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How Charlotte's Neighborhoods Got Their Names

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Wonder how Myers Park or NoDa became Myers Park and NoDa? To track down these answers, we enlisted the help of Thomas Hanchett, local Charlotte, North Carolina historian and author of the book Sorting Out the New South City. 

Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive. Some neighborhoods didn’t make the list because their etymologies were obvious (we’re looking at you South End and University City), and some were omitted because there’s no reliable information (why does no one know where Chantilly originated?). But we’ve dug up some fun historical facts that explain where your neighborhood got its name—and possibly its personality.

1. Arboretum 

Charlotte’s Arboretum neighborhood surrounds the eponymous shopping center (location of the city’s first Wal-Mart), which opened in 1989. The center and the neighborhood were named for the large quantity of trees that were in the area prior to its development. 

2. Ballantyne

Just outside the I-485 loop, this neighborhood is one of the city’s newer additions. It was originally farmland and a large family hunting preserve until Charlottean Smoky Bissell purchased the land (around 2,000 acres) for development in 1995 and named it after his aunt, Barbara Ballantyne. 

3. Biddleville 

© James Willamor

This community is home to the historically black college, Johnson C. Smith University, which was formerly Biddle University. The school—and ultimately the neighborhood—were named for Major Henry J. Biddle, an officer in the Union Army who died during the Civil War. His wife, Mary Biddle, donated funding in his honor to help found the college. 

4. Blakeney 

This South Charlotte neighborhood and shopping complex takes its name from James A. Blakeney. After his father, a South Carolina native, was killed during the Civil War, his mother resettled with her children in the Blakeney area in 1883. The family accumulated considerable holdings in the area, and the James A. Blakeney House, constructed in 1901, is still in the neighborhood—and currently for sale for $1.5 million. 

5. Cherry

© James Willamor

Historically, this small neighborhood has also been called Cherryton or Cherrytown. “It may have been an old plantation slave quarters,” says historian Thomas Hanchett. “Its name is said to have come from the cherry trees that once grew on its hillsides.”    

6. Cotswold 

© James Willamor

This neighborhood derived its name from the Cotswold Village Shops located at the intersection of Randolph and Sharon Amity Roads. The shops, which were once Cotswold Mall, were named for the charming Cotswolds area in England.

7. Dilworth

© James Willamor

Edward Dilworth Latta, a traveling salesman from New York, moved to Charlotte in 1876. In 1890 he joined with Charlotte’s mayor and four other investors to develop the city’s first street car suburb. Latta also created Dilworth’s Latta Park, which was originally an amusement park designed to draw city dwellers to see the neighborhood before it was developed. “He was a very modest man,” says Hanchett. “From what I know, he never named anything Edward.”

8. Eastover 

Prior to 1927, the land on the east side of Providence Road was primarily two dairy farms. At that time, Charlotte’s E.C. Griffith Company began creating an upscale new suburb aptly named for its location to the east of much of the city’s previously developed suburbs. 

9. Elizabeth 

© James Willamor

When Charles B. King established a small Lutheran college for women in 1897, he named it after his mother-in-law, Anne Elizabeth Watts, because Watts’ husband, a tobacco businessman, had provided much of the funding for the school. The neighborhood takes its name from Elizabeth College, which stood on the present-day site of Presbyterian Hospital.

10. First, Second, Third, and Fourth Wards

© James Willamor

By the 1850s the village of Charlotte had grown large enough that it needed to be separated into four political wards. A quadrant was made with the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets at its center. Charlotte officially ended the ward voting system in 1945, but the names of the center city neighborhoods stuck. 

11. FreeMoreWest 

Want proof that Charlotte is still a young city? The name of this neighborhood, just outside of Uptown, has only been coined in the last several years. Named for Freedom Drive, Morehead Street, and the west side, its one of Charlotte’s fastest growing urban neighborhoods.

12. Grier Heights

Arthur S. Grier was an influential African American leader in Charlotte during the segregation era. He was the owner of Grier’s Grocery on Monroe Road, and he built his home—which still stands—across the street from the store in 1922. Several business ventures later, Grier developed the land behind his home into the area that became known first as Griertown and later as Grier Heights.

13. Myers Park 

© James Willamor

Charlotte resident Colonel William R. Myers is known for donating the land for the area’s first African American college, Biddle College (now Johnson C. Smith University) as well as Myers Street School, the city’s first public school for African Americans. His son, J.S. “Jack” Myers, came into his inheritance, which included 306 acres of then farmland, at the age of 26. Jack Myers accumulated more than 1000 acres, on which he created tree-lined roads and planted flowers, earning it the nickname “Myers Park.” 

14. NoDa

© James Willamor

The first question most people ask about this eclectic arts district is where it got its funny name. It’s short for “North Davidson,” the street that runs through its center. Architect Russell Pound originally coined the name in the early 1990s. 

