Happy Friday everyone!
As the north-south route, whose crossroads with Trade Street became the birthplace of Charlotte, Tryon Street has always been a vital artery of the city’s downtown. Named after North Carolina’s colonial governor William Tryon, it was lined with many of the early businesses that emanated from the Square by the 1850s. W. Tryon was a British soldier and colonial administrator who served as governor of the Province of North Carolina (1765-1771) and interestingly enough, the Province of New York (1771-1780). Tryon’s legacy as a colonial governor of both NC and NY and later as a British commander in the Revolutionary War would prove to be tumultuous to put it mildly. As a commander, he advocated attacking civilian targets and allowed assaults, reportedly including rape of American women during wartime, and as governor of NY, was behind a botched kidnaping attempt on George Washington.
Past the commercial district, the stately mansions of some of Charlotte’s most prominent citizens were clustered on Tryon and extended to the city’s edge. This photograph (below) of North Tryon Street from 1910 gives an idea of the traffic that clogged the area around the Square at the turn of the century, as horse-drawn streetcars cross the trolley lines to transport residents about their business through the bustling street. The left side of the photograph is dominated by the Independence Building, and farther down the street is the Kress department store. The Independence Building was a 186 feet skyscraper built in 1909 and imploded just 3 days after my first birthday on September 27, 1981 to make way for 101 Independence Center, now referred to as simply 101 North Tryon and soon to be heavily renovated with new retail space.
A postcard view of North Tryon from the Square dates from around 1910.
This shot from 1930 gives a similar view coming from the opposite end of the street looking south towards the Square.
With rapid population growth in the city matched by commercial growth in the business district, the high-priced residences of Tryon Street gradually disappeared from the core of downtown. By the 1920s, North Tryon had become the city’s most elite shopping district after many of the prominent local department stores from Trade Street moved there. Today the street has changed immensely, as banking towers and upscale high-rise condos surround the streets instead of storefronts (although storefronts are making a resurgence). Visible through the trees in the photo below is the only surviving remnant of North Tryon’s once-vibrant shopping area, the Ivey’s Building. Built in 1924 as a department store right beside the Kress Building, it now houses luxury condos. Current local landmarks include the Bank of America Tower, Hearst Tower, Hugh McColl Center for Visual Arts and Transamerica Square.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
Charlotte Then & Now, 2013, Brandon D. Lunsford
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