Route II: South & East Charlotte
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
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
Mecklenburg County Courthouse on E. Trade St.
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
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.