Fact Friday 151 - Southern Public Utilities Streetcar Barn
The Southern Public Utilities Company built this structure at 1424 South Boulevard in 1914 to house and service the electric streetcar system its parent company, Southern Power, had purchased from Edward Dilworth Latta in 1911. The facility could house up to forty trolleys and contained its own forge and a blacksmith to perform repairs on them. It was the site of Charlotte's most violent labor disturbance during the 1919 Streetcar Strike, when five men were killed and fifteen wounded by police officers protecting the barn from striking motormen. The strike began when employees walked off the job to demand higher wages and union recognition. When Southern Public Utilities employed "scabs" on the streetcars, the strikers hurled abuse and bricks at the cars. Trolley service soon waned, and this photograph from 1934 shows the car barn's new tenants, the fleet of Duke Power's new gasoline motor buses.
This earlier photograph from around 1910 shows motormen posing with the original tenants of the barn, Charlotte's streetcars.
By 1937 the motor bus had completely replaced the electric streetcar in Charlotte. The classical arched facade of the barn was demolished, and the structure was rebuilt with a larger front to facilitate the buses. Duke Power sold its bus system in 1955, but continued to use the building for various purposes until 1980. It then sat abandoned for years, but new life was planned for it when Charlotte resumed its vintage trolley service in 1998. In 2003 the county purchased the barn, and the Charlotte Area Transit System agreed to restore its historical facade and use it to house its trolley operations. Eventually government delays in the project triggered a clause in the purchase deal, allowing Duke Energy to buy it back and demolish it. The site is now occupied by the Circle at South End, a mixed-use retail and condo space accessible by the light-rail transportation line running along South Boulevard.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
Charlotte Then and Now, Brandon Lunsford, 2013.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass