THE CHERRY NEIGHBORHOOD
by Dr. Thomas W. Hanchett
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The Cherry neighborhood is among the oldest surviving black
residential areas of Charlotte, North Carolina. 1 According
to local tradition, it was built as a servants' community for the
adjoining streetcar suburb of
Myers Park, which began to develop in 1912. 2 Cherry is
much older than that, however. It was platted in 1891 by wealthy
landowners John and Mary Myers. 3 Though Cherry has changed
as the city has grown up around it and its administration has passed
through successive generations of the Myers family, its early history
appears to be unusual among Charlotte's black neighborhoods. During John
and Mary Myers' lifetime, Cherry provided black unskilled and
semi-skilled laborers with rental housing, opportunities for
homeownership, and a number of urban amenities including a city park,
school, churches, and tree-lined streets.
The land on which Cherry was developed was part of a thousand acre
cotton farm that John Springs Myers had assembled since the 1870s along
Providence Road outside the bustling cotton town of Charlotte. 4
Myers' country cottage was on Providence Road at a high point near where
Ardsley Road crosses Hermitage Road today. 5 A farm lane
wound its way out from town through the family's cotton fields to the
back of the house. The lane started from East Trade Street near McDowell
Street, crossed Sugar Creek, then threaded its way through a secluded
hollow and up the hill past a row of old, whitewashed slave cabins left
by the land's pre-Civil War owner. 6
In 1891 Myers filed a plat map at the county Register of Deeds Office
to lay out house lots in the hollow near the farm road. 7 The
map indicated two streets off the curving lane, which was to eventually
become Main Street in Cherry. Angling off it to the east was a
more-or-less straight street which is now Luther Street (originally
Davidson Street). Most of the new house lots were along this street,
which in its earliest years ran all the way up to Providence Road,
coming out near Dartmouth Place. From the intersection of Main and
Luther streets, a short straight street ran north to what is now Fourth
Street. This last street was Cherry Avenue or Cherry Street and may have
been in existence as early as 1886. 8
The name of both the street and the neighborhood was evidently
inspired by the cherry trees that grew on the hillsides of the hollow.
Eighty-seven year old Laura Foster Kirkpatrick remembers that they were
"not wild cherries. Real cherries. They made the best pies." 9
Not everyone referred to the area as Cherry (or Cherryton or Cherrytown).
The city directory listed the settlement as Myers Quarter well into the
1910s, despite the fact that deed records indicate that the Myers
themselves never called it by that name. 10
When they were laid out in 1891, the early streets of Cherry were
beyond Charlotte's city limits, though probably no more than a
twenty-minute walk to the center of town. The nearest section of the
city was the predominantly black Second Ward, also known as Brooklyn,
half a mile away across Sugar Creek. The white streetcar suburb of
Elizabeth, to the north of Cherry, was also platted in the 1890s but
did not see much house building until after streetcar tracks were laid
up Elizabeth Avenue in 1903. 11 It was fully twenty years
before work would begin on the transformation of the remainder of the
Myers' cotton farm into the Myers Park neighborhood. For most of its
first two decades, Cherry was a village distinct from Charlotte,
following the earlier pattern of such black settlements as
Biddleville and Greenville elsewhere around Charlotte's border.
The Myers family had a reputation in Charlotte by the 1890s of being
concerned with the welfare of area blacks. John Myers' father, W.R.
Myers, had donated the land for the nucleus of what is now Johnson C.
Smith University and had been one of the most prominent white
Charlotteans to be involved in the Republican Party, an organization
known for its emphasis on black participation. 12 Both W.R.
and John Myers were vestrymen of long standing at St. Peter's Episcopal
Church. 13 That organization took the lead in Charlotte after
the Civil War in ministering to blacks, including construction of St.
Michael and All Angels Church, St. Michael's Training School, and
Good Samaritan Hospital, which is believed to be the first
privately-funded hospital exclusively for blacks in North Carolina.
Only two direct clues have come to light concerning John Myers'
motives in establishing Cherry. One was planner Earle Sumner Draper's
recollection in a 1971 interview that Cherry was a "so-called model
Negro housing development" when Draper arrived in Charlotte in 1915.
15 The second indication of Myers' motives, and the only
contemporary reference to Cherry yet discovered, is to be found in a
laudatory biographical newspaper article published in the mid 1920s near
the end of his life. After discussing Myers' creation of Myers Park, the
writer noted that there was:
a rather expansive area near the creek premises which Mr. Myers had
already undertook to develop for the negro race, giving them such
modern conveniences as would make for their contentment and comfort,
laying out streets, helping them build schools and churches and
assisting also, by a financial arrangement, in the building of homes
Later in the article the author expanded on the point:
Mr. Myers is held in special regard and reverence by hundreds of
negroes for his aids to them. The settlement known as Cherrytown, just
east of Town Creek [an early name for Sugar Creek], and numbering
thousands of negro inhabitants, is the product of his thought and
helpfulness. He laid aside a spacious area of his estate for the sole
purpose of giving the negroes of Charlotte a residential section with
such improvements as would make them better citizens, and sold them
lots on easy terms so that they would be encouraged into owning their
own homes. As a result of this assistance, hundreds of families out
there own their own premises and are thrifty, industrious,
well-behaved and constructive forces in their race. 16
The claim of "hundreds" of Cherry homeowners may be exaggerated, but
the Myers family did indeed offer a goodly number of house lots for sale
to blacks, as well as providing rental housing. One of the earliest
listings of Cherry residents may be found in the "colored department" of
the 1898 Charlotte city directory. It shows some thirty heads of
household in Cherry, a number which corresponds to that indicated in the
1900 federal census. 17 By 1900, deed records indicate that
six Cherry lots had been sold to five different black buyers, putting
home ownership somewhere around twenty percent. 18 For 1905,
a different sort of measurement is possible, because the United States
Geological Survey map drawn that year allows a rough count of actual
houses in place. 19 The map shows some fifty structures,
compared with thirteen property transfers through early 1905, putting
the percentage of owner-occupied dwellings as high as twenty-six
The pace of lot sales picked up in the mid 1900s and continued at a
high level into the mid 1920s, when John and Mary Myers turned over
control of Cherry to their children. 20 The family sold some
thirty-five lots between 1900 and 1909, and over 125 in the decade
1910-1919. 21 Most lots cost forty or fifty dollars, but
could go as high as $100. This was no small sum, but it was well below
the $300 to $600 being charged in the early 1910s in the middle-class
black streetcar suburb of
Washington Heights across town. 22 By the beginning of
1925, grantor records show that some 198 lots in Cherry had been sold to
individual blacks. 23 By comparison, a count of residents
listed on Cherry streets in the city directory that year produces a
total of 305 heads of household, all black, meaning that as many as
sixty-five percent of the residents could have been homeowners. 24
Information on Cherry residents is sketchy, but from city directory,
census, and chain-of-title records, it is possible to create a picture
of the early inhabitants of the Myers' development. In its first two
decades, almost all Cherry citizens were unskilled or semi-skilled urban
laborers. There were virtually no household servants, despite the area's
present-day reputation as having been developed as a servants' quarter.
There were also virtually no representatives of the black middle class
-- ministers, teachers, store owners, doctors, lawyers -- that was much
in evidence in other Charlotte black neighborhoods in the period,
including Brooklyn, First Ward, and Biddleville. This absence is
particularly noticeable among Cherry homeowners. The Myers appear to
have created in Cherry a place where urban laborers could own their own
modest dwellings, rather than being forced to rent in the crowded back
alleys of center city neighborhoods. 25
Among the thirty Cherry heads of household gleaned from the 1898 city
directory, one listed his occupation as drayman, and four were
"farmers," but the remainder said they were laborers. The 1900 census
provides a similar picture. At least a dozen of the blacks in the Cherry
area had distinctly urban occupations, particularly cotton oil mill
worker, drayman, and laundress. There were a like number of "day
laborers," an occupation distinct from "farm laborer" in the census
Information on lot buyers in Cherry indicates that most were
laborers. either working for one particular concern, or hiring
themselves out on a day-by-day basis. 27 Such was James
Crawford (who purchased 624 Cherry Street in 1911), listed variously as
a general laborer, a porter with J.I. Blakely, and finally a laborer at
the Southern Cotton Oil in the years before he bought his property. So
too were Matt Ross (1615 Luther Street, 1899), listed as a general
laborer and a laborer for the Southern Railway; Edward Holmes (1805 and
1809 Luther Street, 1904), consistently listed as a general laborer; and
John P. Alexander, Jr. (1926 Luther Street, 1909), also a laborer.
A handful of others worked as their own bosses in semi-skilled
occupations. The small number of single women listed as heads of
households worked as laundresses, including Mary McHenry (1505 and 1509
Luther Street, 1893, demolished), Annie Griffin (1816 Luther Street,
1905), and Lizzie Harris (1922 Luther Street, 1909). Richard Torrence
(1701 Luther Street, 1900), and Andrew Byers (1812 Luther Street, 1904)
listed their occupation as drayman, meaning they had a cart and a horse,
mule, or ox and made deliveries around town.
After Myers Park opened in the 1910s, maid and gardener would become
commonplace occupations in Cherry, but in the neighborhood's first two
decades, only one household servant has been identified among lot
buyers. He was Jones Ross, who purchased a piece of property on Luther
Street with his wife Janie in 1901. Ross worked as butler to the family
of Hamilton C. Jones, who had a large house on East Trade Street near
Caldwell Street and was a relative by marriage of John Springs Myers.
Though Ross made his purchase in 1901, he evidently did not build until
1907, for the city directory lists him as living elsewhere.
Among the preponderance of unskilled and semi-skilled homeowners in
Cherry were a small number of heads of household who held skilled
positions. Andrew Wallace worked as a laborer before he and his wife
Dorrina bought their lot at 1704 Luther Street in 1909, but afterwards
was listed as a blacksmith. John Lewis ran a shoe-making and cleaning
shop in the heart of the black Brooklyn neighborhood for some twenty
years before he and his wife Carrie purchased property at 628 Cherry
Street in 1918. Perhaps the most highly skilled craftsman was Robert S.
Jackson. City directories indicate that he was accomplished at
cabinetmaking, furniture construction and upholstery, and that he passed
his skills to black youths as an instructor at St. Michaels Training
School. He lived in Cherry for many years, evidently as a renter, before
buying property on Baxter Street near the corner of Cherry Street in
The earliest dwellings in Cherry today are found along Luther,
Cherry, and Baxter Streets and date from the first decade of the
twentieth century. The earliest single-family housetype is one found
often on tenant farms and in mill villages throughout the Carolinas in
the late nineteenth century. The main part of the house is a one-story,
gable-roofed block that is two rooms wide and one room deep. 29
To the rear are one or more wings that add extra space to the basic
two-room plan. Numbers 1515 Luther Street, 1816 Luther Street, and 1820
Luther Street, evidently erected between 1900 and 1910, all follow this
plan, as do numbers 1800 and 1804 Baxter Street. These dwellings were
all owner-occupied by 1910, though similarities between 1816 and 1820
Luther indicate that they may have been built at the same time for
rental and later sold to tenants. 30 Each house has a broad
Harder to date, but likely of the same era, are a series of identical
rental duplexes scattered throughout the neighborhood, all of which
remained in the Myers family until recent years. Each duplex is square
in plan and is topped by a high hip roof with shallow eaves. Each
apartment within has two rooms. The floor plan is laid out so that the
four fireplaces -- one for each room -- are back-to-back at the center
of the structure and feed into a single central chimney. The arrangement
appears to be extremely efficient in giving heat, providing sound
insulation between units, and minimizing construction expense. According
to black architectural historian Richard K. Dozier of Tuskegee, Alabama,
this housetype is uncommon in early-twentieth century black
neighborhoods in the South. 31 Recent demolition has claimed
several examples along Luther Street, but two survive in good condition
at 404-406 Cherry Street and 412-414 Cherry Street.
Along with the simple gable-roofed single-family cottages and
hip-roofed duplexes, a few other houses appear to date from before World
War I. These include 708 Waco Street, the last remaining shotgun type
house in the neighborhood. This distinctive housetype with its long,
narrow arrangement of rooms was common in Southern black neighborhoods
into the 1910s, and scholars have recently traced its roots to African
architecture. 32 In a more Victorian mode are 1700 and 1701
Baxter Street. Both use high hip roofs with a profusion of smaller
gables to achieve the sort of complex roofscape beloved by Victorian
builders. Also with Victorian touches is 1915 Baxter Street, a
substantial edition of the gable-roofed cottage found elsewhere in the
neighborhood but here enlivened by an ornate porch with turned balusters
and scroll-sawn "gingerbread" trim around the attic vent in the front
After World War I, the pace of building apparently picked up in
Cherry. Numerous dwellings survive today that show influence of the
Bungalow style popular in middle- and upper-income white neighborhoods
of the 1920s. Cherry cottages of this era have low gable or hip roofs
with rafters left exposed in the eaves. Often gable ends are extended
and supported by brackets. Siding is either weatherboard or horizontal
tongue-and-groove "novelty" siding. 33 Duplexes with these
characteristics include: 1616, 1618, 1704, 1900, 1904, and 1906 Luther
Street; and 1902-1904, 1906-1908, and 1910-1912 Baxter Street. Among the
single-family examples are: 1400, 1433, 1509, and 1912 Luther Street;
1819, 1823, and 1829 Main Street; 417, 501, and 624 Cherry Street; and
1801, 1805, 1819, 1900, 1901, and 1907 Baxter Street. All continued the
tradition of front porches seen elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Also in the 1920s, the Myers family began experimenting with other
building materials in addition to wooden weatherboard siding. Among the
earliest structures to use brick is the pair of dwellings at 1717 and
1735 Baxter Street. Each has a jerkin-head gable roof with brackets and
wooden novelty siding in the gables. The brick walls are laid in a
variation on the common bonding pattern with one course of alternating
headers and stretchers followed by seven stretcher courses. The
durability, natural insulating qualities, and freedom from repainting
made brick a natural material for rental structures.
