Text by: Mary Newsom
Photographs by: Mary Newsom, June White, and Selena Skorman
When we turned the corner, it hit me. This little neighborhood in predominantly black west Charlotte was a dead ringer for the Charlotte neighborhood where I bought my first, tiny house three decades ago. Today, my old Chantilly neighborhood of 1940s-vintage, 800-square-foot cottages has gone upscale. But here in Revolution Park, the past lingers.
After many years in Charlotte it’s a treat to discover neighborhoods I’ve not explored before. My discovery came May 3, during one of six Jane’s Walks that weekend, sponsored by PlanCharlotte.org and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
One goal of the walks is to discover or re-discover your city. For me, this small Revolution Park neighborhood was a discovery. It was built, in part, by Charlotte’s first automobile dealer, who also donated land for a park. But in that Jim Crow era, the golf course and the city’s first public pool were closed to blacks. (A lawsuit led to the facilities’ desegregation by 1960.) The neighborhood was predominantly white until the era of urban renewal, when its demographics changed.
How long, I now wonder, before its cottages are discovered by people looking for affordable, close-in houses? And will the neighborhood again change?
Another discovery came after I helped with a cleanup along Little Sugar Creek in the Hidden Valley neighborhood. The cleanup will help create a nature walk beside the creek, between a school and the Hidden Valley Ecological Garden.
The what? Who knew Hidden Valley had an ecological garden? It turns out I’ve gone past it regularly, but driving on a busy, multi lane road I had never seen the garden – a 13-acre floodplain, wildlife habitat and stream restoration created in 2004.
I made it to five of the six Jane’s Walks in Charlotte. The walks varied from well-organized tours by historians or architects to an informal stroll through a hopes-to revitalize neighborhood fighting disinvestment. Each year has brought discoveries, even for this journalist who has spent years visiting Charlotte’s neighborhoods.