Retro Charlotte

1914: Charlotte’s first public playground

Independence Park playground, Charlotte, N.C. Opening day, October, 10th, 1914. St. Martin’s Episcopal Church is on the hill.
Independence Park playground, Charlotte, N.C. Opening day, October, 10th, 1914. St. Martin’s Episcopal Church is on the hill. The Charlotte Observer

1914: Charlotte’s first public playground opened at Independence Park in the Elizabeth neighborhood. The Observer reported that 1000 children attended the opening, enjoying “an out-door gymnasium, with horizontal bars, swings, traveling rings and trapeze, a slide 24 feet long and another 16 feet long for smaller children, and equipment for volleyball, basketball, tennis, baseball, tether tennis, four baby swings and larger ones for older children.”

The plans for the swimming pool are fascinating. “The swimming pool which is to make Independence Park a spot paradisais to the heart of Charlotte youth has been located. The point selected is a natural basin, shaded on the west by giant oaks and on the east side by a church.” (must be St. Martin’s)

“The pool to be constructed by excavation and earth embankments, puddled to water-proofness; the waterface of the embankment to be paved with cement concrete similar to brushed-surface sidewalk work, and the remainder of the pool to be surfaced with a thick layer of washed river gravel and sand; the water-surface area to be 113 feet in length by 53 feet in width; the water depth to increase from 30 inches at foot of slope at the west end to a depth of 48 inches at the middle of the pool, where it is to be crossed from side to side by strong, close meshed wire fencing, dividing off the eastern end of the pool, where greater depth is to be provided for diving; the water supply of the pool to be the flow from the spring in the park just west of Hawthorne Lane.”

There was also a wading pool for smaller children; “the depth of the water will be only nine inches.”

The city routed Independence Boulevard (now Charlottetown Avenue) through the heart of the playground in 1949-50. <Sigh.>

Independence Park opened in 1906, covered 47 acres, and was designed by landscape architect John Nolen, who also designed Myers Park. The park shrunk significantly in the 1920s with the building of an athletic field for Central High (where Central Piedmont Community College is now). Then in 1929, more park land was taken when the Armory-Auditorium was built. (It was replaced in the 1950s by Park Center, which is now the Grady Cole Center.) In 1937 Memorial Stadium was built on more park land, and in the 1950s, the city took additional land for roads - routing Independence Boulevard through the playground and the Brookshire Freeway through the rose garden in 1960.

Historian Tom Hanchett thoroughly describes Elizabeth history here.