Historic preservation

Charlotte’s torn down a lot of old buildings. But one type has staying power.

Optimist Hall, a food hall and Duke Energy Innovation Center, is in a reused mill that dates to 1891. Breweries, apartments, hip food halls, creative offices, coworking spaces: Charlotte developers keep finding new uses for the city’s old mills. As a post-war, Sunbelt boomtown, Charlotte has garnered a reputation for tearing down its old buildings and replacing them with sterile plaques to make way for the city’s glittering new skyline. But while many once-grand buildings have fallen (Goodbye, Masonic Temple and Hotel Charlotte), the humble, sturdy mill has proved surprisingly resilient. 

Why do old places matter? A Mecklenburg native explores the question.

Piazza Navona in Rome. Credit: Paul Edmondson/National Trust for Historic Preservation Why do we care about old places, and why should we work to preserve them? A Huntersville native and prominent national preservationist takes a look at those questions through a lens that stretches from Eastland Mall to the historic wonders of Rome. 

Should Charlotte do more to preserve its history?

Camp North End, a former Ford factory, distribution center and missile factory north of uptown Charlotte that's being redeveloped for adapative reuse projects. Photo: Nancy Pierce. There’s been a lot of talk lately in Charlotte about the value of older buildings and what we should do to save them, spurred by the Excelsior Club’s possible sale and demolition. For a fast-growing city with leaders who have long been spurred on by the promise of more development and an ever-bigger, ever-shinier skyline, it can be hard to preserve the past. Charlotte has a reputation for tearing down its past to make way for the future, with casualties that include notable buildings such as the Masonic Temple, Independence Tower and Hotel Charlotte (imploded as part of a David Copperfield television special).

When downtowns come alive again

Uptown Shelby alley that a Boy Scout restored. Photo: Mary Newsom If you’re thinking downtowns are dead, you haven’t been paying attention. I recently got an earful of downtown success stories from across the state. Commentary.

Can Charlotte learn these lessons in time to save lower South End?

A refurbished corner store building in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: David Walters Can lower South End survive the large-scale cookie-cutter development now ravaging South End and NoDa? David Walters offers a way forward, based on lessons from Des Moines. Yes, Des Moines. Commentary.

With mill preserved, new effort saves Loray’s village

Brian Miller with the house he bought as is in Gastonia's Loray Mill village. Photo courtesy Preservation North Carolina. Gastonia’s huge Loray Mill held its grand opening in March 2015, showing off the adaptive reuse of the building. Now the nonprofit Preservation North Carolina aims to restore many of the houses in the nearby mill village.

George E. Davis – Rosenwald agent extraordinaire

Sketch of a Rosenwald community school. Photo: HistorySouth.org Charlotte's George E. Davis, a tireless advocate for education and one of the leading advocates for the building of Rosenwald schools, was a major reason that a number of these schools were built in North Carolina.

Aging Rosenwald Schools recall long-ago optimism

Historic Rosenwald School in Newell. Photo: Silver Star Only a fraction of the Rosenwald Schools remain, reminders of a remarkable early 20th-century partnership of rural black communities in the South and a Jewish philanthropist from Chicago. Those remaining in Mecklenburg range from lovingly restored to painfully dilapidated.

Bringing back the bus

Bus 1074 - Photo: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission Bus 1074, one of GM's “New Look” buses that debuted in Charlotte in 1972, has found new life, thanks to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

More N.C., S.C. cities eye downtowns for development potential

Downtown Kannapolis. West First St., Gem Theatre. Photo: Google Street View The efforts vary from city to city. Kannapolis, for instance, bought 50 acres of downtown property. Initiatives to revitalize downtowns across the Carolinas range from renovating aging buildings to building museums to trying to lure private hotel developers.