Here’s a fun fact: Charlotte was named after the wife of England’s King George III, which is how it got the nickname the Queen City.
When the city was founded back in 1768, a large group of colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown (a.k.a. Loyalists) decided to settle in Charlotte because it was the intersection of two Native American trading paths, which is now the intersection of Trade and Tryon in Uptown.
Besides the historical markers, monuments and tablets scattered throughout Charlotte and Mecklenburg today, here are some of the most interesting bits of Charlotte history:
(1) The hornet’s nest.
Where to find it: On the sides of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police cars and in The Spectrum Center.
In 1780, General Cornwallis led the British army into Charlotte, but did not stay long due to the feisty local patriots. So, Cornwallis (supposedly) called Charlotte a “Hornet’s Nest of Rebellion.”
The nest can be seen today on the sides of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police cars.
The city furthered its Hornet’s nest reputation in 1892 by naming the local baseball team the Charlotte Hornets. And in 1974, the Charlotte Hornets became the city’s first professional football team. Ten years later, the Charlotte Hornets became the city’s first NBA team and the Hornets named returned to Charlotte in 2014.
(2) The nation’s first gold rush.
Where to find it: Reed Gold Mine, 9621 Reed Mine Rd., Midland.
In 1799, 12-year-old Conrad Reed found a 17-pound yellow rock (or at least what he thought was a rock) on his family’s property. A jeweler later identified his”rock” as gold, allowing the John Reed property to be the site of the first documented gold find in the United States.
Today the Reed Gold Mine is a museum with restored mine tunnels and hiking trails. Pro tip: if you visit between April through October, you have the chance to pan for gold yourself.
(3) The Mint.
Where to find it: The Mint Museum on Randolph, 2730 Randolph Rd.
The Charlotte Mint opened in 1837 on the 400 block of West Trade Street, creating more than $5 million in gold currency. It was later used as a hospital and military office for the Confederate government during the Civil War.
In 1931, the building was set to be demolished, but a group of citizens came together to have it moved to it’s current location in Eastover. Five years later, The Mint Museum opened its doors as the state’s first art museum.
(4) Why it’s called Uptown, not Downtown.
Where to find it: Uptown Charlotte
The Loyalists’ decision to settle at the intersection of Native American trading paths (now Trade and Tryon) contributes to why locals call downtown Charlotte Uptown.
This intersection was the highest elevation point in the city, so people had to go up to reach this point. Get it?
Then on Sept. 23, 1974, City Council declared that the shopping and business district in the center city be officially named “Uptown Charlotte.”
Didn’t know that? Don’t worry — you’re not the only one.
(5) The first to declare independence(?).
Where to find it: Statue of Captain James Jack, the corner of Fourth St. and Kings Dr.; Independence Boulevard; Charlotte Independence soccer.
Some of Charlotte’s leaders back in 1775 (supposedly) signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20. This document signified their separation from Great Britain. However, Thomas Jefferson (and other historians) believe the “Meck Dec” never existed.
But that hasn’t stopped us from celebrating Meck Dec Day every May 20. Even Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald Ford have come to town over the years to celebrate.
If you happen upon the corner of Fourth Street and Kings Drive, you will see the statue of Captain James Jack on his way to deliver the Meck Dec to Philadelphia.
Photos: Painting by Chas Fagan, T. Ortega Gaines/Charlotte Observer, Vanessa Infanzon, Tina Alvino, Bank of America Corporate Center, David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer, Chas Fagan