In 1999 First Union Bank made the laudable decision to preserve the Ratcliffe floral shop, rather than raze it to construct an underground parking deck. The Mediterranean Revival building was moved across the street for a year then put back about 80 feet north of its original location. The Ratcliffe building was erected in 1929 and, complete with its original Tiffany stained glass and arched ceilings, is now home to Bernardin’s restaurant.
Observer reporter Scott Dodd in 2000 explained the moving process:
“The movers who rolled the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to its new home plan to take one of Charlotte’s few remaining historic commercial buildings for a ride.
“In a sight sure to startle unsuspecting uptowners, the two-story Ratcliffe’s Florist building will cross Charlotte’s busy South Tryon Street on a bed of steel beams and rollers sometime after dark on Saturday, March 4.
“The building will then take up temporary residence in a Tryon Street parking lot with its redbrick backside facing the street. An ignoble position, to be sure, but one that will save the florist shop built in 1929 while First Union bank builds a four-story, 800-space underground parking deck where it once stood.
“In a city with a penchant for paving over its history, First Union’s decision to save the Ratcliffe building takes on special significance.
“‘Downtown Charlotte is perilously close to destroying all that kind of record,’ said historian Tom Hanchett of the Museum of the New South.
Ratcliffe’s was a family flower shop until the late 1980s, then housed the Moon Room lounge and Carpe Diem, a popular uptown eating spot, which moved last year after First Union bought the building.
“Ratcliffe’s was designed by William H. Peeps, a British-born architect who drew up plans for the nearby Latta Arcade and homes for some of Charlotte’s wealthiest residents. Hanchett said Peeps’ homes ‘look like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves just stepped out of them, and with the Ratcliffe building, he took that and brought it to uptown.’”
“Once the parking deck is done, movers will roll the Ratcliffe back across the street and slide it half a block north, to its new permanent home abutting the Three First Union office tower. Construction crews will then build a new seven- or eight-story building over and around the Ratcliffe.”
Photos: Wells Fargo/Charlotte Observer, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, Maria David