It’s still a challenge to find things that we can do outside, as so many of the activities that we enjoy have been temporarily halted.
Any time of year is a good time to get out and explore our city by foot.
So, I was excited to see historian Tom Hanchett, of History South, sharing some self-guided walking tours that he’s put together. Below, you’ll find information on five of the tours that he’s compiled, as well as three more tours from other sources.
Read on for information on eight walking tours:
- NoDa Mill District Walking Tour, from History South
- Central Avenue Walking Tour, from History South
- Historic West End / JCSU Walking Tour, from History South
- The Heart of Elizabeth Walking Tour, from History South
- Plaza District Historic Walking Tour, from History South
- Fourth Ward Historic Walking Tour, from Friends of Fourth Ward
- Uptown Art Walking Tour, from Art Walks CLT
- Camp North End, from Charlotte on the Cheap
Camp North End
There may be no other place in Charlotte with as much art to experience all at once. Take this self-guided art tour of Camp North End and see dozens of murals.
Camp North End is a 75-acre site with a rich history. It’s been for Ford Model T assembly, U.S. Army missile production and much more. It’s been retransformed (and the transformation continues) into space used for creative pursuits, food, drink, retail, and art, all while preserving the architecture and feeling of the original site. It’s Charlotte’s best example of adaptive re-use.
Take the Camp North End Art Walking Tour.
Central Avenue is a retail and arts district that originally served residents of what were called “bungalow suburbs,” now Elizabeth and Plaza Midwood. This walk down and around Central Avenue will give you a taste of Charlotte’s hippest “stroll district.”
Now it’s a bustling and ever-changing area that boasts shops, restaurants, murals, and even a dive bar (seen above) that refuses to sell to developers.
This walk is 1.5 miles long and features:
- The site of a 1935 tent revival that was the inspiration for Billy Graham
- Charlotte’s first Dairy Queen, which was pushed out by rising rent in October 27, 2019.
- Murals by Matt Moore and Matt Hooker, Osiris Rain, Nick Napoletano and more.
- A barbecue restaurant that has hosted presidents.
- A record store in a building that was originally a lab that made false teeth.
This is a good walking tour to take when you’re hungry. Some places in the area to eat include Fuel Pizza, Dish, Midwood Smokehouse, Central Coffee, Soul Gastrolounge, N.C. Red, The Diamond, and Moo & Brew.
Also, when you’re finished with this tour, if you still have time, you’re poised for the Plaza Midwood Historic Walking Tour (scroll down for that one.) It picks up at the corner of Central and The Plaza.
Take the Central Avenue Tour from HistorySouth.
West End / JCSU
The central figure in the Historic West End is Johnson C. Smith University, originally Biddle Institute, a historically black university. Biddleville, an African-American village, grew around it.
As you go on this walking tour, please understand that the campus of JCSU is closed to visitors right now, but you can see the prominent structures from the sidewalk on Beatties Ford Road.
This walk is about 1.5 miles, and includes:
- Seven official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks
- A college campus with Charlotte’s grandest Victorian building
- Four historically significant churches
- The house of Elizabeth Smalls, daughter of Civil War hero, Robert Smalls
- The house of Dorothy Counts Scoggins, one of the four Black students to integrate Charlotte’s white schools in 1957.
Take the West End / JCSU tour by HistorySouth.
NoDa is now an artsy, bustling neighborhood of restaurants, bars and music venues, but for nearly all of the 20th century it was North Charlotte, a cluster of blue-collar textile mill villages. The NoDa Mill District Self-Guided Tour, from History South, will get you acquainted with both.
The walk is about 1.5 miles and highlights:
- The state’s first cotton mill built for all-electric operation
- Mill cottages (for the workers in the mills) that have transformed over a century
- The “TV House,” a circa 1905 house that was a fixer-upper on a reality TV show called “Homemakers.”
- Several murals by top Charlotte artists
- NoDa Company Store, a current neighborhood hangout
- Neighborhood Theatre, formerly the Astor Theater and a storefront church, and currently a music venue
- The Evening Muse, one of the Southeast’s premier listening rooms for live music
- A pint-sized fire station that’s a Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmark
You’ll find the walk on HistorySouth.org.
The Heart of Elizabeth Walking Tour
The Heart of Elizabeth Walking Tour features some of Charlotte’s best-preserved earlty-twentieth century residents, including official Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks, some grand churches, and a favorite taco-and-empanada joint.
A few interesting finds on this tour:
- The first store in the rapidly growing Sabor chain of Latino street food, in a building with a long history of serving the neighborhood, first as a pharmacy and then as an ice cream shop.
- Belk Mansion is a NeoClassical home designed by a leading Charlotte architect for William Henry Belk, founder of the Belk Department Store.
- The beautiful renovation of Elizabeth’s oldest residence, with Colonial flourishes, including fanlight windows.
- An English Cottage style house whose residents included Norman Cocke, for whom Lake Norman is named, and Harry Golden, a nationally known Jewish writer, humorist and Civil Rights ally.
You’ll find the tour on HistorySouth.org.
Plaza Midwood Historic District Walking Tour
Plaza Midwood Historic District Walking Tour highlights the history of Plaza Midwood, which is east of Uptown Charlotte, with a focus on the diverse architecture in the neighborhood.
The architectural styles include Victorian, Bungalow, Colonial, Tudor and more, in part, because it took many years for this neighborhood to fill out.
Just a few of interesting tidbits from the tour:
- The yellow Victorian house (pictured above) was built in the 1890s on North Tryon Street, and then was pulled by mule teams in 1915 to its present spot on The Plaza, where it was restored by Fran and Bill Gay, starting in 1973.
- Van Landingham Estate (pictured below) is currently undergoing renovations, but has served as UNC Charlotte’s in-town retreat sites and a bed-and-breakfast.
- On Thomas Avenue, you’ll find a house built in the late 1920s in the Spanish Revival style, with a flat roof, stucco walls and arches. This style is common in the southwestern United States, but rare around here.
This self-guided tour is an easy walk. You’ll learn a brief architectural history of the Plaza Midwood Library, the Harris Teeter, and two churches, as well as many of the houses in the neighborhood.
You’ll find the tour on HistorySouth.org.
Fourth Ward Historic District Walking Tour
Friends of Fourth Ward have put together a self-guided walking tour of Fourth Ward. The Fourth Ward lies to the north of the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets.
Some of the highlights of the walking tour are:
- Old Settlers Cemetery, the first municipal burial ground in Charlotte, dating from 1776
- The old St. Peters Hospital, a large Georgian Revival style building, which was subsequently a hotel and a condominium
- First Presbyterian Church, a Gothic Revival style dating from 1857
- The historic Ivey’s Department Store, which currently contains restaurants, shops, offices, and residential condominiums
- Mayfair Manor/Dunhill Hotel, from 1929, designed in Neoclassical style
- St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, built in 1895 in the Victorian Gothic style
- A cottage called the Bootlegger House that has a hidden area under the foyer stairs behind the wainscoting
- A pink Queen Anne Style house build in 1879
- Much more
Find the Fourth Ward Historic District Walking Tour here.
Uptown Trade & Tryon Art Walking Tour
Art Walks CLT has put together 11 self-guided art walks, including:
- NoDa East
- NoDa West
- NoDa Scavenger Hunt
- South End Bland Street
- Gold District
- South End/West
- Plaza Midwood
- Elizabeth and Midtown
- Mad About Murals 1 (Uptown Charlotte)
- Mad About Murals 11 (Uptown Charlotte)
- Uptown Trade & Tryon
You can find all these art walks here.
Just one example is the Uptown Trade & Tryon Art Walk. Some of the pieces of art that you’ll learn about are:
- Sculptures on the Square — the sculptures on the four corners of Trade & Tryon
- The Architectural Frieze at the entrance to 112 S. Tryon Street
- Il Grande Disco — the bronze disk on Bank of America Plaza
- Ben Long Frescos in the lobby of Bank of America Corporate Center
Make sure go to Art Walk CLT’s page for this self-guided tour. You’ll learn all about these pieces, plus more, all within a very short walk of each other.
More Charlotte History
Please also check out the second edition of Tom Hanchett’s book, Sorting Out the New South City. You can find it on Amazon, or you can order from our local bookstore, Park Road Books, for delivery.
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