Unbeknownst to most, Charlotte has a rich history steeped in the discovery of gold and the pride of Scots-Irish settlers. The Queen City was founded in 1768 and named for Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of England. Now the nation’s second leading financial center, Charlotte was originally built at the crossroads of two Native-American trading paths. The intersection of these two paths, now major streets, is known as the heart of Charlotte – “Trade & Tryon.”
The discovery of a 17-pound gold nugget in 1799 drew many immigrants to the area in what became the nation’s first gold rush. However, the boom was short-lived. The many Charlotte opportunists ready to strike it rich moved on to California in 1848. Agriculture, mainly tobacco and cotton, was the major revenue provider for the region in the years before the Civil War. After the war, textile industries sprang to life as the city became a cotton processing center and a major railroad hub.
As a result of the railroads’ success, Charlotte became the Carolinas’ largest city and a Southeastern textile and distribution hub. The city’s neighborhoods continued to expand with the addition of the streetcar system, followed by businesses, skyscrapers and suburbs. City planners including the renowned John Nolen helped to shape Charlotte’s modern-day suburbs such as Myers Park and Dilworth.
As businesses continued to flock to Charlotte, the city’s banking industry gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s under the leadership of financier Hugh McColl. McColl transformed North Carolina National Bank into the present-day Bank of America. The combination of Bank of America and Wachovia made Charlotte the nation’s second-largest banking center, behind New York City.
Information courtesy of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. More Charlotte history can be found on the library’s local history website, The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story.