Mecklenburg rec center, museum, park set at site of Second Ward High gym

Inside the Second Ward High gym
Inside the Second Ward High gym Photo from the Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation

The historic Second Ward High gym in uptown Charlotte will soon become a rec center, museum and park.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is set to turn over the landmark to Mecklenburg County, which has plans to renovate the building into a place for fitness classes, camps and extra recreation space for use during swim meets.

The building is also expected to house the Second Ward Foundation Museum, and the front lawn will be turned into part of a park planned for East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Second Ward High’s gym is one of the last remaining pieces of Charlotte’s first public high school for black students. It opened in 1923 in the Brooklyn neighborhood and drew students in Grades 7 through 12 from across the county.

The school closed in 1969, and most of it was torn down. The site is now home to Metro School, a CMS school for disabled students. There’s a historic marker standing just outside.

The gym itself was built in 1947.

The decision to convey it to the county comes after more than a year of planning and advocacy, said Vermelle Ely, a 1949 graduate of Second Ward High and an active member of the school’s alumni foundation. The group has an alumni house on Beatties Ford Road.

“We’re excited about it,” Ely said.

CMS will keep the right for Metro School students to use the gym, including for basketball games, for free.

The school board is giving the property to the county for free, and turning over responsibility to maintain it.