The Birth of Elizabeth’s Historic District
During the first four decades of the 20th century, residential expansion was on the rise in Charlotte, NC. As the city’s prosperity diversified and multiplied, so did its suburbs resulting in the area’s second street car suburb, Elizabeth. The historic district of Elizabeth opened in 1989 right after the development of Dilworth. The neighborhood consisted of 5 subdivisions until it was eventually joined as one. Read on for the history of Elizabeth, one of our treasured neighborhoods in Charlotte, NC.
Subdivisions of Elizabeth
The first subdivision of Elizabeth was Highland Park, which was developed by a group of local investors and realtors that made up the Highland Park Land Company which included Dilworth’s namesake and founder, Edward Dilworth Latta. Development was slow-going however due to the aftermath of the Panic of 1893 which left the entire nation in an economic depression until 1897. After its conclusion, Charlotte’s textile economy began to flourish, prompting real estate tycoon, Walter S. Alexander, to provide financing for Elizabeth’s construction. The first project was a women’s college operated by the Lutheran Church which was named Elizabeth College after a wealthy tobacco merchant named Gerald S. Watts donated a substantial amount of money to the institution. The name was in honor of his wife, Elizabeth Watts. The street leading to the school was named Elizabeth Avenue while the name also carried over to the neighboring subdivision of Elizabeth Heights, and then finally the neighborhood itself. Construction in Highland Park increased rapidly after the 1903 extension of the East Trade Street trolley line along Elizabeth Avenue, prompting the development of the remaining subdivisions.
Piedmont Park and Oakhurst
The subdivision of Piedmont Park and Oakhurst was developed by the Piedmont Realty Company and the Oakhurst Land Company. B.D. Heath, president of the Charlotte National Bank, was a principal stakeholder in both and led the development of Piedmont Park and the adjoining subdivision of Oakhurst. Running through both subdivisions was Central Avenue which was home to many substantial residences at the time.
Developed in 1904, Elizabeth Heights was adjacent to Piedmont Park and Oakhurst and opened up Hawthorne Lane, East Eighth Street, and much of East Seventh and East Fifth streets. The streetcar line ran along East Seventh Street, prompting continued growth in the area.
Independence Park housed the first public park in the area. The park contained 54 acres and extended eastward from Sugar Creek to cross Hawthorne Lane. The Highland Park Company constructed a curving driveway, now known as Park Drive, around the park and offered building lots for sale overlooking the green area. Architect, John Nolen, was brought in to provide an interior design for the park. Independence Park is largely considered Nolen’s first real breakthrough to civic work, and would lead him to great work within the development of Myers Park.
Platted in 1915, the subdivision of Rosemont was built on the Henry C. Dotger farm southwest of Seventh Street and extended from Caswell Road to Briar Creek. After Dotger sold his property to a development firm called the Rosemont Company, the area was developed and later sold to developer, E.C. Griffith, who took over the sale and promotion of Rosemont.
Homes in Elizabeth
The Elizabeth neighborhood was the location of several prestigious homes that belonged to community leaders and other wealthy bureaucrats, many of which later moved to the Myers Park area of Charlotte. While the Gothic Revival and the imposing Neo-Classical Revival styles were chosen for institutional buildings and some of the larger residences in Elizabeth, the Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Craftsman styles were the most popular styles for the homes in the area between 1910 and 1941. Multi-unit buildings and apartments also employed these architectural styles and are found on almost every street in Elizabeth. This represented a significant departure from other neighboring suburbs as they were made up of mostly single family homes.
Elizabeth has faced many challenges over the years that have altered its quiet, residential status. Two hospitals are now in the area and many of the homes have been demolished and replaced with office and apartment buildings. Despite these changes, most of the streets flanking or crossing the major thoroughfares remain residential in character and retain their historical properties, most notably Clement Avenue and Greenway Avenue. The five residential subdivisions have blended together to make the neighborhood of Elizabeth charming and one of Charlotte's most sought after neighborhoods.
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