No history of the city would be complete without a comprehensive survey of the enterprises which have set the pattern for the city's growth, and the individuals responsible for evolutionary steps in its economic life.
In 1760 there were no stores in Charlotte. What the residents could not raise or make they bought from peddlers or on infrequent trips to Charleston or eastern Virginia.
In 1771 Jeremiah McCafferty opened Charlotte's first store, a general store stocking such staples as whiskey, salt, molasses, cheese and nearly everything the farmer wanted. Rafters were hung with yarns, utensils and other wares unsuited to shelves and crude tables.
By 1776 there were three or four other stores and a rifle factory, and in 1800 these were in addition to several general stores, a blacksmith shop, saw mill, flour mill and a number of taverns. These served a population of only 276, of whom 123 were Negroes.
Growth for the first quarter of the nineteenth century was slow. From 1830 to 1860, during the western migration, Mecklenburg's population dropped by several thousand but following the Civil War the increase in population and wealth was accelerated by the revival of textile manufacturing, the reopening of the gold mines by Northern capitalists and the city's improving railroad facilities.
The first city directory, published in 1875, lists six banks, three building and loan associations, five railroads, twelve boarding houses, sixteen boot and shoe dealers, fourteen dry goods stores, five hardware stores, twenty saloons and a long list of other business firms and professional services. The following firms, listed in the first directory, have been continuously in business for 85 or more years:
Mecklenburg Iron Works
Commercial National Bank (Now North Carolina National Bank)
Singer Sewing Machine company
Western Union Telegraph Company
W. I. Van Ness & Company
Aetna of Hartford
Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company
Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York
The oldest printing business in Charlotte was incorporated in 1893 when the Observer Printing House came into existence to take over the job printing business which had been a side-line of the Charlotte Observer since 1869. Banks R. Cates became head of the new firm and served until his death in 1941, with the able assistance of his brother Fred R. Cates, as treasurer. William J. Crichton came into the business in 1915 and was later elevated to vice president and general manager.
Formed in 1892, the Andrews Music Company grew out of the firm of E. M. Andrews & Brothers Furniture Company. Formed in 1875, this was dissolved in 1892 when Andrews Music Company was formed. Management of the firm passed successively from the founder, Frank H. Andrews, to his sons Charles S. Andrews, president, and B. N. Andrews, vice president (deceased 1957), and grandson B. N. Andrews, Jr., now vice president, and Robert E. Suther, secretary.
In 1882 Charlotte's oldest funeral firm, J. M. Harry & Bryant Company was formed. John M. Harry, the founder, began as an undertaker with the firm of E. M. Andres & Brothers Furniture Company. In 1894 he formed his own firm, J. M. Harry & Company which, in 1938, assumed the current name when James R. Bryant came into the business.
Another venerable Charlotte firm started during this period was the Wearn Lumber Company, formed in 1883 by A. S. Summerville and later acquired by J. H. Wearn and W. R. Wearn.
The Parker-Gardner Company has been at 118 West Trade Street since 1886 when Charles W. Parker, his brother William E. Parker and other founded the retail firm to deal in fine furniture. After the depression of the 1930's the firm specialized in musical instruments. Ownership and management of the business remains with the Parker family, active management being in the hands of F. G. Parker and W. J. Parker, nephews of the two founders.
The last decade of the nineteenth century and first decades of the twentieth century were periods of quiet but steady growth. This was a period, for Charlotte, of transition from a village to something approaching the status of a city. The ravages of the Civil War had been largely repaired, and animosities were rapidly being forgotten. The brief financial stringency of 1893 did not seem to bother Charlotte citizens very much judging from the number who visited the Chicago Exposition that year. The speedy and satisfactory conclusion of the Spanish-American War in 1898 created a pleasant atmosphere in business and financial circles, and the Russo-Japanese conflict of 1903 was hardly more than an interesting topic of conversation in Charlotte.
The year 1890 brought Charlotte's first Steam Laundry Service. This business was established by Mr. A. A. Gates as an agency at which wearing apparel was collected and sent to Greenville, South Carolina for laundering. This plant was subsequently purchased by Mr. D. M. Rigler (1893) and was operated under the management of Frank D. Lethco. The Charlotte Laundry was incorporated in 1927 with Mr. Lethco as president. Upon his death in 1929, his holdings passed to his widow and daughter, Helen L. Lethco (Mrs. William F. Medearis). Shortly thereafter, Henry B. Benoit, an official of the firm for many years, was elevated to the presidency.
On September 25, 1895 Belk Brothers opened their Charlotte store. this was the fourth unit in the Belk organization established by William Henry Belk, with his brother as inactive, but not silent partner. Through several major expansions the original store of about 2,250 square feet has become the largest retail store between Richmond and Atlanta, with nearly 500,000 square feet, and the leading unit in a group of numbering approximately 400 stores.
The colonial ancestry of William Henry Belk and John M. Belk is vividly recorded in William Henry Belk, Merchant of the South by LeGette Blythe, as is the expansion of their mercantile and philanthropic activities. In the same source can be found a list of their descendants who so ably carry on the family tradition. Following his death on February 21, 1952, just four months before his ninetieth birthday, William Henry Belk was honored by the Newcomen Society with publication of a brochure setting forth his business accomplishments and philosophy.
Both John M. Belk and William Henry Belk have been further honored by establishment of the Belk Foundation which has made liberal contributions to more than 400 churches and educational institutions.
The year after Belk Brothers came to Charlotte, 1896, Garibaldi & Bruns, jewelers, was established by Joseph Garibaldi, watchmaker, and William L. Bruns, engraver. After the death of Mr. Bruns in 1937 and Mr. Garibaldi in 1939, the corporation became the property of the Bruns family.
J. B. Ivey & Company began business February 18, 1900 as a partnership with Joseph Benjamin Ivey as principal owner and active head of the firm, and George F. Ivey and Reverend J. A. Bowles as inactive partners. The first place of business was a storeroom located on the west side of North Tryon Street, near Sixth Street.
Today Ivey's, one of the South's leading department stores, occupies its own building, 400 feet in depth and five stories high, in the center of Charlotte's downtown shopping section. Other Ivey stores are located in Greenville, South Carolina; Asheville and Raleigh in North Carolina; and Orlando, Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida.
The life of the founder of Ivey's is described in My Memoir by J. B. Ivey (1940) and A Tribute, by business associates, on the eightieth birthday of J. B. Ivey, June 8, 1944.
In these publications and elsewhere Mr. Ivey gave much credit for the success of his business to many able associates. Among these were David Ovens, who joined the firm in 1905, and remained second in authority until his death in 1957; and Mr. W. T. Buice, who joined the firm in 1929 and was second vice president until his death in 1951.
Upon the death of Joseph Benjamin Ivey, April 4, 1958, his son George M. Ivey became president and treasurer; his grandson George M. Ivey, Jr., vice president and Mr. George D. Powell, secretary and assistant treasurer.
W. I. Van Ness & Company began business in 1897 as a part-time venture in selling photographic supplies by William I. Van Ness, a partner in the photographic firm of J. H. Van Ness & Company which had been established a quarter of a century earlier. In 1900 Mr. Van Ness secured the agency for Eastman Kodak Company and established the firm which has since borne his name, now the oldest Eastman Kodak agency in the southeast. Ownership has remained by the Van Ness family, passing from the founder to his brother James H. Van Ness, Jr., to James H. Van Ness III. Frank H. Kimbrell, who joined the firm in 1902 as a clerk, is currently vice president.
No account of the retail merchandising history of Charlotte would be complete without due credit being given the Efird family for their part in the city's business history. In 1902 H. M. Efird, with cooperation of Charles A. Williams of the Williams & Shelton Company, opened a small drygoods store at 43-47 East Trade Street, operating as "The Bee Hive" but formally known as Charlotte Mercantile Company. About 1903 Mr. J. B. Efird joined the firm and subsequently Jasper W. Efird, John Roy Efird, Paul Efird, and E. L. Efird did the same. The name "Bee Hive" was dropped in 1907 and the firm became known as Efird's Department Store.
Efird's Department Store expanded rapidly into a chain of 58 stores throughout the Carolinas, led by the handsome five-story department store in the heart of Charlotte's shopping district. Business continued until 1956 when all units of the Efird chain were sold to Belk Brothers Company.
The Duke Power Company, one of the nation's ten largest utility companies in 1960, is the result of the merging from time to time of the Catawba Power Company, which began operations April 1, 1904, the Southern Power Company, and the Southern Public Utilities Company. Chiefly instrumental in the formation and growth of this huge concern, supplying electricity to approximately 3,000,000 people in a 20,000 square mile are of Piedmont Carolinas, were Dr. W. Gill Wylie, William States Lee, James Buchanan Duke, Zebulon Vance Taylor, George G. Allen, E. C. Marshall, Norman A. Cocke and their many trusted and able associates. W. B. McGuire, elected president of the company in 1959, is carrying on the same traditions.
Much of Charlotte's industrial development and prosperity has been due wholly or in part to the unceasing activity of the Duke Power Company in attracting new capital investments in the territory which it serves. From the dozens to whom credit is due for these achievements, an elderly Charlotte citizen remembers most vividly these members of the Duke Power Company personnel: John W. Fox and Charles H. Reed, industrial engineers; John Paul Lucas, Sr., who was vice president of the Southern Public Utilities Company; his son, John Paul Lucas, Jr., of the Duke Power Company; A. B. Skelding and J. A. Forney, officials of the Southern Public Utilities Company; Duncan C. Carmichael, Duncan Calder, W. S. O'B. Robinson, D. I. Burkholder, David Nabow and Frank Moser.
On October 1, 1904 S. R. Lentz opened a small grocery store at 311 North Tryon Street. More than half a century later Lentz Grocery was still located at the same address and had become the city's oldest grocery store. Upon the death of Mr. Lentz in September 1942, full ownership of the business passed to T. M. McCord, who had been a member of the firm since 1926.
In 1908 R. M. Pound and G. H. Moore went into the office supply business. With a little capital, partly borrowed, they opened a tiny store of 1100 square feet. Pound & Moore Company, Inc., celebrated its golden anniversary in a glamorous store of more than 30,000 square feet, supplemented by a warehouse of 35,000 square feet and a large printing plant. Mr. Moore retired in 1955, leaving the way clear for a close family ownership of the business still headed by one founder, ably assisted by three sons: Ralston M. Pound, Jr., vice president, Cary Pound, secretary, and a younger son, James E. Pound.
H. E. C. (Red Buck) Bryant recalls that Charlotte just before the turn of the century was becoming known as a good place to earn a living and have a home. New residents were not arriving in droves, but gradually drifting in.
|"Young lawyers, doctors, preachers and business men were settling there. The city was growing and it was considered an attractive place. The people were friendly and hospitable. Newcomers got a glad hand.|
"The slogan then was, 'Watch our town grow!' The population was approximately 17,000, not counting suburban areas.
"Charlotte then was old-fashioned and a farmers' town. Mules and wagons were parked along Tryon and Trade Streets during the day, horses and buggies in feed stables.
"The only noise of machinery heard was the bit of the cotton compress as it reduced five-hundred pound bales for transportation by train or ship. Much of that valuable money-making crop was then exported for foreign textile manufacturers.
"College Street was about the only nervously busy place then, during the harvesting season. Some days wagons loaded with the king crop of the county were one behind another for blocks. Many of them had come from 10 to 25 miles. They were drawn by two or four fine, well-kept mules, 16 hands high, and well groomed, most of them driven by Negro teamsters.
"During the summer season while cotton was growing, streets were filled with wagons loaded with watermelons, some of them weighing 100 or more pounds. Berryhill and other townships were noted for large, excellent ones.
" I saw a saloon keeper, one year, buy 20 that weighed 2000 pounds, crate and express them to a friend in New York for a special feast.
"Farmers walked the city over, peddling eggs, chickens, cows and other food supplies. Individual producers called at private homes with butter, milk and other small fruits. There were no laws or ordinances against the sale of buttermilk, turkeys, guineas or other dairy or poultry products. Many dollars went into the pockets of tillers of small farms or their wives for such things. More buttermilk was used then as a beverage or for biscuits than beer.