A contemporaneous grouping of four brick structures on Cherry Street
has notably unorthodox brickwork. Rawlinson Myers owned an interest in a
brickworks in Monroe, North Carolina and these houses are said to have
been built as experiments in the material. 34 Numbers 500,
502, 504, and 506 feature oversize bricks with unusual, rough,
reddish-orange finish similar to terra cotta. They are laid in Flemish
bond, alternating stretchers and headers in each course, an unusual
practice in Charlotte in the period. Three of the structures are
single-family bungalows while the fourth is a two-story quadraplex.
Adjacent to the brick bungalows are a pair of concrete block bungalows
that share the same plan and window arrangement as the brick dwellings.
It is likely that these structures at 508 and 510 are part of the same
Myers family experiment with new building materials; all of the houses
in the 500 block of Cherry Street have been renter-occupied since their
By working-class standards of the day, the Cherry houses of the 1900s
were desirable living quarters, on the level of what might be found in
an average white mill village. 35 Each unit had enough land
for its own kitchen-garden, something seldom found in the crowded alleys
of Second Ward. The design of the hip-roofed and later Bungalow-style
duplexes likely made them easier to heat than the standard urban shotgun
with its strung-out room arrangement. But by contemporary white
middle-class standards, the Cherry houses were less than ideal. All had
outdoor privies. Few had more than two to four small rooms, and lots
were smaller than found in better white middle-class suburbs. Few had
enclosed foundations, but rather perched atop brick stilts, and all were
heated by fireplace rather than furnace.
Along with providing rental housing and lots for sale to blacks, John
and Mary Myers ensured that Cherry would have such amenities as
churches, a school, and even tree-lined streets and a neighborhood park.
Before more than a dozen residents had arrived, the Myers were able to
sell two lots for church sites. The family's third property transfer of
any kind in their new development was to the Pleasant Hill Baptist
Church Association on November 2, 1892. The site was on Luther Street
near its outlet onto Providence Road. Blacks had worshipped under a
brush arbor on the spot since at least the 1870s. 36 Since
the 1890s, Pleasant Hill Church has moved twice and now occupies a large
modernistic 1959 structure by architects Wilbur, Kendrick, and Workman
at Baldwin and Baxter streets in the heart of the neighborhood. 37
In 1896 a second denomination purchased a Cherry site. The Lutheran
Church's Missionary Board of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical
Conference of North America for Mission Among Heathens and Negroes paid
fifty dollars for a large lot near the center of the fledgling
neighborhood. The street the property overlooked, originally Davidson
Street, became Luther Street (or Lutheran Street in some city
directories). It is something of a mystery how the Lutherans became
involved in Cherry, considering the Myers' Episcopalian background and
the exceedingly small Lutheran presence in Charlotte as a whole. The
Missionary Board soon erected a New England picture-book
chapel of white weatherboard, complete with a Gothic-influenced
steeple. It remains a neighborhood landmark today, known as the Mount
Zion Church of God Holiness after the Lutherans' departure in 1946.
The former Lutheran Church
The third major Cherry church site dates from near the end of John
and Mary Myers' direct involvement in the community and was a donation
by the family. In 1919 the couple deeded a large parcel on Cherry Street
near the corner of Baxter Street to the trustees of the Myers Chapel
A.M.E. Zion Church with the condition that:
It is to be used for a new church which shall be completed within
ten years from this date otherwise this lot shall revert to the legal
heirs of John S. and Mary Myers ... and if said lot shall ever cease
to be used for church purposes it shall revert. 38
The congregation was one that had grown out of the new community,
organized in 1901 and worshipping in a wooden chapel for several years.
39 In 1919 its trustees included Kelly O. Alexander and
Stephen Alexander, two Cherry landowners, as well as Major White, Albert
Shropshire, Daek Peron, Rawson Hall, and D.D. Watkins. The final trustee
was George Wiley Clinton, a First Ward resident who was one of the
city's most prestigious black citizens. Charlotte was known in the
period as a national center for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion
religion, second only to its New York City headquarters. Clinton, former
director of the prolific A.M.E. Zion publishing facility in Charlotte,
was a long-time bishop of the denomination. His participation in the
Myers Chapel building project was one of his last acts before his death
in 1921. 40
Today Myers Chapel is a commanding presence in the Cherry
neighborhood. Its facade features a gabled central block flanked by two
towers, one flat-topped, the other surmounted by a crenelated parapet.
The structure's stucco finish and chunky buttresses give it a
Spanish-flavored solidity and massiveness that contrasts strongly with
the surrounding sea of small cottages. The congregation evidently had no
trouble meeting the Myers' ten-year deadline; the cornerstone reads:
MYERS CHAPEL A.M.E. ZION CHURCH
By Rev. B.B. Moore
At about the same time, the Myers family provided land for a school
near the center of the neighborhood. According to a 1950 story in the
Like his father, John Myers was interested in improving the
education facilities and methods of the state, particularly those in
Charlotte. He deeded to the city a valuable tract of land in the
Cherrytown district for a graded school, later giving another tract
nearby for a park and playground. 41
In 1925 the school lot became the site of the Morgan School, named
after a member of the Myers family. 42 The red brick,
two-story building was one of half a dozen schools erected throughout
the city in 1925 and 1926. 43 According to school
superintendent Harry P. Harding:
Morgan School in Cherrytown on a lot 180' x 120' ... the building
cost $36,309.00. There were ten class rooms, Principal's office and
Nurse's office .... Dr. Strayer and Dr. Englehardt of Columbia
University ... were consulting Architects in the planning of these
Throughout its history, Morgan was one of the city's smallest
elementary schools. 45 It finally closed in 1968, and the
building is now used for a city program to aid pregnant teenagers.
Across Torrence Street from the school building is Morgan Park,
occupying an entire grassy block. It is not known when the Myers created
the park, but at the time that the City Parks and Recreation Commission
was initiated in 1927, Morgan was one of five parcels of parkland it
administered. 47 The Cherry facility was the first city park
in a black neighborhood and seems to have been the first intended
primarily to serve a working-class area. The park is near the center of
Cherry and strongly recalls a small-town New England green, with the
school on one side, the Pleasant Hill Church on another, and a 1920s
community store near one corner. A section of adjoining Main Street was
closed to traffic in 1977 to provide additional play area for small
children. 48 Today Morgan Park continues to be a heavily-used
neighborhood gathering spot, a unique feature in Charlotte.
Along with providing a park, the Myers also had trees planted along
Cherry's streets. Floretta Gunn, a teacher at Morgan School beginning in
the 1920s, remembers the trees as one of the area's most striking
attributes even then. 49 Today's Cherry's tree-cover ranks
among the finest in Charlotte, and a comparison of size with those in
Myers Park or Elizabeth indicates that the Cherry specimens were planted
early, probably when streets were platted.
In 1925 John Springs Myers passed away. 50 By that time
Cherry's street system had grown to nearly its full extent. Fox and
Cecil (originally Bronson) streets had been the first added to the
original Luther, Main and Cherry streets, finished in time to appear on
the 1905 United States Geological Survey Map. In 1906 the Myers had sold
the first lot on Baxter Street, a major new avenue parallel to Luther
Street on the south side of Main Street. 51 In 1909 local
engineers had laid out the angled grid of straight streets south of
Baxter Street. 52 Today these are known as Avant Street
(originally Woodward), Welker Street, Waco Street (originally Wallace),
and the last blocks of Baldwin Avenue (originally Morgan), Torrence
Street (originally Converse), and Cherry Street. Many of the Cherry
street names commemorated Myers and Springs family members and
relatives, including Baxter, Woodward, Eli, Davidson, and Morgan.
In 1912 Luther, Baxter, and Main streets, which originally had run up
the hill to Providence Road, had been cut short by the new boulevard of
Queens Road, part of the Myers Park development for whites. The few
houses occupied by blacks in the Myers Park section were moved down the
hill into the central part of Cherry, primarily along Avant Street.
54 There were to be no more changes in the neighborhood's
boundaries until the 1950s.
So by the time of Myers' death, Cherry's western boundary was Cecil
Street, with the bed of Sugar Creek a further barrier between it and
Dilworth and Brooklyn. The streets of the 1909 plat formed the
southern extent of the neighborhood, separated by a branch of Sugar
Creek from the large houses of Myers Park. The steep hill to Queens Road
clearly marked Cherry's eastern edge. On the north side, the least
clearly defined boundary, the back property lines along Luther and
Cherry streets served to separate the black neighborhood from the
bungalows of the adjacent white Torrence subdivision.
Shortly before John Springs Myers' death, he and his wife had deeded
the balance of their holdings in Cherry to their children. 55
Rawlinson Myers assumed title to some lands in 1918. A bachelor, there
is some evidence that he had overseen early development of Cherry for
his parents. Earle Draper remembers, "Mr. Myers' son ... managed it and
I think laid it out. He collected rents and maintained it." 56
Family members recall that by the 1920s a Mr. T.C. Wilson handled the
actual rent collection, but that Rawlinson was quite active in arranging
lot sales and also setting up construction financing for buyers through
Mutual Building and Loan, of which he was an officer. 57 By
1922 John and Mary Myers had given each of their children a portion of
Cherry's rental housing and undeveloped land. 58 The
beneficiaries were Mary Myers Dwelle and her husband Harold, Richard
Myers and his wife Marguerite, and Rawlinson.
The children made no more additions to Cherry's street pattern or
urban amenities, but they did continue to administer Cherry as their
father had. This may have been due to the watchful presence of mother
Mary Morgan Rawlinson Myers, who lived until 1939. 59 Between
1925 and the end of the 1930s, grantor records show that some thirty
additional Cherry lots were transferred to individuals. 60
This was a somewhat smaller number than in previous periods, but
significant in the face of the national economic depression.
In the late 1920s, each part of the family developed and managed its
own holdings individually. 61 During the course of the 1930s
and 1940s, grandsons John Dwelle and Brevard Myers took control of
rentals and new development. 62 The men slowly added indoor
bathrooms to the existing houses and gave them enclosed foundations,
supplementing the brick piers that supported many of the rental
They also constructed a number of new rental units in the oldest
section of the neighborhood, filling up vacant land and occasionally
replacing early wooden structures. Brevard Myers remembers that one of
his first post-World War II buildings in Cherry was the duplex that
stands at 505-507 Waco Street. It contains no wood inside the units;
walls are of concrete block, windows are steel framed, and the floors
are of poured concrete "so that we could just hose it out after a family
left," according to Myers. 63
Most of the new rental units were brick. Their long, low forms recall
the suburban Ranch style houses that were becoming popular throughout
the nation in the 1950s. Today much of Main Street, which had only a
handful of frame dwellings before the Second World War, is lined with
these structures. Scattered other examples are found throughout Cherry.
Also from this period are the two-story brick quadraplex apartments on
Baldwin Street that face Morgan Park. They were built for John Dwelle by
contractor C.T. Brown, a prolific Charlotte apartment builder.
The 1950s saw an expansion of Cherry's boundaries as well, though
this was not the work of the Myers family. For decades Cherry's small
houses had backed up to the middle-class bungalows of the white Torrence
subdivision to the north. The Torrence property had once been part of a
farm owned by S.J. Torrence in the late nineteenth century, which
straddled the eventual path of Elizabeth Avenue. After trolleys began
running up Elizabeth Avenue in 1903, the Torrence lands had been
gradually subdivided into house lots. 64 Streets created
included much of Torrence Street, Baldwin Avenue, Lillington Avenue, and
Ranlo Avenue. The four square blocks between Luther Street and
present-day Third Street were evidently laid out around 1910, and by the
1920s they were lined with comfortable, one- and one-and-a-half-story
The line between the white Torrence subdivision and black Cherry
remained inviolate until the late 1950s when, in the words of Brevard
Myers, "the color line broke all over town." 65 Soon blacks
occupied most of the properties up to Third Street. Adjoining Amherst
Place, developed in the early teens as a bungalow block of Myers Park,
also became predominantly black. Today both Amherst and the Torrence
property are considered part of the Cherry neighborhood. 66
Even as Myers and Dwelle built new rental units in Cherry, they
recognized that Cherry's place in the urban structure of Charlotte was
changing. By now the city's growth meant that Cherry was no longer
isolated on the edge of the city, but was among its central
neighborhoods. Cherry's land was becoming too well located for its
"highest and best use" to continue to be low-income housing.
This fact was accentuated by post-war developments. In the late 1940s
the city's first expressway, Independence Boulevard, cut through
Cherry's northern edge. 67 Soon a second new thoroughfare was
built to connect affluent Myers Park directly to the highway. Kings
Drive followed the path of Sugar Creek along Cherry's western boundary.
In 1958, Charlottetown Mall was completed at the Kings-Independence
intersection. 68 The showy shopping complex was one of the
first enclosed shopping centers in the South, and it was literally a
stone's throw from the humble frame houses of Cherry.
Even before construction began on the mall, John Dwelle and Brevard
Myers, who were real estate developers by profession, began increasing
their holdings in Cherry. By the 1950s many early residents were
reaching old age, and sometimes their heirs had left Charlotte as part
of the vast out-migration of Southern blacks to the industrial cities of
the North. Nevertheless, Brevard Myers remembers it often took numerous
visits and "a lot of porch rocking" before he could convince some owners
to sell. 69 By the 1970s, "resident property owners
constituted only about 17% of the nearly 1800 persons living in Cherry."
Cherry was also one of the few black neighborhoods near Charlotte's
center to escape federally-funded Urban Renewal in the 1960s. During the
decade, thousands of houses and hundreds of businesses were bulldozed in
the Brooklyn, Greenville, First Ward, and Third Ward sections. 71
According to Vernon Sawyer, who directed the city's Urban Renewal
program, Cherry was spared because Planning Commission studies showed it
to be one of Charlotte's least substandard neighborhoods for blacks.
72 It may not have hurt, as well, that Brevard Myers served a
term on City Council in the period and strongly opposed the city's
wholesale clearance policies in general, arguing that property owners in
Brooklyn and elsewhere should be pushed to improve their own holdings.
What Dwelle and Myers planned to do in Cherry, as market conditions
permitted, was to clear the oldest portion of the neighborhood,
including Luther Street and Cherry Street, and redevelop the land for
stores and offices along the highways, with upper-income apartments near
Myers Park. 74 Said Myers:
In the lower end of Cherry, from about Baxter Street to Queens
Road, most of the people there own that property and should be
respected as homeowners.... But the property around Independence
Boulevard in the upper end of Cherry should be allowed to go
commercial because the houses there are too old to rehabilitate.
Though redevelopment of this major Kings-Independence intersection
seemed to make good sense as a real estate development, it did not sit
well with Cherry residents. Despite the fact that Cherry had few
homeowners, an active residents' organization known as the Cherry
Community Development Association grew up in the late 1960s under the
leadership of Phyllis Lynch, Torrence Powell, and others. 76
Because of its activities, city fathers felt pressure to direct some of
the federal urban redevelopment dollars flowing into the city to Cherry.
The city's Neighborhood Improvement Program proposed installation of
sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and storm drains for Cherry in the mid-1970s.
77 Like most older black neighborhoods in the city, Cherry
had no such facilities.
Officials were surprised at the Cherry residents' reaction. Instead
of welcoming the belated improvements, neighborhood residents stood up
in meeting after meeting to say that the great need of their area was
improvement of housing that was substandard by modern measurements. and
an end to the absentee landlordship that had been growing since the
1950s. After a battle that stretched over several years, the residents
won much of their proposal. A 1980 Charlotte Observer article
summarized the effort:
Three years ago residents in the neighborhood of 370 homes ...
decided it made no sense to get new sidewalks while their homes were
falling down. So they formed a corporation and persuaded the city to
spend $1 million to buy out the major Cherry landowners, Brevard Myers
and John Dwelle. The new corporation, the Cherry Community
Organization periodically buys some of that property from the city and
hires contractors to rehabilitate the houses with city-sponsored
low-interest loans. CCO maintains, and collects rent from, the
remaining city-owned property .... It has been heralded by the federal
government as one of the most innovative community projects in the
The effort began slowly, with the first Cherry Community Organization
director being replaced after an initial year in which only nine of
twenty-six promised units were renovated. 79 The new
director, Charlotte native James Ross, has been largely successful in
getting the organization to meet its goals. Numerous houses have been
renovated, and many of the most deteriorated have been bulldozed.
Construction is underway on a thirty-two unit low-rise public housing
project at Cherry and Luther streets, and five smaller projects are
scattered throughout the neighborhood, the first major new construction
in Cherry since Brevard Myers and John Dwelle stopped building rental
units about 1960. 80
The recent developments in Cherry have not been without effects to
the area's historic character. Myers and Dwelle's projects in the 1950s
produced a scattering of new structures throughout the neighborhood and
replaced the last of the owner-occupied houses of the 1890s. Since 1980
more than seventy additional dwellings have been destroyed by the City
of Charlotte. Myers and Dwelle continue to control large tracts of land
along Kings Drive and Independence Boulevard, and nibble away at the
neighborhood's housing stock as they succeed in petitions for commercial
Yet, in the heart of the neighborhood, hints remain of Cherry's early
flavor. Architecture encompasses a diversity of construction periods
ranging from the 1900s to the 1950s, but the structures possess a unity
of appearance. They are predominantly duplexes and single-family
cottages. The compact structures all have gable or hip roofs, and almost
all are one-story. Every house has a front porch.
Homeownership is much lower than the figure achieved in the 1950s,
but Cherry's residents continue to be low-income blacks, just they were
in John and Mary Myers' time. The amenities that the Myers helped to
provide, including the land for the Morgan School building, Myers Chapel
church, and especially Morgan Park at the center of the neighborhood are
still important features of the area. Most striking to the visitor are
the street trees which the Myers planted in the neighborhood's earliest
years. Today they are near full maturity, sheltering Cherry in a soaring
summer canopy of green.
1 John Nolen mapped some eight or nine black neighborhoods
in the city and its surroundings in 1917. Only two of these, Cherry and
Biddleville, survived the urban renewal area of the 1960s and 1970s. The
third early black neighborhood in the city today is Grier Heights-Billingsville,
begun as a farm village, and outside Nolen's survey area in 1917. John
Nolen, "Civic Survey, Charlotte, North Carolina: Report to the Chamber
of Commerce" (Cambridge, Mass.: typescript, 1917). The only known
surviving copy of this document is in John Nolen's papers at the Cornell
University Department of Manuscripts and Archives, Ithaca, New York.
2 Nolen planned Myers Park in 1911, and construction began
early in 1912. By the 1920s it had become the most desirable
neighborhood for wealthy Charlotteans. For more on the neighborhood see
Myers Park chapter of this manuscript.
3 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: map book
230, p. 202. See also Butler and Spratt, "Map of Charlotte Township,
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, From Recent Surveys... 1892." Copies
are in the collections of the History Department of the Mint Museum,
Charlotte, and the City of Charlotte Historic Districts Commission.
4 The first tract of the farm was purchased by John Myers'
parents and given to him in 1869. Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds
Office: deed book 11, p. 13. Brevard Myers, interview with Thomas W.
Hanchett in Charlotte, March 1984. See also "Myers Park" vertical file
in the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Public Library.
5 Butler and Spratt map, 1892. "Myers Park" vertical file.
According to Brevard Myers, John and Mary Myers lived primarily in their
large downtown residence on East Trade Street. The small country
dwelling no longer stands.
6 Butler and Spratt map, 1892. A 1911 article in the
"Myers Park" vertical file includes the information that the "plantation
became the property of Mr. J.S. Myers. In 1870 he built the old
house.... Many of the old landmarks of "Befo' De War" are still
standing. The rows of whitewashed cabins remain as silent witnesses of
bygone days." According to Brevard Myers, city crews found sections of
old log "corduroy" road beneath Main Street when they rebuilt the street
in the 1950s. Brevard Myers interviews with Hanchett, March and
7 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: map book
230, p. 202. Butler and Spratt map, 1892, shows Cherry Street and Luther
Street lot lines.
8 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: deed book
51, p. 422; deed book 69, p. 314, transfer Myers property on "Cherry
Avenue'' in 1886 and 1890, respectively.
9 Quoted in Mary Kratt and Thomas W. Hanchett, "Myers Park
History," 1984, Chapter 2, page 1. Manuscript in the possession of Kratt.
There was eventually a family with the surname of Cherry in the
neighborhood, but records indicate that they did not arrive until many
years after the area had been named. See Minnie Cherry's 1918 purchase
of a lot on Cherry Street, Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office:
Deed Book 392, p. 504.
10 No Cherry deeds from the Myers family ever use the term
"Myers Quarter." Early deeds merely refer to street names, while by the
1910s the area is consistently referred to as "Cherrytown."
11 Dan L. Morrill and Nancy Thomas, "Elizabeth" in the New
South Neighborhoods Brochure series (Charlotte: Charlotte Mecklenburg
Historic Properties Commission, 1981). For more on the neighborhood, see
Elizabeth chapter of this manuscript.
12 Inez Moore Parker, The Biddle-Johnson C. Smith Story
(Charlotte: Charlotte Publishing, 1975), p. 5.
13 J.S. Myers' contribution to the church is mentioned in
Joseph Blount Cheshire, "St. Peter's Church, Charlotte: Thirty Years of
Its Life and Work," 1921, p. 28. Photocopy in the "Episcopal Church"
vertical file at the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Public Library.
Information that W.R. Myers was "one of the founders of St. Peter's
Episcopal Church and at 23 years of age was secretary of the first
vestry of the church" comes from the Charlotte Observer, February
18, 1950. Bishop Cheshire remarked on the vestry's sensitivity to black
concerns in his 1921 memoir: "In entering upon the work of the parish
[in 1881], I could not fail to observe the large negro population of
Charlotte .... It is gratifying to me to know that the vestry of the
parish were deeply interested in this matter," pp. 30-31.
14 Charlotte News, June 25, 1936. William H.
Samaritan Hospital: Survey and Research Report," (Charlotte:
Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1984). Dr. Mary V.
Glenton, Story of a Hospital (Hartford, Conn.: Church Missions
Publishing Company, 1937), p.18. Most Charlotte sources claim that Good
Samaritan was the first in the entire South, but data assembled in the
Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 93:13, March 30,
1929, lists the Georgia Infirmary (1832) in Savannah, Georgia, the
Freedman's Hospital (1865) in the District of Columbia, and the North
Carolina State Hospital at Goldsboro (1880) as being earlier. Additional
research may confirm that it was indeed the first privately-funded
hospital exclusively for blacks in the South.
15 In 1971 the Myers Park Homeowners Association asked
Draper's son Earle Sumner Draper, Jr., to interview the retired planner,
who was living in Vero Beach, Florida. In response to his son's query,
"Was this property [Myers Park] originally a cotton plantation?" Draper,
Sr., responded, "This property was originally the plantation of Mr. John
Myers, the father of Mrs. George Stephens. I think there was about 1500
acres, as I remember, in the property and was arranged so that the
payments were made under a release clause provision by Mr. Myers
whenever a lot was sold. Adjacent to this property on the west side was
so-called model Negro housing development, developed by Mr. Myers' son
...." Transcript of the tape-recorded interview is in the collection of
the archives of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
In the period when the Myers began their work, a number of noted
American philanthropists were beginning to take an interest in improving
the housing conditions of the country's urban working poor. Low-income
people were not able to make use of the county-funded poorhouse that
aimed at helping the most destitute, and neither were they served by
federally-supported public housing, which would not become a reality
until the 1930s. Philanthropists worked to create housing projects that,
while far from luxurious, were better than the standard speculative
tenements and still modestly profitable. They hoped to demonstrate
"that the providing of good homes for Negroes is a profitable
business undertaking in cities, and thus inspire building operations
on a scale to aid materially in relieving the present bad conditions
in many places, when the fact comes generally to the attention of
T.J. Woofter, Negro Problems in Cities (New York: Doubleday,
Doran and Company, 1928), p. 169.
If Cherry was indeed a model project for blacks, literature on the
subject indicates that it may have been one of the first in the United
States. See Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream: a Social History of
Housing in America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981), pp. 120-123,
129-130. James Ford, Slums and Housing. With Special Reference to New
York City: History, Conditions, Policy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1936), volume 2, pp. 740-748, 868-870. Lawrence M.
Friedman, Government and Slum Housing, a Century of Frustration
(Chicago: Rand McNally, 1968), pp. 75-79, 82, 101. Devereaux Bowley,
Jr., The Poorhouse: Subsidized Housing in Chicago, 1895-1976
(Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1978) pp. 7-13.
Thomas Lee Philpott, The Slum and the Ghetto:
Neighborhood-Deterioration and Middle-Class Reform, Chicago, 1880-1930
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1978) pp. 203-208. Only one source
has come to light detailing such attempts in the South, all early
twentieth century, primarily industrial housing, including projects at
Baden and Winston-Salem in North Carolina: Better Houses for Negro
Homes (New York: The Commission on the Church and Race Relation,
Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, 1925). This
informative work is on microfilm at the Schomberg Center of the New York
Recent scholarship on urban history and black neighborhoods in the
South makes no mention of any project similar to Cherry. See David R.
Goldfield, Cotton Fields and Skyscrapers : Southern City and Region,
1607-1980 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982).
John Kellog, "Negro Urban Clusters in the Post-Bellum South"
Geographical Review 47 (July 1977):310-321. John Kellog, "The
Formation of Black Residential Areas in Lexington, Kentucky, 1865-1887"
The Journal of Southern History 48 (February 1982):21-25. Paul
Groves and Edward Muller, "The Evolution of Black Residential Areas in
Late 19th Century Cities," Journal of Historical Geography (April
1975):169-191. The South did have a history of rural black new towns,
mostly established immediately after the Civil War. See Rodney Carlisle,
The Roots of Black Nationalism (Port Washington, New York:
Kennikat Press, 1975), pp. 90-92. Joe Mobley, James City: a Black
Community in North Carolina, 1863-1900 (Raleigh, North Carolina:
North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1981). Cherry, of
course, evidently received no publicity outside the immediate area.
Future research in other Southern cities may point up other
philanthropic black housing projects aimed at showing local investors
that one could provide more humane quarters while still turning a
16 Article dated August 13, 19??, in the "Myers Park"
vertical file at the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Public Library.
17 Due to laxity in record keeping in the period, it is
impossible to arrive at precise figures for anything concerning Cherry,
particularly before it became part of the city in 1907. It is possible
to trace a number of Cherry residents through successive editions of the
city directory, despite annoying gaps. The 1898 directory is the most
complete of the pre-World War I editions in its coverage of Cherry. The
1900 manuscript census is probably more accurate, but it gives no
indication where Cherry's boundaries were. Data were compiled for this
essay by researcher Janette Greenwood for Enumeration District #41,
sheets 29 through 36. These sheets include a number of whites, plus a
number of black farm owners and farm laborers who likely lived along
Providence Road, in addition to families known to have resided in
18 Data on Cherry property transfers and individuals were
assembled by Joseph Schuchman and Thomas Hanchett through a combination
of methods. All grantor records for Myers' transfers of Cherry
properties were listed chronologically through the 1910s. Title searches
were conducted for selected properties, particularly those along Cherry,
Luther, and Main streets. Names of all original owners gleaned from the
title searches -- no matter when they purchased land -- were tracked
through city directories from 1890 to 1916 to get an understanding of
occupation and residence patterns. Most Cherry citizens held a variety
of jobs and moved frequently.
19 United States Geological Survey, "Charlotte Quadrangle,
1:62500," surveyed 1905, printed 1907, reprinted 1927.
20 Some property was transferred to son Rawlinson Myers in
1918, but most of the transfers took place in 1922.
21 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: grantor
22 For instance, see Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds
Office: deed book 312, pp. 264, 272, 296, 297, 299, 309, 310, 311, 324.
All of these transfers took place in 1913. For more on
Washington Heights, see the chapter devoted to it
in the present
manuscript. Both Cherry and Washington Heights lots were usually 50' x
100', small but adequate by white suburban standards, and spacious
compared with the 25' x 100' sites in downtown alleys.
23 A random check of these names against city directory
records indicates all were black. In addition, a handful of lots went to
white real estate man Charles Lambeth, and a dozen or so were
transferred to Mutual Building and Loan, which likely was helping black
borrowers to build.
24 The number was undoubtedly somewhat lower than
sixty-five percent in reality. A small number of blacks bought more than
one lot, for speculative purposes, and others seem to have waited
several years between purchase and construction. Future researchers into
Cherry's history will want to complete the time-consuming task of
title-searching each piece of property in order to arrive at precise
information on homeownership patterns over time.
25 The desperate character of most black housing is
illustrated in a paper read before the
Charlotte Women's Club by V.S. Woodward, general secretary of the
Charlotte Associated Charities in 1915: "Housing conditions among the
Negroes in general are very bad; and in some places much worse than the
worst of the white section. In one place six and a half blocks from the
Square, there is one toilet for the use of nine Negro families. It has
no inside hook, and being located on a public alley, is constantly used
by the public .... According to the 1915 city directory, there are more
than fifty alleys and rows along which dwelling houses for white and
colored families are erected. Of course none of these is suitable for a
residential highway. In Charlotte the size of the lots fronting on these
alleys is generally not more than 25' x 100' feet, and often smaller.
Many of these four-room, two-family houses have already been built on
small lots and continue to be built. The cost of such a house, including
the lot, is about $700.00. Rentals at 50cts. per week per room bring an
income of more than 14 1/2% on the investment. Counting out taxes,
repairs -- which are rarely made -- and insurance, the net income on
this class of property in Charlotte is about 10% in normal times. This
is a greater percentage of profit than is to be had from the rentals of
medium and first class property." A copy of this paper, entitled
"Housing and Its Relation to Health in Our City," is in the John Nolen
Collection at Cornell University. It includes 1915 photographs. For much
later photographs of the same sort of alleys, still unpaved in the
1960s, see Rev. DeGranval Burke, The Brooklyn Story (Charlotte:
Afro-American Cultural and Service Center, 1978).
26 As noted above, the 1900 manuscript census does not
indicate directly whether residents were in any particular neighborhood,
but comparison with city directory records indicates that Cherry and
surrounding listings are included in sheets 29 through 36, Enumeration
27 Throughout this chapter, except where noted,
biographical information on individuals is taken from the city
28 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: death
certificate book 378, p. 309. Jackson's house burned in 1918, killing
its owner, who was by then seventy.
29 Doug Swaim, "North Carolina Folk Housing," in Swaim,
ed. Carolina Dwelling (Raleigh: North Carolina State University,
1978), p. 41.
30 The Luther Street houses have symmetrical facades with
central front doors, while the Baxter Street examples are slightly
smaller and asymmetrically composed.
31 Richard K. Dozier, interview with Thomas W. Hanchett in
Charlotte, North Carolina, February 1982. Dozier is creator of the
traveling exhibit "Places and Spaces: the Contributions, Aspirations,
and Aesthetic Values of Afro-Americans as Reflected in Architecture,"
under the auspices of the Montgomery Landmarks Foundation, Montgomery,
32 John Michael Vlach, The Afro-American Tradition
(Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1977), pp. 122-138. "The
Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts: Notes on the Exhibition"
(Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1977), p. 16.
33 John Dwelle remembers that he personally designed many
of the rental houses he had built, making use of mechanical drawing
courses he had taken in his youth. In particular, the series of
bungalows with false-shutters are his design. Construction was left to a
black contractor, Milton Swift, a Georgia native who Dwelle recalls as
being hard-working and efficient despite little formal education. A son,
Henry Swift, is now a plasterer in Charlotte. John Dwelle, interview
with Thomas W. Hanchett, September 1984.
34 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, September 1984.
35 Perhaps the definitive sourcebook on mill housing in
the period was Charlottean D.A. Tompkins' Cotton Mill, Commercial
Features (Charlotte: D.A. Tompkins, 1899). For a present-day
analysis of the era see Brent Glass, "Southern Mill Hills: Design in a
'Public' Place," in Swaim, ed., Carolina Dwelling. Glass
indicates that trees, parks, indoor plumbing and other urban amenities
were not generally part of white mill villages until the late 1920s,
when Earle Sumner Draper and other city planners brought new ideas to
the mill owners.
36 Kratt and Hanchett manuscript, Chapter 2, pp. 1-3.
37 Charlotte News, January 5, 1959. In 1981 the
Church convinced the city to close the block of Waco Street behind the
sanctuary. A new education wing and parking lot now occupy that area.
Charlotte News, March 18, 1981.
38 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: deed book
392, p. 604.
39 Data from the cornerstone of the present church.
40 William J. Walls, The African Methodist Episcopal
Zion Church: Reality of the Black Church (Charlotte: A.M.E. Zion
Publishing House, 1974), p. 584.
41 Charlotte Observer, February 18, 1950.
42 Harry P. Harding, "The Charlotte City Schools"
(Charlotte: typescript by the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System,
1966), pp. 79-80.
45 Floretta Douglass Gunn, former teacher, interview with
Janette Thomas Greenwood in Charlotte, July 1984. Gunn remembers that
children who lived close to Myers Street school in Brooklyn were
required in some years to walk over to Cherry in order to fill the
classrooms. According to Gunn, Mary Myers Dwelle took a personal
interest in the school, leading classes on tours of the otherwise
whites-only Mint Museum of Art, among other activities.
46 Charlotte News, July 25, 1968.
47 LeGette Blythe and Charles R. Brockman, Hornets'
Nest: the Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (Charlotte:
McNally of Charlotte, 1961), p. 378.
48 Charlotte Observer, August 9, 1977.
49 Gunn, interview with Greenwood, July 1984.
50 Sophie Stephens Myers, "Ancestors and Descendants of
William R. Myers," 1984 loose-leaf manuscript in the Carolina Room of
the Charlotte Public Library.
51 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: Deed Book
212, p. 505. For Cecil (originally Bronson) Street see Deed Book 202,
p.145. For Baxter Street see Map Book 332, p. 317.
52 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: Map Book
230, p. 47.
53 In addition Converse, the original name of Torrence
Street in Cherry, may be a variation on the family name Convert. Only
one street is known to have been named for a black. Lee Hood, who died
about 1957 according to Brevard Myers, was a long-time family chauffeur.
An undedicated street (abandoned in 1983 to allow new public housing
construction) off Luther Street parallel to Cherry Street was named
Lee's Court in his honor. Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett,
54 Kratt and Hanchett manuscript, 1984. Also Brevard
Myers, interview with Hanchett, September 1984. Myers remembers that
some of the old houses had haylofts above the living area, and had brick
fireplaces with cast iron arms meant to hold cooking kettles. The
Pleasant Hill Baptist cemetery remained along Queens Road for many years
until the present Little Theatre building was constructed on its site.
John Dwelle remembers that Charlotte lawyer John Small arranged the
deconsecration of the burial ground. Dwelle, interview with Hanchett,
55 The Grantor Books at the Mecklenburg County Register of
Deeds Office indicate that Rawlinson Myers assumed title to some lands
in 1918. For the majority of transfers, see such transactions as Deed
Book 482, p. 425; Deed Book 831, p. 500; Deed Book 462, p. 98, all from
the spring of 1922.
56 Earle Sumner Draper, interview with Thomas W. Hanchett
at Vero Beach, Florida, March, 1982. Transcript in the files of the
Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission.
57 Brevard Myers and John Dwelle interviews.
58 See note #55.
59 Sophie Myers, "Ancestors and Descendants".
60 Half that number were sold by Dwelle family members and
half by Myers family members.
61 Brevard Myers and John Dwelle interviews.
63 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, March 1984.
64 Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office: deed book
190, p. 420; deed book 209, p. 459.
65 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, March 1984.
66 "Neighborhood Definition Study" (Charlotte: Charlotte
Mecklenburg Planning Commission, 1979).
67 For more on Independence Boulevard see Dan L. Morrill,
"The Road That Split Charlotte" Charlotte Observer, May 2, 1982,
"Parade" section, pp. 12, 15, 19.
68 Charlotte Observer, April 23, 1961.
69 Brevard Myers, interview with Hanchett, September 1984.
For some of Dwelle's transactions see Mecklenburg County Register of
Deeds Office: deed book 1434, p. 106; deed book 1404, p. 70; deed book
3315, p. 15.
70 Charlotte Observer, November 21, 1977.
71 The best single indication of the Urban Renewal
program's impact on black Charlotte may be found in the one-page summary
"Statistical Summary of Urban Renewal Program: October 1972" (Charlotte:
Redevelopment Commission of the City of Charlotte, 1972). A study done
in the early 1970s indicates that Charlotte lost 54.1% of its low-value
rental housing between 1960 and 1970, more than any major Southeastern
city. See Jack L. Bullard and Robert Stith, Community Conditions in
Charlotte, 1970: a Study of Ten Cities Using Urban Indicators with a
Supplement on Racial Disparity. (Charlotte: Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Community Relation Committee, 1974), p. 70. For more on the Urban
Renewal era, see the chapter of the present manuscript dealing with the
72 Vernon Sawyer, telephone interview with Thomas W.
Hanchett, September 1984.
73 Charlotte Observer, January 19, 1960. Myers
74 Brevard Myers mentioned the apartment plan in the
interview with Hanchett, March 1984.
75 Charlotte Observer, November 21, 1977.
76 For instance, see Charlotte News, August 22,
77 For instance, see Charlotte News, January 8,
78 Charlotte Observer, July 19, 1980.
79 Charlotte Observer, October 25, 1980.
80 Ed Straight, City Housing Authority, interview with
Joseph Schuchman, June 1984.
SIGNIFICANT SITES IN THE CHERRY NEIGHBORHOOD
|404-406 Cherry Street
||best preserved examples of turn-of-the-century rental duplexes
|412-414 Cherry Street
||best preserved examples of turn-of-the-century rental duplexes
|509 Cherry Street
||Myers Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church (1920-1925)
|1605 Luther Street
||(former) Mt. Zion Lutheran Church (1896)
|1816 Luther Street
||best-preserved examples of turn-of-the- century owner-occupied
|1820 Luther Street
||best-preserved examples of turn-of-the- century owner-occupied
|500 S. Torrence Street
||(former) Morgan School
MYERS CHAPEL A.M.E. ZION CHURCH
509 Cherry Street
The Myers Chapel congregation was Cherry's first indigenous church.
It was formed in 1901, some ten years after the neighborhood was
founded, and by 1903 was worshipping in its own chapel. It was fitting
that the church be of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Charlotte was a
A.M.E. Zion national center second in importance only to the Mother
Church in New York City. Charlotte was the site of the religion's
publishing house and newspaper. and the city's parishes were a favorite
training ground for potential bishops.
In 1919 John and Mary Myers, founders of Cherry, donated a large
parcel on Cherry Street for a new Myers Chapel sanctuary. The land was
to revert to the grantees if the new building was not completed in ten
years. The Chapel's trustees, which included Cherry property owners
Kelly O. Alexander and Stephen Alexander as well as A.M.E. Zion bishop
George Wiley Clinton, evidently had no trouble meeting the deadline. The
structure was completed by 1925, a massive design with a gabled nave
flanked by two towers, one flat-topped and the other boasting a
crenelated parapet. A rose-window-like circular front window, other
windows and doorways with pointed arches, plus buttresses on the towers
recall Gothic precedents. Today however the structure is sheathed in
thick, tan-colored stucco, which lends a Spanish air to the design.
Whatever its stylistic antecedents, the Myers Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church
is the most imposing piece of architecture in the Cherry neighborhood
(FORMER) MT. ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH
1605 Luther Street
In 1896 the Missionary Board of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical
Conference of North America for Mission Among Heathens and Negroes paid
fifty dollars to the Myers family for this tract of land. It was near
the heart of the Myers new "model Negro housing development," though
there were as yet only a handful of residents nearby. It is something of
a mystery how the Lutherans became involved in Cherry, because the Myers
family were staunch Episcopalians, and Charlotte had few Lutherans among
its citizens. Soon after their purchase, the board evidently erected the
present church structure, and the street it faced -- originally Davidson
Street -- became Luther Street. The mission maintained the church until
1946 when they sold the property back to Myers descendant Harriette C.
Dwelle. Since 1979 the structure has been the property of the City of
Charlotte, and continues to be used for religious purposes by the Mount
Zion Church of God Holiness.
The chapel itself is today one of the last frame houses of worship
extant in the City of Charlotte. It is a delightful adaptation of Gothic
motifs, a white weatherboard tabernacle that reminds one of something
out of a New England picture book. The church is simply detailed, as
would befit a small mission church. Windows and doors feature lancet
arches, a Gothic trademark. A hip-roofed belfry is centrally placed at
the front of the ridge line, and an entrance gable is sheathed in
rectangular-cut wood shingles.
EARLY OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSES
1816 Luther Street
1820 Luther Street
These two dwellings represent the best-preserved grouping of
turn-of-the-century houses in Cherry which were originally owned by
their residents. This pair of dwellings represents a housetype that was
found often on tenant farms and in mill villages throughout the
Carolinas in the late nineteenth century. The main part of the house is
a one-story, gable-roofed block that is two rooms wide and one room
deep. To the rear are wings that add more space to the basic two-room
plan. Each house has a broad front porch.
1816 Luther Street was sold by the Myers family on December 18, 1905
to Annie Griffin. Early city directories list Griffin as a laundress.
Neighboring 1820 Luther Street was transferred to Adelaide Alexander on
January 7, 1910 by the Myers. No occupation is listed for her in the
directories. Both of these women were black.
500-522 South Torrence Street
The Morgan School is an architectural focal point on Morgan Park in
the center of Cherry. John and Mary Myers planned their model housing
development to have educational facilities as well as housing, churches,
and a park. The Morgan School was erected by the city in 1925, one of
several schools erected under the supervision of Columbia University
scholars Dr. Strayer and Dr. Engelhardt in the decade around the city.
The large brick structure may have replaced an earlier wooden building.
The new building cost $36,309 and had ten classrooms. It operated until
1968 when it was closed by the school system due to its number of rooms.
Today it is used for a city program that aids pregnant teenagers.
The Morgan School Building is typical of the simply detailed,
functional educational structures erected during the early twentieth
century throughout the United States. Its parapet roof and carved stone
central entrance provide a hint of Neoclassical detailing. A central
two-story pavilion is recessed and flanked by two projecting wings of
equal height. The brick walls are laid in stretcher bond. Nine-over-nine
pane sash windows provide ample light to the classrooms, and are set in
plain surrounds. The building is in good original condition.