How’s your holiday shopping going? Mine is not done yet (I know!) so I will probably be making a last-minute run to my favorite local stores. If you yearn for the days of old when shopping, come reminisce at the Museum’s newest exhibit Charlotte: Signs of Home.
Several shopping destinations are featured in the vintage signs exhibit, guest curated by Charlotte Signs Project founder Christopher Lawing, from department stores to malls to the flower shop your parents frequented for “sorry my present is late” bouquets.
In the post-war era of the 1950s, department stores dominated the shopping landscape in Charlotte. Uptown (then still called Downtown) boasted a Belk department store, Efird’s, and an Ivey’s. Ivey’s was founded in the early 1900s as a general store by Joseph Benjamin Ivey. Ivey’s was several stories, with a millinery department, a wedding dress department with a team of alterations staff, and two restaurants, both of which were sites of sit-in protests by Black Johnson C. Smith students in 1960.
This reproduction Ivey’s sign is a replica of the smaller signs at the doors of the store. When the building was remodeled from condos to the current hotel, these signs were created. The Ivey’s sign is on loan from Christopher Lawing and the Charlotte Signs Project.
The 1970s brought with it the mall era and in 1975, Eastland Mall opened off Central Ave. One of its anchor tenants was actually Ivey’s (along with Belk and J.C. Penney). The mall was a destination for Charlotteans and with two stories, a food court (new at the time), an ice-skating rink, and huge bubble-like chandeliers, was considered nicer than SouthPark mall. The Eastland sun icon, which was designed by the building architect, Alfred Kloke, features a sun with puffed-up cheeks and puckered lips in the act of blowing air. Since its creation, it has inspired clothing, hats, tattoos, murals, memories, and even the logo for CharlotteEAST, who now owns the signs and logo.
The mall closed in 2010 after a period of declining sales. Now the property is set for redevelopment around the new major league soccer team. This sign is a smaller version of the huge icons that hung outside the entrances of the mall. The icon is on loan to the Museum from CharlotteEAST.
I hope you’ll come check it out! While you’re reminiscing, think of the places you love now – why do you love them? What intrinsic value does a sign or a building have? We hope this exhibit inspires you to support the places and spaces you love today.
The 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