Thursday, September 20, 2007

Want to learn more Charlotte history?

Ever wonder who’s behind the names of Charlotte places like Myers Park, Wilkinson Boulevard or Brevard Street?

There’s a place in Charlotte where you can go to find out who nearly all of the city’s important early residents were and when they lived.

It’s Elmwood/Pinewood Cemetery, open since 1853 in uptown Charlotte, with an entrance off Sixth Street. I promise this place isn’t creepy – it has the peaceful, hushed feel of a park. Joggers, bicyclists and dog-walkers frequent its pathways. I went there this week on a guided tour led by Historic Charlotte, to write a column that will run in this Saturday’s paper.

Incongruously, it’s surrounded on all sides by "new Charlotte" – bank towers, Interstate 77, and Gateway Village peep through the trees. A little further off, the tower of Biddle Hall at Johnson C. Smith University is visible.

The 100-plus acres consists of Elmwood, the 9th Street Pinewood Cemetery – a segregated resting spot for black residents until a wall between the two was torn down in 1969 – and Potter’s Field, a pauper’s cemetery. Though all plots have been sold since 1947, there’s room for 5,000 more burials to take place.

If you explore, you can find tombstones telling the story of local soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, both World Wars and more. In the Pinewood section, you can see the graves of early Charlotte black leaders such as W.W. Smith, architect of the Mecklenburg Investment Co. building at Third and Brevard streets uptown. You can also see the sad evidence of vandals, damage from lawnmowers and neglect that has toppled some valuable tombstones.

For more info, contact Historic Charlotte for a brochure with a map and guide to some of the historic tombstones, 704-375-6145, or e-mail local expert Lynn Weis to set up a guided tour:

Many people – myself included – have lamented that Charlotte has obliterated much of its history, but if you look around, you’ll know it isn’t gone yet. Are there any aspects of Charlotte history you’ve been curious about? Get in touch and I’ll try to get the answers for you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elmwood is, without rival, the best place in the county to walk your dog. Safe, expansive, quiet, and very pretty. And you do indeed learn a lot about the city by spending time there.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlotte has a history? I thought it was all at the landfill or buried under nondescript buildings.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really...

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is way more recent, but I'm interested in Charlotte's retail history - such as the history of SouthPark mall and how it has evolved

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlotte has plenty of history. For example, it was the site of the nation's first gold rush, hence the first branch of the US Mint (today's Mint Museum) that led to the rise of the giant banks headquartered here today.

People who say Charlotte has no history are either willfully or woefully ignorant. Decide which ignorance describes you, 12:21.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Hello 8:26 - I can give you some insight on SouthPark history if you e-mail me at Maybe I'll write about it in an upcoming column!

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cHARLOTTES HISTORY was torn down with its HISTORICAL buildings.

7:33 AM  

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