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Mecklenburg’s donation helps revive castle where Queen Charlotte was born

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

To thank residents of Mecklenburg County for a $15,000 donation nearly 18 years ago, the county’s German namesake has invited residents to come see what an impact the money had on the renovation of a castle.

It’s not just any castle. Mirow Castle is the 18th-century birthplace of Queen Charlotte, the city’s namesake and the wife of King George III of England.

In 1996, Mecklenburg County gave $15,000 to help renovate the castle. Those funds were matched with money raised from private sources.

It was behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany before the Berlin Wall fell and had fallen into disrepair over the years.

In the early 1990s, Mecklenburg County formed a cultural and educational exchange program with the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where the castle is located.

On Sunday, German dignitaries and Charlotte residents active in the international exchange program met at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art to celebrate the near-completion of the restoration and their ongoing relationship.

“This is excellent,” said Klaus Becker, the honorary consul of Germany. “There’s an American footprint over there and this demonstrates the affiliation between the two government institutions.”

And as a letter from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Minister-President Erwin Sellering noted, residents are invited to a celebration to open the Mirow Castle Museum on June 7.

“I would be happy if a delegation from Mecklenburg County could participate in this re-opening of the Mirow residential castle,” the letter reads. “Certainly, this would be one more highlight for this jubilee year of our partnership.”

Preserves common history

D.G. Martin, a Charlotte attorney who traveled to Germany in the early 1990s to search for and discover the area’s links to the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region, said he is pleased to see the castle returned to its former glory.

“We can have some pride in having a small part in that,” he said.

More than that, Parks Helms, a former chairman of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, said that the renovation preserves an important piece of history.

“It is important because it is a link to our history, who we are and where we come from,” he said. “It’s important to remember and strengthen the relationship between that community and this community.”

He noted that there are more than 150 German companies operating in the Charlotte region.

During Sunday’s celebration, children from Waddell Language Academy opened the program by singing in German and dignitaries from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean toasted to the renovations and the partnership.

Catherine Hansen, the chief of protocol for the city of Charlotte, said the restoration of Mirow Castle is a great example of what happens when two governments work together and don’t give up.

“They believed in us and we believed in them and, mutually, we made it happen,” she said.

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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