Who decides what a neighborhood is called? I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, with areas like the Park/Woodlawn intersection growing like crazy and looking for an identity.
A committee to rebrand the area (which included some folks from Grubb Properties whose headquarters are in the area and is planning a big mixed-use development on Park Road) gathered public input and held a community meeting to try to name the area and the result was … Montford Park.
— Grubb Properties (@GrubbProperties) January 20, 2016
“People who live or work in this area … felt very strongly about the Montford name and said that is how they refer to it now,” Emily Ethridge, corporate communications manager for Grubb Properties said in an email. “But a lot of people also wanted to incorporate the ‘Park’ name, and ‘Montford Park’ became the clear winner.”
Ethridge said it was important that the name was organic, because people might be turned off by a developer coming in and throwing down a sign with a name on it. But “even a manufactured name or brand can catch on if 1) it fits the area (and) 2) there isn’t a strong pre-existing name.”
Charlotte does have older, defined neighborhoods with defined names. So where do those names come from, and how do they stick? As I do with any large Charlotte question, I asked Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett.
“There is no ‘right way’ to name neighborhoods,” he told me via email. Some are named by developers — think Myers Park and Dilworth — others are named by groups of residents — Plaza Midwood — and sometimes the name comes way later, as a neighborhood evolves — NoDa and South End.
While we wait and see what happens with places like LoSo (Lower South End … don’t get me started) and Montford Park, here’s a short history of the names of some of Charlotte’s older neighborhoods.
(Almost all of this info is found on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission website, which is a fun place for history nerds like me. And many of the histories were written by Tom Hanchett.)
Name origin: Combines the name of the main street (The Plaza) and one of the larger subdivisions.
History: The first streets were plotted back in 1903 but it didn’t become an official neighborhood until 1973 when residents organized to stop a highway from coming through the neighborhood … and chose a name.
Name origin: North Davidson Street. (This one’s pretty obvious.)
History: The first reference I could find for “NoDa” in the Observer archives was in 1995 in a story about the “fashionable, funky hipness” of the area. The article says gallery owner and painter Steve Holt christened it NoDa.
According to NoDa.org, the area was initially known as North Charlotte in the early 1900s and The Historic North Charlotte Neighborhood Association was formed in 1986. In 1989, Ruth Ava Lyons and Paul Sires open the first art gallery in the area, giving birth to “The Arts District.”
Name origin: Dilworth Road and developer Edward Dilworth Latta.
History: Edward Dilworth Latta formed the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company in 1890 and in 1891 the company introduced the electric streetcar to Charlotte. The company also developed Dilworth, Charlotte’s first streetcar suburb, which used to be a 442-acre farm that Latta bought in 1890.
Name origin: Elizabeth Avenue.
History: The city’s second-oldest streetcar suburb began in 1891 and formed along Elizabeth Avenue, an extension of Trade Street. Before Myers Park, it was among the “most fashionable suburban addresses for business and civic leaders,” according to the CMHLC website.
Name origin: “Evidently inspired by cherry trees that grew on the hillsides,” according to the CMHLC website. (It was also known as Cherryton or Cherrytown, but the city directory listed it as Myers Quarter well into the 1910s.)
History: Cherry is one of the oldest surviving neighborhoods and, according to local tradition and the CMHLC website, was built as a servants’ community for nearby Myers Park.
Photos: David T. Foster/Charlotte Observer; Charlotte Observer file; Brandon Werner/Charlotte Observer file; T. Ortega Gaines/Charlotte Observer