Charlotte Museum of History opens ‘City of Creeks’ exhibition

The Charlotte Museum of History has opened a new exhibition, Looking Back at Our City of Creeks, using photographs and maps to explore the story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County’s more than 3,000 miles of creeks. The exhibition is part of the KEEPING WATCH on WATER project led by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture. It focuses on three of Mecklenburg County’s creeksheds: Little Sugar Creek/Briar Creek, Irwin Creek/Stewart Creek, and McDowell Creek.

The historic photos, many originally from the Charlotte Observer or the now-defunct Charlotte News, show how the city’s creeks have reflected Charlotte history across the decades. The exhibit illustrates how the creeks offered drinking water reservoirs as well as swimming spots in decades past, but also how they suffered years of pollution from sewers and industry, how they flooded in heavy rains, and how in recent years restoration projects and greenways have changed the view of the city’s small waterways.

The exhibit also features historic maps, including one that shows where creeks once flowed through uptown Charlotte and another depicting where today’s Independence Park once held drinking water reservoirs.

This exhibition, which will run until Dec. 31, is derived in part from the museum’s permanent collection. The Charlotte Museum of History, 3500 Shamrock Drive, is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m-5 p.m.  For additional information, please email or call 704-568-1774.

A related exhibition at the UNC Charlotte Center City Projective Eye Gallery – KEEPING WATCH on WATER: City of Creeks – explores the city’s creeks through the works of five artists: visual artists Stacy Levy and Lauren Rosenthal; photographer Nancy Pierce; and filmmakers Marek Ranis and Ben Premeaux. The exhibit runs March 27-Aug. 20.

KEEPING WATCH is a three-year collaboration between the UNC Charlotte Urban institute and the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture, using art, history, science and community engagement to highlight environmental topics in Charlotte. KEEPING WATCH on WATER: City of Creeks is the second year of the initiative. Year One focused on plastics and recycling. Year three will focus on air quality and the role of trees.

For multiple articles and information about Mecklenburg creeks and about other events related to the project, see

The historic research into Mecklenburg Creeks and a series of oral histories with Charlotte residents was funded in part with a $12,000 grant to the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is a community outreach and applied research institute, founded in 1969.