Hometown Project: Charlotte
There’s something about each of the towns and cities I’ve lived in that evokes a familiarity to me every time I return. It is a feeling of knowing or maybe remembrance which makes a certain pride well up in me for that place. To say I know the place, the people there and we shared common spaces, memories, and history, this gives me that feeling of belonging to place. Even though I’ve left those places to live elsewhere, when I return I find that a piece of me is still there.
This is what inspired a new personal project for myself: the Hometown Project. Those places I’ve lived or been to enough that when I return I feel like I am back with people and places and things I have known before. Even though I may not have lived in these places, they still retain a piece of me in them.
I plan on illustrating the place name of course (hand lettered) and include iconic places, sites, teams, and history. Those things that resonated with me while there. I am shying away from people for a couple of reasons but of course there is always an air to a city’s people and of course the iconic people cities love to claim as their own.
For my first illustration, I chose Charlotte. One easy to begin on because I had an abundance of inspiration to draw from. I lived in Charlotte for 5 years and it is where my kids were born. We owned a house in the Mountain Island area, 2 minutes from the Whitewater Center and could easily reach uptown Charlotte in less than 7 minutes so we spent a lot of time there too. I still have siblings in Charlotte and we love traveling into the city for shows, games, and festivals. So here’s a taste of my first illustration for the Hometown Project! (Read further for a description of each element).
I mentioned above that we lived 2 minutes from the Whitewater Center which meant we were there a lot, especially since we love outdoor activities. We moved to that house when it was a fledgling outpost and had just opened a restaurant. The biking trails, hiking trails, rock climbing wall, and whitewater were the only other offerings at the time but in the 5 years we lived there, it grew and expanded to include a lot more.
Fish Fountain – on The Green
This may be one of those more personal things but when my daughters were toddlers we made our way downtown at least twice a week during the day to hit Imaginon, see the ‘quiet choo-choo’ and have a picnic on The Green where they would play in the moving fountain of the spitting fish statues. It’s something they still remember and probably is one of the most fun fountain statues around. 3 fish spit water at different intervals while water also spurts up from the ground in random patterns.
The Hornet’s Nest
I decided to actually illustrate a hornet’s nest rather than the Hornet’s basketball team because being a former history teacher I love the history behind it. Both have a place in my heart since as a kid I remember watching Mugsy Bogues play for the Hornets in Charlotte, and now we enjoy their return. But if you know the basketball team, you should know the history. Legend says General Cornwallis called the Carolinas a hornet’s nest because of all the skirmishes he encountered while fighting his way through. He needed to get out of the hornet’s nest quickly.
CLT-Douglas Airport Overlook
Have you ever been here? It’s a little known site but way cool for kids. You can sit in your car or sit outside and watch the planes land or take off right in front of you.
First Gold Rush
A property in Charlotte (when there were only a few houses) was the site of the first documented gold found in the US, making NC the number one gold mining state until 1849. There are still underground mining tunnels underneath Uptown.
The Queen City
I had to include the crown that represents the city, named after Queen Charlotte.
I wanted to include the three major universities in Charlotte because I drove past JCSU often admired Biddle Hall on the edge of Uptown, and as a historically black university, JCSU brings a lot of rich history to Charlotte. I received my master’s degree from UNCC – and watched it grow up in the time I attended there. Finally, universities make up so much of a city’s personality and these 3 definitely add to Charlotte’s in 3 very different ways. (In case you don’t know them: 1) UNCC – 49ers 2) JCSU – Golden Bulls 3) Queens University – Rex the Lion
Fresh My Farm Vegetables
The sign is iconic – at least if you’ve driven by and saw it – one I can remember reading as a kid. Gus’ Sir Beef was opened in 1968 with vegetables the owner, Gus Bacogeorge, grew from his own farm.
I had to include the fact that if you are in the vicinity of Charlotte, you are on land that once belonged to the Catawba Nation. Actually the lands extended through the Piedmont of both Carolinas. The Catawba Nation owns a few hundred acres of tribal lands south of Charlotte today.
Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
Almost as prominent and no less a landmark Supreme Court decision than Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, KS, therefore this poignant part of Charlotte’s history is important as the Supreme Court ruled that the school system was doing nothing to desegregate the schools 13 years after Brown v Board and would have to begin busing students to integrate schools. Afterwards many other cities would begin the same. Julius Chambers argued the case for the families suing the board of education.
Knights and Panthers
How can I not include 2 sports teams beloved by Charlotteans? The panthers NFL team sure can be a point of contention but if you grew up in the Carolinas with parents who also did, then you might remember the days when the closest team to cheer for was the Washington Redskins. And the Charlotte Knights might be a minor league team but they are beloved by fans as if they were a major league team and since BB&T stadium was built, bringing the team into Uptown, the fan base has only grown.
Trade and Tryon
The intersection in Uptown that is central in location and history. It is marked now by 4 statues on each corner representing the mission and history of Charlotte.
Some people assume Charlotte to be smug in naming it’s downtown uptown, but instead the nickname has a more bland explanation. Literally Tryon and Trade Streets sit at the top of a hill (reportedly the highest point in the city), where the center of Charlotte as a trading post and later town was. Therefore, people traveled up to get to town.
Captain James Jack
The Mecklenburg Resolves (May 20, 1775) is said to be the first declaration of independence from Britain. It absolved the laws issued by Britain, making NC the first colony to do so. Captain James Jack delivered the resolves to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and a statue of him, entitled The Spirit of Mecklenburg by Chas Fagan, sits prominently on King’s Dr.