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A Walk on the Historic Side 

There's more to downtown than you think

A lot of you Queen City newcomers may not be aware of Charlotte's Downtown transformation. Over the past decade or so it has slowly but surely gone from a crime-ridden ghost town to a happening hot spot with lots of restaurants, bars and residential options. There is also a plethora of interesting and historic little nooks and crannies that that many folks - including long-time residents - may not know about. If you're interested in learning more about Charlotte's Downtown, then check out the Levine Museum of the New South's Spring Walking Tours. Led by staff historian Dr. Tom Hanchett, the tour will explore downtown Charlotte's 4th Ward neighborhood, and take an up-close look at the history behind today's Center City, including why, for example, Charlotte is also called the Queen City.

Hanchett says some of the highlights of the walking tour include several hidden parks and gardens, including a little-known area behind the Transamerica building at 7th and Tryon Streets, which has a park atop a parking deck, and condos with hanging gardens on the balconies. There's also a community garden at Edwin Towers on W. 10th St., a 13-story public housing complex, which has been decorated with whimsical birdhouse sculptures local artists have created out of old pottery. "It's become a real meeting place for everyone from low-income and well-to-do people from the community," says Hanchett. "Everyone just gets together and visits and gardens."

Another highlight to the tour is Settler's Cemetery at Fifth & Church Streets. "Lots of people have driven by it, but they probably don't realize they can see gravestones dating back to the very first years of the United States, including some of the first settlers of Charlotte," Hanchett says.

In addition to exploring Fourth Ward, a second walking tour will take folks though some of downtown Charlotte's newest buildings and spaces, and discover some little-known historical facts. "You'll even get to meet Queen Charlotte, and find out who the heck she was," Hanchett says.

Walking Tour Schedule:4th Ward Hidden Parks and Gardens — Tour historic 4th Ward and discover parks and gardens throughout the neighborhood.

Thursday, May 5, 5:30pm

Thursday, May 19, 5:30pm

Amazing Uptown — Hear the stories and history behind Charlotte's amazing uptown.

Thursday, May 12, 5:30pm

4th Ward Victorian — Learn about the beautifully preserved Victorian homes and this historic area of Charlotte.

Thursday, May 26, 5:30pm

Cost is $8 adults, $7 seniors 62+ and students, Museum members and groups of 10 or more $5 per person. Bottled water will be provided.

Each walking tour will start at the Museum and lasts approximately 1 hour. Reservations are suggested as space is limited. Call 704-333-1887 ext. 224.

What the Heck's a Ward?

Charlotte's downtown is divided into four wards by Trade and Tryon streets, an intersection known as The Square. The wards were originally drawn as political boundaries in the 1850s, but survive today as the names of Charlotte's four downtown neighborhoods.

First Ward

First Ward is located to the northeast of The Square, and was part of a 1995 urban renewal project where federal funds were used to replace a decrepit public housing project with a mix of single family homes, attached housing, condos, apartments and subsidized housing.

Second Ward

Second Ward is located southeast of The Square, and was once a predominantly African-American neighborhood called Brooklyn, but is now home the Convention Center and The Ratcliffe on the Green.

Third Ward

Third Ward is in downtown's southwest quadrant, and is marked by Johnson C. Smith University, Johnson & Wales University, Gateway Village, and Wesley Heights, one of city's first black historic neighborhoods.

Fourth Ward

Fourth Ward is in the northwest quadrant, and was the first area to be gentrified after the suburban flight of the 1950s. It also became the city's first Historic District in 1976. Today the area is one of the most charming spots in the city, noted for its beautiful churches, elegant Victorian houses, hospitable lanes and street lamps. A new wave of mixed-use development has also sprung up in Fourth Ward, including Fifth and Poplar, a 305-unit mix of penthouses, rental units, and town homes.

Levine Museum of the New South houses the nation's most comprehensive interpretation of post-Civil War southern history in interactive, multi-sensory exhibits that engage visitors of all ages. Through the award-winning permanent exhibit Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers and other changing galleries, the museum tells the story of the New South from 1865 until tomorrow. For more information call 704-333-1887 or visit www.museumofthenewsouth.org

If you have an idea for the Urban Explorer Column, send it to: sam.boykin@cln.com.

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