Thursday, January 30, 2020

5 Fun Ways to Explore Local History

Amid all the growth, development and shiny newness of Charlotte, it’s easy to forget – or hard to fathom – the city’s rich history. But we have a deep, storied past that should be remembered and, in many cases, celebrated. Fortunately, there are a number of fun ways for Charlotte-lifers and newcomers alike to get to know more about the city we call home.

Here are five of our favorite active, educational outings:

Liberty Walk

In its formative years, Charlotte was at the crossroads of some of the most pivotal moments in the American Revolution. Though relics of those events are long gone, folks can revisit history by taking a stroll along Charlotte's Liberty Walk uptown.

A little more than a mile long, the Liberty Walk is similar to Boston's Freedom Trail, with educational markers and monuments that memorialize how Charlotte's citizens participated in and influenced that significant time in our nation's history.

Marked by Liberty Walk sidewalk pavers and memorials, there are 19 stops along the route, which starts near the corner of South Tryon St. and East Stonewall St.

Here’s how to enjoy the Liberty Walk.

Historic Latta Plantation

Historic Latta Plantation is a cotton plantation and living history farm located in Huntersville, NC. Visitors can take a guided or self-guided tour the home and 11 outbuildings representative of life in North Carolina from 1800 to 1865.

Historic Latta Plantation offers educational programs, workshops, camps, and re-enactments throughout the year. Check the website for hours, tour schedule, admission fees and a calendar of programs and events.

Historic Latta Plantation is located within the Latta Nature Preserve, which offers a Nature Center, tons of trails, nature programs, fishing and shelter rentals.

Consider taking a hike and visiting the Carolina Raptor Center after you check out Historic Latta Plantation.

Trail of History

The Trail of History is a 1.5-mile stretch of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway running along Kings Dr. from 7th St. to Morehead St that displays a collection of bronze statues of key figures in Charlotte's historic growth and development.

The Trail of History features prominent local influencers like Captain James Jack, brave courier of Mecklenburg's Declaration of Freedom; William Henry Belk, retail pioneer; Thad Tate, prominent African American businessman and civic leader; James B. Duke, business and philanthropic giant; and Jane Wilkes, who was instrumental in building Charlotte's first two hospitals.

Part outdoor museum, part scavenger hunt, the Trail of History offers a fantastic opportunity for exercise, exploration and education. The greenway is a perfect option for a walking, strollers and bike or scooter rides.

Here’s how to experience the Trail of History.

Charlotte Museum of History

The Charlotte Museum of History, located in east Charlotte off Shamrock Dr., preserves and showcases relics, artifacts and a deeper understanding our community’s past.

The flagship attraction of the museum is the Hezekiah Alexander Home Site. Built around 1774, this is the oldest surviving house in Mecklenburg County and the last existing home of a framer of North Carolina’s 1776 Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But there are lots of other exhibits that make this a destination worth visiting. Here, you’ll find galleries dedicated to things like “Unforgettable Music Venues of Charlotte” (an ode to venerable establishments like the Double Door Inn and Tremont Music Hall) and “Charlotte Neighborhoods” (which explores urban growth and development from settlement to the early twentieth century.

There are also some kid-friendly exhibits, including the Rock House Mysteries play room and the Backcountry Gallery with hands-on replicas of Colonial-era dwellings, furnishings, and a garden.

Here’s more of what you’ll find at The Charlotte Museum of History.

Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room

Located on the third floor of the main Charlotte Mecklenburg Library on 6th St. uptown, the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room is an impressive public repository of historical and current information on Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and North Carolina.

Here, you’ll find genealogical resources, a neighborhood history toolkit, a collection of historic images (including an archive of Charlotte Observer negatives), Charlotte Mecklenburg school yearbooks, manuscripts and family documents, a local music archive, historic maps and deeds, and government documents and statistics.

The Carolina Room serves as contributing resource for the website, which exhibits the Charlotte-Mecklenburg story.

CMStory regularly offers engaging history-rich programs, like "Women Changing Charlotte" and "Food From Home," led by Dr. Tom Hanchett, Historian-in-Residence at the Library, at various area Charlotte Mecklenburg library branches.

Check Carolina Room hours before you go (it’s currently open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Monday virtual hours only. Closed Sunday.)

Before you leave the library, check out the photos and exhibits lining the hall in front of the Carolina Room for some additional insight into Charlotte history.

It only takes a little digging to appreciate the historical vibrancy of Charlotte and the surrounding area. Lucky for us, there are lots of fun, interesting ways to get to know the area and better understand everything from its founding to today.

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