Fourth Ward, like Third Ward, consists of an old section plus a new development beyond the Southern Railway tracks. Unlike Third Ward, however, the older area has remained largely residential to the present day. To a greater extent than any other ward, buildings from the area's residential past have been retained to the present. Yet even here a vast majority of the pre-World War II buildings are gone.
All four Center City wards originally had an equal share of the city's grandest residences, which lined Trade and Tryon in the early years and by the 1900s extended back to College and Church. Beyond those grand avenues Fourth Ward seems to have had more than its share of prosperous middle-class families, however, probably because the land is the highest and best drained of the four wards. About forty of these houses, out of several hundred that stood in the neighborhood into the 1960s, have been retained as part of the Fourth Ward Historic District.
A handful of these homes have been individually designated as local Historic Properties. They include 326 West Eighth, remodeled in the Queen Anne Victorian style about 1880 for school teacher and Methodist minister Elias Overcarsh, 324 West Ninth Street which was occupied for most of its existence by storekeeper E. W. Berryhill, and 129 North Poplar Avenue, which was built speculatively in 1895 and first owned by music store owner E. M. Andrews. Though today these dwellings seem to be fine specimens of Victorian architecture, their owners were decidedly middle-class, providing a tantalizing hint of what the dwellings of the really well-to-do on Trade, Tryon and Church must have once been like. A single top-notch Church Street residence does survive, 511 North Church built in the 1890s for foundry operator Vinton Liddell, one of the city's leading industrialists, and later occupied by Charlotte mayor S. S. McNinch. Its rambling shingle-clad exterior is an elaborate blend of Queen Anne and Shingle style influences, and its interior retains all of its original elegant paneling, wainscoting, mantels, and stairs.
324 West Ninth Street - The Berryhill House
Along with Fourth Ward's late nineteenth century houses are a few early twentieth century apartment buildings. The finest is the 1929 Poplar Apartments at West Tenth and Poplar Street. Its designer, the mill engineering firm of Lockwood, Green Co., used the Old English decorative motifs popular for single-family homes in the period, creating an elegant structure that remained an elite address even when much of the rest of the neighborhood became transient housing.
To go along with its residences, Fourth Ward had more than its share of leading churches and other institutions. First and foremost is First Presbyterian Church, occupying a full city block on West Trade near Independence Square. It was for many decades the religious center of this predominantly Presbyterian city, with the village's main early graveyard on an adjoining block. On North Tryon Street are the 1927 First United Methodist Church by architect Edwin B. Phillips of Nashville, Tennessee, the 1926 First Associated Reform Presbyterian Church, and the 1893 St. Peter's Episcopal Church, one of the city's finest remaining Victorian structures, featuring Richardsonian brick and stone detailing. St. Peter's Episcopal Church made Fourth Ward the home not only of its sanctuary, but also of the hospital it built in 1892. Old St. Peters Hospital at 225-231 North Poplar, the city's first civilian hospital, found new life as residential condominiums. A block away at 229 North Church stands the North Carolina Medical College building, designed by J. M. McMichael in 1907.
North Carolina Medical College
As with the other Center City wards, Fourth Ward had stores and offices on Trade and Tryon near the Square, and industries along the railroad. Anchoring the Square was the 1907 Independence Building, now demolished. Surviving commercial buildings include architect William Peeps' 1920s Iveys Department Store building, Louis Asbury's 1920s Mayfair Hotel (renamed The Dunhill Hotel), and Asbury's 1920s Professional Building office tower, all on North Tryon. Perhaps the most interesting commercial structure is architect M. R. Marsh's seven story Builders Building at 314 West Trade. It is built completely of fireproof materials, the vogue when it went up in the late 1920s, and features a ground floor arcade. It was intended to house the offices of all of Charlotte's contractors and builders, in order to facilitate sharing of technical information and hiring of subcontractors, part of a nationwide movement for "builders exchanges" that had begun around the turn of the century.
Probably the best known Fourth Ward industry today is Interstate Milling Company (now the site of ADM Milling Company). Founded by Myers Park businessman Charles Moody early in the century, its sculptural grain elevators dominate the city view from U. S. Interstate 277. The most historically important Fourth Ward factory is the old Charlotte Cotton Mill, now part of Spiezman Industries at Fifth and Graham. The present conglomeration of low brick buildings includes Charlotte's very first successful cotton mill, dating from 1880, the structure that kicked off Charlotte's New South Era and with it Charlotte's transformation from a village to a major city.
Across the Southern Railway from the Charlotte Cotton Mill is the newer part of Fourth Ward. Like the adjacent section of Third Ward, this area was originally conceived as a streetcar suburb early in the twentieth century. Until then the only things on that side of the tracks were Elmwood Cemetery and its black counterpart Pinewood Cemetery. The cemeteries date from the 1850s when the city fathers decided to open a second municipal graveyard to replace the crowded Settlers Cemetery behind First Presbyterian. The new burial ground's winding drives and suburban location mark it as an example of the "rural cemetery" movement that began with Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery in the 1830s, a forerunner of the city park movement. Today it holds the graves of most of Charlotte's New South leaders, including the imposing mausoleums of J. S. Myers and Edward Dilworth Latta.
About 1905 the Irwin family, who had long held the land between the cemetery and Irwin Creek, decided to have it platted for house lots. The resulting suburb, on the West Trade streetcar line, was called Irwin Park. 90 It originally featured a large park, today the site of Irwin School. As with Woodlawn, this neighborhood was white until the 1960s. Most of the original houses have been demolished in recent years, but some solid Bungalows remain on Irwin Avenue and West Sixth Street near the school.
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