This week's Fact Friday comes to you from the Charlotte Historic Landmarks Association.
The Ervin Building at 4037 East Independence Boulevard is a significant historic property for its association with Charlotte developer Charles Ervin. Ervin, a builder turned developer, founded the Ervin Company by 1951 and capitalized on the building boom following World War II. As part of his vision for the future, Ervin built a new office building along the decade old Independence Boulevard, a crosstown road meant to provide better access to the suburbs of Charlotte. The Ervin Building, completed in 1964, was constructed as the first major large-scale commercial structure along this road, and the building still retains its mid-century modern design and the important features Ervin included to create cohesive workplace.
The Ervin Building marks an important movement of commercial buildings to the southeast of Charlotte in the mid-twentieth century, a time when the city was already experiencing rapid growth. The trend of expansion from the city center of Charlotte to the southeast area began well before the Ervin Building was built, as homes and suburbs began appearing around the turn of the 20th century. But once these suburban neighborhoods were established, the need for businesses to serve them became apparent. Charles Ervin planned to be at the forefront of this movement eastward and built his new office building along East Independence Boulevard.
Long before Ervin began his career, Charlotte had established itself as a place of rapid growth and prosperity. As with much of the South, Charlotte became a thriving town because of its prominence along trade routes. With the addition of the county courthouse in the 1760s, Charlotte was the center of trade for that region of North Carolina. Through the next century, plantations and gold mining drove the economy of the small urban center, drawing people from the surrounding counties. The introduction of the railroad in the 1850s, which helped connect Charlotte to Columbia, South Carolina, and the state capital of Raleigh, pushed Charlotte to grow and expand more than any other town in the region. After the Civil War, the further expansion of the city’s railroads caused an industrial boom, which in turn drew more people to the area to work. Several large, successful cotton mills sprang up in the city at this time.
By the turn of the twentieth century, cotton mills and other industries were driving the economy of Charlotte, and in 1891 the city started operating electric trolley cars. Suddenly, the new lifestyle of suburbs were a viable option for many of the residents of Charlotte, and the growth outside of the city was substantial. The first main suburb, Dilworth, was built south of the city center of Charlotte by Edward Dilworth Latta. Next, the neighborhood of Elizabeth was built along the streetcar line running east of the city in 1900. Many of the wealthiest residents of Charlotte moved to these areas, enticed by the large homes, green space, and easy transportation into the city. Many more of these suburban neighborhoods would pop up along the streetcar lines extending to the south and the east of the city throughout the next few decades, mostly funded by early developers who saw this new trend in building. As suburban living became more popular, businesses and other commercial activity followed by moving outside of the city center in the 1920s and 1930s.
After World War II, the large number of returning soldiers, new-found middle-class wealth, and affordable personal transportation caused another suburban building boom. Charlotte was no different in experiencing this new economic development, and developers took advantage of the growing market. The City of Charlotte recognized this drastic need for housing and willingly expanded utility services to anyone building on undeveloped land. Charles Ervin was one such returning veteran, and it was at this time that he began his career in construction, starting as a bricklayer in the mid-1940s. He built his own house in 1947 while operating two grocery stores with his brother, and almost immediately after his house was finished, he received an offer by a veteran to buy his house. This immediate first success led Ervin to his own construction company.
To read the full report on the historical significance of the building, including why it would later be referred to as the Varnadore Building, click here.
Who remembers the site of the old Camelot Music building that was right next to the Ervin Building (by then it would have been called the Varnadore Building)? I used to buy CDs there all the time... and at the Willie's Records on the west side.
Earlier this year, Axios and many other outlets reported about new plans to renovate and revitalize the building. Axios' write up was the best one to me, as not only did it detail the future of the building, but it also went into a bit more detail about its history and had a photo of Charles Ervin. You can find it here. The article also highlights a 200-foot mural [on the backside of the building] depicting Charlotte history throughout the decades. The mural starts with the 1960s with an illustration of Dorthy Counts-Scoggins, a civil rights icon who integrated Charlotte schools back in 1957. QC Morning did a feature on the mural that you can find here.
Mike Sullivan from the Nichols Company is the point of contact for any leasing opportunities and can be contacted at 704-737-0215.
Renderings below provided by Gvest Capital.
Until next week!
"Ervin Building," prepared by MacRostie Historic Advisors, LLC in partnership with Guest (published by the Charlotte Historic Landmarks Association).
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” - James Baldwin