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South End/Dilworth – self-guided walk

Southend sign

Today “South End” is a booming growth hotspot. But explore on foot and you’ll discover its historic roots as part of “Dilworth,” the city’s first streetcar suburb.

Edward Dilworth Latta hired famous inventor Thomas Edison to build Charlotte’s streetcar system. In 1891 Latta began selling lots in Dilworth — both for homes and also for factories, many affiliated with textile engineer D.A. Tompkins.

In the 1990s the old industrial structures along Dilworth’s South Boulevard corridor began taking on new life as “South End.”
 

What’s to see? 14 officially-designated landmarks — century-old houses and textile-related factories rehabbed for fresh uses; Billy Graham’s boyhood church; the plant where Lance baked its famous neon-orange crackers. Mid-tour you’ll explore a couple blocks of the Dilworth Historic District. At the end, follow the “rail trail” along the LYNX light rail line.

If you like, pause for a drink or snack at any one of nearly 100 spots ranging from old-school Price’s Chicken Coop to new Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Where to start?  Arriving by LYNX, disembark at the East-West Station. Coming by car, find street parking in the 1700-1900 blocks of Camden Road. Please help our shopkeepers — don’t park in a business’s lot unless you are buying something there.

How long? Just under 3 miles. If you are a brisk walker, that’s maybe 90 minutes. If you stroll, amble or dawdle (all are much encouraged), it’ll take longer.

Begin by walking outbound on Camden Road. (LYNX tracks will be on your left).

Live-work row – 1800 Camden Road, units 100 – 109

This two-story brick row looks older, but it dates from 1999. After chasing suburban dreams, Americans were beginning to rediscover the joys of urban living. Developer Tony Pressley took a chance on constructing these small retail units with living space upstairs. A success!
This two-story brick row looks older, but it dates from 1999. After chasing suburban dreams, Americans were beginning to rediscover the joys of urban living. Developer Tony Pressley took a chance on constructing these small retail units with living space upstairs. A success!

Lowes Tower – 1850 Camden Road

Tony Pressley and early believers in South End must be amazed to see the 23-story Lowes tower, completed in 2021. Building materials retailer Lowes began as a hardware store in North Wilkesboro, NC, then went national with a suburban headquarters outside Mooresville at Charlotte’s northern rim. Today its creative teams want urban surroundings: fast-changing South End.
Tony Pressley and early believers in South End must be amazed to see the 23-story Lowes tower, completed in 2021. Building materials retailer Lowes began as a hardware store in North Wilkesboro, NC, then went national with a suburban headquarters outside Mooresville at Charlotte’s northern rim. Today its creative teams want urban surroundings: fast-changing South End.

Nebel Knitting -- 101 W. Worthington Avenue at Camden Road

Most early Southern textile mills spun cotton into thread and/or wove thread into cloth. So it was a big deal when Nebel started knitting hosiery. The 1929 complex is now the nucleus of a Tony Pressley vision called The Design Center, whose tenants include architects, interior designers, graphics folks and more.
Most early Southern textile mills spun cotton into thread and/or wove thread into cloth. So it was a big deal when Nebel started knitting hosiery. The 1929 complex is now the nucleus of a Tony Pressley vision called The Design Center, whose tenants include architects, interior designers, graphics folks and more.

Question: If the Animaniacs ever left the cartoon world for CLT, would they live in the Nebel water tower?   

Nebel Knitting

Nebel Knitting is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – 1920 Camden Road

Chain-stores want to be in South End – so many apartments, so many office workers with money to spend. Ohio-based Jeni’s, known for quirky ice cream flavors, picked this spot for their very first North Carolina shop in 2018.
Chain-stores want to be in South End – so many apartments, so many office workers with money to spend. Ohio-based Jeni’s, known for quirky ice cream flavors, picked this spot for their very first North Carolina shop in 2018.

Left on Tremont, crossing the LYNX rails. Just past the tracks, turn right on the sidewalk along the LYNX line.

Parks-Cramer factory — 2000 South Boulevard

Parks-Cramer factory

Can you imagine today’s South without air conditioning? Engineer Stuart Cramer invented gizmos to pump mist into the air of textile mills – which controlled both humidity and temperature. His April 18, 1906 patent for “air conditioning” was the first time that term was ever used at the US Patent Office. The aim wasn’t workers’ comfort, by the way. Cotton is easier to process in a warm, humid environment.      

Parks-Cramer is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

air conditioner

Continue along the sidewalk, keeping close to the LYNX track. A parking lot will appear on your left, then a new white-colored apartment tower with Indaco Italian Restaurant.

At Indaco, you can do a short out-and-back jaunt to see the Atherton Cotton Mill – source of most of the early development in what is now Southend.
At Indaco, you can do a short out-and-back jaunt to see the Atherton Cotton Mill – source of most of the early development in what is now Southend.

The Atherton Mill is a red brick building with a tall, square brick smokestack. See it, down the sidewalk that runs next to Indaco? OK, now walk down that sidewalk, then bear right along the LYNX track. Once you’ve admired the old mill, walk back the way you came, to Indaco.

Atherton Mill -- 2108 South Boulevard

Atherton Mill -- 2108 South Boulevard

D.A. Tompkins, engineer by training and promoter at heart, built dozens of Carolina cotton mills, including the 1891 Atherton out beyond what was then the edge of Charlotte. Tompkins launched the daily Charlotte Observer and published books to ballyhoo his vision of an urban, industrial “New South.”

Columbia, South Carolina, developer EDENS recently completed the big apartment and retail structures adjacent to the historic factory. Atherton Mill is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

From D. A. Tompkins, History of Mecklenburg County, vol 1 (1903)
From D. A. Tompkins, History of Mecklenburg County, vol 1 (1903)

At Indaco, walk along the new upscale shops (Lulumon, etc.) to South Boulevard. Turn left on South Boulevard (inbound). (Parks-Cramer is now on your left)

At Tremont Avenue, use the traffic signal to cross busy South Boulevard. That will put you on South Boulevard’s right sidewalk, continuing in-bound.

Trolley’s End sign – 1933 South Boulevard

Dr. Dan Morrill of Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission got Charlotteans to love the city’s streetcar suburbs again. Landmark designation helped save dozens of 1900s-era buildings. And Dr. Dan located and restored the last streetcar ever to run in the city. Car 85 began operating again in 1996 on what became the LYNX track. Inspired, developer John Trotter built what is now the Tyber Creek Pub complex, naming it Trolley’s End.
Dr. Dan Morrill of Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission got Charlotteans to love the city’s streetcar suburbs again. Landmark designation helped save dozens of 1900s-era buildings. And Dr. Dan located and restored the last streetcar ever to run in the city. Car 85 began operating again in 1996 on what became the LYNX track. Inspired, developer John Trotter built what is now the Tyber Creek Pub complex, naming it Trolley’s End.

Leeper & Wyatt Store Building – 1923 South Boulevard

D.A. Tompkins constructed this grocery for his Atherton Mill village in 1903, renting it to storekeepers Hugh Leeper and Pleasant Wyatt. The Wyatt family operated it into the late 1950s, when new suburban supermarkets ended the era of neighborhood shopping.
D.A. Tompkins constructed this grocery for his Atherton Mill village in 1903, renting it to storekeepers Hugh Leeper and Pleasant Wyatt. The Wyatt family operated it into the late 1950s, when new suburban supermarkets ended the era of neighborhood shopping.

Leeper & Wyatt is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Tompkins Toolworks -- 1900 South Boulevard

Look across the street to see another D.A. Tompkins building. He had this foundry and machine works built beginning in 1902 to produce and repair specialized machinery for textile mills and cottonseed oil processing plants.
Look across the street to see another D.A. Tompkins building. He had this foundry and machine works built beginning in 1902 to produce and repair specialized machinery for textile mills and cottonseed oil processing plants.

Renovated for offices in 2000, Tompkins Toolworks is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

H & H Automotive – 1909 South Boulevard

H & H Automotive

Whimsical car-parts sculptures are the signature of this establishment, little changed since the 1950s. Tony Honey started the garage in 1940, then moved to this spot with Peter Harakas in 1955.  

Billy Graham’s boyhood church – 1800 South Boulevard

Now Grace Covenant, this building was dedicated in 1910 as Chalmers Memorial, a church in the Associated Reform Presbyterian denomination. Its most famous member was young Billy Graham, whose family farmed near what is now Park Road Shopping Center.
Now Grace Covenant, this building was dedicated in 1910 as Chalmers Memorial, a church in the Associated Reform Presbyterian denomination. Its most famous member was young Billy Graham, whose family farmed near what is now Park Road Shopping Center.
Five-year-old Billy Graham

Five-year-old Billy Graham, second from left, graduates from the beginners department at Chalmers Memorial in 1924.  Courtesy of BillyGraham.org.

Turn right on East Boulevard and take the right-hand sidewalk.

Dilworth Historic District

Dilworth Historic District

Once you reach the Brem House, below, you’ll be in Charlotte’s official Dilworth Historic District until you come back to South Boulevard.

