|Charlotte North Carolina Overview
Charlotte, North Carolina
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Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and the 20th largest in the United States, with a population of approximately 651,101 (2005 estimate). The Charlotte metropolitan area (MSA) had a 2006 estimated population of 1,594,799. As of 2005, Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury had a combined statistical area (CSA) population of 2,120,745. The city is at the center of one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the United States, with an average influx of roughly 20,000 newcomers each year over the past decade. Charlotte is the county seat of Mecklenburg CountyGR6, and is located in south-central North Carolina, near the South Carolina border. Nicknamed
The Queen City (which it shares with Cincinnati, Ohio), Charlotte was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of England. After being driven out by the fierce opposition of the city's citizens to British occupation during the American Revolution, General Cornwallis famously wrote Charlotte was "a hornet's nest of rebellion." A resident of Charlotte is referred to as a Charlottean (shar-la-tee'-uhn).
Charlotte was founded in the mid-18th century at the intersection of two Native American trading paths, one of which ran north-south Great Wagon Road, followed closely today by U.S. Route 21, and a second that ran east-west along what is now modern-day Trade Street. In the early part of the 18th century, the Great Wagon Road led settlers of Scots-Irish (who were mostly Presbyterian and founded many churches) and German descent from Pennsylvania into the Carolina foothills. In 1755, early settler Thomas Polk (uncle of United States President James K. Polk) built his house at the crossroads of a Native American trading path and the Great Wagon Road, which
subsequently became the village of "Charlotte Town," incorporated in 1768. The crossroads, perched atop a long rise in the piedmont landscape, is the heart of modern Uptown Charlotte. The trading path became Trade Street, and the Great Wagon Road became Tryon Street, in honor of William Tryon, a royal governor of colonial North Carolina. The intersection of Trade and Tryon is known as "The Square" or simply "Trade & Tryon." Both the city and its county are named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the German-born wife of British King George III. Loyalty to King George and his consort was short-lived. On May 20, 1775,
townsmen allegedly signed a proclamation later known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a copy of which was allegedly sent, though never officially presented, to the Continental Congress a year later. There is no generally accepted historic proof of the document, and many doubt it ever existed, yet the supposed date of the Declaration appears on North Carolina's state flag), and 11 days later the same townsmen met to create and endorse the Mecklenburg Resolves, a set of laws to govern the newly independent town. Charlotte was a site of encampment for both American and British armies during the Revolutionary War, and during a series of
skirmishes between British troops and Charlotteans the village earned the lasting nickname "Hornet's Nest" from frustrated Lord General Charles Cornwallis. An ideological hotbed of revolutionary sentiment during the Revolutionary War and for some time afterwards, the legacy endures today in the nomenclature of such landmarks as Independence Boulevard, Independence High School, Independence Center, Freedom Park, Freedom Drive, and the former NBA team Charlotte Hornets. In 1799, 12 year-old Conrad Reed brought home a rock weighing about 17 pounds, which the family used as a bulky doorstop for three years before it was recognized by a jeweller as
near solid gold and bought for a paltry $3.50 . The first verified gold-find in the fledgling United States, young Reed's discovery became the genesis of the nation's first gold rush. Many veins of gold were found in the area throughout the 1800s and even in to the early 1900s, thus the founding of the Charlotte Mint in 1837 for minting local gold. The state of North Carolina "led the nation in gold production until the California Gold Rush of 1848" , although the total volume of gold mined in the Charlotte area was dwarved by subsequent rushes. Some locally based groups still pan for gold occasionally in local (mostly rural) streams
and creeks. The Reed Gold Mine operated until 1912. The Charlotte Mint was active until 1861, when Confederate forces seized the mint at the outbreak of the Civil War. The mint was not reopened at the end of the war, but the building survives today, albeit in a different location, now housing the Mint Museum of Art. The city's first boom came after the Civil War, as a cotton processing center and a railroad hub. Population leapt again during World War I, when the U.S. government established Camp Greene north of present-day Wilkinson Boulevard. Many soldiers and suppliers stayed after the war, launching an ascent that eventually overtook older and more
established rivals along the arc of the Carolina piedmont. The city's modern-day banking industry achieved prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, largely under the leadership of financier Hugh McColl. McColl transformed North Carolina National Bank (NCNB) into a formidable national player that, through a series of aggressive acquisitions, eventually became Bank of America. Another bank, First Union, experienced similar growth, and is now known as Wachovia. Today, measured by control of assets, Charlotte is the second largest banking headquarters in the United States after New York City. Charlotte's penchant for looking ahead -- a drive for economic
development that kicked into particularly high gear during the mid-to-late 20th century -- led to the destruction of a series of landmark buildings as the city's downtown expanded. Historically-driven preservationists often struggle to maintain old-city landmarks in the face of modern-minded boosters. Famous natives of Charlotte include evangelist Billy Graham, pop music stars K-Ci and JoJo of Jodeci, R&B singer Anthony Hamilton, R&B singer Sunshine Anderson, pro wrestler Ric Flair, actor Randolph Scott, U.S. Presidents James K. Polk (Pineville) and Andrew Jackson (born near the line between North and South Carolina), independent filmmaker Ross
McElwee, humorist Rich Hall, film critic Molly Haskell, musican Prairie Prince, artists Romare Bearden and Ben Long, actress Berlinda Tolbert (of "The Jeffersons") and Emmy-nominated actress Sharon Lawrence ("NYPD Blue"). Novelist Carson McCullers wrote her best-known work, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, while a resident of the city, and W.J. Cash wrote his seminal "The Mind of the South" in a downtown apartment building.
Geography and climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 242.9 square miles (629 square kilometers). Out of that, 242.3 sq. mi. (627.5 km²) of it is land and 0.6 sq. mi. (1.6 km²) of it is water. The total area is 0.25% water. Charlotte constitutes most of Mecklenburg County in the Carolina Piedmont. Uptown Charlotte, so named because it sits atop a long rise between two creeks, was built on the gunnies of the St. Catherine's and Rudisill gold mines. Charlotte is located in North America's humid subtropical climate zone. The city has mild winters and hot, humid summers. In January, morning lows average around 0 °C (32
°F) and afternoon highs average 11 °C (51 °F). In July, lows average 22 °C (71 °F) and highs average 32 °C (90 °F). The highest recorded temperature was 40 °C (104 °F) in September, 1954 . The lowest recorded temperature was -21 °C (-5 °F) in January 1985. Charlotte's location puts it in the direct path of subtropical moisture from the Gulf as it heads up the eastern seaboard along the jet stream, thus the city receives ample precipitation throughout the year but also a very large number of clear, sunny, and pleasantly warm days. On average, Charlotte receives about 1105.3 mm (43.52 in) of
precipitation annually, including some Winter snow and more frequent ice-storms due to its inland location. In 1989, the city took a direct hit from Hurricane Hugo. Passing through Charlotte with wind gusts nearing 160 km/h (100 mph), Hugo caused massive property damage and knocked out power to ninety eight percent of the population. Many residents were without power for several weeks and cleanup took months to complete.
Charlotte has become a major U.S. financial center, and both the nation's second largest (Bank of America) and fourth largest (Wachovia) financial institutions call the city home. Their headquarters, along with other regional banking and financial services companies, are located primarily in the uptown financial district. Thanks in large part to the expansion of the city's banking industry, the Charlotte skyline has mushroomed in the past two decades and boasts the Bank of America Corporate Center, the tallest skyscraper between Philadelphia and Atlanta. The 60-story postmodern gothic tower, designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli, stands 871
feet tall and was completed in 1992.
Sites of interest
- The Carolina Renaissance Festival
- Afro-American Cultural Center, preserves, promotes and presents African-American art, history and culture
- Benedictine College and Monastery, on the historic registry for the college, the monastery and grotto
- Blumenthal Performing Arts Centre
- Carolinas Aviation Museum, dedicated to the preservation of historic aircraft
- Carolina Raptor Center, dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of birds of prey
- Charlotte Convention Center
- The Charlotte Museum of History
- Children's Theatre of Charlotte, one of the top youth theatres in the country
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, a 111 acre (0.5 km²) botanical garden located just west of Charlotte in Belmont
- Discovery Place, a science museum and IMAX Dome theater
- Historic Latta Plantation, a cotton plantation turned living history farm
- Historic Rosedale Plantation
- ImaginOn, cutting-edge educational children's library and theater
- Kings Mountain National Military Park, the site of a decisive Revolutionary War battle, located approximately 30 miles (50 km) west of Charlotte in Blacksburg, SC.
- The Levine Museum of the New South
- Lowe's Motor Speedway
- The Mint Museums, two separate facilities, one dedicated to fine art and the other to craft and design
- Paramount's Carowinds, regional amusement park located on the border of North and South Carolina
- Reed Gold Mine, site of the first gold find in the United States
- U.S. National Whitewater Center, state of the art facility scheduled to open in Fall 2006.
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte Botanical Gardens
- Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary