The United States entered into World War I on April 6, 1917, by declaring war on Germany. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce persuaded the military to place a major army facility just west of the city, on 2,340 acres of rural land owned by the Dowd family and other local farmers. Soon Camp Greene, named after local Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene, was erected. Eventually it became a city within a city, with hundreds of wooden buildings, including a hospital, chapel, bakery, YMCA building, mess hall, laundry, water tower, and post office. By the summer of 1918, nearly 60,000 men were stationed at Camp Greene, during a time when Charlotte's population itself was only 40,000. Pictured here are staff members posing in front of the house that served as the camp's headquarters.
This image from 1917 shows various companies assembled near their barracks to listen to a radio broadcast, and gives an idea of how the solders' camp that populated this rolling green section of town during the war was considered a "city within a city."
Besides the obvious leap in population, the camp cause a further explosion of growth in the city as merchants began to build new restaurants, stores, and accommodations to meet the soldiers' demands. The boom was tempered by the influenza epidemic of 1918, a disease that many soldiers brought back from the war and which decimated the population of Camp Greene. The camp was quarantined, and by Armistice Day on November 11, 1918, it was mostly deserted. Some of the land was eventually used for a convict labor camp in the 1920s, and today the huge territory of Camp Greene is a residential neighborhood. The old Dowd farmhouse that was the camp headquarters still exists, and was converted into a Camp Greene museum in 1985.
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