The Elizabeth neighborhood tends to play the role of little sister to big-brother Myers Park. She went to a small liberal arts school before going on to raise a family. Her brother went to an Ivy League school and became CEO or mayor.
What Elizabeth lacks in power brokers, trust funds and upscale boutiques, it makes up for in overstuffed bookshelves, big front porches and a hodgepodge of retail and restaurants.
She’s a quirky, family-centered neighborhood, for sure. But she has a rich history–one that most people don’t even realize as they drive to work on 7th Street, or dine on the patio at Hawthorne’s Pizza.
I did a little research–mostly on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission website–and took a long hike through the neighborhood to bring you this primer on the rich history of Elizabeth.
(1) It’s named for Anne Elizabeth Watts, wife of Gerard S. Watts, friend of the Duke family, and the man who bankrolled the brick building that was once Elizabeth College. The building still stands and is the old section of Presbyterian Hospital.
(2) It is home to Charlotte’s oldest municipal park, Independence Park, the brainchild of Charlotte Observer founder D.A. Tompkins.
(3) The park was designed by renowned landscape architect, John Nolen.
(4) Independence Boulevard was named after Independence Park and sliced through its western-most portion.
(5) Elizabeth is the second oldest streetcar suburb in Charlotte. (Dilworth is the oldest.)
(6) The first building in Charlotte specifically designed to be a secondary school was built there–Central High. It’s now a part of CPCC.
(7) Clement Avenue homes have more recently been used as locations for the TV show Homeland, a Cam Newton commercial and a Mickey Rourke movie.
(8) Clement’s wide street was once intended as a streetcar route.
(9) Elizabeth was once home to a fire training school on 7th Street (now the Palmer Building, a meeting and reception hall)
(10) Memorial Stadium (1936) was built as a result of the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), a program started by Roosevelt to spur the economy during the Great Depression. The stadium was dedicated by FDR in September 1936 during a rainstorm. 30,000 people attended. Just as FDR began to speak, the clouds parted and the sun shined, prompting FDR to say: “My friends, I notice there is a rainbow in the sky.”
(11) Harry Golden lived in Elizabeth from the early 1940s to the 1960s. Publisher of a leading Jewish newspaper, the Carolina Israelite, he was an early critic of segregation and counted Carl Sandburg as a good friend.
(12) The house in front of Presbyterian Hospital on Hawthorne Avenue was the home of Henry Belk, founder of Belk Department Stores. Belk owned 10 acres of land in the area and donated it to the hospital when it moved from downtown to Elizabeth.