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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Slocum in Charlotte

Page address: http://sbs.mnsu.edu/government/faculty/Slocum/Slocum Travels/Slocum Charlotte.html

Charlotte, North Carolina

I moved several times in my first nine years of life.  But most of my 'growing up' years were in Charlotte, so I call it my hometown.  In the 1970s, Charlotte was a sleepy small city (population around 250,000) surrounded largely by the numerous small mill and textile towns that formed much of the economic backbone of the North and South Carolina Piedmont.  As of 2011, Charlotte is a major banking center and a very fast-growing city (population around 700,000; metropolitan area population around 1.8 million).  The city's leaders have for decades harbored ambitions of Charlotte becoming a 'world class' city.  And the area has much to be proud of: a progressive record on school desegregation and racial politics; NBA and NFL teams; the corporate headquarters of Bank of America (the largest bank in the nation) and Wachovia (the #6 bank); and a gleaming, mirror-glass uptown; in Charlotte, we never call the central business district 'downtown'!  This page contains some photos I took during my July 2004 visit.  My mom, sister and nephew all live in Charlotte, so I have plenty of reason to go there whenever I can.

A view of uptown Charlotte from nearby Marshall Park, July 14, 2004.  The city-county government center is the large squarish building on the right, and behind it the distinctive spire of the Bank of America corporate center pokes skyward.  The tall building with the rounded top on the left is the Wachovia (bank) corporate center.

I took this picture and the next two from inside the government center, from the 10th floor conference room.  The windows are smoky gray, so the photos appear tinted compared to those taken outdoors.  This is a leftward view, showing the Wachovia corporate center on the left.  The angular building on the right was once the corporate office of North Carolina National Bank (NCNB), before NCNB went on a spree of acquisitions of smaller banks, becoming, in the process, NationsBank during the 1990s, and later Bank of America.

Looking further to the right we can see the new transportation center (blue-green roof) which is the hub for Charlotte's extensive city bus system.  The center was designed by award-winning Charlotte architect and former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt (more on him below).  Behind the transportation center is the tallest building in the Carolinas, the 60-story Bank of America corporate center.  The tall building further to the right is the Hearst Building, completed in 2002.

Looking rightward we can see the construction for the new Charlotte Coliseum, the future home of Charlotte's NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats.  Charlotte first got an NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, in 1988, but the Hornets moved to New Orleans, and the NBA promised Charlotte a new team.  An even bigger day in Charlotte's history was October 27, 1993, when the National Football League announced Charlotte would become home to the (then, expansion) Carolina Panthers.  For Charlotte's leaders, it was a ringing affirmation that Charlotte had become a 'world class' city!

This is the entrance to the Bank of America corporate center.  This building, finished in 1992, was described by journalist Peter Applebome as "the definitive Sun Belt office tower . . . a combination of Sistine Chapel and Ritz Carlton."

Part of the massive lobby of the Bank of America center.  This is looking toward the street; looking away from the street, you see the three enormous frescoes that make this anything but your usual bank lobby (see next picture).

The frescoes in the Bank of America building's lobby.  Each fresco is 23 feet by 18 feet.  They were painted by Ben Long, a North Carolina native who studied art in New York, joined the Marines, and later traveled to Florence, Italy to learn how to paint frescoes.  Journalist Applebome describes these frescoes as "[depicting] in rich shades of gold and red an oddly hellish earthly landscape of dronelike workers, tormented souls, stairways to nowhere, and cold-eyed corporate Ubermenschen, all created in the style and colors of Renaissance religious frescoes - the ultimate ratification of the New South creed of redemption through commerce."

The other wing of the L-shaped lobby, with marble from Spain, Italy, France and Turkey.

Charlotte has many distinctive neighborhoods.  A widely believed 'old money' neighborhood is Myers Park, which has many stately homes and some divided main streets that are lined for miles with a canopy of oak trees.  Queens Road West is such a road, and this is one of the houses I delivered newspapers to when I was in junior high school.  The home has a 5-car garage in back, and looks virtually unchanged from my paper route days.  The two-story front porch with white columns is commonly found on colonial style homes in Charlotte.  It is characteristic of much Southern colonial architecture.  Photo taken July 15, 2004.

The oak tree canopy along Queens Road West.  Charlotte and much of the Carolinas were settled largely by British and Scottish immigrants.  Many of the street names in Myers Park strongly reflect this British heritage: Croydon Road, Sherwood Avenue, Selwyn Avenue, Queens Road West, Queens Road East, Queens Road, Kings Drive, Providence Road, Granville Road, Ardsley Road, Radcliffe Avenue, Sterling Road.

Another view of this Georgian colonial home on Queens Road West, a few blocks away from the white house two pictures earlier.  The multiple small panes on the windows are characteristic of colonial architecture, which is very common in Charlotte.  These multipaned windows are much less common in Minnesota because of the severely cold winters.  Each small window pane is a potential avenue for drafts to get into the house!  The rarity of 'colonial' paned windows in Minnesota, then, is a bow to the reality of the astronomical heating bills that they would bring.

Another larger home in the heart of Myers Park (on Granville Road).  To me, even the main entrance looks massive in size.

During this Charlotte visit, I was able to interview Harvey Gantt, a renowned architect and former mayor of Charlotte (from 1983 to 1987).  Gantt was the first African American student to integrate Clemson University in South Carolina (in 1963) and was the first African American ever elected mayor of a majority-white Southern city (elected in 1982).  Gantt also ran twice for the U.S. Senate (in 1990 and 1996) against arch-conservative then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) but lost both times.  My interview with Gantt focused on politics in Charlotte and the South.  Gantt stands beside some of his designs, including the interior of the transportation center (lower right panel).

This is my childhood home, on Selwyn Avenue on the southern edge of Myers Park.  My mom lived here as an adult 32 years, and this was also her childhood home; she first moved here in 1952 at age 11, staying until age 18.  In 1974, upon returning to Charlotte, she and my dad bought the house from my (now deceased) grandmother.  My parents divorced in 1979, but my mom remained in this house, remarrying in 1987.  In September 2006, Mom and husband Manning moved to another house in southeast Charlotte.  Picture taken July 14, 2004.

Another view of my childhood home, showing more clearly the multicolored bricks (tapestry brick) that the house is built of.  The house was built either in 1916 or 1919.  The lot includes oak, maple, magnolia and dogwood trees.  There is a separate garage in the back, which is identical to the house architecturally.

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