What Goes Up Must Come Downtown

Living in center city is all the rave, but it's nothing new

Downtown Charlotte is being revitalized by young professionals and empty nesters willing to trade traffic hassles for a sophisticated urban lifestyle. It's estimated that 10,000 people now live in the dozens of apartments and condominiums throughout downtown. Experts predict the downtown population figure could triple within the next decade. Living—and working—downtown, however, is nothing new to Charlotte.

Prior to World War II, most of Charlotte's population lived downtown or in close-in suburbs such as Dilworth, Elizabeth, and Wilmore. One of the most prestigious neighborhoods was Fourth Ward, one of the city's original four political subdivisions.

Fourth Ward, bounded by North Tryon, West Trade, North Graham, and Eleventh streets, began to blossom in the 1880s. A number of wealthy manufacturers, many from the north, were attracted to Charlotte by its booming textile industry. Their colorful Victorian mansions, situated among stately Queen Anne and shingle-style homes, soon made Fourth Ward one of the city's more desirable neighborhoods.

Fourth Ward began to decline following the war as veterans abandoned the center city for modern ranch-style homes in distant suburbs. By the 1960s, many of Fourth Ward's once-elegant homes had been converted to cheap apartments and allowed to deteriorate. The neighborhood was on its way to becoming a center city slum when preservation of the area was made a priority in the city's 1960 General Development Plan.

Not much happened, however, until 1975 when the Charlotte Junior League purchased the old Berryhill Home, built on West Ninth Street in 1883. Fifty thousand dollars was raised with the help of several local businesses, and the architectural jewel was restored to its Victorian-era splendor. North Carolina National Bank, now Bank of America, provided special renovation financing, and Fourth Ward began a slow revival.

New apartments and condominiums began to join the dozens of restored Victorian homes in the 1980s and, today, Fourth Ward is again one of city's most desirable neighborhoods. It marked the beginning of the residential construction boom that is transforming downtown.

Categories: Buzz > History