|1. THE SQUARE:
Charlotte is a crossroads town. You are standing at the crossroads.
This intersection has existed for thousands of years, long before the
first white settlers began to arrive in the mid-1700's. It is the reason
that Charlotte exists. It was here that countless generations of Native
Americans passed by on their way to the mountains to the west or the
coastal plain to the east. It was here that Thomas Polk built his
imposing house and had the log courthouse erected for the new county
seat in 1768. The courthouse was right out in the middle of the
intersection, and Polk's house stood nearby. It was here that the
Mecklenburg Resolves and the alleged Mecklenburg Declaration of
Independence were signed in May, 1775. It was here that William R. Davie
and a small band of patriot militiamen stood on September 26, 1780, and
fired upon the British army and its Tory allies as they marched up South
Tryon Street and occupied the town. It was here that General Nathanael
Greene assumed command of the patriot army from Horatio Gates on
December 3, 1780.
"The Square" is Charlotte's historic heart. In
the 1830's and 1840's, gold miners walked through the Square and headed
for the U.S. Mint building that used to stand at the intersection of
West Trade Street and Mint Street. Confederate president Jefferson Davis
and his cabinet came to the Square on their flight southward after the
fall of Richmond to the Yankees in April, 1865. Electric streetcars
rumbled through the Square beginning in May, 1891, when Charlotte was
experiencing the so-called New South era of industrial growth. Thousands
of folks gathered here in 1945 to rejoice over the news that World War
II had ended. The story is not over. The Christmas parade still moves
through the Square each year. Charlotte still has its New Year's Eve
celebration at the Square.
Standing in the midst of Charlotte's gleaming
skyscrapers it is sometimes difficult to appreciate how historic the
Square is. By the way, many people wonder why Charlotte was not built on
the banks of the Catawba River, which runs along the western border of
Mecklenburg County. The reason is simple. The Catawba River was not
continuously navigable in this region, so roads, not waterways, were the
more efficient means of transportation. That's why Charlotte is a
crossroads town, not a river town. That's why the Square is Charlotte's
Continue the Tour
by walking along the northern side of West Trade Street. The arrows in
the map will show you exactly where to go. Each stop on the tour has a
corresponding number on the Walking Tour Map. To your right just after
crossing Church Street is First Presbyterian Church. Walk into the
church yard and gaze at this grand, majestic structure that looms before
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH:
Most of the early white settlers who migrated to Mecklenburg County
in the eighteenth century were Scots-Irish Presbyterians. As Calvinists,
they believed in a stern but merciful God who rewards good and punishes
evil. They were also experienced pioneers. The Scots-Irish were Scotsmen
who had been sent by King James I to Ireland. Later, many had migrated
to the New World, mainly to Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. After
1730, when the Royal government began to market land aggressively in the
Carolina "backcountry," the Scots-Irish started pouring into the
Piedmont in search of cheap land. Some, like Thomas Polk, stopped when
they came to the major crossroads formed by what is now Trade Street and
The Scots-Irish were not alone. Even in Mecklenburg
County there were Germans, English, Welshmen and others. Especially in
county seats like Charlotte, where tavern keepers and lawyers tended to
settle, several Christian denominations could be found. It is not
surprising that the first church on this site, established in 1815, was
a town church. The Presbyterians bought this lot and erected their own
house of worship in 1845, and they have been using the land ever since.
The oldest part of the building you see today is the very front section.
It dates from 1857. Most of the ornate structure, including its
crenelated parapets, towers, spires, and pinnacles, was built in the
As you stand amid the trees and look up at the
steeple pointing toward the heavens you cannot help but think about the
thousands of worshipers who have come to this spot over the years. How
many weddings? How many funerals? How much joy? How much sadness? Old
and young have come here to listen to the stories and perform the
rituals that have sustained them in sickness and in health.
One member of First Presbyterian Church was
Daniel Harvey Hill. A graduate of West Point and Professor of
Mathematics at Davidson College, Hill came to Charlotte in 1859 to
become Superintendent of the North Carolina Military Academy. A devout
Christian, he would serve as a Lieutenant General in the Confederate
Army. He would lead young Southerners into battle at places like Malvern
Hill, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. After the war, D. H.
Hill returned to Charlotte and published a magazine and a newspaper that
called upon the South to heal up its wounds and reconcile itself with
Another member of First Presbyterian Church was Mary
Anna Morrison Jackson, Hill's sister-in-law and the widow of General
Exit from the First
Presbyterian Church yard on the Poplar Street side. Turn right on Poplar
Street and look at the brick house on the next corner across the street.
You are now entering a part of Uptown Charlotte known as
Fourth Ward. Except for the dwellings on Trade and Tryon
Streets, the finest homes in Charlotte in the late 1800's and early
1900's were built on the back streets of Fourth Ward. This fancy brick
dwelling with its distinctive corner tower was constructed by E. M.
Andrews, a local developer, in 1892-1893. The first owner was Andrew J.
Bagley, a railroad ticket agent.
Most folks don't realize how important the railroad has been in
Charlotte's history. Until 1852, when the Charlotte and South Carolina
Railroad linked Charlotte with Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina,
this community did not have easy commercial contact with the outside
world. By 1880, Charlotte had an impressive array of railroads, running
east, west, north and south; and it was this rail transportation network
that played a major role in making Charlotte the largest city in the two
Carolinas by the early twentieth century. Think about it. Charlotte is
the economic capital of the two states. Listen carefully. You may hear
trains rumbling along the tracks at the edges of Fourth Ward several
The most colorful owner of the Bagley-Mullen House
was Walter N. Mullen, a native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Mullen
was a medicine man. He concocted a brew he called the "Hornet's Nest
Liniment." He promised it would make the old look young and the fat look
thin. He swore that his secret potion would put hair on a man's head and
take it off a lady's face. A Charlotte newspaper explained that Mullen
"made a lucrative living from the much advertised and meritorious
composition." The house is now a Bed and Breakfast. Go in and see if
they have any liniment.
Continue north on
Poplar Street. Just after you cross Fifth Street, enter the Old
Settlers' Cemetery that covers most of the next block.
OLD SETTLERS' CEMETERY:
This is Charlotte's first burial ground. Many people assume that the
cemetery belongs to First Presbyterian Church. It doesn't. The City
owned the cemetery in the 1700's, and it still does. Most of the folks
buried here were Presbyterians, but not everybody.
The oldest known grave is that of Joel Baldwin, who died October 21,
1776. He was 26. One of the figures from the Revolutionary era there is
Colonel Thomas Polk, founder of Charlotte, who died in 1793, and
was the great-uncle of President James K. Polk. Among his
accomplishments were reported to be his holding office as one of the
county's first commissioners, being treasurer and trustee of Queens
College and a member of the Colonial Assembly, and signing the
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Next to him is his wife,
Susannah Spratt Polk, whose father's house, that of Thomas Spratt, was
the site of the first court held in Mecklenburg County.
A hero of the Revolutionary War, Major General George Graham
(1758-1826) is also interred in the Old Settlers' Cemetery. Graham came
to Charlotte in 1764 from Pennsylvania, and was at the historic battle
at McIntire's farm where a small group of patriots sent a detachment of
600 British soldiers back to Cornwallis with the complaint that there
was a "rebel behind every bush."
Distinguished politicians are buried here, including William
Davidson, a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from 1818
to 1821, and Dr. Nathaniel Alexander, a Revolutionary War surgeon
and Governor of North Carolina. Even slaves are buried here. The
northwest corner of the cemetery was reserved for them.
The City closed Old Settlers' Cemetery on August 1,
1867, but burials occurred here with special permission until 1884. You
are only two blocks from the Square where the Uptown Charlotte Walking
Tour began. The vast majority of people meandering about that bustling
intersection give little thought to the Old Settlers' Cemetery. But one
is reminded of an epitaph written on a gravestone somewhere in Virginia.
As you are, so once was I.
As I am, you will soon be.
Prepare for Death!
the middle of Old Settler's Cemetery, walk toward the old, red brick
building bordering the lower right-hand edge of the burial ground. This
was the home of the North Carolina Medical College.
5. NORTH CAROLINA MEDICAL COLLEGE:
This section of Fourth Ward contained most of Charlotte's medical
facilities in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The North Carolina
Medical College, a private school founded by Dr. Paul B. Barringer
in Davidson, North Carolina in 1887, moved to its new building in
Charlotte on October 2, 1907. The driving force behind the expansion and
relocation of the North Carolina Medical College was Dr. John Peter
Munroe, like Dr. Barringer a teacher at Davidson College. At the
official dedication of the building Dr. Munroe explained that he had
moved the school to Charlotte because "the opportunities were broader,
the scope of work broader." Put simply, there were lots of sick people
here. The architect of the new building was James McMichael, and
it cost $27,000 to construct. You'll learn more about Mr. McMichael
later on the tour. The North Carolina Medical College closed in
Charlotte in 1914, because Dr. Munroe and his associates were not
willing or able to spend the money to bring the school up to the
standards required by the Carnegie Foundation.
The North Carolina Medical College was important in
causing Charlotte to become a dominant medical center in this region.
Seven hundred and thirty-two students attended the North Carolina
Medical College. The school awarded 340 Doctor of Medicine Degrees.
Among its graduates were Mary Martin Sloop and her husband, Eustace
Sloop, who established a hospital at Crossnore, North Carolina. Portia
McKnight, another female graduate, was a co-founder of a clinic in
Sterling, Colorado. Dr. B. C. Nalle, founder of the Nalle Clinic
in Charlotte, was a member of the faculty, as were many of the leading
physicians in the community. Robert H. Lafferty, an official of the
institution, contended that "the impetus it gave medicine in Charlotte
and this section of the State was both great and lasting." The building,
which now contains offices, is an excellent example of adaptive re-use.
Walk to the
intersection of Poplar and Sixth Streets. Look across Poplar Street at
the large brick building. This is another example of adaptive re-use,
one of the major historic preservation tools used to save historic
6. ST. PETER'S HOSPITAL:
Who remembers Jane Smedberg Renwick Wilkes? Almost nobody.
That's sad, because she was a remarkable woman and a true Charlotte
hero. A member of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, which you'll see later
on this tour, and wife of John Wilkes, owner of the Mecklenburg Iron
Works, Jane Wilkes, a native of New York City, labored tirelessly to
establish Charlotte's first civilian hospital. It was no easy task. Not
the least of her accomplishments was heading the fundraising campaign,
which raised enough cash to open the hospital, initially known as the
"Charlotte Home and Hospital," at a temporary location on East Seventh
Street on January 20, 1876.
Money was not the only issue. In those days people
looked upon hospitals with disdain and distrust. One hospital supporter
explained: "It is strange to recall the tremendous struggle which the
pioneers were called upon to make against prejudice; first of the
patient, who had to be almost kidnapped from his relatives, and brought
against his own will as well, and secondly, against the opposition of
those who lived in the neighborhood, who resented the diseases brought
into their midst. The first few patients were brought in under
resistance so fierce that one of the two or three policemen which the
town boasted had always to walk beside the patient, and at times stand
around the premises, to intimidate the rioters who threatened to shoot
into the building." In the beginning, hospitals mainly served the poor
and homeless. No respectable person would be caught "dead" in such a
St. Peter's Hospital, named for nearby St. Peter's
Episcopal Church, opened at this location on May 30, 1878. The lot cost
$273.42. Gradually, the facility expanded as more and more people were
willing to be admitted. The building assumed its present form in 1922,
when architect Louis Asbury, Sr. designed a major addition to the
In April, 1938 Dr. William Henry Walsh, a hospital
consultant from Chicago, presented a survey of medical facilities in
Charlotte. His findings prompted the community to launch a drive to
establish a new hospital. The St. Peter's Board of Trustees voted to
contribute $100,000 to this effort and to close St. Peter's if the drive
was successful. It was. Charlotte Memorial Hospital, now Carolinas
Medical Center, opened on October 8, 1940. It was quite a scene that
day. Patients were carried on stretchers out the front door of St.
Peter's to ambulances that hauled them to the new facility across town.
By then no policemen were needed to control rioters. The operating rooms
stood silent. The halls empty. But there are still lots of folks in
Charlotte who drive by the old brick building, which has been converted
into condominiums, and say, "I was born there."
Across Sixth Street
from St. Peter's Hospital is a fountain which marks the entrance to
Fourth Ward Park. Enter the park at this point and follow the sidewalk
as it leads you to the north end of the park at the intersection of Pine
Street and Eight Street, where you will see a large Victorian house with
a corner tower. Stop at the fountain across Eighth Street from the
7. OVERCARSH HOUSE:
It's hard to believe that this section of Fourth Ward was on the
outer fringes of Charlotte in the late 1800's. It was also one of the
most fashionable residential districts in the entire community. Look at
the one-story projection or wing on the far right side of the Overcarsh
House. This is probably the oldest frame structure in Uptown Charlotte.
That was the entire house when it was built, and it dates from before
the Civil War.
The house was greatly expanded around 1880 when Elias
Overcarsh, a Methodist minister, had the main block constructed in the
then-fashionable Queen Anne style. Rev. Overcarsh must have inherited a
lot of money, because he spared no expense in making his "new" Victorian
home a showplace.
Irregularity of plan and massing and variety of color
and texture characterize the Queen Anne style. Look at the different
kinds of roofs, windows, and exterior siding on the Overcarsh House, and
you will see examples of these distinguishing features.
The Queen Anne style began in England in the 1860's
when architect Richard Norman Shaw invented the style. But it
really caught on in the United States when the British government chose
the Queen Anne style for two buildings it erected at the Philadelphia
Centennial Exposition of 1876. Tourists flocked to Philadelphia from all
over the country and were enchanted by the extravagant ornateness of
what they saw. Whether Elias Overcarsh visited the Centennial Exposition
is not known. But it's obvious that he liked the Queen Anne style. One
wonders whether Methodist founder John Wesley would have approved of
such ornate showiness. Probably not.
Continue north on
Pine Street until you reach Ninth Street. Notice the two-story frame
store building on your immediate left that now houses Alexander
Fourth Ward was a "walking-scale" neighborhood in the late 1800's and
early 1900's. Horse-drawn streetcars did not arrive in Charlotte until
January, 1887, and the first trolleys or electric streetcars did not
enter service here until May, 1891. Even after that, or at least until
the 1920's, most folks did not own automobiles. When they needed to go
somewhere, they walked. That's why there were no driveways between the
houses. That's why commercial, industrial, and residential structures
often existed side by side.
Fourth Ward was filling up with homes in the 1890's,
as Charlotte became the leading cotton mill town in the Carolinas. On
July 25, 1898, the Charlotte Observer reported that 37 residences
had been completed in Fourth Ward during the previous 12 months. These
new residents needed some place close by where they could purchase
Wilson M. Crowell owned and operated Star Mills, a
grist and feed mill and a grocery store on East Trade Street. He
recognized the opportunity in Fourth Ward and bought a lot at Ninth and
Pine Streets on December 17, 1896, for $300. A neighborhood branch of
the Star Mill Grocery opened in this building in 1897. Crowell
specialized in selling ground corn meal -- the Star Mills brand, of
course. To supplement his income, Crowell put an apartment on the second
floor of his store building. It's still there. See the entrance on the
In 1899, Crowell sold the property to a competitor,
Andrew M. Beattie, who had a grocery in First Ward, on East Seventh
Street. Beattie needed a manager for his Fourth Ward outlet, so he hired
Ernest Berryhill, who knew nothing about the grocery business but who
lived in the big house diagonally across the intersection.
Friendly, generous, and a devoted family man,
Berryhill took to the grocery business like a duck takes to water. In
October, 1907, he bought the property and changed the name to Berryhill
Store. He ran the store until his death in February, 1931. Every morning
Earnest and his wife, Gussie Newcomb Berryhill, and their black helper,
Amzi Rosman, welcomed customers, asked about their children and
relatives, and discussed politics -- all except Amzi, of course. That's
the way things were in those days.
In 1960, John Berryhill, Earnest's son, converted the
old store building into a Laundromat. It closed in 1973. In the late
1970's, the Crowell-Berryhill Store was restored, first as a grocery and
now as a restaurant. Alexander Michael's doesn't sell Star Mills corn
meal, but the food is worth a stop. Ask for the table in the nook by the
Standing in front
of the Crowell-Berryhill Store, look diagonally to your right across the
intersection of Ninth Street and Pine Street at the Newcomb-Berryhill
9. NEWCOMB-BERRYHILL HOUSE:
This is where Earnest Berryhill, the storekeeper, lived. Can't you
see him getting up in the morning and walking across the intersection to
work? But that's getting ahead of the story. The Newcomb-Berryhill
Housewas built in 1884 by John H. Newcomb, Earnest's father-in-law. John
Newcomb was a Yankee from White Plains, New York who had moved to
Charlotte in 1879 with his brother George to establish a bellows
factory. The two wives, Annie Augusta, nicknamed "Gussie," and Susie A.
Newcomb, ran a fancy hat shop on West Trade Street. Gussie would travel
to New York City to purchase the finest material and ribbons, and Susie
would make the hats. Because Charlotte was a "New South" city, it
welcomed enterprising folks from the North, even if they were Yankees.
The two brothers built houses side by side on West
Ninth Street in Fourth Ward. George's house was torn down many years
ago. It's not surprising that John constructed a fancy house, because by
1884 he and his brother had become building contractors. The Newcomb-Berryhill
House and its elaborate trim and dramatic tent-roofed tower were
advertisements of sorts. John Newcomb died on July 27, 1892, at the age
of 47. Soon thereafter, Earnest Berryhill, the Newcomb's son-in-law,
moved in. "Gussie" lived on in the house until September 13, 1933, which
ironically was her 83rd birthday. The funerals for John and Gussie, who
were members of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, were held in the house.
In 1940, the Newcomb-Berryhill House was turned into
a four-unit apartment house. By the mid-1970's, it was in serious
disrepair and seemingly forgotten. The Junior League of Charlotte came
to the rescue. It purchased the house on October 28, 1975, refurbished
it, and sold it with restrictive deed covenants. This assured that the
Newcomb-Berryhill House would be saved. Don't you think John and Gussie
would be pleased? Maybe Gussie would put on a fancy hat with pretty
Walk east on Ninth
Street. The only original house on the left side of Ninth Street is the
Newcomb-Berryhill House. All the others were moved from elsewhere in
Fourth Ward in the 1970's. At the end of the block you will come to
another fountain. Continue around the fountain and look at the house on
your immediate left that faces Poplar Street.
JOHN W. SHEPPARD HOUSE:
This was the home of druggist John W. Sheppard, another Yankee who
came to Charlotte in the late 1800's to seek his fortune. He and his
partner, J. P. Woodall, opened Woodall and Sheppard Drug Store on the
northwest corner of the Square in 1896. Woodall and Sheppard was the
first drugstore in Charlotte to sell ice cream year around and the first
to make deliveries by bicycle.
The John W. Sheppard House was completed in 1899 soon
after John had returned to his hometown of Cedarville, New Jersey to
marry his childhood sweetheart, Anna Stanton Mulford. John and
Anna Sheppard had three sons and one daughter. Tragically, all the boys
died as youngsters. Edith, the lone survivor, went on to excel as a
student and graduated from Swathmore College in 1923.
