The May 20th Society, named after the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence which predated the US Declaration by a few weeks, has recently unveiled the Charlotte Liberty Walk (CLW) – an interactive walking tour of Charlotte’s Uptown Revolutionary War sites. Modeled on Boston’s Freedom Trail, the CLW links together fifteen sites that earned Charlotte British General Lord Cornwallis's description as a “hornets’ nest” of rebellion. Each site is linked by a round, granite marker engraved with a silhouette of The Spirit of Mecklenburg – artist Chas Fagan’s bronze equestrian statue on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. The May 20th Society partnered with artist Dan Nance and HandHeldHistory (HHH) to create an interactive video montage for each site. HHH’s application uses GPS tracking technology so that each site comes alive on a hand held electronic device, such as an i-phone or i-pad. Take a walk into history using modern technology. For more information, please visit the Charlotte Liberty Walk on Facebook.
If you get way outside of Charlotte, you will realize that North Carolina gets very rural and in may areas, very poor. 85 of the state's 100 counties are considered rural, and 80 of these have an average population density of 250 per square mile or less.
Since shortly after the white man first came to the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, the area has been a center of textile production. Unfortunately, in recent years, the production of virtually all textiles has been moved to third world nations and Carolina textiles are all but a thing of the past. Some time ago, leaders of several counties around Charlotte came up with the idea to honor the history of textiles and develop more ecological awareness in the area at the same time.
The resulting Carolina Thread Trail is a network of trails, greenways, blueways, and conservation corridors that will eventually reach 15 counties in North and South Carolina. It’s a project that connects communities and will be a conservation landmark for our region. The Thread Trail offers opportunities to bike, hike, fish, paddle, and simply reconnect with nature. The project is all about community. The Thread will be designed, built and owned by the counties, towns and citizens through which it is woven.
As of 29 May 2012, there are 93 miles of The Thread currently open to the public in North and South Carolina, with 14 active corridors under development, in the following counties: (in North Carolina unless otherwise indicated) Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cherokee (SC), Chester (SC), Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lancaster (SC), Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, Union, and York (SC). Unfortunately, those 93 miles are not continuous.
The most recent addition was the Ramsour's Mill Trail in Lincolnton which was dedicated on May 19. The .29 mile trail is part of The Thread and weaves along Clark's Creek. It includes a canoe/kayak access point that was built by Boy Scout Marvin Robbins as his Eagle Scout project. This "Marking The Thread" event was held in conjunction with the annual Battle of Ramsour's Mill Reenactment. The Clark's Creek Kayak Access was also dedicated at that time.
The Catawba Lands Conservancy (CLC) added 10 plots totaling 1,623 acres in 2011 closing the year with the acquisition of a 175 acre site to be known as the Long Creek Conservation area.
CLC closed on the property on Dec. 21, 2011, adding approximately 175 acres of conserved land to its already 1,250 conserved acres along the Catawba River.
This newly conserved property, called Long Creek Conservation Area, is located in southwestern Mecklenburg County along Long Creek (a tributary of the Catawba River) near the U.S. Whitewater Center.
This conservation area will yield significant public benefit, as it will forever protect the natural habitats for fish, wildlife and plants; provide watershed protection that improves surface water quality, including more than four miles (23,311 feet) of stream/river frontage and 153 acres of floodplains; and provide public recreation and open space, including important tree cover and a proposed greenway of approximately three miles for the Carolina Thread Trail. This key new leg of the Carolina Thread Trail will also make an important connection to the trails and amenities of the U.S. Whitewater Center.
Since 1927, Wing Haven has been a unique fixture in Charlotte having been developed as the private gardens and residence of the late Elizabeth and Edwin Clarkson. The gardens, hidden in plain sight in a well manicured residential neighborhood off Ridgewood Avenue, feature almost three acres of formal gardens, woodlands, special plantings for birds and countless plants native to our region. Given to the Wing Haven Foundation in 1970, the gardens and bird sanctuary along with the neighboring Elizabeth Lawrence Garden are open to the public. Their gardeners and lecturers know southern gardens and offer techniques and tips specific to our region.
One usually thinks of farmers markets as being wonderful sources of fresh, high quality just off the farm produce, dairy products, even crafts at very competitive prices, because you have eliminated the middlemen. Elizabeth Avenue Farmer’s Market is the creation of Chef Trey Wilson, owner of Customshop Restaurant located a few steps up Elizabeth Ave. If you have dined at Customshop, you know of his dedication to employ the finest of fresh products from local producers. His farmers market features many of the same quality producers offering ingredients you enjoy at Customshop. Chef Trey will enhance the market with some of his own creations which you can enjoy at home. Look for new and innovative seasonal products available in coming weeks. Chef Trey will be available to furnish you some tips for delicious dining from your own kitchen.
