Happy Friday everyone!
James Buchanan Duke
Myers Park's most powerful and influential resident was James Buchanan Duke. On March 8, 1919, Duke purchased the Colonial Revival style home that architect C. C. Hook had designed in 1915 for utilities executive Z. V. Taylor. Duke transformed the already-substantial house into a majestic mansion of 45 rooms and 12 baths between 1919 and 1922. Two considerations were uppermost in causing Duke to purchase the property. First, business activities compelled him to spend extended periods od time in the city. Second, he wanted to expose his one and only child, Doris Duke, to the "ins and outs" of Southern life.
The Duke Mansion, Charlotte, NC
In 1904, James B. Duke met Dr. W. Gill Wylie, a physician in New York City, who had joined with his brother in 1899 in launching the Catawba Power Company in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the first hydroelectric production venture on the Catawba River. Duke suggested that he form a partnership with the Wylie Brothers to provide capital for expansion. The financially beleaguered Wylie Brothers readily accepted, thereby assuring the establishment of the Southern Power Company, later Duke Power Company, the precursor to the Duke Energy conglomerate. Duke believed that the economy of North Carolina would achieve its potential only if sufficient power was available to sustain an expanding textile manufacturing component. The early history of the Southern Power Company proved that Duke was correct. The harnessing of the Catawba River allowed the textile industry to proper in the Piedmont and was the single most important factor in stimulating the industrial growth of this region i the first half of the twentieth century.
The most significant event in the property's (known as Lynnwood) history occurred in December 1924. A series of meetings in the sunroom in the west wing of the house culminated in the establishment of the Duke Endowment, a philanthropic enterprise of enormous importance to the people of North Carolina and South Carolina. Local institutions such as Johnson C. Smith University, formerly Biddle Memorial Institute, and Davidson College received substantial bequests when James Buchanan Duke died at his home in Somerville, New Jersey in 1925.
Per Dave Dewitt of WUNC.org,
"The legacy of the Dukes is complicated.
Duke Energy relies on coal-fired power plants… as Duke University’s world-renowned environmental school does groundbreaking work in global warming.
One of Washington Duke’s (J. B. Duke's father) daughters gave 22 of the original 25 acres to create North Carolina Central University… but Duke University didn’t admit an undergraduate black student until 1963.
Tobacco, the product the Dukes helped popularize and made them rich, kills more than 6-million people a year worldwide… the hospitals the Dukes built have saved countless lives."
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:
Historic Charlotte: An Illustrated History of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, 2001, Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Some content reworded or updated. 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