Like me, I'm sure some of you have wondered where some of the area's road names originate. Well, this isn't all of them, but its a few of the good ones. Enjoy!
City officials came to their senses in 1914 and gave some dreadfully dull downtown street names some meaning. B Street was changed to Brevard, C to Caldwell, D to Davidson and E to Alexander -- named after prominent founding families of Mecklenburg County, not individuals of those clans.
One famous Alexander, for example, was Joseph, a clergyman and educator who established Queens College. A staunch patriot, Joseph was credited with saving morale after the Battle of Camden. Most male members of his Presbyterian parish brought rifles to his Sabbath services during the topsy-turvy Tory days. Another Alexander, Hezekiah, led a group of patriots who adopted the Mecklenburg Resolves, nullifying all British laws and authority. The royal government at the time wrote to England that the Mecklenburg Resolves were the most treasonable documents the continent had ever produced.
A more modern and certainly influential Alexander also has a street named after him. Frederick Douglas Alexander worked tirelessly to register blacks to vote in the '30s and '40s.
In 1961, Alexander bested a field of 41 candidates to become the city's first black councilmen since 1890. In the '60s he was Charlotte's leading champion for civil rights. Among other integration actions, Fred tore down a fence that segregated dead blacks in Pineville Cemetery and dead whites in Elmwood.
After Alexander passed away in 1980 there was some effort to rename Senior Drive, the street where he lived, in Fred's honor. Fred D. Alexander Blvd. was ultimately placed in the Mt. Holly/Brookshire Boulevard/Huntersville area.
Frederick Alexander oversees the removal of the fence separating historic Elmwood and Pinewood Cemeteries.
Shortly after World War II, Charlotte began growing at a rapid pace. Without a cross-town boulevard to help relieve some of the congestion that plagued Uptown streets, traffic was becoming unbearable. When a brilliant engineer completed a street plan that included an expressway from Graham Street eastward along Stonewall to Sugar Creek, where one arm led to the Monroe and Albemarle highways and the other connected with Queens Road, city leaders were all for it.
That is, until citizens practically started a riot over it. According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission website, once they found out that the new expressway would split the Chantilly, Elizabeth, and Piedmont Park neighborhoods and a good chunk of the city's first public park would be victimized, it was on. The mayor at the time, Herbert Baxter, and members of the City Council backed down for a moment, most likely wiping sweat from their foreheads as infuriated folks continued to complain. But the submission would not last. When no other solution could be determined, the city council approved the plan, and construction was underway.
When it came time to name the new cross-town boulevard, city council notes from May 4, 1949 found in the Carolina Room, report that it was suggested that it be named after the mayor. Throwing out the modesty card, Herbert Baxter would have none of that. "How about naming it Independence Boulevard?" piped up City Clerk Lillian Hoffman. After all, the new expressway was built after sacrificing much of Independence Park.
The intersection of East Morehead Street when it crossed Independence Boulevard. The picture captures what buildings could be seen looking northeast. The Stuart W. Cramer's House on the corner. Image courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room – Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Trade and Tryon
For those who know better, the corner of Trade and Tryon streets goes by a different name: the Square. According to Wikipedia.org, this major intersection actually began as ancient Native American trading paths.
Before the name Tryon was "tried on," this particular road was a part of the Great Wagon Road, one of the most heavily traveled major routes for settlers in America. The length of it slithered from pioneer-filled Pennsylvania to the great state of Georgia.
In 1755, Thomas Polk, the great uncle of U.S. President James Polk, built his home at the intersection of Great Wagon Road and a Native American trading path. This crossroad eventually gave birth to the little village of "Charlotte Town." As the city grew, Great Wagon Road was renamed Tryon Street, after William Tryon, the royal governor of colonial North Carolina right before the Revolutionary War. And the little trading path that Native Americans frequented? Trade Street, of course.
Before Tryon became what it is today, the Great Wagon Road laid claim to the same strip of pathway.
In the Old English, Runnymeade contains an "a," but the colonialists that named the avenue wanted to further remove themselves from the Brits from whence they came. Its name comes from the English meadow that sits on the bank of the Thames River, south of London. Here, the barons with an army raised against King John ("Soft Sword" so called for his inaptitude at warfare -- he was also, coincidentally, the last King John) in defense of their rights as landholders, forced the monarch to sign what became known as the Magna Carta.
The Mint Street moniker comes pretty matter-of-factly. It was the street that bordered the Charlotte Mint's eastern side during the days of the Carolina Gold Rush, the first in America. In 1799, a boy named Conrad Reed found a 17-pound gold nugget (that was later used as a doorstop due to ignorance on the part of the Reed family) in Meadow Creek in Cabarrus County. The mint opened in 1836 and once minted $5 million in "Carolina gold" in one year. Its doors finally closed in 1861.
The postcard inset is from around 1900 and shows the Mint's neighbor, the first United States Post Office, which operated on the corner of Trade and Mint Streets from 1881 to 1915.
Until next week!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
Information taken from:
Creative Loafing Charlotte - "Street Stories; Secrets and legends behind Charlotte's long and winding roads," by Branna Calloway, Natalie Howard, Kimberly Lawson, Jared Neumark, Tara Servatius, and Karen Shugart; November 2006.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass