What is now considered Third Ward is made up of two very separate areas. The first is the original Third Ward bounded by Morehead Street, Graham Street West, Trade and South Tryon. This area was once a mixture of residential and commercial uses following a pattern similar to that already seen in First Ward, though with fewer black residents. After the Piedmont and Northern electric railroad built its passenger and freight terminals near Fourth and Mint behind the Post Office in the l910s, the area became the least residential of the four wards, with warehousing and commercial uses at its heart and industry on Graham Street along the Southern Railway tracks. A few big houses remained into the 1950s, and a large black residential pocket near Mint and Morehead until removed by Urban Renewal programs in the 1970s.
A noteworthy building survived from the area's residential years, and was one of the Center City's most important historic landmarks until it was demolished. This is Good Samaritan Hospital at 600 South Mint, now covered by Bank of America Stadium. When it was erected in 1888 by St. Peter's Episcopal Church it was one of the first privately run hospital for blacks in the United States. Added onto many times, it remained Charlotte's black hospital until the desegregation era of the 1960s.
The Piedmont and Northern terminal and freight station that transformed Third Ward were demolished, though some of the track and a wooden trestle remain. The major reminder of Third Ward's history as a terminus for the electric interurban railway is the large Duke Power office building of cream brick on South Church Street between First and Second streets. J. B. Duke first used the site for the main offices of his rail line, then built the headquarters for Duke Power at the front of the lot in 1928. Also from the era is the 1924-1925 Charlotte Supply Building (demolished) at West First and Mint streets where the P & N and Southern tracks crossed. 68 It was a well-preserved warehouse building of the type that the railroads attracted to Third Ward. The company was an important supplier of textile machinery to the region.
As with the other Center City wards, the Trade and Tryon edges of Third Ward were commercial. On West Trade was the Hotel Charlotte, financed in 1924 by a group of businessmen who wanted the city to have a grand meeting place. 69 They hired leading New York City hotel architect William L. Stoddard who created a ten story Neoclassical structure with elegant terra cotta trim. A block further down West Trade was the massive old U. S. Post Office building (now the Charles R. Jonas Federal Building U.S. Courthouse) with its long parade of limestone columns. Built in 1915, it was nearly tripled in size in 1934, displacing the old U. S. Mint, which had shared the site for nearly a century.
Old U.S. Post Office building
On South Tryon are Charlotte's two finest remaining Neoclassical office skyscrapers; Louis Asbury's old First National Bank of Charlotte building, renovated as One Tryon Center, and W. L. Stoddard's Johnston Building, also rehabilitated.
Both date from the mid 1920s when Charlotte was at the crest of her third textile boom. The street also has noteworthy low-rise structures. The Southern Real Estate building was originally the home of the company which had earlier developed the Elizabeth neighborhood. It has a handsome Neoclassical facade designed by Louis Asbury, with white glazed terra cotta framed by Ionic-capitaled pilasters. At the corner of South Tryon and West Fourth is the old Charlotte National Bank, a full-scale Roman temple with tall fluted columns erected in 1918. The work of New York City architect Alfred C. Bossom, it is the city's, and perhaps the state's, finest Neoclassical commercial structure and one of only two temple-form banks in Mecklenburg County. Two blocks away is the Latta Arcade, home office of Edward Dilworth Latta who developed the city's electric streetcar system and its first suburb, Dilworth. Much of the facade of the building was destroyed in a mid twentieth century remodeling, but inside, the magnificent two-story arcade space, lined with shops and offices and lit by sunshine streaming through clerestory windows and skylights, remains much as it was when it opened in 1914.
Third Ward is unique among Charlotte's Center City wards in that it has retained a fair number of the store and office buildings that once lined all blocks adjoining Trade and Tryon. The former Industrial Loan and Investment Bank at 124 South Church is an example. It is the county's second Greek temple bank, sporting a delicately detailed stone and terra cotta facade believed to have been designed in 1927-28 by either J. M. McMichael or Martin Boyer.
Industrial Loan and Investment Bank
In the 200 and 300 blocks of South Church were the buildings of Film Row. From the 1920s into the 1970s this group of two story structures was the center of distribution for Hollywood movies for the Carolinas. Every major motion picture company maintained offices in the Row. The most architecturally noteworthy was the Art Deco building shared by Loews and MGM. Built at 303 South Church (now Romare Bearden Park) in 1941, the design featured metal frame windows, yellow brick, and striking black glazed terra cotta trim.
The second section of Third Ward is the residential and industrial area beyond Graham Street and the Southern Railway tracks. This area remained undeveloped during much of the city's early history. The first major structure in the area was the now demolished Victor Cotton Mill, which opened in 1884 near the present intersection of Clarkson and Westbrook streets. About 1907 the Victor Mill company, by that time known as Continental Manufacturing, began to develop its surplus land as a residential area called Woodlawn. Though the area was within the 1907 boundaries of Third Ward and is today thought of as a central city neighborhood, when it was built it was considered a streetcar suburb, on the West Trade trolley line. A 1911 real estate advertisement boasted, "Woodlawn is the nearest suburb to the business part of the city, yet NONE is prettier."
Like most Charlotte suburbs, Woodlawn was not built in a day. The year 1907 saw platting of the area between West Trade, Irwin Creek, South Clarkson, and Fourth Street Extension. These earliest streets included curving Woodlawn Avenue, now renamed Irwin Avenue, Grove Street, West Fourth Street, and part of Victoria Avenue, which was named for the mill. In 1912-1913 Victoria Avenue was extended to its present length, First, Elliot, McNinch, and what is now Greenleaf were added, and the first house sites on Cedar were mapped. What was known as Waccamaw Court was added in 1928, and the area's last street, Westbrook, was finally developed in 1939, an early project of homebuilder John Crosland. 79
Woodlawn was somewhat more working-class than Charlotte's other early suburbs. This was probably due to its proximity to the Victor Mill and to the Southern Railway office building and yards on West Trade Street. It was also close enough to downtown for residents of modest means to walk when needed to save trolley fare. Though city directories show a wide range of occupations represented among early Woodlawn residents, a noticeable number listed the cotton mills or the Southern Railway as their employer. The old Victor Mill was demolished in the 1950s or 1960s, but the Southern Railway office building survived a while after. Through most of its existence Woodlawn was exclusively white. Black residents did not move in until the 1960s when demolition elsewhere in the Center City forced them to find new homes.
To this day, Third Ward contains one of Charlotte's notable concentrations of early Bungalows. The small frame houses lining Grove and West Fourth streets between Sycamore and Irwin create a streetscape that today looks much as it did seventy years ago.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
The Center City: The Business District and the Original Four Wards; Dr. Thomas W. Hanchett
Additional commentary added.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass