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The New South Neighborhoods: Myers Park



by Dr. Dan L. Morrill and Nancy B. Thomas



"In residential developments of this character we get a good idea of what can be done by municipalities in beautifying the cities of the country" -- John Nolen


Good ideas produce good results. Myers Park, which opened on September 1, 1912, when the first trolley lumbered through the streetcar gateway on Queens Road, is a case in point. For more than 65 years, all Charlotteans have benefited from the vision, courage and imagination of the two men who oversaw the creation of this lavish and elegant suburb. They were George Stephens and John Nolen.

George Stephens, a native of Guilford County and one of the best left-handed pitchers who ever played baseball for the University of North Carolina, arrived in Charlotte in 1899 and entered the real estate business. In 1902, he married Sophie Myers, whose father, Jack Myers, owned a 1200-acre farm on the country road which ran from Charlotte to Providence Presbyterian Church, hence Providence Road. The father-in-law had the land. The son-in-law had the business expertise. This fruitful combination made Myers Park possible.

John Nolen, a Harvard-trained landscape architect and comprehensive planner, spent several weeks in Charlotte in late 1911 designing Myers Park for the Stephens Company. The Charlotte Observer predicted that Nolen, who had first come to town six years earlier to create Independence Park, would fashion "a suburb of surpassing elegance and attractiveness" The newspaper was right. John Nolen transformed Jack Myers' almost treeless farm into a showcase of sophisticated suburban inventiveness.

The centerpiece of Nolen's plan was a grand boulevard, Queens Road, with a grassy median for the trolley tracks and a series of streetcar waiting stations, like the one that stands at the intersection of Hermitage Road and Queens Road, along its route to the Campus of Queens College, which Nolen also designed. Nolen meticulously oversaw every detail. For example, in 1915, he sent Earle S. Draper, his associate, to Charlotte to prepare landscape plans for the purchasers of lots in Myers Park.

Earle S. Draper, who settled in Charlotte, gave Myers Park its marvelous canopy of trees. He worked closely with James B. Duke, the legendary philanthropist and industrialist, who dispatched the gardener from his New Jersey estate to assist Draper. Wagons went into the surrounding countryside to gather trees for transplanting along the streets of the suburb. No doubt Duke and Draper would be pleased if they drove along Harvard Place today. It's almost like a cathedral.

The homes in Myers Park were handsome and imposing. Most of the first ones were on Queens Road, named for the College, or Hermitage Road, which climbed from Queens Road past Hermitage Court, a separate development that John Nolen also designed in 1911. Two of the older residences in Myers Park are historic landmarks. In 1919, James B. Duke, who wanted his daughter, Doris, to spend a few months each year in his native North Carolina, bought and greatly expanded the Colonial Revival style mansion that Z. V Taylor, an official of the Southern Power Company, had built four years before. Designed by C.C. Hook, a prominent local architect, White Oaks is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The McManaway House, which originally stood on W Trade St., was moved to 1700 Queens Road in 1916. The Charlotte City Council has designated it as an historic property.

George Stephens resigned as president of the Stephens Company in 1922 and moved to Asheville, NC. In the mid-1920's, Myers Park became part of Charlotte. Streetcar service to the suburb ended on March 12, 1938. The Stephens Company sold its last lots in the early 1950's, but the grandeur of Myers Park endures.