Five (More) Charlotte History Facts


Charlotte is a city rich in history. Please read the first article in this series if you haven’t already titled “Four Things You Didn’t Know About Charlotte’s History.” Here are five (more) facts about Charlotte.   


  1. Do you know where the NBA Hornet’s nest logo comes from? It dates all the way back to 1780, when General Cornwallis led the British army into Charlotte, but left quickly due to the feisty local patriots. Cornwallis (supposedly) called Charlotte a “Hornet’s Nest of Rebellion.” In 1892 the city named the local baseball team the Charlotte Hornets. Later, the nest was put on the sides of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police cars. In 1974, the Charlotte Hornets became the city’s first professional football team. Finally, in 1988, the Charlotte Hornets became the city’s first NBA team.  
  2. Bet you didn’t know that Charlotte Motor Speedway sits on the former site of a working plantation. President George Washington even had lunch in a house that used to be where the speedway’s offices are located. It stayed in operation during the Civil War. In 1959, the speedway was designed and built by O. Bruton Smith, with his business partner, the late stock car racing star Curtis Turner. 
  3. Before California and the gold out west, this area was the one of the first gold rushes of the United States. In 1799, 12-year-old Conrad Reed found a large yellow rock on his family’s property. The rock turned out to be a 17lb lump of gold. Today the Reed Gold Mine is a museum with restored mine tunnels and hiking trails. Visit in April through October and you can pan for gold yourself! 
  4. Homer the Dragon is Charlotte’s oldest mascot. Before it was official, and before even Hugo the Hornet who emerged on the scene with the Charlotte Hornets basketball team in 1988, Homer was there. Hugo lost his position as longest-standing mascot when he was temporarily ousted by Rufus the Bobcat of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004, leaving Homer with the title of oldest, continuous mascot. 
  5. Charlotte is known as the Pimento Cheese Capital of the World (a title it argues over with Raleigh-Durham). Our very own Ruth Salad’s produces over 45,000lbs of it every week.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Five Charlotte History Facts


  1. Stand on the intersection of Trade and Tryon in Uptown Charlotte and you’re standing at the birthplace of trade and commerce for this area. But it isn’t what you think. A large group of Loyalists (colonists who were still loyal to King George) decided to colonize the area that would become Charlotte because it was already the intersection of two Native American trading paths. These paths are now, you guessed it, Trade St and Tryon St.  
  2. Did you know the original branch of the United States Mint was actually located in Charlotte? This was back in the gold standard days and in 1837, when The Charlotte Mint opened, it created more than $5 million in gold currency. During the Civil War, it was used as a hospital and military office for the Confederate government. In 1931, when the building was set to be demolished, a group of citizens came together to have it moved to its current location in Eastover and turned the building into the Mint Museum Randolph—the state’s first art museum! 
  3. The Ballantyne neighborhood almost had another name. See if you can guess what it was going to be, based on the story. The development was first reported on in 1991.  The area was farmland along the city’s planned outer belt. The plan was to transform 1,756 acres of mostly undeveloped land in south Mecklenburg County into offices, shops and residences in a community of 10,000 to 12,000 people. The second choice, “Ballantyne,” was also of Scot-Irish origin. Figured it out yet? It was almost named “Edinborough.” 
  4. Ever wondered why our downtown is actually called “Uptown”? The Native American trading paths (now Trade St and Tryon St) was the highest elevation point in the city, so everyone had to go up to reach this point. Hence. . . Uptown. This never faded, but it wasn’t until the 70’s that the City Council decided that the shopping and business district in the center city area be officially declared “Uptown Charlotte.”  
  5. The “Queen City” nickname comes from the name of King George III’s wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.


Would you like to go on a tour of some of the locations mentioned below? Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in checking them out in person!  


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Four Things You Didn’t Know About Charlotte’s History

  1. A whole world exists below the surface of Lake Norman. The lake was created in 1963, after Duke Energy flooded the area using water from the Catawba River and the land already contained homes, businesses, cemeteries, a plantation, cotton mills, mill villages and large machinery, the remnants of which still remain at the bottom of the lake.  
  2. The legend, if you believe it (Thomas Jefferson didn’t) is that we were the first to declare independence from Great Britain. The story centers around a document called The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and the story is the city leaders signed the document—declaring their separation—on May 20, 1775.  
  3. Regardless, the city celebrates the “Meck Dec” every May 20th. We celebrate Meck Dec Day, and even past presidents have come to celebrate the day. In addition, if you go to the corner of Fourth Street and Kings Drive, there is a statue of Captain James Jack on his way to deliver the Meck Dec to Philadelphia. According to legend.   
  4. Uptown isn’t the only place where a historic Native American trail ran through Charlotte. The Tuckaseegee Trail, once ran through the current location of the U.S. National Whitewater Center property and led to the Tuckaseegee Ford, the oldest crossing point along the Catawba.  


Please feel free to share related stories with me, if you want, by shooting me an email. You can find my contact info here.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Charlotte Treasure


There’s a secret treasure hidden all over Charlotte. Something priceless. Magic. You might have already seen one and not even noticed. Hidden throughout Charlotte are over 100 white diamonds to find, but the map has been lost. The diamonds belong to trees.  


In the late 80’s, the Treasure Tree program began designating special trees (historical or ecological) in Mecklenburg County. Remember—this is the city that once discussed naming their NBA team the Charlotte Trees. There was even an annual black-tie gala for the trees and caretaker in the past. Throughout 2002, these selected trees were given a small white diamond, the total ending up at 123 trees.  


The program isn’t active any longer, and the diamonds are mostly forgotten. But some still wait—for a passerby to notice the treasure they are. The only remaining bit of Treasure Trees is a tiny organization named Queen’s Crown. Started by Patrick George of Heartwood Tree Service, the Queen’s Crown carries on the tradition of Treasure Trees. George is the only person who has seen most of the 123 trees and works passionately to make his community better by taking care of the trees and the history of Treasure Trees.  


A few of Charlotte’s favorite trees:   

Queens University Basswood (1830 Queens Rd): Just behind the Gingko on the Radcliffe side of the property. Thomas Jefferson preferred this tree, planting many of its kind that still remain at Monticello.  


Glossy Privet (2001 Queens Rd. E): This medium-sized tree hugs the left side of the house when looking at the front door and is easily overlooked given the size of many other trees on this list. This is a North Carolina State Champion tree!  


Deodar Cedar (2701 Briarcliff Pl): A non-native tree related to the biblical Lebanese Cedar, it’s a North Carolina State Champion, too. (See if you can spot a Treasure Tree tag at this location.) 


Japanese Zelkova (2735 Bucknell Ave): Zelkova’s aren’t native but are often planted as street trees. Looking at the home, this medium-sized tree sits to the right of the front door. Another North Carolina State Champion tree. 


Pecan (212 Ridgewood Ave): Maybe one of the worst teases on this list, this massive Pecan sits in the backyard of this home and peaks out at you over the roof. It’s hard to experience its majesty from the distance from the street, though. 


Winghaven Chaste Tree (248 Ridgewood Ave): Tour the Winghaven Gardens and see if you can find this one!  


Duke Mansion Take a 2-mile walk and experience 10 extraordinary trees on Duke Mansion’s grounds. Here are two you can’t miss:  


*Duke Mansion Tulip Poplar (400 Hermitage Rd): Up the driveway leading to the house, you’ll encounter a tree so wide you’d expect it to be a Sequoia.  


*Duke Mansion Eastern Red Cedar (400 Hermitage Rd): Just past the Tulip Poplar on the right side of the driveway to the front door of the Inn, you’ll spot this tree. Once called the Graveyard Tree, it was said that if you planted this tree at your birth, by the time you die, it will just be large enough to shade your grave.  


Bigleaf Magnolia (531 Hermitage Rd): Located across the street from 530 Hermitage Rd, look for a smooth-barked tree of moderate size with leaves anywhere from 2-3 feet long.  


Queens University Gingko (1830 Queens Rd): A relic of the age of dinosaurs, the Gingko here is massive. Look for the fan-shaped leaves to identify this beauty. This tree really shines in the fall when it turns mustard yellow and falls within 48 hours.  


Give me a call if you’d like to go check out some of these trees around town together. It’s kind of fun!


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21