Edith's best childhood friend was Mildred Morse, who
lived next door. In later years, Mildred Morse, then Mildred Morse
McEwen, told in her book, Growing Up In Fourth Ward, what it was
like to be a young girl in Fourth Ward at the turn of the century.
"There was a big rat in the Sheppard's woodhouse, later a garage.
Anyway, smart-aleck Mildred wanted to show Edith that she wasn't
afraid of a rat so she stuck her finger in the rat's face and said,
'Boo.' I remember that Mrs. Sheppard brought a saucer for the blood to
drip into so it wouldn't get on the floor of the back porch." Or again:
"Every summer the Sheppards would go to New Jersey. There was one
upstairs room in their house called 'the plunder room' containing the
trunks they took with them on the train. I can't remember why I thought
it sad when the Sheppards would go to New Jersey, but I remember crying
as the surrey loaded with the Sheppards left for the railroad station."
They're all gone now. So many memories!
Continue east on
Ninth Street one more block. Turn right on Church Street and look for
the first house on your right.
On leaving the Sheppard House and continuing on Ninth Street you no
doubt noticed that you were moving into a part of Fourth Ward where
almost none of the old houses remain. In the 1950's and 1960's, the City
of Charlotte began rigorously enforcing its building code. Mildred
McEwen wrote movingly about her feelings when she was forced to tear her
old Fourth Ward homeplace down. "I stood on the street on the verge of
tears. One of the workmen must have felt sorry for me because he stopped
his work and came to the sidewalk and handed me a piece of gingerbread."
Happily, the Liddell-McNinch House, another example of the Queen Anne
style, was not demolished. This imposing Victorian dwelling was
constructed in 1892 by Vinton Liddell, whose father, W. J. F. Liddell,
had moved to Charlotte in 1875. Vinton's father, still another Yankee,
was a brilliant machinist from Erie, Pennsylvania who recognized that
Charlotte was fast becoming a major manufacturing center in the late
nineteenth century. Therefore he decided to build a plant that made
steam engines, saw mills, and cotton presses, as well as other equipment
for the textile industry. The Liddell Foundry and Machine Shop were
located at North Church Street and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad tracks
or about three blocks north from where you are now standing. Liddell
Street still marks the site.
Vinton Liddell, like his parents a Baptist, was a
vice president of the Charlotte Cotton Mills and also worked for his
father, who died in November, 1888. Many years after Vinton Liddell had
sold his house on North Church Street in 1903, his daughter, Vinton
Liddell Pickens, visited the old homeplace with a reporter from the
Charlotte Observer. She remembered a stable with horses in the
backyard. She remembered the lot being much bigger. "I do remember
hearing that when this house was built, my father insisted on having gas
lines installed. It was wired for electricity, but it was quite new, and
my father didn't trust it. He wanted the gas in case electricity didn't
S. S. McNinch, the Mayor of Charlotte,
purchased the Liddell-McNinch House in 1907, and President
William Howard Taft visited in the house when he came to Charlotte
on May 20, 1909, for the annual celebration of the signing of the
alleged Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The house today serves
as the McNinch House Restaurant which serves elegant meals by
reservation only. For information, call 332-6159.
Continue south on
Church Street until you reach Eighth Street. Turn left on Eighth Street
and walk until you reach Tryon Street and go in front of the church to
your immediate left.
12. FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH:
The remainder of the Walking Tour of Uptown Charlotte will mostly be
along Tryon Street, named for Governor William Tryon, the Royal
Governor of North Carolina when Charlotte was established in 1768. Until
the early 1900's, Tryon Street was lined with elegant homes, except for
one block immediately north and south of the Square. As the size of
Charlotte exploded in the twentieth century, however, all of the old
buildings were torn down aside from a few churches and early
skyscrapers, plus one florist shop and a lavish arcade. You will visit
First United Methodist Church is an extravagant
example of the Late
Gothic Revival style. Typically constructed of stone, structures of
this type were especially popular as churches or college buildings, such
as Princeton University in New Jersey, Yale University in Connecticut,
and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
James Buchanan Duke, whose money created Duke
University, played a role in establishing First United Methodist Church
in Charlotte. In the early 1920's, Duke met with Charlotte Methodist E.
R. Bucher, an employee of what is now Duke Power Company, and said, "You
know, I'm going to spend a great deal of time in Charlotte. I think I
ought to do something for Charlotte Methodism." Later Duke promised to
contribute $100,000 if Trinity Methodist Church and Tryon Street
Methodist Church, both in Uptown Charlotte, would merge and "build a
representative stone church." On November 24, 1926, Trinity Methodist
Church and Tryon Street Methodist Church did vote to unite. The first
service was held here on October 30, 1927. Although J. B. Duke had died
in 1925, his estate did contribute money to the building of First United
Methodist Church. The architect of the Charlotte church was Edwin Brewer
Phillips of Memphis, Tennessee.
Cross Tryon Street
at the Eighth Street intersection and stop in front of the fancy,
two-story brick building on the corner of Tryon Street and Eighth
OSCAR J. THIES AUTOMOBILE BUILDING:
Oscar J. Thies hired architect Louis Asbury, Sr. to design
this building, which was completed in 1922 and which housed several
automotive dealerships during the flamboyant twenties. The big front
windows were show windows for the newest models of automobiles. Shut you
eyes and maybe you can imagine a 1923 Chevrolet or a 1925 Oldsmobile
glistening in the window. The storefront has an interesting rhythm set
up by the progression from the larger first floor panes of glass, to the
narrower second floor panes of glass, and finally to the bricks set in
soldier course above the windows. That rhythm, combined with the
vertical corner emphasis, gives the building a sense of greater height.
Oscar J. Thies was a shrewd businessman. Although he
followed in his father's footsteps of being educated as a mining
engineer, Oscar made his mark as a real estate developer. The Thies-Smith
Realty Company, which he organized in 1912, constructed many homes in
Charlotte's outlying suburbs, including Dilworth, Elizabeth, and Myers
Park, as well as along Morehead Street, Selwyn Avenue, and Sharon Road.
He also invested in commercial real estate projects like the Oscar J.
Thies Automobile Building.
It's not difficult to imagine how Oscar felt about
owning an automobile sales and service center. The automobile was
becoming a status symbol for the middle class by the mid-1920's. No
longer totally dependent upon public transportation, average folks could
now aspire to follow the affluent to the suburbs, where green grass,
cool air, and song birds beckoned and where Oscar J. Thies had plenty of
fine homes for sale.
The "walking scale" city that Fourth Ward residents
Earnest Berryhill and John Sheppard had known was torn apart by the
automobile. In the 1800's, poor folks lived on the edge of town, and the
wealthy resided closer in. Now the situation was reversed. The rich and
the comfortable headed for the suburbs, and the less privileged were
left behind. That process is still going on. If you don't believe this,
watch what happens to Uptown Charlotte in the late afternoon. It's a
mass exodus of suburbanites. And if you want to see just how fundamental
the automobile remains, go to the top of one of Charlotte's skyscrapers
and see how much space is devoted to automobile parking lots. They're
just about everywhere.
Walk south along
Tryon Street by crossing Eighth Street. When you come to Seventh Street,
turn left and proceed one block to the intersection of North College
Street and East Seventh Street. Look at the brick church on the
northeast quadrant of the intersection.
FIRST UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH:
Since crossing Tryon Street you have been in First Ward.