"Soft drinks were being sold at restaurants and drug stores. Bar rooms, Charlotte had 17, furnished hard liquor, beer and wines. People stood at counters, with feet on rails, and asked for three fingers more or less, swallowed them and took off, or stayed for more. A few bought jugs or bottles full and carried them home.
"Now and then some fellow who could not stop with less than a churn full under his shirt, got drunk or wobbly on the street, and was locked up in the city prison for 'safe keeping.' Policemen did not want to see anyone run over by a mule with a shuck collar on, or a bull or steer, escaped from a butcher's pen.
"I knew of two country dwellers who bought cots for their use in the town lock-up when arrested for too many toddys. I doubt if the liquor merchant had cocktails or highballs then. But they served mint juleps if the right sort of a patron with the right sort of pocketbook came along."
The Piggly Wiggly (1920) was the first of the innovations which changed the old time grocery into the super markets of today, with their almost unlimited variety of merchandise. In the meantime the five and ten cent stores had made their appearance, demonstrating the sale value of display and low prices made possible by volume sales for cash only. Charlotte merchants rapidly learned to adjust themselves to changing business methods.
Until the early years of the twentieth century most merchants regarded competitors as rascals or scoundrels. There was little or no cooperation between them. This mutual distrust began to give way before the common misery of "dead-beats" and the hardships imposed by the "Homestead Exemption Act." These were the two principal reasons for the forming of Merchants Associations which were organized in a number of North Carolina towns. The North Carolina Merchants Association was formed with Norman H. Johnson, a young Charlotte attorney, as executive secretary, and editor of the association's official organ, The Merchants' Journal. The Charlotte Merchants Association, chartered November 30, 1904 was then, as now, the largest in the state.
Since that time the growth of the Association has paralleled the growth of Charlotte's mercantile and professional life. Policies of the board of directors of the Association have been carried out by executive secretaries or executive vice presidents among whom the following have served: Mayme Moor Sifford, Vincent Paul Rousseau, L. V. Wells and Charles Council Dudley, the present executive vice president. In addition to operating an efficient credit bureau for the benefit of members, the Association cooperates with educational institutions in specialized career training programs, and sponsors many trade events, chief of which is the annual Carolinas' Carrousel, and Southern Consumer Credit Clinic.
Credit for originating the idea for a combined goodwill and sales promotion event to be held each fall belongs to W. S. Lupo, then manager of the Sears, Roebuck & Company store; Charles Council Dudley, of the Merchants' Association; P. H. Batte and F. Earl Crawford of the Charlotte Observer. The first celebration in 1947 consisted of a parade witnessed by some 75,000 people. In 1950 the name "Carrousel" was adopted and features increased to include princesses and bands from many points in the Carolinas, athletic events and a huge dance held in a magnificent setting. Distinguished and glamorous guests from the entertainment world are brought to Charlotte to participate and lend charm to all Carrousel activities. It is estimated that more than half a million people view the annual parade in person, and millions more enjoy the spectacle on television.
Establishment of a friendly relationship between competitors through association memberships did not, however, lessen competition between leading firms. With the growth of the Belk, Ivey and Efird stores, competition became quite intense in the 1920's.
In 1920 the Lipinsky family, owners of Asheville's leading department store, bought the old Charlotte firm of Little-Long Company. Rejuvenated and renamed Bon Marche, it plunged into the scramble for its share of Charlotte's department store business, but after six years, Mr. Lipinsky withdrew and left the battle to his competitors. He returned in 1959 to occupy choice space in the most glamorous shopping center, Charlottetown Mall.
In the 1950's, all midtown merchants were confronted by a common enemy in the form of these centers, which began to spring up in many outlying areas. This predicament led to the formation of the Downtown Association in January 1959. Whether or not this organization will help restore the downtown prestige and popularity will remain for the closing years of the twentieth century to reveal.
Development of the community shopping centers, like many other changes in the nation's habits, resulted largely from the upsurge in automobile ownership following World War II. The greater use of automobiles for local transportation brought about a decreased use of street cars, and later, buses. Traffic congestion became so acute that by 1950 one-way streets became the rule, rather than the exception, in downtown Charlotte. Parking became a major problem. Installation of parking meters about 1942 did so little to relieve the situation that when one property owner found it profitable to convert his property into a commercial parking lot, many others did likewise. The changes thus brought about in the appearance of the downtown business section almost equal the changed view of former farm lands transformed by shopping centers into busy marts of trade.
However, native sons and daughters of Charlotte who return to the scenes of their youth after long absences will be pleased to find many familiar firms, in addition to those already names, still serving the needs of Charlotte citizens. The Southern Passenger Station will still be found on West Trade Street just below Graham. The familiar sign of Mellon's will be a welcome sight to many as they approach the "Square." Around the corner on the east side of South Tryon Street the Gilmer-Moore Shoe Company has been a familiar sight for many years. Across the street at the same old stand is Tate-Brown Company, bringing up memories of J. Caswell Tate, Claude W. Brown, Buford (Pat) Patterson, William C. Stikeleather and many others who groomed Charlotte men and women. On North Tryon Street, corner for Seventh, the drug firm founded so many years ago by T. A. Walker, still bears his name. Smith-Wadsworth Company is no longer on East Trade Street as some will remember, or on South Tryon as others saw it, but is on the outskirts of the city in a modern building.
On Fairwood Avenue is one of the largest photoengraving plants south of Washington, D. C. It grew from the Bierman Engraving Company, founded in 1915, which merged with the Charlotte Engraving Company in 1929. Everett Bierman, son of the founder, is chairman of the board of directors.
No less worthy of admiration and appreciation for contributing to Charlotte business history are members of those firms no longer active. At the beginning of the twentieth century there was the Liddell Company, a foundry enterprise, headed by W. S. Liddell, Stone & Barringer Company, booksellers and stationers who published the works of John Charles McNeill and other Charlotte writers; C. B. Flournoy, gifts and chinaware; Woodall & Sheppard, druggists; Lubin Furniture Company; D. H. Baruch, dry goods; York & Rogers, men's furnishings.
Somewhat later and until well along in the 1920's were such firms as B. F. Roark, jeweler; Miller-Van Ness Company, grocers; J. N. McCausland Company, tinsmiths; Queen City Printing Company; W. T. McCoy & Company and Erkskine R. Smith, Inc., furniture dealers and, last to be liquidated (1956) Smith's Book Store. It was founded by Glen Smith and upon his death, May 19, 1943, owned and managed by his nephew Carroll S. Sergeant.
In 1900 there were fifteen saloons in Charlotte but here, as elsewhere, the prohibition sentiment was growing. The "morally stunted" as the "wets" came to be described, were finally defeated. In an election held July 5, 1904, voters were given an opportunity to vote for (a) absolute prohibition, (b) a city-owned dispensary. Total prohibition carried by a majority of 485. The effective date for the beginning of total prohibition was January 1, 1905.
The legal sale of alcoholic beverages was not resumed in Charlotte until September 25, 1947, when seven Alcoholic Beverage Control stores were opened. In an election held June 14, 1947, Mecklenburg voters gave their approval for the establishment of these stores by a vote of 16,377 to 12,830.
No liquor is sold in ABC stores for consumption on the premises, nor in quantities of less than 1/10th gallon. Every precaution is taken to prevent the spread of alcoholism. Conduct of all phases of the business is regulated by law and, in Charlotte, before distribution of profits, a sum of not less than five per cent must be spent for law enforcement; a sum of not more than five per cent may be spent for alcohol education; the sum of five per cent must be given to the public library system; the remainder is divided equally between the city and county, but from the city's part five percent must go to the Parks and Recreation Commission and from the county's part two per cent must go to each of the five incorporated towns in Mecklenburg County.
Shortly after the election authorizing ABC stores, at a joint meeting of the County Commissioners, County Board of Education and County Board of Health, a three man board was elected to manage the stores. This board consisted of Frank K. Sims, Jr., chairman, Henry C. Severs and Fred Anderson, all of whom were still serving 13 years later. In the meantime the number of stores has increased to eleven and, as of June 30, 1960, the total amount distributed to beneficiaries was $16,584,350.
Among florist, two of the better known firms doing business during the first half of the twentieth century were those of Louis Ratcliffe, Inc., and Hunter Floral Company. The firm of M. B. Smith & Company, jewelers, is one of the oldest and most highly regarded in the city. With the exception of the retail stores mentioned in this chapter, most of the old family owned and managed firms in Charlotte bowed out of the picture as the chain store movement in merchandising progressed.
Book stores gave way to book departments in department stores, but various religious denominations opened their own stores in Charlotte. The Baptists were first to do this, followed by the Presbyterians and by the Church of God. Mrs. Elizabeth Chambers Holt pleased many book-buyers by maintaining personalized service in her Charlotte Bookshop, presently located in Charlottetown Mall.
The one field that chain and department stores have not seriously affected is the office supply and equipment business. Just when other local stores began to disappear, the Kale twins and Algie Lawing formed the Kale-Lawing Company, office outfitters and printers. This firm has increased competition from Bill Shaw Company and Fowler's, and an increasing number of manufacturers who maintain their own show rooms and sales forces.
The next local inn to be established also acquired historic recognition. It was Cook's Inn, 20 West Trade Street, at which George Washington stopped and left in such haste that he forgot his powder box, and later wrote in his diary: "Saturday, May 28, 1791. Set off from Crawford's by 4 o'clock and breakfasted at one Harrison's 18 miles from it and got into Charlotte, 13 miles further, before 3 o'clock. Dined with General Thomas Polk and a small party invited him at a Table set for the purpose. It was not until I had got near Barr's that I quit the Piney and Sandy lands; nor until I got to Crawfords before the lands took quite a different complexion, here they began to assume a very rich look. Charlotte is a trifling place, though the Court of Mecklenburg is held in it. There is a school [Queen's Museum later Liberty Hall] called a college in it which, at times, have had fifty or sixty boys."
An interesting account of another Charlotte inn is found in the diary of William D. Martin who, as a young man in 1809 traveled by horseback, buggy, coach and boat from Edgefield, South Carolina to Litchfield, Connecticut, where he attended law school. After describing at some length the difficulty he had in crossing the Catawba River, he wrote on Friday April 4, 1809:
|"We breakfasted late this morning at Charlotte, the county seat of Mecklenburg. The village consists of two streets, crossing in a square; in the center of town stands a tolerably elegant Brick Court House with a cupola on top.|
"In my host and lady, Mr. and Mrs. Huston, were united the rare qualities of attention, politeness and kindness. As the keepers of an inn they discharged every duty. The good lady, having prepared a genteel breakfast, when she observed us setting out again, with all hospitality of a friend and kindness of a mother, she presented and insisted upon my accepting some biscuits and cheese which she said, 'will serve as a repast at noon.' Such disinterested goodness among strangers raised into action the most lively sensations of gratitude & for the moment I thought myself surrounded by my friends, a reverie at all times as pleasant as it is delusive."
Since those early days, many hotels have come and gone, leaving very little in the way of documentary evidence of their ownership or management. The hotel with the longest history was, undoubtedly, the Mansion House, built in 1840, which changed its name to Central Hotel in 1873, and continued to operate until the late 1930's.
The Central Hotel, on the southeast corner of Trade and Tryon Streets, was, for many years, considered the finest hotel between Richmond and Atlanta. Its spacious ballroom was the gathering place for Charlotte's elite. On one side of the lobby was the dining room, and the other the city's most elegant bar, until this feature was closed with the advent of prohibition, January 1, 1905. Around the huge fireplace in the rear of the office were large chairs that in summer were carried to the sidewalk, where leading citizens and "drummers" tilted them back again the walls and discussed weighty questions of the day.
For a number of years beginning about 1885 or a little earlier, the second most important hotel in Charlotte was the Buford, named for Colonel A. S. Buford, then president of the Richmond & Danville Railroad. The main part of this building, on the northeast corner of Fourth and Tryon Streets, contrary to popular belief, was not erected for hotel purposes. It was built as an office building in the 1870's by the Southern Life Insurance Company of Atlanta to house its Charlotte offices on the second floor, and the then young Commercial National Bank on the first floor. The United States Post Office and Court Room occupied the remainder of the first floor and third floor.
The building became a hotel when the insurance company had financial difficulties and sold it to a company headed by William Johnston as president and Robert M. Miller, Jr., secretary and treasurer, who immediately leased it to G. W. Kittlells. Later, the wing on the Fourth Street side was added and the dining room moved from the fourth to the second floor to save elevator expense. Still later, an addition was guild on the north side, facing Tryon Street, to hold the bar and dining room.
While patronized largely by traveling men, the Buford also provided living quarters for some of Charlotte's most prominent people, among them Mr. and Mrs. Walter Brem, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Cramer and one of the city's most distinguished bachelors, Daniel Augustus Tompkins. The Buford Hotel was closed about 1915 and the lower floors converted into store rooms, the largest of which, on the corner, was occupied for many years by the Union National Bank. In 1945 the building was renovated and the upper floors occupied by the newly formed Charlotte City Club.
Modern hotel history in Charlotte begins with the opening of the Selwyn Hotel in February 1907, on the northeast corner of Trade and Church Streets. Named for the English peer from whom the land was purchased for the town of Charlotte, and built on the site of the county's third courthouse, the Selwyn was regarded as North Carolina's finest hotel, when built, and nearly sixty years later was still numbered among the city's better hotels.
Following World War I new hotels were built in a number of North Carolina cities. Capital was usually raised by sale of stock to the business interest of the various towns. This method was used to finance the building of the 400 room Hotel Charlotte, on West Trade Street, which opened in 1923. It immediately became the city's favorite hotel.
Charlotte's most modern hotel as of 1960 is the William R. Barringer, on North Tryon Street. Opened December 14, 1940 the twelve story building with 200 rooms, was increased to 325 in 1950. In anticipation of further expansion, the Hotel Barringer Company, in 1959, acquired the adjoining property occupied for many years by St. Mark's Lutheran Church.
The Stonewall Hotel, built 1907, took its name from the occupant of the property, near the Southern station, Mrs. "Stonewall" Jackson. The 65-room hotel was closed in 1958.
The Mecklenburg Hotel, erected on West Trade Street in 1914 by Mr. W. C. Petty, a well-known hotel operator, retained in 1960 its good reputation for both dining and lodging. The Mayfair Hotel, built by Dr. James Pleasant Matheson and others, on the southwest corner of Tryon and Sixth Streets, and the Clayton Hotel, on the northeast corner of Church and Fifth Streets, served as both transient and family hotels for many years from 1915.
Just as the dominance of midtown department stores and specialty shops is threatened by the growth of suburban shopping centers, standard hotels are having to compete with modern motels. Here again, the overpowering influence of the automobile and air age is bringing about changes which may be better evaluated in another era.
It is sufficient for now to mention that this new form of hotel accommodations is the outgrowth of tourist homes. Some of these developed into groups of cottages, labeled "motels." By 1960 many motels and motor courts vied in splendor with the most lavishly equipped hotels. Confronted with the new kind of competition, some hotels began to supplement their facilities with motor courts of various types.
Public eating places, apart form lodgings, are a fairly recent development in Charlotte. In the early days, room and board all in one place, was the accepted custom. In 1900 there were 37 boarding houses in Charlotte. Today, there are none listed in the city directory.
One of the last of the old-time boarding houses to pass from the Charlotte scene was that conducted by Mrs. Margaret L. Garrison at 403 (later 419) West Fourth Street. At times Mrs. Garrison had more than 100 boarders, her principal business, and a few roomers upstairs. Meals were served "family style" in liberal quantities, well prepared and varied.
"Ma" Garrison strove hard to create the impression of being a hard-boiled business woman but she was the soul of sympathy and kindness. Six of her "star" boarders (Otto Haas, Joe Monroe, Herbert V. Brockmann, Jesse Wilcox, L. L. Ledbetter and J. R. Craven) faithful friends to the last, slipped and slid through the red mud of a rural cemetery as they bore Ma's body to its final resting place on November 15, 1935.
Older citizens remember other Charlotte eating places. There was Gresham's Southern Railway Restaurant, from about 1896 to 1914; Gem Restaurant at 19 South Tryon Street form 1900 to 1915, and the Brown Betty Tea Room, over Garibaldi & Bruns, jewelers, owned and operated by Mrs. Annie Oliver and her daughter, Mrs. Richard Pfaehler.
Modern restaurant history began in Charlotte when the opening on July 14, 1920 of the S & W. Cafeteria on West Trade Street. The tremendous popularity of self-service restaurants on the Pacific Coast, where they originated about 1910, was immediately duplicated in Charlotte. Proof is to be found in the fact that the original S & W Cafeteria, now located next door to the first building, is still one of the city's most popular dining places, and is the parent unit of a large chain.
The S & W Cafeteria of Charlotte was founded by Frank Odell Sherrill and Fred Weber. Mr. Weber left the company in 1925. Mr. Sherrill remains active in the company as president and general manager. Since 1922 Emmett Crook has served as secretary and treasurer of the company and more recently three sons of the founder have come into the business.
Early in the twentieth century George Stephens conceived the idea of developing the huge farm of his father-in-law, Mr. J. S. Myers, into a residential suburb of first magnitude in size, unexcelled in the beauty of its landscaping and with homes of unusual elegance. With the same foresight and determination that he had shown in developing Kanuga Lake resort colony in Western North Carolina, Mr. Stephens proceeded to carry out his plan.
A forgotten but interesting phase in the development of Myers Park occurred September 1, 1919 when a majority of the voters living there were granted a charter making it a separate municipality. The first mayor was Charles Huntley Gover and the commissioners, Dr. John Clifford, John P. Little and J. M. Harry. The petition mentioned a number of grievances against the city of Charlotte, including complaints about roads, schools, police and fire protection. Evidently things didn't work out as well as the incorporators had hoped, for on November 8, 1924, the corporation was dissolved on petition of Paul C. Whitlock, mayor, and C. H. Gover, clerk, representing practically all of those who had sought the chapter.
An important contemporary of Latta, Alexander, Stephens, and other real estate dealers of the first half of the twentieth century was F. C. Abbott, who came to Charlotte from New England in 1897. Future generations will be indebted to Mr. Abbott for recording the most important transactions of his firm and much Charlotte real estate history in his brochure Fifty Years in Charlotte Real Estate 1897-1947.
According to Mr. Abbott, none of the buildings occupying the four corners of Independence Square in 1990 are standing today. At the time, the Osborne home, which had long since been abandoned as a residence, on the northwest corner, housed the Woodall & Sheppard Drug Store. The Davidson home, built in 1830, was on the northeast corner and likewise converted for business purposes with Jordan's Drug Store on the first floor. The Central Hotel was on the southeastern corner, and Burwell & Dunn, druggists, on the southwest corner. The Piedmont Building at 222 South Tryon Street (demolished 1957) was considered the finest office building in North Carolina. The City Hall was on the corner of Tryon and Fifth Streets, with the city's only fire company in the rear. Presbyterian College was on North College Street and the Charlotte Observer at 32 South Tryon Street, now occupied by the Bank of Charlotte. Charlotte's water, about 1900, came from a small lake that later became Independence Park. The Plaza was a narrow dirt road, Chantilly a peach orchard and Eastover section the McD. Watkins' dairy farm. The 600 acre plantation that was to become Myers Park was advertised for sale at $40 the acre. The first electric light plant in North Carolina was located on the south side of the first block of East Fifth Street. Nearby was the gathering place for the horse-trading element of the community, with five or six barrooms.
The rapid and tremendous increase in Charlotte real estate values is disclosed by old deeds and other records in the Mecklenburg County courthouse. A typical example is the property at 120 North Tryon Street which was sold in 1900 for $20,000. In 1923 Efird's paid $225,000 for the same property and built a department store thereon. In 1897 the property on the southeast corner of Third and Tryon Streets, now occupied by the First Union National Bank was bought for $12,000 as a site for a courthouse. After the new courthouse was built in 1928, the same property was sold for $425,000.
The Buick agency has been continuously in operation since C. C. Coddington became a distributor for the Carolinas in 1909. When Mr. Coddington died in 1929, the Buick Motor Company took over the distributorship with Lee A. Folger, an associate of Mr. Coddington, as manager. This arrangement lasted until 1937 when Mr. Folger organized the firm of Lee A. Folger, Inc., and took over the retail business from Boomershine Motor Company, last of the three firms which had sold buicks locally since 1929.
Hoppe Motors, Inc., organized in 1915 by Mr. W. T. Hoppe, has had a long and successful career as agents for Chrysler and Plymouth automobiles. The founder headed the business until 1960 when it was taken over by other interests upon Mr. Hoppe's retirement. Cadillac cars have been sold in Charlotte longer than automobiles of any other name. Since June 1, 1929 the Charlotte business has been handled by Thomas Cadillac-Olds, Inc., of which G. C. Thomas is founder and president.
The automobile industry was prominent in the news in Charlotte twice during the 1920's, once unfavorably and once favorably. It was in 1920 that the Wizard Automobile Company was organized in Charlotte and a vigorous campaign conducted to sell a million dollars worth of stock. The prospectus painted a glowing picture of the profits to be made from the sale of cars to be manufactured and sold for $395. A plant was built in the southwestern section of the city and one or two cars put together for display to prospective stockholders. That was as far as the Wizard Automobile Company got, and the bewildered stockholders were left to shoulder their losses, as were many creditors.
In 1925 the Ford Motor Company erected a large assembly plant on the Statesville road. This property was later acquired by the government as a depot for commissary and other supplies and is now, much enlarged, used as a missile assembly plant by Douglas Aircraft Company.
The first white barber in Charlotte appears to have been Paul McKane who is listed in the 1891 city directory. His patronage was evidently small and uncertain for he also operated a shoe repair business in connection with his barber shop. The next white barber was apparently Mark M. Dintenfass who operated a shop at the Buford Hotel. This was in 1897 when a hair-cut cost a quarter and a shave was a dime. At that time, Thad Tate, who later became one of Charlotte's wealthiest and most esteemed Negro citizens, owned the shop in the Central Hotel. From that period on the number of Negro operated shops for white people lessened, as more and more shops were opened by white barbers. Thaddeus Tate, whose services extended from 1882 to 1944, was one of Charlotte's outstanding citizens. He held various positions of trust including that of treasurer of the Brevard Street Library for Negroes before its management was taken over by the Public Library. He was a director for more than 60 years in the Mechanics Perpetual Building & Loan Association. A sketch of his life and mention of his fine family of ten children is contained in An Appreciation of Twenty-One Men Who Have Rendered Long and Faithful Service in One Job, published October 13, 1946 by the Phalanx Club of the Second Street Y.M.C.A. of Charlotte. Mr. Tate died at the age of 85 on March 29, 1951.
Next in length of service among barbers was Vance M. Stine who, with Robert H. Jacobs, succeeded to the ownership of the Buford Hotel Barber Shop about 1908. Mr. Stine continued near this address until his death about 1944. Thereafter, his wife conducted the business until 1950 when it was taken over and moved to the Johnston Building by Bartley Elzie Smith, who had joined Mr. Stine in 1910, and Boyce M. Cranford. Gibson Gerry Bost, who came to Charlotte upon completion of his barbering course at Atlanta in 1910, joined Mr. Stine shortly thereafter and, as the oldest active barber in Charlotte as of 1960, continues his association with Smith and Cranford.
Among the small but important businesses that have contributed to the comfort and convenience of Charlotte people there should be mentioned first Ben F. Favell's shoe repair shop, begun in 1915 and presently more prosperous than ever; and Harry P. Murray, who has had a merchant tailoring service for about the same length of time. In 1926 there were six white and four Negro "pressing clubs" of which the City Pressing Club of D. W. Fink and J. W. Elliot was the best known. Today, the heading, "Pressing Clubs," is not to be found in the city directory. "Hair Dressers," first appeared in the directory in 1912 when the Ideal Beauty Shop of Mrs. M. M. Cross was listed. Other shops were owned by Lethia Jones and by Jessie B. Johnson. "Beauty parlors" were first listed in 1917 when Mrs. D. H. Simpson's was the only one. In 1926 there were nine beauty parlors and in 1960 nearly 300.
Two years later, with the increased production of gold, a branch of the North Carolina Bank was opened at Charlotte. This was followed by the opening of the first locally owned bank, known as the Bank of Charlotte, with authorized capital of $300,000. The officers were H. B. Williams, president, and W. A. Lucas, cashier. The board of directors consisted of these and T. H. Brem, J. H. Wilson, D. Parks, S. P. Alexander, A. C. Steele, W. R. Myers, and H. B. Williams.
According to Tompkins' history, the Bank of Charlotte was still in operation in 1867 but it does not appear in the city directory for 1875. The directory for that year lists five banks. The three that survived for many years were the First National Bank of Charlotte, Commercial National Bank and Merchants and Farmers National Bank. Of these three only the Commercial National now remains, though renamed, after consolidation, the North Carolina National Bank.
The First National Bank of Charlotte was incorporated in 1865. The officers in 1880 were R. Y. McAden, president, W. R. Myers, vice president, and M. P. Pegram, cashier. In 1891, Mr. Pegram was still cashier but the president was Robert M. Oates. This arrangement lasted until 1900 when Pegram replaced Oates as president, with Mr. Myers continuing as vice president. In 1904 Frank Gilreath served briefly as president, to be succeeded by Henry M. McAden, who served the bank from 1907 until its closing December 4, 1930. While Mr. Gilreath was president, the cashier was Henry M. Victor, later to become president of the Union National Bank. For many years the First National Bank was located at 20 South Tryon Street, in a building which was demolished in 1926 to make room for a 21-story building as the new home for the bank, for a number of years Charlotte's tallest building. The Commercial National Bank (North Carolina National Bank 1960), was chartered on February 18, 1874, and is the oldest national banking institution in North Carolina. During the incumbency of its first president, Clement Dowd, the cashier was Addison G. Brenizer. Mr. Dowd was succeeded by J. S. Spencer about 1890, and around 1910 Mr. Brenizer became president. In 1904, Albert Theodore Summey became a teller, later rising to become vice president. In 1911 young Ivey Withers Stewart moved from a position with Williams & Shelton to the Commercial National, eventually becoming chairman of the board of the American Commercial Bank. Following Mr. Brenizer, Robert A. Dunn served as president for a number of years, before becoming chairman of the board to be succeeded by Mr. Stewart in 1936. During Mr. Dunn's regime a number of competent young members were recruited including John P. Hobson, who became cashier and trust officer, and Herbert M. Wayne, who succeeded him as cashier.
On November 29, 1958 the Commercial National Bank was merged with the American Trust Company to become the American Commercial Bank, no longer a national bank, with Torrence E. Hemby as honorary chairman of the board; Ivey W. Stewart, chairman; Addison H. Reese, president. Shortly after the merger, plans were announced for erecting a 16-story banking and office building to occupy the space formerly required to house the two adjoining banking establishments. In the early summer of 1960 the American Commercial Bank of Charlotte and the Security National Bank of Greensboro became consolidated under the name of North Carolina National Bank.
The Merchants and Farmers National Bank was organized about 1875, with T. H. Brem as president and J. R. Holland as cashier. The bank had a continuous existence until its closing during the banking holiday of the early 1930's.
The Charlotte National Bank was chartered in 1897 with B. D. Heath as president and W. H. Twitty, cashier. In 1908 it absorbed the Charlotte Trust Company, and in 1919 it added the Southern Loan and Savings Bank. Mr. Twitty served the bank continuously until his death in 1943, probably the longest banking record in the city's history. John M. Scott became president of the Charlotte National and was still active in that position when the bank merged with Wachovia Bank and Trust Company in 1939. Mr. Scott became chairman of the bank's Charlotte board, and John P. Watlington, Jr., was made executive head of the office. Beginning in 1948 Wachovia added neighborhood offices throughout the city and in 1958 moved to its new 15-story main office building at Trade and Church Streets. When Mr. Watlington was elected president of the statewide Wachovia in 1956, Joseph H. Robinson succeeded him as executive head of the Charlotte bank.
Wachovia was founded in Winston-Salem in 1879 as the Wachovia National Bank. In 1911, this institution merged with Wachovia Loan and Trust Company to form the present Wachovia Bank and Trust Company. The Wachovia Loan and Trust Company, under the guidance of its president, Colonel Francis H. Fries, had already become the largest bank in the state and had extended its services on a statewide basis by establishing offices in Asheville, Salisbury and High Point in 1902-03. Wachovia's Raleigh office was established in 1922, followed by a merger with the Charlotte National in 1939, to give the bank offices in most of the state's large trade and financial centers. Since 1954, Wachovia offices have been established in a number of other cities and it is presently the largest bank in the Southeast. Its trust department holds the largest assets of any trust institution in the South.
Robert M. Hanes succeeded Colonel Fries as Wachovia president in 1931. His banking career was outstanding and he was called upon to serve in virtually every high banking post in the nation. Upon Mr. Hanes' retirement in 1956, Mr. Watlington was named president and under his direction Wachovia has continued its growth, expansion and service to the region.
In 1901 Frederick C. Abbott, George Stephens and Word H. Wood formed the Southern States Trust Company. Shortly thereafter the name was changed to American Trust Company. Mr. Wood became president in 1927, a position he held until 1943; Arthur J. Draper and B. B. Gossett became vice presidents in 1923 and a little later F. W. DeArmon became assistant secretary and treasurer, and R. E. Kerr, assistant trust officer. By 1943 Mr. Wood had been elevated to the position of chairman of the board, with Torrence E. Hemby as president, and Mr. Kerr, vice president. While Mr. Hemby was president, Addison H. Reese, Arthur H. Jones, and others were added to the list of vice president, and Walter Lambeth, vice president in charge of the Insurance Department. This general arrangement continued until November 29, 1957 when the American Trust Company merged with the Commercial National Bank to form the American Commercial Bank which, in 1960, merged with the Security National Bank of Greensboro to become the North Carolina National Bank.
The Union National Bank was established in 1908. Henry M. Victor was named cashier. T. W. Wade served as president form 1908 until 1913, during which time F. B. McDowell was vice president. Mr. Victor succeeded Mr. Wade as president and at the same time Duncan P. Tillett became cashier. This arrangement lasted until 1945 when Mr. Tillett was elected president. In 1947 George S. Crouch came in as assistant cashier and in 1952 Carl G. McGraw succeeded him. Upon Mr. Tillett's death, Mr. Crouch became president, in 1947. Mr. McGraw succeeded Mr. Crouch as president in 1952. Mr. Victor became chairman of the board in 1945 and was succeeded in this position by Mr. Crouch in 1952, a position which he still holds.