15. Plaza Midwood

© James Willamor

While this east Charlotte area has plenty of historic roots, it wasn’t formally recognized as a neighborhood until 1973 when two residents decided to form a community organization. They coined the name by combining the area’s most notable residential street, The Plaza, with one of its larger subdivisions, Midwood.

16. SouthPark 

© James Willamor

Today, SouthPark is one of the city’s most sought-after and upscale neighborhoods. But it was only with the arrival of SouthPark Mall in 1970 that Charlotte residents began to flock to this spot, which was once former North Carolina Governor Cameron Morrison’s 3,000-acre farm. The mall, titled for its picturesque location south of town, was the neighborhood’s namesake.  

17. Starmount

Like much of the South Boulevard corridor of Charlotte, this neighborhood was established in the latter part of the 20th century. Now it’s one of South Charlotte’s largest neighborhoods, but the initial construction spread from Starbrook Drive, which lent its name to the development.

18. Steele Creek

Not surprisingly, this neighborhood is named after the small creek that runs through it. The origin of the creek’s name is a little less certain, but it’s believed that the Steele family were Scotch-Irish settlers who came to the area in the early 18th century. 

19. Washington Heights

This neighborhood, which opened as a streetcar suburb in 1913, was originally planned as a suburb for the city’s middle-income African American residents and named in honor of Booker T. Washington. 

20. Wilmore

© James Willamor

This area was originally home to the Wilson and Moore farms. Hence, when it was converted into another one of the city’s streetcar neighborhoods in the early 20th century, the names were combined for Wilmore.

See other cities in our Neighborhoods series.

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A Historic Ghost Town in California Is Up for Sale
Nolan Nitschke
Nolan Nitschke

For just shy of $1 million, a ghost town in California’s majestic Inyo Mountains could be yours. Cerro Gordo, a 19th-century mining town that served as the “silver thread” to Los Angeles, is now up for sale via Bishop Real Estate in Bishop, California.

Located in Owens Valley near the town of Lone Pine, the $925,000 property comes with over 300 acres of land, mineral rights, and no shortage of peace and quiet. There are 22 structures on site, including a historic hotel, bunkhouse, saloon, chapel, and museum—plus all of the artifacts that come with it. 

“The site has been extremely well protected from diggers, artifact looters, and Mother Nature herself,” reads the listing, posted on a website specially created for the property that's aptly named ghosttownforsale.com. “Restoration has been undertaken on most of the buildings, and the rest are in a state of protected arrested decay.”

The town of Cerro Gordo has been privately owned for decades, but the family who owns it “felt it was the right time to sell it,” real estate agent Jake Rasmuson tells Mental Floss. No conditions are attached to the purchase of the property, but Rasmuson says “one would hope that some of the history would be maintained and that it would still be open to the public.”

Walking tours of the property can be booked via Cerro Gordo’s website, and those will continue to be offered until the property is sold. The listing was just posted online a week ago, but Rasmuson said the property has already received “quite a bit of interest,” mostly from history lovers who have visited the site before.

Cerro Gordo, meaning “Fat Hill,” received its name from Mexican miners who combed through the area in search of silver before it became a commercial mine, according to the town's website. In 1865, a prospector named Pablo Flores started a mining operation at the nearby Buena Vista Peak. It didn’t take long for word to spread, and within two years prospectors were flocking to Cerro Gordo.

A businessman named Mortimer Belshaw is the man who really put the town on the map, though. In 1868, he brought the first batch of silver to Los Angeles and later built a toll road to supply the burgeoning industry. Within a year, the mine was the largest producer of silver and lead in California. 

“If you look at the history of Cerro Gordo, it was really instrumental in the expansion of Los Angeles,” Rasmuson says. One of structures on the Cerro Gordo property—the Belshaw bunkhouse—still carries on his legacy.

It wasn’t until the 1880s that the mine was finally abandoned after being hit by a fire and falling silver prices. (However, mining operations were revived in 1905 and continued for a couple of decades.) 

The town may be peaceful now, but it wasn’t always so. In the 1860s and ’70s, the town saw a murder per week, according to a Los Angeles Times article from 2006 about the restoration of the property. The property’s late owner, Michael Patterson, told the newspaper that the only sound for miles around “is the whistle of the wind blowing through all the bullet holes in every building up here."

For those who aren't afraid of ghosts, this little slice of Wild West paradise might just be the perfect place to live. Keep scrolling to see more photos and a video of the property.

The Cerro Gordo property
Nolan Nitschke

The Cerro Gordo property
Nolan Nitschke

A former church
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Inside the saloon
Nolan Nitschke
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How 8 Phoenix Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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Inhabited by native people for thousands of years and colonized by white settlers in the 1860s, Phoenix has developed a booming economy based around “the Five Cs”: cotton, citrus, cattle, climate, and copper. It's grown from a once-dusty desert town to the state capital, as well as the nation's fifth-largest city, with a population of 1.6 million and counting. Here’s the story of how eight of the city's neighborhoods ended up with their current names.

1. ALHAMBRA

Best known as the founder of Glendale, Arizona, William John Murphy was a pioneer, contractor, and the impresario of the Arizona Improvement Company, created in 1887 to sell land and water rights south of the Arizona Canal. Murphy also greatly contributed to the early development of Scottsdale and Phoenix, and he was responsible for splitting a large chunk of his land along the western border of Phoenix, next to Glendale, into smaller subdivisions [PDF]. He also came up with the subdivision's names; Alhambra stemmed from the 13th-century palace and fortress of the same name in Granada, Spain. Today, the neighborhood is known for large homes and its Murphy Bridle Path, named after its former landowner.

2. AHWATUKEE

The word Ahwatukee—an “urban village” in the East Valley region of Phoenix—has roots in the Crow language, but theories about its translation differ. Before it was a village, the name referred to a single estate built in 1920 that sat at the modern-day streets of Sequoia Trails and Appaloosa Drive. The original builder, William Ames, first named it Casa de Sueños ("house of dreams"), but he died three months after moving in. His widow, Virginia Ames, owned the house until her death in 1932, and it was eventually sold to a rich Midwesterner named Helen Brinton, who had an interest in the Crow tribe. Her attempt to translate “house of dreams” into Crow was Ahwatukee, but the tribe says there’s no such word in their language. The name caught on regardless, being used to refer to the house as well as the area that developed around it.

3. SUNNYSLOPE

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Southwest was a place where sick people would travel from all across the U.S. to recuperate from pulmonary illnesses—especially pulmonary tuberculosis. The hot, arid climate was thought to dry out one's lungs, while the year-round sunshine was believed to have healing properties in general. In the early 20th century, Sunnyslope—and Sunnyslope Mountain, marked by a 150-foot-tall white S near its peak—became known as an area where ill people could get well. California architect William Norton built a subdivision in the area in 1911, and it was his daughter who came up with the name Sunnyslope after admiring the sun glinting off the slope of the mountain.

4. F. Q. STORY HISTORIC DISTRICT

The F.Q. Story district is named after Francis Quarles Story, who purchased the land it’s on back in 1887. Formerly a wool merchant, Story moved to Los Angeles County for health reasons and became a citrus farmer before investing in land in Arizona’s Salt River Valley and promoting agricultural development there. He never lived in Phoenix, but he did have a hand in the development of its major thoroughfare, Grand Avenue, as well as its subsequent streetcar line. The F.Q. Story neighborhood was built as a “streetcar suburb,” with newspaper ads in 1920 calling the grand opening "one of the big real estate events of the season." (Unfortunately, a flood at nearby Cave Creek caused a temporary halt in construction the following year, but the area rebounded after a dam was constructed in 1923.)

5. WILLO

Willo started out as a planned community, an idyllic suburb on the outskirts of Phoenix, although today it lies near downtown. A man named J. P. Holcomb acquired the southern part of the neighborhood in 1878 and then the northern part in 1886, using the land mostly for farming for the next 20 years. In the early 1900s, several homes were built on long, narrow lots, and 41 more were added in the '20s, but the area was still isolated from the city and it was difficult to attract buyers. Developers decided it needed a snappy name, and came up with Willonot from the willow tree, but from combining the two nearest voting districts: Wilshire and Los Olivos.

6. LAVEEN

As early as 1884, Mexican and Mormon settlers were living in what’s now called Laveen Village, in the Southwestern part of Phoenix. The school district was called the Harovitz District, but the community itself had no name for more than 30 years, until Roger Laveen was appointed as its first postmaster in 1913 [PDF]. The post office was located in the back of Laveen’s brother's new general store, which became a cornerstone of the town. Roger only worked in the post office for about two years, although both brothers continued living in the area that now bears their name for decades more.

7. MEDLOCK PLACE

Medlock Place was named after prominent residential developer Floyd W. Medlock, who created the community in 1926 with the idea of giving it a rural aesthetic despite being only a few miles from downtown Phoenix. The precocious Medlock—he was only in his early 20s—planned palm tree-lined roads in the new community and sold pre-built houses, a ground-breaking move in 1920s Phoenix. (In an ad, Medlock called his community "the Subdivision Extraordinary.") For his subsequent South Medlock Place addition, he began selling vacant lots instead, with buyers permitted to hire their own builders.

8. ARCADIA

Located at the foot of Camelback Mountain and one of the wealthiest areas of Phoenix, Arcadia started out like a lot of the city’s neighborhoods: as citrus orchards. The first grove was planted in 1899, and by 1920, the foothills were covered in citrus trees—thanks in large part to the Arcadia Water Company, which set up a widespread irrigation system starting in 1919. Soon, farmers and developers began investing in the region and building homes. The neighborhood took its name from the water company, which in turn got its name from Greek mythology: Arcadia was where Pan, the goat god, originated—a region supposedly named for its king, Arcas, the hunter. The association with nature is still apt, since fruit trees abound in the neighborhood even today.

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