Unlike Fourth Ward, which was totally white in the nineteenth century,
First Ward was racially mixed. College Street is named for the
Presbyterian College for Women, which was located about two blocks north
until it moved to Myers Park in 1914 and changed its name to Queens
First United Presbyterian Church, known as Seventh
Street Presbyterian Church until it merged with Brooklyn Presbyterian
Church in 1968, has a rich and illustrious history. The current church
building was constructed in the 1890's, but there has been a black
Presbyterian church on this site since the mid-1870's. Stephen
Mattoon, a white missionary and president of Biddle Institute, now
Johnson C. Smith University, was its minister in the 1880's.
In the years immediately following the Civil War, the
black people of Charlotte struggled to establish a new identity for
themselves. Encountering scorn and ridicule from the majority of whites,
many of the former slaves lacked the training and education to compete
with whites for power and status. Consequently, blacks began creating
their own institutions where they could develop and practice the skills
needed to survive. Especially important in this regard were black
churches. blacks associated membership in the white man's church with
the days of slavery and therefore had no desire to continue worshipping
there. This was true of those blacks who belonged to First Presbyterian
Church on West Trade Street, which you've already visited on this tour.
Mrs. Kathleen Hayes summoned the black members to "come down out of the
gallery and worship God on the main floor." Established in 1866, the
congregation initially called itself the Colored Presbyterian Church of
Charlotte and was located in nearby Second Ward. Samuel C. Alexander, a
white minister, bought the original lot for the church.
Return to Tryon
Street by retracing your route along East Seventh Street and take a
left. Notice the dark brick church immediately across Tryon Street.
ST. PETER'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH:
There has been an Episcopal Church on this corner since 1857, and the
present sanctuary was completed in 1893. Confederate president Jefferson
Davis worshipped at St. Peter's in April, 1865, when he and the other
members of the Confederate Cabinet were fleeing from the Yankees. Jane
Smedberg Wilkes, the founder of St. Peter's Hospital, was a member.
There is a memorial window for her in the church. Every Sunday morning
John and Gussie Newcomb would walk from their big home on West Ninth
Street on their way to the eleven o'clock service. Gussie always wore
fancy hats. Edwin and Elizabeth Clarkson, founders of Wing Haven, the
locally famous bird sanctuary and garden in Myers Park, belonged to this
congregation. St. Peter's Episcopal Church has consistently reached to
the broader community, including feeding the homeless in recent years.
Continue south on
Tryon Street and stop in front of the tan-colored, brick church in the
middle of the block.
16. FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH (Spirit Square):
The architect of this fancy structure was J. M. McMichael.
A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania., McMichael moved to Charlotte soon
after 1900. He joined First Baptist Church and convinced the minister,
H. H. Hulten, that the congregation should take the revolutionary step
for turn-of-the-century Charlotte and erect a church that had no
steeple. McMichael took an enormous chance in selecting a Byzantine dome
as the central element of his design. Stanford White, a world-famous
architect, had used the same style in his Madison Square Presbyterian
Church in New York City, and that building had failed acoustically. You
could hardly hear anybody. Not the preacher. Not the choir. Folks
wondered if the same fate would befall McMichael's First Baptist Church
in Charlotte. For the dedication service on May 2, 1909, 1400 people
packed the sanctuary. At the organ Mrs. Alexander Stephens led the
throng in singing the hymn, "All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name." So
special was the day that Dr. E. Y. Mullins, president of Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, came to preach the
sermon. He took his text from the Sixteenth Psalm: "I have a goodly
heritage." The people marveled at the stained glass windows. The one on
the south side of the sanctuary was given by Vinton Liddell in honor of
his father, W. J. F. Liddell. The acoustics worked! The sound of the
music was glorious. "J. M. McMichael has succeeded where the late
Stanford White failed," a local newspaper boasted.
First Baptist Church is now the main performance
space for Spirit Square, an Uptown center for the arts. As chairman of
the Board of County Commissioners, Liz Hair led the effort to save the
building from probable destruction in 1975. Let the good sounds
Walk south along
Tryon Street to the next intersection, which is Sixth Street. Look
diagonally across the intersection at the skinny, ten-story, high-rise