Charlotte’s City Center is divided into four separate wards that are simply called the First, Second, Third, or Fourth Ward. Collectively, these four wards form a diamond shape and are referred to as “Uptown.”
Each ward is defined by its direction away from the intersection of Trade Street & Tryon Street, known as Independence Square.
Uptown Charlotte is sleek and modern, full of glistening bank and law firm towers, waterfalls, sculptures, and historical markers.
Second Ward is the southern quadrant of Uptown and has the Harvey B Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture, Levine Center for the Arts, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Mint Museum (Charlotte’s oldest museum), and the Museum of Illusions.
Old City Hall, Mecklenburg County Municipal Offices, and the Charlotte Convention Center are all found in the Second Ward, too.
The Green at 425 Tryon Street (no website), Thomas Polk Historic Park, and Marshall Park are three of the most interesting parks in the Second Ward, all lovely in their own right.
Marshall Park has a fountain, amphitheater, rolling hills, a paved trail, a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr., a Holocaust Memorial, and lots of colourful trees and foliage.
Uptown Farmers Market is a godsend, after you have been trekking all over town in the heat between BBQ joints and brew pubs, and just need a damn vegetable.
They have a fantastic selection of fresh and locally-sourced produce, vendor tables where farmers and artists can sell their products to you directly, and it is right in the middle of Second Ward.
The mural on this building by Curtis King adds life to the grey, neutral, glass, and concrete of Upttown.
Right across the street is the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is actually what started this trip. My younger brother asked me to take him and his friend on a 4-hour road trip for his birthday and I am 1,000% not interested in NASCAR but, being the sucker for him that I am, we went.
Sidenote: if you think that is funny, you should read about the time he talked me into driving nearly 11 hours to visit a monster truck museum and it turned into an epic tour of the entire Outer Banks!
The guys toured the NASCAR Hall of Fame while I followed the Charlotte Liberty Walk one street over, then I surprised them with a tour of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It was pretty fun getting to ride the track and see what all the hype was about. Mostly I was thankful for AC and I loved seeing how excited the fellers were.
Whisky River at 210 East Trade Street is Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s venture into the bar scene, and where a lot of NASCAR fans hang out. If you’re into that.
Much of today’s Second Ward used to be called Brooklyn. Until the mid-1800s it was mostly used as cheap housing for workers at the nearby wharf, then it was called Logtown after the American Civil War, when enslaved Blacks/African-Americans were freed and allowed to move into this part of Charlotte that was, at the time, swampy and full of sewage.
Around 1917, the name of this neighbourhood changed to Brooklyn in homage to the rich diversity and thriving black communities in New York, and it was renowned as the “Harlem of the South” for its talented musicians and artists.
Here, the name Brooklyn became synonymous with the Black community of Charlotte. It was its own city inside a city, with its own city center, its own Main Street and downtown, and its own cache of community players.
Black families of all economic status lived in Brooklyn and the people had their own churches, schools, bank and library branches, printing press/publishing house, drugstore, social clubs, YMCA, and shops of all types.
This was initially due to segregation but over time became a source of pride and a celebration of achievement for Brooklyn residents. Brooklyn was thriving!
Above: The A. M. E. Zion Church is one of only three original and still standing/working buildings of Brooklyn. This part of town may be Second Ward to some, but to longtime Black residents, it is still Brooklyn.
Below: Abel R. Jackson is a local artist and muralist, and this on by the A. M. E. Zion Church is the first of many you will see by him in the area. He chose three prominent Black/African-American leaders from the heyday of Brooklyn for this mural.
From left to right is Thad Tate, founder of the Grace A.M. E. Zion Church next door; Dr. JT Williams who was the first licensed Black/African American doctor in North Carolina and overseas ambassador from the state; and WC Smith who founded Charlotte’s first Black/African-American newspaper.
A complicated mix of things started happening in the 1940s and 1950s. Charlotte’s governing officials started initiatives to get Black/African-American families to leave the area by offering financial incentives, lower rent costs, and even some mortgages allowing them to own houses for the first time. They just had to give up their livelihoods, leave their community and social supports, and move west. Many still did not have the resources to up and move, even if they wanted to.
Rent and mortgage prices were raised significantly in communities outside of Brooklyn, driving non-POC business owners into the area seeking more affordable property. This brought overcrowding and sparked a lot of racial tension that had not been a problem for Black people living within Brooklyn for some time.
A major highway was built right through Brooklyn, demolishing much of its infrastructure with little warning. Officials decided the whole community had to come down in order to clean up their mess and to make it look nice for the new travelers. Plans to tear down Brooklyn and make it a municipal district were approved in the 1960s.
Developers called it an “urban renewal project” but this event is commonly referred to as the “black removal project” instead. Residents petitioned that if the grant money was truly for rehabilitating families living in slums and restructuring the land usage, as developers stated, why not build nicer-looking, affordable project housing and let them stay put? No dice.
Black folk had nowhere to go. Segregation was still swinging, discrimination greatly barred them from living outside of Brooklyn, and the incentives to move west had run dry.
More than 8,000 people were forcefully displaced, many made homeless, and over 200 businesses were destroyed. A vibrant century-and-a-half old community was completely demolished to make way for some bland, square, government buildings.
The Brooklyn Collective is a non-profit dedicated to economic growth, inclusivity, and mobility for all in Charlotte.
The organization has been the steel spine in preserving the legacy of Brooklyn and its three remaining historic buildings from the 1800s. Their work has paved the way for more residents and artists to share their stories and the history of Brooklyn. You can learn so much on their website, I can not even sum it up, so visit and take your time.
Over the last several years, people have been creating photo slideshows, documentaries, and biopics about old Brooklyn. Here is a mini-doc by PBS.org that I enjoyed:
A collaboration of Black developers called BK Partners are in the process of converting part of old Brooklyn into a trendy new community called Brooklyn Village. They have a page about Brooklyn history on their site and are relying on the people that built, lived in, and remember old Brooklyn to help them revitalize the area and make it their home once again.
Since I wrote about First & Fourth Wards in another blog, and Second Ward in this one, I wanted to mention Third Ward as well. The western quadrant of Uptown is home to Romare Bearden Park, Frazier Park, the Knight Theatre, and dozens of restaurants.
Most famously, Third Ward is home to the Bank of America Stadium & the Carolina Panthers, and the BB&T Ball Park & the Charlotte Knights. We did not spend much time in Third Ward because so much of it was related to baseball and football, and that is not really my (or our) thing. If I am mistaken, please drop me a line. I would love to know more about Third Ward!
Murals & Music
There are not as many murals in the Second Ward as in NoDa and Plaza Midwood, but we found some really cool ones. Matt Hooker & Matt Moore painted the exterior of The Local and it is, in many ways, an explosion of colour.
Nick Napoletano‘s mural on Brooklyn Lounge is another eye catcher even from the highway. Brooklyn Lounge is technically in the First Ward, which is east of Independence Square and the intersection of Tryon and Trade Streets. However, everything is so close together that I am not going to split hairs.
South End, Lower South, & LoSo
Charlotte’s South End is just beyond the Second Ward. South End has steadily been expanding into what is known as the Lower South Entertainment District or simply “LoSo.”
LoSo has become Charlotte’s hub for social activities, nightlife, coffee shops, global cuisine, and breweries like Gilde 1546 (German) Brewery, Brewers at 4001 Yancey, and the Old Mecklenburg Brewery.
Developers are steadily working to throw in some new “Live Work Play” communities that honestly give me the creeps sometimes because the ads often say things like “Imagine never having to travel outside your home!” or “Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to go more than a block away from home?” like some new Stepford Wives VR.
Do NOT let that deter you from visiting this awesome neighbourhood! The area around Old Mecklenburg Brewery is considered South End, but directly beyond that is about where LoSo begins. Stay tuned for a blog dedicated to these parts.
In the area for a while? Follow me to Charlotte’s First & Fourth Wards, Optimist Hall & Camp North End, the NoDa District, and Plaza-Midwood.
© Copyright Fernwehtun, 2015- Current. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Fernwehtun and Fernwehtun.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
4 thoughts on “Highlights of Charlotte’s Second Ward; Logtown, Historic Brooklyn, South End, & LoSo”
Pingback: Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood & Belmont Neighbourhoods | Fernweh
Pingback: Uptown Charlotte’s First & Fourth Wards; Independence Square & the Liberty Walk | Fernweh
Pingback: Queen City in Rainbows; Charlotte’s NoDa District, Murals, & McGill Rose Garden | Fernweh
Pingback: Charlotte’s Optimist Hall & Camp North End | Fernweh