Fact Friday 94 – A Sure-Enough City
Happy Friday everyone!
If you follow us on social media, you know we love sharing photos of Charlotte’s beautiful skyline. In many cases, these are views that we wouldn’t ordinarily get to see in the course of our regular day-to-day activities. So we owe a great deal of gratitude to the photographers that go the distance to bring us awe-inspiring work. They help give us all perspective. See if you can pick up on the parallelism of writer Isaac Avery from the turn of the last century. His words are seemingly timeless.
14-story Tompkins Tower
A gifted writer, Isaac Erwin Avery snapped a verbal photograph of Charlotte in 1905 at the dawn of the twentieth century: “The Charlotte citizen who has not been on top of the Tompkins Tower does not know Charlotte at all.” In a collection called Idle Comments, he looked down from a fourteen-story observatory platform above the factory, surveying the domes and steeples of the city. The extraordinary view covered
every street and house in Charlotte, and the suburban towns are as plain as pictures on canvas… One building near Davidson College is clearly indicated, as are also farmhouses about Sharon Church. The view of the mountains is surprisingly fine… The bang and rattle of a loaded truck passing in the street below seems tenfold greater at this height… The clatter of horses’ hoofs and the exhaust of steam engines come up with piercing keenness… the living current of people and vehicles, the smoke from factories and the exhaust of the railroad engines on the four sides of town.
Avery noted that “a beautiful picture of a busy and thrifty city is framed in the white and black of the steam and smoke of industry.” Clearly industry had become beauty to the people of Charlotte.
Charlotte has passed through the transition stage and become a sure-enough city. Residents who travel abroad and return are no longer surrounded at the square and eagerly questioned about the private life of the King or the Pope. A whole week instead of a day may be required to carry a choice bit of scandal into every part of the town… you may dodge a creditor for days without remaining in hiding, the country mules do not shy at automobiles or silk hats walking around on weekdays; and no one thinks about fainting when a Charlotte woman goes off to get a Ph.D. vocal degree and comes home singing in a high Dutch or broken Eyetalian. In fine, Charlotte has all the earmarks of a city.
Even so, Charlotte in 1900 was so small that it had a single water supply, a small lake just across the old town limits to the east, filling a basin that later became Independence Park.
President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt
By 1905, when President Teddy Roosevelt arrived, signs of the New South were well in place. Commerce. Factories. Schools and colleges. Concert hall. Library. In his speech, Roosevelt sang a welcome melody: “I rejoice in the symptoms of your abounding prosperity… here in a great center of cotton manufacture.” Within a hundred miles of Charlotte, 3 million spindles and eighty-five thousand looms represented $100 million in capital. The outlying cotton mills immediately surrounding the town employed six thousand millworkers with an average raw-cotton trade of $1.2 million each year, according to Mildred Gwin Andrews in The Men and the Mills. Besides textile equipment suppliers and manufacturers, Charlotteans produced iron, tobacco, doors, spokes and handles, wagons, carriages, harnesses and marble works. And, on uptown streets, there were numerous saloons. Charlotte was known as “a bustling, prosperous city,” wrote Andrews, “a good example of the New South – the manufacture of cotton was the lifeblood of the Piedmont.”
Until next week!
Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
Information taken from:
Charlotte North Carolina: A Brief History, Mary Kratt, 2009
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass