I’m Sarai, and I’m back for the second installment of Charlotte’s Historic Apartment Buildings. This week we are going to talk about The Poplar Apartments.
If you walk to the corner of 10th and Poplar Streets in Uptown’s Fourth Ward, you’ll find this magnificent, multi-unit building. Like the Frederick Apartments before it, it was a sign of the economic growth and affluence of Charlotte in the 1920s.
A sign for The Poplar Apartments, built in 1930 and located in Fourth Ward. Photo by the author.
The land that the Poplar occupies was the home of George B. Hanna (1835-1906), who was the president of the Charlotte YMCA for twenty-nine years. After Mr. Hanna died, his wife, Nola, lived there alone until her death in 1927 at which time her brother sold the property to the Willetts Construction company. Three businessmen, headed by Hal L. McKee, a local realtor, contracted with Willetts and created the Poplar Apartments Corporation.
A work permit was issued on January 25, 1929, and by the fateful month of October that year, work had progressed considerably. The Willetts contracted with a company to handle the leases 5 days before Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began. Nevertheless, construction continued. By March 1930, the Poplar was ready for tenants. The timing was fortunate – if the corporation organized just six months later, would the building have been completed as the country sank further into the Depression?
An undated image of the historic Poplar Apartments. Credit: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
The Poplar was a unique building for the South at the time it was built. Not only was it fireproof and soundproof, but every apartment had cross ventilation and was designed for maximum light and an unobstructed view. The architecture reflects a Jacobethan Revival style and was constructed using Flemish bond brick, limestone bricks, and concrete.
The economic climate of the 1930s continued to worsen and the Willetts defaulted on their loan just four months after the Poplar’s grand opening. From there, the Poplar changed ownership several times until 1950 when it was acquired by new stockholders headed by Edwin L. Jones (the same Jones family of J.A. Jones Construction, from last week’s post, which constructed and eventually acquired the Frederick Apartments). After 30 years of ownership, the Jones family, through their realty company, sold the Poplar in 1978, when it was converted into condominiums, as it remains today.
I’ll be back in two weeks for the final installment of the series – stay tuned!
Sarai K. Lewis
PHD Student, UNC Charlotte
Volunteer, Charlotte Museum of History
About The Charlotte Museum of History
The Charlotte Museum of History exists to save and share the Charlotte region’s history, helping create a better understanding of the past and inspiring dialogue about the future. The museum is the steward of the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander Rock House and homesite, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Visit charlottemuseum.org and follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The museum is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass