You Are Here, 2022 Edition: A Year of Moments Captured Around Charlotte
Each month, we throw a dart at a map and write about where it lands. Here are 12 short stories from this year, from January to December
Each month, writer Cristina Bolling throws a dart at a map and writes about where it lands. The result is Charlotte magazine’s backpage column, “You Are Here.” From January to December, here are 12 short stories Bolling found this year. (Read 2020’s edition here and 2021’s edition here.)
January 2022: A Pocket of Contested History
Alexandriana quietly honors the long-disputed Meck Dec as modern life encroaches
9921 Old Statesville Road
Some historical areas inspire reverence. Stand there, and you can picture the sweep of soldiers on battlefields or the everyday comings and goings of people who changed the course of history. Others just seem plopped into the middle of 21st-century life. That’s the case with a small plot of land near Huntersville called Alexandriana, the location of a monument to the much-disputed Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
Some local history buffs believe the “Meck Dec” was the first such declaration made in the 13 original colonies, predating the official one in Philadelphia by more than a year. A committee of prominent Mecklenburg County citizens supposedly signed it in a wooden courthouse at what’s now Trade and Tryon on May 20, 1775. But no original copy exists, and historians have long questioned whether it was a formal declaration or simply a series of resolutions that fell short of declaring independence.
On this wooded spot—the homesite of John McKnitt Alexander, the committee’s secretary—is a low stone wall, a worn plexiglass display case, and a plaque that bears the names of committee members. Inside the case are printed biographies, a timeline, and a print of the supposed declaration.
Trucks rumble as they enter and exit the new, 140,000-square-foot Amazon delivery station next door. Across the street, crews armed with nail guns frame homes for a subdivision. If you can tune out the modern-day cacophony, Alexandriana is a pretty good place to contemplate history.
The members of a historic church in Mint Hill serve their community in the shadow of its history
11501 Bain School Road, Mint Hill
The hum of landscaping equipment cuts through the chilly afternoon air as workers beautify a marble columbarium. I’m in a courtyard of Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in Mint Hill, where the church places the cremains of members. Just yards away, tombstones from more than 200 years ago, so weathered you can no longer read their etchings, stretch up from the ground.
Founded in 1770, Philadelphia Presbyterian—named after a church identified in the Book of Revelation—is one of the oldest churches in Mecklenburg County. Its original chapel building, built in the 1820s, bears painful physical reminders of the nation’s past: Mismatched bricks indicate a now-closed doorway slaves used to attend services, and the opening to the balcony where they were forced to sit still looms in the sanctuary.
Today, about 550 members worship in a larger, more modern building. They focus on how their faith can enrich their community today, says the Rev. Dr. Herbie Miller, the church’s senior pastor and head of staff. Philadelphia Presbyterian boasts a bustling preschool and a packed activities and outreach calendar. Members work with the congregants of Blair Road United Methodist Church to fill backpacks of food for 85 families; the backpacks go home with children from three local schools every Friday. The church hosts The Bulb, a food pantry, twice a month, when families in need can collect fresh produce instead of cans.
“Being a very old, historic church is great, but we don’t ever want to get complacent. We want to be forward-looking,” Miller says. “How can we be a blessing to the community around us?”
The tale of a cicerone who shifted from pouring beer for Harris Teeter shoppers to moving cases from his own shop
330 Main St., Pineville
Kit Burkholder does the bar owner’s juggle on a weekday afternoon at Kit’s Trackside Crafts, in a cozy, brick-walled, historic building in downtown Pineville. He pours Jackie O’s Brewery’s Maple Barrel Dark Apparition for a regular customer as he signs for a delivery from Triple C Brewing Company and advises a patron that Burial Beer Co.’s new IPA is, indeed, tasty.
People here and in south Charlotte know Burkholder from how he started in the city’s beer market, serving up brews and recommendations in a far different environment. In 2014, he helped open the first-ever Harris Teeter bar in the store on John J. Delaney Drive in Ballantyne. The then-foreign concept—a supermarket bar?—is now one of the most happening spots to grab a drink in the 28277. A year later, Burkholder earned his cicerone certification (like a sommelier certification, but for beer) and teamed up with his dad, Bill Burkholder, and another business partner, Le Ann Fenton, to open Kit’s in November 2016.
Many of his loyal Harris Teeter customers followed him, and he picked up new ones. But as the pandemic bore down, Burkholder, 43, worried his bar was doomed. Then, something remarkable happened—business boomed. He couldn’t serve patrons at the bar, but he could fill crowlers and boost his supply of bottles and cans. Customers who’d previously come in for a drink at the bar and left with four-packs suddenly showed up to buy cases.
Business has stayed strong, Burkholder says, and the construction around him in downtown Pineville is encouraging. The upscale Margaux’s Wine, Pizza & Market opened a few doors down last year. Housing developments continue to spring up within walking distance, and the town is adding a municipal building one block away. “Pineville,” he says, “is popping.”
Sculptor’s metal leaves add subtle, lasting color to the light rail line
129 New Bern St.
It’s Saturday brunch time at the New Bern light rail station in South End—a superb spot for people-watching. The bulk of the action comes from hungry 20-somethings, who spill out of nearby apartments to line up outside breweries and restaurants like Eight + Sand Kitchen.
Small groups board and exit trains. At the station, they pass the work of local artists in the etched glass of the shelter windscreens, the river rock benches, and the basin of the drinking fountain. Welded into the steel fences between the tracks are metal leaf sculptures, and they’re complex and detailed in ways the riders may not register.
In 2006, a year before the first leg of the light rail line opened, the city invited artist Shaun Cassidy to install small sculptures at five stations. But he discovered, to his frustration, that he couldn’t find good places for them on the platforms. During a walk in Landsford Canal State Park in Catawba, South Carolina—not far from Rock Hill, where he’s a fine arts professor at Winthrop University—he found a tiny, eroded leaf with only its skeletal veins left intact. He brought it home, put it on his desk, and struggled for inspiration. Finally, after several weeks, it hit him: The leaf resembled a map. “I got to thinking about cities and growth and decay,” he says.
Cassidy proposed sculptures of leaves from native trees, embedded into the fencing and with veins that depict the system of streets around each station. They were such a hit, Charlotte Area Transit System hired Cassidy to make steel leaves for five more stations. He’s designed fabric for train interiors and other projects, too. “Finding that leaf at Landsford State Park,” he says, “was the most fortuitous thing of my career.”
A disc golf course in Steele Creek echoes the lives of other generations
12025 Winget Road
You experience a “whoa” moment the first time you fling a disc at Thomas McAllister Winget Park in Steele Creek, and it has nothing to do with whether it clangs into the basket on the disc golf course. As you step off the concrete tee pad, you notice the remains of a two-story fireplace with three flues. The golden bricks gleam in the afternoon sun.
A laminated flyer illuminates the history. Around 1835, a man named Isaac Withers founded a farm—first for soybeans, then for cattle—and built a home and other buildings from bricks made on the property. The Withers family abandoned the land in 1937, and the house burned down in 1960. But ruins of the fireplace still stand, and Mecklenburg County officials believe it’s the oldest three-flue chimney in the state.
The Winget family of Steele Creek bought the property in the late 1930s and donated it to the county in the 1990s. In 2000, the county opened the park and named it in memory of the late Thomas McAllister Winget. Thomas was 17, president of the senior class and captain of the Olympic High School football team. On a Saturday morning in May 1969, a loaded freight train hit the car he was driving in Chesnee, South Carolina. He and three friends died instantly. They were headed to a picnic at Chimney Rock State Park.
Decades later, in October 2000, Thomas McAllister Winget Park officially opened. The Olympic High School band played, and the sounds they made echoed throughout the place.
Under a fabric roof, in the pool, and before sunrise with Doug Miller’s master swimmers
2800 Eastburn Road
It’s dark and quiet at 5:30 on a Wednesday morning in the Fairmeadows neighborhood near SouthPark, but the lights are bright inside the covered pool at Fairmeadows Swim Club. Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” plays on a wireless speaker as swimmers cut through the water. “Roll and reach!” coach Doug Miller yells to the masters-level swim group. They’re adults, and the group includes a former college athlete and a triathlete Miller taught to swim four years ago.
Most of them come here three mornings a week, and from varied walks of life—attorneys, bankers, software developers, landscape designers, stay-at-home moms. But they have a common goal: work through two miles in the pool, improving their strokes and strengthening their bodies.
Bob Woods, 54, is training for a full Ironman exactly two months from today. He’s in risk management for Bank of America, and after he dries off at 6:30, he’ll drive to the Dowd YMCA for a hot shower before he heads into the office. Shannan Schnittger, 41, has her own set of tasks: wake her 9- and 11-year-old kids, make their lunches, and get them to school by 7:15.
“If they’re driven enough to do this, they’ve usually got a lot of things going on,” Miller says from the deck. “These are the type of people who make things happen.”
Dave Kaplan discovered a pastime, made a friend, and continues to tend his garden
2901 Dunlavin Way
The community garden in the Country Club Heights neighborhood of east Charlotte is like a verdant patchwork quilt. On a warm spring morning, shoots of garlic, vibrant zinnias, still-tender tomato plants, and lush herbs like rosemary and thyme sprout from squared-off beds.
In one corner, Dave Kaplan and his merry team are planting. Kaplan and his daughters, 12-year-old Emery and 8-year-old Anna, work alongside Kaplan’s brother, Ben. They ease a bounty of plants into raised beds in neat rows: cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, radishes, carrots, jalapeños, Carolina reaper peppers, and green beans.
The Kaplans have tended a plot here for a little more than two years, since Dave sought it out to pass idle time during the first COVID year. It has generated an abundance of vegetables he shares with friends, and it’s become a soothing part of his every-other-day routine. It also gave him a chance to befriend Richard Overman, who lived across the street and helped maintain the property. Overman died last year, and on this morning, Dave Kaplan has brought an engraved wooden sign: “Richard Overman Memorial Herb Garden.”
August 2022: Out by the Lake
Fishing, floating, playing, and boating on one of Charlotte’s dreamiest bodies of water
12401 Overlook Mountain Drive
“He’s squirming!” one towheaded boy yells as he pulls a white perch from Mountain Island Lake. He and a friend have ditched their bikes by the boat ramp in the Overlook neighborhood and brought the simplest of fishing tools—a spool of line and a little bait. Their arms are the rods and reels.
It’s a challenge to find a dreamier view on Mountain Island Lake. Kayakers paddle by and point out birds. Pontoon boats cruise toward a popular swimming area called “the sandbar,” where neighbors and friends hang out and play volleyball. Leslie Shipley moved here from Union County about four years ago and wonders if her family should have relocated sooner. The lake offers a different vibe. It’s a man-made wonder, built in 1924 with the Mountain Island hydroelectric station, which still provides power to Charlotte.
On this day, Shipley has parked at the boat ramp and tucked a few belongings into a waterproof bag. She walks down the ramp to meet her husband, who’ll pick her up in their boat for a day on the lake.
September 2022: Top of the Evening
For one of the city’s prime views, get yourself to deck’s peak
1321 Charlottetowne Ave.
Up and up and up you go in Parking Deck 1 on the main campus of Central Piedmont Community College. When you reach the top floor, the eighth, you find the reward: one of the most breathtaking views of Charlotte’s skyline.
Couples get engaged up here. Pyrotechnics pros deploy dazzling fireworks displays from here after soccer games at adjacent Memorial Stadium. Instagrammers and TikTokers ascend, then count the minutes until the golden hour, when the light is at its warmest and softest. The ever-growing skyline stares back at you from the northwest, and from this high up, the buffer of trees between you and the buildings looks like a leafy pedestal for our concrete creations.
Prophets and artists climb to pinnacles for a reason. Heights can induce clarity of thought, the fruit of distance from the commotion that usually surrounds us. In this case, the sweeping view of uptown’s buildings just looks cool.
Heavy conductor cables wrap the parking deck’s perimeter in case of a lightning strike. But on a warm summer evening, all feels peaceful as soccer players warm up in the stadium below, planes fly overhead, and in the distance, the city lights switch on as day fades into night.
A former ER doctor left her practice and joined
one of Charlotte’s hubs for hip-hop dance
4109 Stuart Andrew Blvd.
Ten students smile broadly as they wipe sweat off their brows and swing and pump their arms to the rhythm. Their sneakered feet follow the rapid footwork of instructor Mary-Beth King, who’s cranked the music enough to make you feel the bass in your chest.
It’s a beginner class on a Saturday afternoon at NC Dance District, a hip-hop dance studio. Businesses hire Dance District dancers to entertain at parties and do flash mobs. The TopCats and Hive Hip-Hop Crew—the cheerleading squad for the Panthers and male dance team for the Hornets—teach and train here. Clients include everyone from dancers who tour with national artists to beginners like those in today’s class.
Founder Ana Ogbueze, a longtime owner of Charlotte dance studios, and COO Kellye Hall moved the business, founded in 2012, to a new location near the intersection of Interstate 77 and Billy Graham Parkway just as COVID hit in 2020. Hall was an emergency physician who reignited her childhood love of dance in 2018. Now, the two host dozens of classes a week and rent studio space to dance organizations around town: freestyle, kids’ Latin dance, and more.
Hall says some people thought she was nuts when she left medicine last October to focus on Dance District full time. But she hasn’t looked back. “It’s liberating,” she says. “Whatever issues you had before you walked in here—we don’t want you to have them when you walk out of here.
“It’s a real place of healing. When I say I left one place of healing to come to another? It’s healing, but in a different way.”
November 2022: Retail Battles and Boogie Babes
Promenade on Providence is two decades old, but its sweet tunes can’t drown out the ongoing war for shoppers
10844 Providence Road
The tunes are grooving. A band called Caution! Blind Driver runs down a list of country and pop hits that date back to the ’60s. Women who call themselves the “Basement Boogie Babes” line-dance on the grass. Dozens stay planted in their camping chairs and sip soda concoctions from Sips and Dips, a new kiosk, or spoon ice cream from The Local Scoop.
This is a Friday evening at the Promenade on Providence shopping center, at the corner of Providence Road and Interstate 485 in southeast Charlotte. The center opened 20 years ago, but owner Childress Klein renovated it in 2019; this corner of suburbia battles its rivals for shoppers and their wallets. In the last seven years and a mile south, the giant mixed-use developments of Waverly and Rea Farms have opened on Providence. They’ve added dozens of upscale shops and restaurants aimed at the same affluent customers.
Promenade on Providence took what had been an empty field in the middle of the shops and restaurants and added extra seating, a giant TV screen, and canopies to block the sun and entice people to stay a while. Retailers come and go. A large space that was once a portrait studio is now a mattress store. A standalone shop sells $1,000 diving watches. Somehow, the Hallmark store has hung on—it’s now the only one in Charlotte outside of a shopping mall.
The weather cools as the songs wash over the space. By the sensible hour of 10 p.m., everyone will pack up their chairs, coolers, and blankets, and head back to their suburban homes.
December 2022: Sit. Stay.
For 35 years, the trainers at Piedmont Kennel Club have conducted classes for canines
10844 Providence Road
Mary Dolde issues instructions softly, calmly, to her four-legged pupils and their human handlers during a Friday morning “conformity class” at Piedmont Kennel Club in southwest Charlotte. A boxer’s ears have been taped to stick straight up like TV antennas during competitions. A Boston terrier puppy has been winning big on the dog show circuit. A whippet is trying to overcome its shyness.
The club, incorporated in 1948, has been here for 35 years, on nearly 20 acres in—not kidding—the Yorkshire neighborhood, near the state line. Hundreds of dogs have come through, from champions who made it to Westminster to those who simply passed recreational agility and training classes.
Today’s class is for purebreds to hone competition skills. They prance with their owners or handlers along the inside of the ring, then stride up the center and “stack” for a judge’s exam. Today, that judge is Dolde. Nobody barks.
Jim Gorman, a retired pilot, leaves a little early with Mazie Jane, his Bernese mountain dog. She made three runs around the ring and decided she’d had enough for today. Mazie Jane is 15 months old, and Gorman is entering her in shows so she can eventually earn American Kennel Club certification.
The show circuit is new to him, but Mazie Jane seems to enjoy it, he says. He cracks up when he compares his current stresses to those of his former career.
“I tell everybody, ‘I can fly a 400,000-pound airplane around the world in the worst weather ever and not feel a thing,’” he says. “But I get in the ring, and I go, ‘Oh no! What am I supposed to do?’ I get the nerves.”