Happy Friday everyone!
In April, 1902, J. Luther Snyder, a Virginia native, moved from Atlanta, where he had worked for the Coca-Cola Company for two years, and established the first Coca-Cola bottling plant in the two Carolinas, at 7 South Church Street. "When I came to Charlotte, the city had 17,000 people, eighteen saloons, two breweries . . . and I had a terrible time selling soft drinks with that kind of competition," Snyder remembered years later. But Snyder, an adroit businessman, must have known that several factors were working in his favor. The temperance movement was sweeping the South, and it would soon sound the death knell for the breweries and the saloons. Charlotte was becoming a major textile manufacturing center; and the industrial workers, forced to labor for long hours in the stifling atmosphere of the mills, would eagerly buy Snyder's "soft" drink, especially when they could no longer quench their thirst with "hard" liquor. And there was always the blistering North Carolina summer sun, which could drive even the most steadfast to seek liquid refreshments.
At first, the bottling and distribution systems for Coca-Cola in Charlotte were primitive by today's standards. The capping and bottling equipment were foot-powered, and a seasoned operator could fill and cap just four bottles a minute or ten cases per hour. Horse-drawn wagons, customarily carrying ten cases, meandered through the streets of Charlotte, hauling Coca-Cola to industrial establishments, neighborhood grocery stores, and other outlets. Long distance deliveries were shipped in metal packing crates by railroad. Indeed, it was probably the excellent railroad network radiating from Charlotte that persuaded Snyder to locate his fledgling bottling operation here.
Success dictated that Snyder find bigger facilities for his bottling plant. In 1907 it moved to 14-18 South Poplar St.; in 1913 to 522-24 West Fifth St.; and in 1918 to 213 N. Graham St. But it was in 1930 that Snyder made his most substantial commitment to modernizing his operations. "The Charlotte Coca-Cola Bottling Company has purchased a site on West Morehead Street and will begin immediately the construction of a new plant to cost approximately $100,000," the Southern Public Utilities Magazine proclaimed in January, 1930. Designed by Marion Rossiter "Steve" Marsh, the building was completed in November, 1930, and continued to serve as headquarters for Coca-Cola Bottling operations in Charlotte until 1974. The wonderfully playful ornamental detail work on the exterior of the building, which includes Coca-Cola bottles, was done by Ornamental Stone Company of Charlotte, owned by William F. McCandless.
M. R. Marsh (1901-1977), a native of Jacksonville, Fla., came to Charlotte in 1916 as chief draftsman for Charlotte architect J. M. McMichael, later worked as a designer for the chemical engineering firm headed by Peter Gilchrist, and in 1922 opened his own practice in Charlotte. Although his training was limited to correspondence courses from Columbia University and to on-the-job experience with his brother's architectural firm, Marsh and Sexleby (sp?) in Jacksonville, Marsh oversaw the design of many edifices in Charlotte and its environs, including the Charlotte Armory (destroyed), Fairview Homes (Charlotte's first public housing project), the Builders Building, the Oasis Temple, the Plaza Theater, Liggett Drug Company, the Frank Sherrill House in Dilworth, and the F. Siefart residence in Eastover.
J. Luther Snyder had "a well-deserved reputation as a civic leader and welfare worker," wrote historian Hugh Lefler. He was president of Merchants and Farmers National Bank from 1931 until 1933, headed the Chamber of Commerce during the Depression years, and was a member of the airport board. On balance, J. Luther Snyder, the founder of the Charlotte Coca-Cola Bottling Company, was a credit to his family, his city, and his region. And the Charlotte Coca-Cola Bottling Company Building, at 1401 W. Morehead St., is the most dramatic physical reminder of J. Luther Snyder's business career.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
The Charlotte Coca-Cola Bottling Company Plant, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission – Deborah Swanson and Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
Additional commentary added.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass