Charlotte is a city that’s often knocked for its lack of history, a common problem in a fast-growing area that’s drawn hundreds of thousands of transplanted residents in recent decades.
But a neighborhood just west of uptown is celebrating 100 years of history this weekend, a little-known chapter that helped shape Charlotte in the shadow of World War I. Called Camp Greene, the neighborhood takes its name from the U.S. Army camp that opened in 1917 on the site, eventually mustering 40,000 soldiers drilling, firing their weapons and preparing to ship to Europe.
The neighborhood, around Wilkinson Boulevard and West Morehead Street, is also firmly in the path of future growth, as uptown’s building boom spreads west and developers search for areas they can redevelop near the city’s center.
“We’ve been neglected for a long time and we want to see that change, have development come in and do things that are positive ” said Cynthia Harrison, Camp Greene Neighborhood Association vice president. “We’re here to make more of what we have in our neighborhood.”
Obie Oakley, a veteran, said the original Camp Greene helped spark a building boom in Charlotte. After the camp was decommissioned in 1919, the materials, and many veterans who saw Charlotte as a possible place to settle down, were left.
“That had an incredible impact,” he said. “After the camp closed in 1919, there was all this material there. It was available for everything from plumbing, to lumber to electrical.”
Though the camp was eventually overshadowed as World War II supplanted World War I in the American psyche, its impact can still be seen in many of the street names in the area, such as Arty Avenue, a nod to the artillery groups that were based there.
“Having that history opens up the eyes,” said Harrison. “You had a lot of history that made Charlotte grow.”
You can see a detailed schedule for Saturday’s celebration of the Camp Greene centennial online at http://www.historiccampgreene.com/. The event will include a bugler sounding reveille at 10:30 a.m. to kick things off, followed by a flag-raising, parade march, a food tent, World War I displays and reenactments and more.