It’s a big district; there’s another self-guided walk exploring its Dilworth Road/Latta Park area.

Walter Brem house -- 211 East Boulevard

Look across East Boulevard to see the big white Colonial Revival residence built for Walter Brem, one of the city’s leading real estate men. When this went up in 1902, Colonial Revival architecture was cutting-edge. So was living way out here in suburbia. Note that Brem had no qualms about living near South Boulevard’s industries. The fashion of separating residential areas off to themselves would not hit Charlotte til later in the 20th century.
Look across East Boulevard to see the big white Colonial Revival residence built for Walter Brem, one of the city’s leading real estate men. When this went up in 1902, Colonial Revival architecture was cutting-edge. So was living way out here in suburbia. Note that Brem had no qualms about living near South Boulevard’s industries. The fashion of separating residential areas off to themselves would not hit Charlotte til later in the 20th century.

The Walter Brem House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Sunflour Bakery – 220 East Boulevard

Paper Skyscraper – 330 East Boulevard

Ready for a break from all this history? Consider a stop at neighborhood favorites Sunflour Bakery or the Paper Skyscraper gift shop.

Crutchfield-Bomar-Brem House -- 307 East Boulevard

Built in 1903, this exuberant residence boasts a corner tower and asymmetrical massing characteristic of Queen Anne Victorian design. Its initial owner was a railroad agent, followed by Reverend Edward Bomar who led fledgling Pritchard Memorial Baptist a few blocks up South Boulevard. The Brem family moved here after tiring of their Colonial manse at 211 East Boulevard.
Built in 1903, this exuberant residence boasts a corner tower and asymmetrical massing characteristic of Queen Anne Victorian design. Its initial owner was a railroad agent, followed by Reverend Edward Bomar who led fledgling Pritchard Memorial Baptist a few blocks up South Boulevard. The Brem family moved here after tiring of their Colonial manse at 211 East Boulevard.

The Crutchfield-Bomar-Brem House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Carson McCullers’ boarding house / Copper -- 311 East Boulevard

Walter Brem built this for his daughter and son-in-law Mina and R.A. Mayer about 1908. By the mid 1930s, as Dilworth slid out of fashion, it became a rooming house. 20-year-old Carson McCullers and her husband lived here for several months (they also rented briefly on Central Av) while he tried to find a textile executive job. By the time they gave up and left Charlotte in March of 1938, she’d completed the outline of a novel about loneliness in a Southern town: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, now considered an American classic.
Walter Brem built this for his daughter and son-in-law Mina and R.A. Mayer about 1908. By the mid 1930s, as Dilworth slid out of fashion, it became a rooming house. 20-year-old Carson McCullers and her husband lived here for several months (they also rented briefly on Central Av) while he tried to find a textile executive job. By the time they gave up and left Charlotte in March of 1938, she’d completed the outline of a novel about loneliness in a Southern town: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, now considered an American classic.

The Mayer House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Turn left on Euclid Avenue

Mallonee-Jones House, 400 E Kingston Avenue

This eye-catching house, one of the few well-preserved Victorians left in Charlotte, was built in 1894 by carpenter J.N. Mallonee who had just come from Charleston to Charlotte to launch a contracting business. Think of it as a giant business card. After a couple of years living way out here in the ‘burbs, Mallonee sold it to grocer C.W. Jones and moved into town.
This eye-catching house, one of the few well-preserved Victorians left in Charlotte, was built in 1894 by carpenter J.N. Mallonee who had just come from Charleston to Charlotte to launch a contracting business. Think of it as a giant business card. After a couple of years living way out here in the ‘burbs, Mallonee sold it to grocer C.W. Jones and moved into town.

Local attorney Mercer J. Blankenship – the kind of quirky guy who would walk the entire Appalachian Trail after retiring from his law career – worked with Dr. Dan Morrill to get the house designated an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark in 1980, one of the first in Dilworth.

Harrill-Porter House -- 329 E. Kingston Avenue

Another 1894 house, built soon after Dilworth began in 1891. J.A. Harrill commuted downtown daily on the streetcar to work as a clerk at A.H. Porter men’s clothing and shoes. Like neighbor J.N. Mallonee, he tired of the commute by 1897 and moved into Fourth Ward. Shopkeeper Porter’s son bought the house and evidently loved it; the Porter family lived here into the 1950s. Dig that porch – an outdoor living room!
Another 1894 house, built soon after Dilworth began in 1891. J.A. Harrill commuted downtown daily on the streetcar to work as a clerk at A.H. Porter men’s clothing and shoes. Like neighbor J.N. Mallonee, he tired of the commute by 1897 and moved into Fourth Ward. Shopkeeper Porter’s son bought the house and evidently loved it; the Porter family lived here into the 1950s. Dig that porch – an outdoor living room!