On July 31, 1958 the Union National Bank merged with the First National Bank and Trust Company in Asheville and the name, First Union National Bank of North Carolina, was adopted. On November 28, 1958 the First Union National merged with the Bank of Lenoir and the Union National Bank of Lenoir. Industrial Bank of Durham and the National Bank of Wilson merged with the First Union, December 11, 1959.
In 1912 the Independence Trust Company, with Julian H. Little as president; H. A. Morson, secretary; Esley O. Anderson, cashier; and E. E. Jones, assistant cashier, opened for business. The bank owned the Independence Building on the northwest corner of Trade and Tryon Streets, and occupied the first floor during its entire existence. It failed to open after the banking holiday in the early 1930's. The stockholders continued to own the building.
On November 23, 1914 the Citizens Savings & Loan Corporation, now known as Citizens Bank, opened its door for business with J. O. Gardner, president; John W. Zimmerman, vice president; J. A. Fore, secretary, and James T. Porter, treasurer and manager. Mr. Zimmerman became president about 1918. Thereafter, these principal officers remained, with the addition of Zeb C. Strawn, who had joined the company in 1924 and was made treasurer in 1926. In 1946 Mr. Zimmerman became chairman of the board, Mr. Porter became president, and Mr. Strawn, executive vice president. In 1952 Mr. Strawn became president, a position which he presently holds.
The Charlotte Morris Plan Company was formed in 1918 with T. M. Shelton, Sr., president; Erskine R. Smith, vice president; Charles A. Williams, vice president and Connor H. Sherrill, secretary-treasurer. W. H. Bethea came into the firm around 1921, and Mr. Sherill became president in 1927. The affairs of this bank moved along without important changes until 1944 when the name was changed to Bank of Charlotte, headed by T. M. Shelton, Jr.
The Fifth Street Industrial Bank was organized in 1920, but soon changed its name to City Industrial Bank. The first officers were R. L. Goode, president; J. W. Cuthbertson, first vice president; F. E. Robinson, second vice president and W. G. Craven, secretary-treasurer. Mr. Robinson served only a short time and was replaced as vice president by Jesse M. Oldham. In 1936 W. Reynolds Cuthbertson, son of one of the founders, became president, a position which he still holds with the bank, renamed in 1945, the City Savings Bank.
The Industrial Bank of Mecklenburg was organized in 1923 with T. J. Payne, president, and J. Davis, cashier. A few years later Louis B. Vreeland, an attorney, became president; R. S. Motte, vice president; and T. D. Newell, cashier. This bank was liquidated at the time of the banking holiday.
The Industrial Loan and Investment Bank began business in 1922. A few years later H. C. Alexander became president with I. W. Stewart, vice president but not active, Dr. W. F. Medearis, vice president but not active, and George Douglas Aitken, cashier. In 1948 the name of the institution was changed to The Bank of Commerce and, upon Mr. Alexander's death in 1957, Mr. Aitken became president, a position which he now holds.
On December 1, 1927 the Charlotte Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond opened for business on the 20th floor of what was then the First National Bank Building. Hugh Leach was managing director, W. T. Clements, cashier. The original board of directors consisted of Word H. Wood and John L. Morehead of Charlotte; W. J. Roddey, Sr., of Rock Hill, S. C.; Robert Gage of Chester, S. C.; John A. Law of Spartanburg, S. C.; Charles A. Cannon of Concord, N. C., and Mr. Leach. In 1931, Mr. Leach was transferred to the Baltimore branch of the bank, and Mr. Clements succeeded him as managing director. In 1947, Mr. Clements retired and was succeeded by Robert L. Cherry. At that time the title of the officer-in-charge was changed from managing director to vice president. Mr. Cherry retired in 1959 and was succeeded by Thomas L. Storrs. By then the bank had grown to an institution of 216 employees, occupying its own five-story building on South Tryon Street. Establishment of a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank contributed much toward increasing Charlotte's prestige as the financial center of the Carolinas, and its presence aided the growth of the 50 counties in western North Carolina and 21 in western South Carolina which it serves.
Concurrently, the larger banks began to open neighborhood branches for the more convenient handling of accounts in outlying sections. Competition for business was never keener than in 1960. Whenever occasions arise in Charlotte requiring cooperation between banks, however, agreement can usually be reached, as was the case when, with one exception, all banks were parties to a movement for Saturday closing of banks.
Instrumental in achieving the association's long record were three generations of the Keesler family, beginning with Edward L. and continuing with his son Edward Y. Keesler, the current president, and grandson Lenoir C. Keesler, presently executive vice president.
In 1922 the association moved into its own building on East Third Street, and now is in process of erecting a modern banking and office building on the former Y. M. C. A. property, on South Tryon Street.
The Mechanics Perpetual Building & Loan Association, established in 1883 by S. Wittkowsky, president, and R. E. Cochrane, secretary as principal officers, is another successful financial institution. Its name was changed in 1943 to Home Federal Savings and Loan Association. Under this name, with the original plan of operation slightly modified, it continues to provide facilities whereby citizens of Charlotte may readily finance the acquisition of homes. Heading the Association since the turn of the century have been R. E. Cochrane, E. J. Caffrey and T. G. Barbour, Sr.
The First Federal Savings & Loan Association was formed in 1940, largely through the efforts of Joseph Choate and Roy S. Smith. It has earned for itself a place among the city's better known financial institutions.
In 1896 there was a Loan & Savings Bank with S. Wittkowsky, president and A. Brady, cashier.
In 1907 a Charlotte Trust Company was headed by Julian H. Little, president; C. M. Patton, vice president, and L. R. Hagood, cashier.
In 1912 there was a Savings Bank & Trust Company with W. M. Moore, president.
In 1916 Dr. Charles A. Bland, W. R. Foreman and W. W. Robards were officers in the Peoples Bank & Trust Company.
In 1921 there was a Progressive Bank & Trust Company with T. T. Cole, president, and Erskine R. Smith, vice president.
In 1923 there was a southern Industrial Bank. J. J. Misenheimer, president and treasurer and J. C. Hunter, cashier.
In 1923 there was a Turner Industrial Bank: M. A. Turner, president.