Living Here Guide

Matthews, Mint Hill keep small-town lifestyles

 

dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Even as new construction springs up around them, the neighboring towns of Matthews and Mint Hill retain their small-town personalities. Both offer a sense of community, excellent public schools and historic roots.

Matthews’ population has grown to more than 29,000, and its town limits now encompass 17 square miles. There are hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, recreational facilities and a hospital. But what Matthews is known for (and loved for) are its history and its festivals.

Matthews Alive! is the annual Labor Day extravaganza with a parade, rides, crafts, food and live music. BeachFest draws huge crowds every May. In addition to the big festivals, Matthews hosts its Summer Concert & Movie Series every year and recently started a Food Truck Friday at Stumptown Park.

It’s a bustling center of activity, though, even when there’s not anything specific going on.

The Matthews Community Farmers Market is open every Saturday of the year and everything is grown or raised within 50 miles. Stroll up to Renfrow Hardware for a Coke in a glass bottle and hear the wooden floors creak as you find the baby chicks, crickets, and bags of live ladybugs.

Around the corner is Matthews Station, where the Public Library shares space with Town Hall. The library offers historic displays in the lobby, leather easy chairs around a gas fireplace, and a children’s section.

Within walking distance are Your Local Game Store and Triple A Collectibles (take the kids next door to Buffalo Jackson Trading Company to see the giant stuffed buffalo).

The town also has rich history: In 1996, the National Register of Historic Places listed 10 downtown buildings in Matthews – including the 1880 Massey-Clark House, which is one of the town’s oldest buildings and home to the Matthews Heritage Museum.

You’ll find The Train Depot on the pleasant Town Green. Constructed in the 1880s, it was purchased by the town in 1999, relocated to the Town Green and restored; it now serves as the home of the Matthews Visitors Center and the Matthews Chamber of Commerce. A historic red caboose is on display next-door.

And after all that exploring, you’ll probably have an appetite. Right around the Green, there’s Beantown Tavern, Carolina Beer Temple, Dilworth Coffee and the Black Chicken Wine Seller; but downtown is full of all kinds of places to eat: Ming Fu Chinese & Sushi, Sante, Kristopher’s Sports Bar, Royal Cafe and Creperie, Thai Taste, El Valle Mexican Restaurant, Taco & Tequila Cantina Grill and Moe’s Original Bar B Que.

Mint Hill

At the other end of Matthews-Mint Hill Road lies the smaller town of Mint Hill (population around 24,000).

It also has a beloved festival: Mint Hill Madness is the annual Memorial Day celebration complete with rides, music, food, crafts, a parade and fireworks.

Another big draw is Fairview Park, which hosts regional athletic competitions and has athletic fields, walking trails, tennis courts and a disc golf course spread over 55 acres.

There’s history here, too. Most notably, the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village gives a look into Mint Hill’s rural past. Visitors can walk through the restored Country Doctor’s Office, the Ashcraft one-room schoolhouse, the Ira V. Ferguson Country Store and the Gold Assay office, where miners brought their finds.

Maria, the Observer’s research librarian, has lived in the Matthews-Mint Hill area for 15 years.

The essentials

Hit the hardware store: Renfrow Hardware (& General Merchandise) is the place to buy tomato plants, a Flexible Flyer sled, and that weird part that broke off your stove.

Be sporty: Phase I of the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex at Matthews is open and includes five multipurpose fields, a shelter area and a playground. When complete, the park will have 12 fields, including a stadium that seats approximately 2,700 people.

Journey back to Mint Hill’s past: Outbuildings in the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village – from the blacksmith shop to the hen house to the meat-curing building – reflect the rural nature of early Mint Hill. The village also occasionally has live old-timey music, and is home to the seasonal Mint Hill Farmers Market.

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