Customshop is grilling out every Saturday offering anything from Shrip Tacos to House Made Italian Sausage Hogies. Come get your weekly meats, fish, veggies and lunch!
The market is open Saturdays only from nine until one.
Currently available offerings include:
Wild Turkey Farms
Landis Gourmet Mushrooms
Chef Charles Catering
Dover Vineyards Organic Produce
Gluten-Free and Vegan Desserts
Do not expect low prices but the offerings are high quality.
Fried okra. Mint Juleps. Heat. Drawls. These might be what comes to mind when you think of the South -- but there's so much more to this amazing slice of the good-old US of A, and you can explore it at the Levine Museum of the New South. You'll experience an interactive history museum that offers the most comprehensive interpretation of post-Civil War Southern society which I have ever seen, featuring longtime residents and newcomers who have shaped the South from 1865 through today.
The Catawba river runs through the central Piedmont area of North Carolina, winding in lazy turns across the landscape until it heads into Lake Wylie and South Carolina. It is a peaceful river with a gentle current, and is perfect for a lazy day on the water to enjoy some kayaking.
You can put in at several areas along the banks of the river. If you are lacking a kayak of your own, then check out the US National Whitewater Center. For $25 a day, you can rent a kayak and spend as much time on the water as you want, or go out with a guide and participate in a guided tour along the river banks. In the warm summer months, it is a perfect way to go. We headed upriver, beached and then swam for a while, and headed back down in a lazy fashion.
Unlike their mythical cousins, the velociraptors, modern-day raptors are real birds of prey that strike like death from the sky. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of these fearsome creatures, from eagles to owls, some of which can be seen up close and personal at one of the center's several live programs and tours. On a clear day, fortunate guests can catch a clear view of the resident raptor, Emma , a white barn owl taken under the wing of the center following a series of broken bones. Too fragile to survive in the wild, Emma now pitches in around the center, raising wildlife awareness and taloning up rogue litter.
The Carolina Raptor Center supports environmental conservation and safeguards community health by treating injured and orphaned raptors. Raptors are leading scientific indicators of a healthy environment. The Carolina Raptor Center offers a pleasant afternoon or morning walk along its nature trail. Enjoy over twenty species of raptors - hawks, owls, eagles, falcons, and vultures. Learn how these birds have adapted special characteristics to occupy a particular environmental niche and how they serve as indicators of our community's health.
There is an admission fee, $6-8 for most of us.
James Knox Polk was born on a 400 acre farm worked by his family in Mecklenburg County, NC in 1795. The oldest of ten children, Polk suffered from poor health much of his life. His family moved to Tennessee when he was 11 but he returned to North Carolina to attend UNC before returning to Tennessee in 1823 to study law. He became a protege of fellow native North Carolinian, Andrew Jackson, served seven terms in Congress, including four years as Speaker of the House, one term as governor of Tennessee (but failed twice to be elected to a second term), and became the 11th President of the United States of America in 1844. He returned to Tennessee for the last time after leaving the presidency in 1849 and died at his home there three months later.
A Democrat, Polk would be regarded as a very conservative leader today. While still in Congress, he made the following statement regarding the role of government, "I would relieve the burdens of the whole community as far as possible, by reducing the taxes. I would keep as much money in the treasury as the safety of the Government required, and no more. I would keep no surplus revenue there to scramble for, either for internal improvements, or for any thing else. I would bring the Government back to what it was intended to be--a plain economical government."
The site of his birth was never developed but in recent decades a substantial portion of it has been restored very much as it might have looked in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
The Carolinas' Thanksgiving Day Parade, a tradition since 1947, is one of the largest get-togethers of Carolinians that takes place during the year. It boasts participation from both Carolinas and touches approximately half a million people from the 22-county metro area. In 2008, TravelMuse.com named the Carolinas’ Thanksgiving Day Parade as the fourth largest Thanksgiving Parade in the United States.
As a young Boy Scout, I marched in this parade a few times, as a senior in high school, I took a photograph which was used as the cover of the Carolinas' Carousel program book the following year, and while in college, my best friend, my brother, and I followed the Santa Claus float (traditionally the last thing in the parade) on my beautiful new blue Honda Dream 300 motorcycle. Yes, three people on a motorcycle. As you can see, this parade has long been a poignant part of my Thanksgiving celebrations.
The area known as the South End is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Charlotte. It was in decline for many years but is adjacent to several very prestigious neighborhoods and has now become one of the "must visit" areas in Charlotte. Property values have skyrocketed here.
In my youth Dilworth, which makes up most of the South End (although the terms are not completely interchangeable), was a mixture of industry (the bus barn and the original Lance cracker factory), professional offices (my pediatrician), rooming houses (our first home in Charlotte was in the very heart of what is now the South End), the original Charlotte "Hornets" stadium (They were a minor league baseball team.), and many deteriorating but still delightful older homes with lots of gingerbread, widow's walks, and other delightful 19th and early 20th Century architectural features. About 10 - 15 years ago someone must have realized that you could get a lot of space and beauty in a home near some of our more upscale neighborhoods at a relatively low cost. (You cannot do that anymore.)
If you do not live there, the primary reason for going to the South End today would be to eat. You can find just about any kind, price and quality of food there, ranging from Thai to Mexican, cheapest to most expensive, and the quality also varies almost as much, although the mediocre food tends to be a bit more expensive here than elsewhere in town.
Others would say the number is greater but I would say that at least one of the top restaurants in Charlotte (Sullivan's) are in the South End. McIntosh's, which I liked even more recently closed. I tend to get very demanding when the prices go up but I have never been disappointed at either of these fine steakhouses, except by the sparseness of decent parking. Both have valet parking available but I cannot help but feel that this is just an unnecessary addition to an already dear price for your dinner, or lunch. There is also a wide range of shopping opportunities in the South End, although the national chains seem to be very conveniently missing.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is an outdoor recreation facility set on the banks of the Catawba River, just west of Charlotte, which features all of the activities listed above and more. The center consists of 307 acres of woodlands and is home to the world's largest recirculating river, 14 miles of biking, hiking and running trails, two seperate Zip rides, a rather elaborate eco caching array, and one of the world's largest outdoor climbing facilities. This outdoor adventure recreation center operates on a buy one ticket, PLAY ALL DAY plan, or you can buy tickets for individual Zip rides, climbing sessions, or all day limited to only one sport. Admission prices range from $10 for an individual Mega Zip flight to $49 for an all day, all sport pass. All sport season passes go for $139.
Originally conceived as a training center for the US Olympic whitewater athletes for the 2008 Olympics, it has had financial and legal issues which have still not been resolved but are not problematic for facility users. It is one of the most remarkable man-made outdoor athletic facilities that I have ever seen.
Charlotte has a growing, and often very talented, arts community and seems to be striving to become the art shopping destination of the southeastern USA. There are dozens of galleries of varying degrees of sophistication, from one in the very ostentatious South Park Mall which recently hosted the deliciously lovely, and surprisingly petite, Jane Seymour to some which offer art that reminds me of the refrigerator art which some of my elementary students used to give me. Not yet an art Mecca, Charlotte's art galeries and artists come up with a lot of ideas to get the broader community more involved in the art scene. Among my favorites are the 1st Friday Gallery Crawls. Originally, they were conducted under one umbrella organization, and may still be, but it really seems as if there are three of them.
--The most centralized one has North Tryon Street as its axis and a good starting point might be just north of the intersection of Tryon and 7th Streets.
--The most unusual one is probably the in NoDa. It fairly well reflects the eclectic mixture of Yuppies, Gen-Xers, and others who predominate in this community. A good starting point in that area would be North Davidson Street at 36th.
--The other one is in the South End and this area is focusing on local and regional emerging artists this summer. Start at the Charlotte Trolley Powerhouse Museum at 1507 Camden Road.
The Gallery Crawls usually start about 5 PM and continue until about 7:30. Most galleries offer cheese and crackers, other finger foods, and beverages.
Much as SoHo means South of Houston, NoDa means North Davidson. Since the previous year's trip to Asheville, where I was surprised by the Bohemian nature of the downtown, I was oddly drawn to such places. Don't worry, folks, this will not change me and make me a part of that lot. There are coffee houses, art galleries, and bars.
For those of y'all from Roxboro, Smelly Cat (the coffee house on the top half of the photo- please enlarge) refers to a song often sung at a similar coffee house on the internationally-known American programme Friends.
My good friend Mark, who is closer to my philosophy than that of the NoDa crowd, has read poetry at the Evening Muse (the purple-coloured cafe on the bottom half of the frame) for a university assignment. The truth is, I could hang with the poetry crowd with something like this:
There once was a man in Monroe
Built a weather-conditioned chateau
By his technical blunders
The dining room thunders
And the bathrooms incessantly snow
The only thing about NoDa is that it covers such a small area, basically on North Davidson Street between the 34th and 36th cross streets. With vacant warehouses all the way through to the Uptown line, there is the potential to expand this funky and Bohemian area much the way it was done in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom and in the Fan.
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