 – Courtesy of the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina

But, with progress comes change.  The growth in automobile travel and Charlotte’s population along with the Urban Renewal projects of the 1960’s and 1970’s spelled doom for the street and its residents.  Today, nothing remains of this street and a lot of other streets in the old Brooklyn neighborhood but the memories are still there.

Present Day location of Boundary Street - Image via Google Earth

Present Day location of Boundary Street – Image via Google Earth

I hope that you will read more about the old Brooklyn Neighborhood, Myers Park and Dilworth and how these neighborhoods help shape Charlotte to the city it is today.  Some good books (both electronic and hard copy) that are available from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library are:

An African-American Album Vol. 1 (Currently out of print, you can read it at the Main Branch in the Carolina Room).  Volume 2 can be viewed via the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at http://www.cmlibrary.org/cmstory

Plum Thickets and Field Daisies by Rose Leary Love.  This is a memoir of Ms. Love, who grew up in the neighborhood and later became a teacher at Biddleville Elementary School.

Historic Charlotte: An Illustrated History of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County by Dan Morrill.

Charlotte, Its Historic Neighborhoods by John R. Rogers and Amy T. Rogers (This is also available at your local Barnes and Noble in Charlotte or by special order if you live outside of Charlotte and Park Road Books in Charlotte)

Happy Reading!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2013 in History, Places

 

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Cedar Grove Cemetery – Neglected Treasure

Image

Picture taken by the author

This cemetery, located at the end of Hildebrand Street off Beatties Ford Road near University Park Elementary School is an old African American Graveyard that has been neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair. According to the PLCMC Cemetery Database, there are records of approximately 73 burials but these records are not complete due to information being lost, funeral homes changing names, merging or going out of business.

According to the Mecklenburg County Tax Database, the current owners of the cemetery is the Cedar Grove Cemetery Association.

Image

Photo taken by author

J. S. Davidson Headstone.  Picture taken by author.

J. S. Davidson Headstone. Picture taken by author.

The cemetery is overgrown with weeds and other plant life.  It is a shame that this cemetery has been neglected, but with families dying out and moving out of town and the scarcity of records it has been hard to maintain the grounds.  But all is not lost.  There are some people, led by Ken Koontz, a former Public Affairs Director at WBTV (Channel 3) who are trying to save the cemetery and make sure that people don’t forget that this cemetery is still in existence.

If you know of a family member who may be buried at Cedar Grove or you would like to help in saving and preserving a part of West Charlotte history, please let me know.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2013 in History, Places

 

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You won’t believe what used to be in this building!

In Center City Charlotte at the corner of North Tryon and Seventh Streets is a building that currently houses the Fox and Hound Restaurant.  Built in 1925 the current owners have tried to maintain that “vintage” feeling while keeping the inside updated for their customers.

This is the current view of the building. Photo obtained by Charlotte City Search via Google Images

This is the current view of the building. Photo obtained by Charlotte City Search via Google Images

This is what the building looked like in the 1930’s when it had a Fisk Tire Shop with a garage on the side and Walker’s Drug Store:

Photo courtesy of Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room Image Collection of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library

Photo courtesy of Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room Image Collection of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library

This is a great example of what a business owner can do to keep a older building in use and not let it fall into neglect or ruin.  Over the years while the building has been altered and expanded  the building has retained most of its character.  I hope that you will visit the Fox and Hound and take a look inside a building that was not always a restaurant but always a retail establishment.

Notes:

1930’s Photo of 330 North Tryon Street taken from the Image Collection of the Robinson-Spangler Room of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library: http://www.cmlibrary.org

Current Photo of 330 North Tryon was retrieved from Charlotte City Search via Google Images August 12, 2013.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in History, Places

 

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An Abandoned Treasure – The Piedmont & Northern Railroad Station

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Thrift Station – Picture taken by author

This old train station, dating back to 1911 sits in what is now part of the “Tank Farms” in the Paw Creek area of West Charlotte.  Used as a station for the Piedmont and Northern Railroad (P&N) and designed by C. C. Hook, it is a forgotten piece of Charlotte transportation history.  The last remaining station for the old P&N Railroad, the station has seen the changes in the area from farmland and textile manufacturing to storing fuels for modern transportation.

The P&N Railroad was started in 1911 by James B. Duke (the founder of Southern Electric Company, now Duke Energy) as an electric interurban (transportation service connecting two cities) railroad connecting Charlotte to Gastonia to the West and to Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg to the South.  Built in the area known as Paw Creek, it was named Thrift due to the nearby Thrift Textile Mill (later renamed Kendall Mill) and served passengers and businesses from the nearby communities of Paw Creek, Pawtuckett and Moore’s Chapel. The station was closed in 1969 after P&N merged with the Seaboard Coast Line and the closure of the nearby Kendall Mill.

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Thrift Station – Picture taken by author

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission has applied to designate this as a historic site as it is the last surviving P&N station in Mecklenburg County. It would be a shame to let this treasure go to rot, as it could be used as a transportation museum (in conjunction with the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spenser, North Carolina),or as a working train station for CSX, the current owner of the property.

If you want to go see it, please take Freedom Drive (NC 27) until you reach Old Mount Holly Road.  Turn left, and the station will be to your right.  Because the building is on private property, please do not trespass as the property owners take a dim view of unauthorized persons on their property. If you want to know more about the P&N Railroad or other train stations designed by C.C. Hook, please check out these sources:

Electrifying the Piedmont Carolinas by Robert F. Durden (2001) pg. 25-26

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission – Survey and Research Report on the Thrift Depot of the Piedmont and Northern Railroad Company.  Historical Overview prepared by Dr. William H. Huffman (Original Report October 5, 1982, Revised October 2009)

http://www.cmhpf.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/Surveys&rThriftP&NDepot.htm

North Carolina Architects and Builders: An Biographical Dictionary

Charles Christian Hook: http://ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu/people/P000211 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2013 in History, Transportation

 

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