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Historic Charlotte Neighborhoods

This guide provides histories of minority communities in Charlotte, some of which have disappeared or been gentrified, but many are very much alive.

History of McCrorey Heights

 

McCrorey Heights was founded by Johnson C. Smith University President Reverend H.L. McCrorey in the early 1900s. Reverend McCrorey had previously worked at the Progress Investment Realty Company, purchasing land in what is now Washington Heights. He used the income he generated in rentals to build McCrorey Heights.1 McCrorey had a grid of streets laid out as early as 1912 and a small number of dwellings on Oaklawn Avenue date from his first attempt at development.2 It was almost 40 years later before the neighborhood was truly established.

 

McCrorey's dream of a stylish black residential district become reality as the neighborhood expanded after World War II. The neighborhood was home to the city’s black professional class, many of them associated with the Johnson C. Smith University.3 Streets were named for presidents Washington, Madison, and Van Buren, as well as General Patton following World War II. Houses were typically one-story ranch homes. In 1923, Second Ward High School opened to serve African American students.

 

Despite the strength and legacy of McCrorey Heights, many sites have been lost. Second Ward High School was also closed in 1969 after integration.5 The development of highways and transportation projects has also changed the neighborhood - it is currently helmed in by I-77 and Route 16 on the east and south and Beatties Ford Road and Oaklawn Avenue on the west and north.

 

Sources:

  1. Image - City Within a City: A Neighborhood Assessment, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, 1993, p 141
  2. Thomas W. Hanchett, "Washington Heights," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, accessed April 25, 2018, http://www.cmhpf.org/kids/neighborhoods/WashHts.html.
  3. William Jeffers and Stewart Gray, “Dr. Robert H. Greene House: Survey and Research Report,” 2009, Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, on-line at: http://www.cmhpf.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/Surveys&rGreene.htm, accessed January 3, 2013. 
  4. Tom Hanchett, "Neighborhood history around Johnson C. Smith University," History South, last modified January 25, 2015, accessed April 25, 2018, https://www.historysouth.org/jcsu/.
  5. Mark Price, "Black History Month: Charlotte’s vanishing historic sites," Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC), February 1, 2016, [Page #], accessed April 25, 2018, http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article57611168.html.

 

Resources in Atkins Library

Manuscripts and Rare Books

MS 482. Charlotte Historic District Commission photographic slides

MS 508. Kelly Alexander, Sr. papers concerning the NAACP

Digitized Content

City Within a City: A Neighborhood Assessment, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, 1993, pgs 141-142

Additional Resources

Archival materials

President H. L. McCrorey Collection (Johnson C. Smith University)

  • Collection includes contains correspondence, photographs, personal notes, and other ephemera surrounding the life and family of Dr. McCrorey

Charlotte Mayor's Committee on Race Relations Records, 1960-1965 (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library) 

McCrorey Heights

  • Created by Tom Hanchett with input from the McCrorey Heights Neighborhood Association. This site provides historical information about each address in the neighborhood, including the residents at each address. 

Histories and articles

Historic Sites in McCrorey Heights

Vest Water Treatment Plant1920’s architectural style building has been a landmark on the corner of Beatties Ford Road & Patton Avenue for almost a century

Oral History Interviews

Carson H. Beckwith

2006 December 1, Beckwith discusses the civil rights movement in Charlotte and shares reflections McCrorey Heights.

Marty Johnson Saunders

2006 December 7, Saunders talks about urban renewal and how part of the Biddleville neighborhood was torn down and describes some of the other African American neighborhoods in Charlotte, including Greenville and McCrorey Heights.

Notable residents of McCrorey Heights

Eddie and Lois Byers - Eddie: principal at several CMS schools. Lois: lifelong educator.
Jack and Jeanne Brayboy - Jack: Athletic Director at JCSU. Jeanne: CMS teacher for 40 years (1953-1993)
Dorothy Count-Scoggins - On September 4, 1957, Counts was the first black student to walk into all-white Harding High.
Rev. Joseph A. and Mattie DeLaine  - Helped neighbors in SC file the nation’s first lawsuit demanding the end of segregated schools, which became part of Brown v. Board of Education. The DeLaines retired to McCrorey Heights. 
Dr. Robert H. Greene - state president for the black Old North State Medical Society; part of the successful 1951 lawsuit to desegregate Revolution Park golf course.
​Dr. Reginald Hawkins - Dentist and  vocal Civil Rights activist, participating in efforts to desegregate the airport, hospitals, and restaurants; involved in Swann v Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision that court-ordered busing.
Isaac Heard - engineer at Douglas Aircraft’s Nike missile plant; one of the first African American members of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Commission
Rev. Elo L. Henderson - organizing pastor of Grier Heights Presbyterian Church; regional field executive for the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A. 
H.L. McCrorey - President at Johnson C. Smith University (1907-1947) and founder of McCrorey Heights
Jimmie and Minnie McKee - Best known as proprietors of the Excelsior Club on Beatties Ford Road; also helped launch black-format WGIV radio in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Rowe "Jack" Motley - Owned a real estate firm; Mecklenburg County’s first black County Commissioner in 1974; served in the NC Legislature.
Libby Randolph - first black woman to rise to a top administrative position in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; retired as associate superintendent 
Dr. Emery Rann - In 1954 Rann became the first black physician accepted into the Mecklenburg County Medical Society and in 1973 he served as president of the historically black National Medical Association. Dr. Rann also wrote poetry in the style of Langston Hughes.
E.E. Waddell - Recruited as principal of Charlotte's Second Ward High School; promoted to Assistant to the Superintendent of CMS.
Thomas and Grace Wyche - Thomas: part of national network of NAACP lawyers working against segregation; played an active role in nearly every Civil Rights action that touched Charlotte. Grace: career school librarian and activist.
Dr. Roy Wynn - Charlotte’s first black ophthalmologist; plaintiff in the lawsuit to open the public golf course in Revolution Park.