By Lauren Levine
A skyline peppered with cranes and new apartment complexes shooting up almost daily make it clear that Charlotte is committed to growth, development and the future. But taking time to understand how the Queen City came to be what it is today is essential in order to propel its continued forward momentum. To gain a better understanding of the area’s rich history, here are a few key stops worth making.
Get a peek at a former plantation at Historic Rosedale Plantation
Built in 1815, the formerly operational plantation is situated on 8.5 sprawling, perfectly manicured acres. Beyond the lush greenery, the plantation home features intricate craftsmanship. Its extravagance earned the property the name “Frew’s Folly” since Archibald Frew, its original proprietor, had no problem splurging to create the residence of his dreams.
Explore Charlotte’s oldest home at The Charlotte Museum of History
The Charlotte Museum of History is a true Queen City gem. The museum is the steward of the Hezekiah Alexander House, which is the last home of a framer of North Carolina’s 1776 Constitution and Bill of Rights currently in existence. The residence stands as the oldest surviving home to date in Mecklenburg County. Featuring a series of rotating exhibits, The Charlotte Museum of History is currently showing “Charlotte’s Road to Revolution: Featuring the paintings of Charlotte artist Dan Nance” (through June 15).
Browse hundreds of artifacts in the “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” exhibit. You’ll get a look inside an old mill house, touch a pile of seed cotton and (via video) hear enlightening firsthand tales from civil rights movement sit-in leaders. The museum regularly hosts lectures and other events that make subsequent trips back not only worthwhile but also necessary, so keep an eye on the website for details.
Three to See
We all know someone involved in banking in Charlotte, which makes a stop at the Wells Fargo History Museum a logical choice. Delve into the history of gold mining in our state as well as the early days of Wachovia Bank, which later became Wells Fargo. Visitors can check out a 19th-century stagecoach, inspect rare coins and gold nuggets, and wind their way through an underground mine tunnel. Guided tours are available, and admission is free.
Spend enough time in Uptown and you’ll probably notice bronze plaques sprinkled throughout the streets. They’re part of the Charlotte Liberty Walk, denoting places that were significant during the American Revolution. Snag a copy of the map and brochure that highlight all of these must-see spots at the Charlotte Convention Center’s Visitor Info Center, the Levine Museum of the New South or on charlottelibertywalk.com. Make it a point to check out the backstory behind each landmark. Guided tours are also available.
When you’re looking to do a deep dive into the history behind Charlotte and the state of North Carolina, the Robinson-Spangler Carolina room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library on North Tryon Street is the perfect place to start. If you want to know more about your family’s beginnings, the room also boasts genealogical resources from all 50 states. This impressive collection makes it the largest of its kind in a North Carolina public library.
This article ran in the March 2017 issue of Charlotte Happenings.