The intersection of McDowell Street and East Avenue, now Elizabeth Avenue, circa 1950. Charlotte Then and Now, by Brandon Lunsford.
Elizabeth is nestled between Uptown Charlotte and the neighborhoods of Plaza Midwood, Belmont and Uptown Charlotte. It is "an inviting enclave known for its distinct character," offering its residents a cozy a community while, "striking just the right balance between hustle-and-bustle and a low-key, relaxed energy." But more than anything the historic charm of Elizabeth remains the fabric of our neighborhood, a source of enduring quality angreat pride for our community.
Elizabeth inherited its name from Elizabeth College, a small Lutheran women's college that was founded in 1897 and located on the present-day site of Presbyterian Hospital. Elizabeth is the Queen City's second oldest streetcar suburb and is home to the City's first public park, Independence Park, originally the city's water supply. Founded in 1891, the Elizabeth neighborhood of today was developed as five separate subdivisions located in and around the trolley lines that ran along Elizabeth Avenue, Hawthorne Lane, Seventh Street and Central Avenue. During this time, prior to the development of the neighboring community of Myers Park, Elizabeth was one of the most desirable neighborhoods for the City's upper-income and prominent business and civic leaders; however, it also drew a large portion of its original residents from the growing population of middle-income residents in Charlotte.
By the late 1930s and through the early 1950s, with the increased use of private automobiles and the end of trolley services, the main streets of Elizabeth experienced increasingly higher volumes of traffic and were no longer desirable for the prestigious residences originally built along these routes. Many of the Elizabeth residents moved to the Myers Park neighborhood, which, quickly after its development, became the City's newest, most desirable community for the upper-income residents of Charlotte. As a result, a number of the large and prestigious homes located along Elizabeth Avenue, Hawthorne Lane and Seventh Street were sold or, more often, rented to middle-income families in need of large, inexpensive homes leading to many of these residences falling into disrepair and eventually being demolished.
In 1946, Independence Boulevard opened as Charlotte's first high-speed thoroughfare, cutting through the Elizabeth neighborhood and wiping out the historic rose garden (near Sunnyside Avenue), houses and schools that stood in its path. While this was devastating for Elizabeth and its residents, it catalyzed a more unified community and sense of identity within the neighborhood. First, with the opening of Independence Boulevard and the commercial development that followed cutting off eastern portions of the neighborhood, those living on the eastern side of the neighborhood "began to consider themselves residents of 'Elizabeth' or 'Plaza-Midwood' or 'Crescent Heights,' rather than of the original subdivisions of the east side." Second, these transportation and commercial developments changed pedestrian and automobile traffic patterns in and around the neighborhood and, as those patterns changed, "the small centers within the neighborhood developed more fully, and in the process, reinforced Elizabeth's sense of identity."
However, the societal changes and development Elizabeth faced throughout the mid-1900s would certainly not be the last for our neighborhood. In the 1980s, Elizabeth faced a wave of development activity and zoning changes taking place in and around the heart of a growing and thriving city that threatened to upend our century-old neighborhood. It was at this point HENF was established (formed in 1984), serving as a critical advocate for Elizabeth's current designation as a National Historic District and helping to preserve and relocate historic homes and structures that were condemned to make room for new development and infrastructure projects. Recently, seeing a new waive of development activity, much of it already well underway in and around our neighborhood and with more advancing at an alarming rate, HENF and its Board has been reconstituted and is already working hard on several initiatives to continue our mission of preserving, revitalizing and restoring historic Elizabeth.
Read More from our Resources - Click on the URLs Listed Below:
Hanchett, Dr. Thomas W."The Elizabeth Neighborhood: Change and Continuity in Charlotte's Second Streetcar Suburb." Accessed June 15, 2022. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. http://landmarkscommission.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/THE-ELIZABETH-NEIGHBORHOOD.pdf
Hanchett, Tom. "The Heart of Elizabeth - A Self-Guided Tour." Accessed June 12, 2022. Historic South. www.historysouth.org.
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority."Neighborhoods Elizabeth."Accessed June 19, 2022. https://www.charlottesgotalot.com/neighborhoods/elizabeth.