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Charlotte History

November 3, 2007

Written November 25

Dear Friends and Families,


After my tour of the NASCAR "Superspeedway", I felt I needed to know a bit more of the local Charlotte history. The answer was the Charlotte Museum of History. The main building is modern and impressive but the contents are quite ordinary displays. The museum is a school destination, I suppose, and the dioramas and displays of the 250 years of settlement were educational enough, just not very special. I did learn that Charlotte was the scene of an 18th Century gold rush and had a major U.S. Mint for a hundred years or more. I guess that's the basis for it's role today as a major banking center.


The best "display" was The Hezekiah Alexander House, built in 1774 and one of the first permanent structures in Charlotte. It has been well restored and offers guided tours twice daily. As with other contemporary buildings from the colonies, I was struck with how rough life was for early Americans, even for the relatively wealthy such as the Alexanders. Our own home, built about the same time, was more sophisticated -- and here in Pommersfelden, there were much nicer 18th Century homes than ours.


The bell was donated by the Belk family, as a "freedom bell".

This barn was moved to the site and represents what would have been typical of the late 18th or 19th Century farms in the Charlotte area.

The Alexander House kitchen is a reconstruction, built on the foundation of the original.

The Alexander House itself has been restored as a handsome example of local stone construction. At the time it was built, it would have been one of the best of the area.

Inside, the main room served as dining area and general living room. Our costumed guide helped to give us a feel for life 200 years ago.

A dining table and sideboard that would be right at home in our Bavarian neighborhood.

And this chest could also have been found in Old Europe, although it was probably built locally. All imported material at the time came from Philadelphia, the nearest seaport because east-west access was too difficult due to the many rivers in The Carolinas and Virginia.

The four bedrooms were filled with the Alexanders and their 10 children. Unusual for the time, all the children lived to adulthood.

So, 18th Century North Carolina was more frontier than the towns to the north in Virginia and the Northeast, and much rougher than the villages back in Europe, but it was a new start. Similarly, the Charlotte Museum of History may not be the grandest history museum in the country, but it's a start. Now, if they could just find traces of racing carriages back then, they could have a real NASCAR story!

John and Marianne.


Charlotte Museum of History: http://www.charlottemuseum.org/


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