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Route II: South & East Charlotte

CHERRY

At about the same time as Latta began his Dilworth venture, others in Charlotte were also busy changing farmland into suburbia. Up until 1891 the Cherry neighborhood that you are now entering was cotton fields belonging to John and Mary Myers. An old farm road connecting their farmstead with Charlotte passed through a secluded hollow here and up a hill past a row of old abandoned slave cabins. Cherry trees lined the hill, "not wild cherries" remembered an old resident, "real cherries, they made the best pies."

The Myers' built rental housing in the hollow and provided black unskilled and semi-skilled laborers with the opportunity for home ownership and urban amenities, eventually including a park, school, store, churches, and tree-lined streets. When construction began, Cherry was a self-contained village, half a mile across the fields from the city's Second Ward.

Contrary to local myth, the Cherry neighborhood was not built in response to the development of Myers Park as a residential area for black servants, but in fact preceded its neighbor by as much as twenty years.

Just past the stop sign at Baxter St., pause to view the Morgan School across the park on your left.

15. Like many Charlotte schools, Morgan School was a product of the 1920s. It was also a product of racial segregation, remaining exclusively black until it was closed as an elementary school in 1968. The architect was Louis Asbury, Sr., a native Charlottean who designed several significant structures in Charlotte in the first half of the twentieth century, including Hawthorne Lane Methodist Church, Myers Park Methodist Church, and the former Mecklenburg County Courthouse on E. Trade St.


Morgan School

Continue on Baldwin to Luther St., and pause just before the intersection.

16. To your right, the New England picture-book chapel is one of Cherry's three churches. It is now the Mt. Zion Church of God Holiness, but when it was erected in 1896 it was a Lutheran missionary church. The story of the church is closely connected to its founding pastor, William Philo Phifer. Phifer was one of the first black preachers to be ordained in the Carolinas after the Civil War by the Lutheran Church. He established a large congregation in the former black community of "Brooklyn" in uptown's 2nd Ward, where a church was built in 1893. Three years later he organized the Cherry Lutheran Church and also ran a small school.


Lutheran Church in the Cherry neighborhood

17. Notice the house diagonally opposite from where you are stopped. The earliest architecture in Cherry was similar to the single-family dwellings found on tenant farms and in mill villages of the late nineteenth century. The corner house is a good example of this style. Though small for a family, this was more luxurious than many working class homes in 2nd Ward and had sufficient land for a kitchen garden. In addition to these older homes, Cherry also had many post-World War I Bungalow-style houses with their prominent roofs sweeping low over large porches.

Turn left onto Luther St. and continue on Luther St. for several blocks until you reach the intersection with Kings Dr. Turn right at the intersection onto Kings Dr. Just after the intersection of Kings Dr. and 3rd St. notice St. Mary's Chapel on your left.

 

18. In 1887, when the Thompson Orphanage was founded, it owned many acres of farmland along the hillside here. The orphanage itself straddled what is now Independence Blvd, and its Gothic-style chapel was built in 1892. The orphanage was supported by St. Peter's Episcopal Church at 7th and Tryon in uptown Charlotte. George Pavell was 11 in 1929 when he arrived at the orphanage. He remembers rising at 6 a.m., doing chores, having breakfast, and walking to school. Later there would be time for football in the fields nearby: "That's where we learned agility. We had to be agile to miss what the cows had left behind." The chapel can be reserved for public functions by calling the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department.


Thompson Orphanage Chapel

Continuing on Kings, cross 4th St., and turn right at the next traffic light onto Elizabeth Ave.