The Harrill-Porter House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Turn left on Park Avenue and walk two blocks to South Boulevard.

Robert J. Walker House -- 329 E. Park Avenue

One of architect C.C. Hook’s most delightful designs, a wood-shingled mix of Colonial and Queen Anne Victorian elements. It was completed in 1901 for Hattie Walker and her husband Robert, who sold textile dyes across the South.
One of architect C.C. Hook’s most delightful designs, a wood-shingled mix of Colonial and Queen Anne Victorian elements. It was completed in 1901 for Hattie Walker and her husband Robert, who sold textile dyes across the South.

The Walker House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Gautier-Gilchrist House -- 320 E. Park Avenue

C.C. Hook got to go full-Colonial on this gracious 1897 mansion for Mrs. A.R. Gautier, a widowed socialite who moved down from New York City to be near her Charlotte-based son. She sold to Peter Spence Gilchrist, a chemical engineer who was growing wealthy with companies that produced phosphate fertilizer for farmers and sulfuric acid for textile dyes. Like many Dilworth dwellings, this became a rooming house, unloved and close to demolition. Young carpenter/musician John Bloom and wife Pam bought it in the late 1970s and began a restoration – a turning point in Dilworth’s rebirth.
C.C. Hook got to go full-Colonial on this gracious 1897 mansion for Mrs. A.R. Gautier, a widowed socialite who moved down from New York City to be near her Charlotte-based son. She sold to Peter Spence Gilchrist, a chemical engineer who was growing wealthy with companies that produced phosphate fertilizer for farmers and sulfuric acid for textile dyes. Like many Dilworth dwellings, this became a rooming house, unloved and close to demolition. Young carpenter/musician John Bloom and wife Pam bought it in the late 1970s and began a restoration – a turning point in Dilworth’s rebirth.

The Gautier-Gilchrist House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Villalonga-Alexander House -- 301 E. Park Avenue

You guessed it – another Colonial design by CC Hook. Love that covered portico at left for your horse and carriage. J.L. Villalonga, a building materials dealer, had it constructed for his family in 1901. R.O. Alexander, the next owner, was a cotton broker – an essential part of the economy that linked cotton farmers with textile mills.
You guessed it – another Colonial design by CC Hook. Love that covered portico at left for your horse and carriage. J.L. Villalonga, a building materials dealer, had it constructed for his family in 1901. R.O. Alexander, the next owner, was a cotton broker – an essential part of the economy that linked cotton farmers with textile mills.

The Villalonga-Alexander House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Jones-Garibaldi House -- 228 E Park Avenue

Yet another Colonial by Hook? Definitely Colonial, but we’re not 100% sure about the architect. Initial owner C.F. Jones, 1894, ran Piedmont Fire Insurance, whose biggest clients were textile mills; cotton is a worrisome fire risk. The Garibaldi family lived here subsequently. Their Garibaldi & Bruns Jewelry Store continues today as Elizabeth Bruns Jewelers in the SouthPark area.
Yet another Colonial by Hook? Definitely Colonial, but we’re not 100% sure about the architect. Initial owner C.F. Jones, 1894, ran Piedmont Fire Insurance, whose biggest clients were textile mills; cotton is a worrisome fire risk. The Garibaldi family lived here subsequently. Their Garibaldi & Bruns Jewelry Store continues today as Elizabeth Bruns Jewelers in the SouthPark area.

The Jones – Garibaldi House is an official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark.

Cross South Boulevard at the traffic light, then turn right on South Boulevard (you’ll be on South Boulevard’s left sidewalk, walking inbound).

Dilworth Drug Store – 1500 South Boulevard

Dilworth Drug Store – 1500 South Boulevard

This building, much modified, dates back to 1904 when developer Edward Dilworth Latta had it constructed as drug store, post office and meeting hall serving his new suburb.

By the way, the cross street here, Rensselaer Avenue, likely refers to famed engineering school Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, where mill man D.A. Tompkins got his education.

Continue walking inbound on South Boulevard.

Trolley Barn and Streetcar Strike – 1400 South Boulevard

Trolley Barn and Streetcar Strike – 1400 South Boulevard

Where The Union Pub is today on South Boulevard at Bland Street once stood the Trolley Barn for Charlotte’s streetcar system. In 1919, the motormen who drove the streetcars went on strike for better pay and union recognition. It did not go well. Five men were killed and fifteen wounded by police, Charlotte’s most violent labor disturbance.

Continue walking inbound on South Boulevard.

Lance plant – 1300 South Boulevard

Lance plant – 1300 South Boulevard

Philip Lance, a coffee bean broker who got stuck with a load of peanuts, discovered a profit in roasting and selling them from a cart at local movie theaters. His daughter Mary Arnold Lance Van Every came up with the notion of putting peanut-butter on crackers, a snack that millworkers could carry in their pockets during long 10-hour shifts. Lance built the left-hand part of this complex in 1926 then doubled it in 1941, before moving to a bigger site far down South Boulevard in 1962. Today Lincoln Haberdashery serves up sandwiches and snacks.

Turn left on Arlington Avenue.

Latta’s pants factory – 310 Arlington Avenue at the LYNX track

At the back of the Lance complex, see the plain-looking three-story building with brick arched windows? Young Charlotte newcomer Edward Dilworth Latta started out selling men’s clothing, then got into manufacturing. This was his Charlotte Trouser Company factory. He put its profits into streetcar development and real estate – launching the streetcar suburb of Dilworth in 1891.
At the back of the Lance complex, see the plain-looking three-story building with brick arched windows? Young Charlotte newcomer Edward Dilworth Latta started out selling men’s clothing, then got into manufacturing. This was his Charlotte Trouser Company factory. He put its profits into streetcar development and real estate – launching the streetcar suburb of Dilworth in 1891.

If you are able, climb up the stairs at the end of Arlington Avenue, then turn left on the “rail trail” along the LYNX track.

If stairs aren’t your thing, retrace your steps back to South Boulevard, turn right, then right again on Bland Street – which gets you to the LYNX line, where you’ll turn left.

You can follow the LYNX rail trail all the way back to our starting point. Tired? Buy a ticket, board the train and go one stop to the East-West Station.

Charlotte Exposition Building – 100 E. Park Avenue

As you cross Park Avenue, look off to your left for a long, tall building with Spanish-style stucco trim topping the front façade. Built in 1923, it hosted a series of annual Made in the Carolinas expositions. In 1938, A & P opened its first Charlotte self-serve supermarket in the building. Miller Services has been purveying office equipment here since the 1960s.
As you cross Park Avenue, look off to your left for a long, tall building with Spanish-style stucco trim topping the front façade. Built in 1923, it hosted a series of annual Made in the Carolinas expositions. In 1938, A & P opened its first Charlotte self-serve supermarket in the building. Miller Services has been purveying office equipment here since the 1960s.

At Park Avenue, you can stay on the rail trail, or bop to your right and get on Camden Road, which runs parallel to the LYNX. This stretch of Camden Road has many places to stop for snacks. We’ll spotlight two, below.

By the way, Camden Road was the main route south out of Charlotte going toward Camden, SC, until South Boulevard supplanted it in the 20th century.

Price’s Chicken Coop – 1614 Camden Road

Price’s Chicken Coop – 1614 Camden Road

Talmadge Price started selling live chickens back in 1962 when this was a work-a-day industrial district. Laborers pestered him to fry up a few birds for lunch. Today blue-collar and white-collar customers mingle in friendly, fast-moving lines. No seats, so take your bird in its cardboard box over to the grassy embankment across the street. That’s what Tonight Show star Jay Leno did on a recent visit.

Sabor Latin Street Grill – 1616 Camden Road

If Price’s is the old Charlotte, Sabor is the new Charlotte. Since the 1990s, CLT’s become a major destination for immigrants. Dalton Espaillat from Dominican Republic and wife Miriam from El Salvador bring together streetfood from all over Latin America. In barely 10 years Sabor has grown to 17 restaurants across the Carolinas.
If Price’s is the old Charlotte, Sabor is the new Charlotte. Since the 1990s, CLT’s become a major destination for immigrants. Dalton Espaillat from Dominican Republic and wife Miriam from El Salvador bring together streetfood from all over Latin America. In barely 10 years Sabor has grown to 17 restaurants across the Carolinas.

And … you’re back to where our tour began.

Want to learn more?

Dilworth book

Check out the South End merchants’ group and the Dilworth Community Association

Tom Bradbury’s book Dilworth: The First 100 Years is at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and is often for sale at Paper Skyscraper, 330 East Boulevard.

Most of Dilworth’s residential area is an official Charlotte Historic District and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Essays by two local historians trace development of the 1891 section of Dilworth (focus of this tour) and the 1911 Olmsted streets.

Ready to walk some more? Try our tour of the newer section of Dilworth. 

Edward Dilworth Latta plaque on McDowell Street
Edward Dilworth Latta plaque on McDowell Street