On eight green and lush acres in east Charlotte sits the contemporary building that houses The Charlotte Museum of History.
The artwork collections, Hands-On History Room, maps and other displays inside tell Charlotte’s story. We learn about General Cornwallis’ famous quote, the Battle of Charlotte and the Catawba Indian Nation. Time is needed to read and absorb the historical information, and beauty of the artwork and photographs.
Then walk out the back door and cross the stone bridge. Kay Peninger, the museum’s director, tells visitors to imagine they are crossing into colonial times. The scenery changes, and the museum’s secret is revealed: Hezekiah Alexander’s homesite.
Built in 1774, it’s a 2,500-square-foot home and made of piedmont stone. After living in Maryland and Virginia, Alexander settled in Mecklenburg County in 1764.
Alexander was a blacksmith and became a wealthy land owner. He was a patriot leader during the years leading up to the founding of this nation. He contributed to North Carolina’s first Constitution and Bill of Rights in 1775.
So why should you visit The Charlotte Museum of History? I asked museum volunteers and staff, who came up with these nine reasons:
1. Hezekiah Homesite
“The oldest existing home in Mecklenburg County: I enjoy the tours of the house best of all.” – Tom Phlegar, volunteer docent
2. Colonial diorama
“I am always fascinated by the diorama of Charlotte in the colonial and revolutionary eras.” – Hugh Dussek, volunteer docent
3. Sports history of Charlotte
“I love how the museum not only tells the stories of Charlotte but how it incorporates those stories into the conversation of topical issues of the day.” – John Horne, volunteer docent
4. Nature walk
“The diversity in animal life is as good as you’ll find in the city: fox, duck, turtles, egrets, deer, hawks, snakes and geese.” – Nick Luciano, volunteer docent
5. American Freedom Bell
“It’s surprising that we display the country’s largest ground-level bell, which we ring for visitors regularly.” – Hannah Kiefer, Education Specialist
6. Free Neighborhood Walking Tours
“From the American Revolution to the people who fought for liberty, to the gold rush, Charlotte has a unique story.” – Amy Vickers, Education Specialist
7. The Charlotte Neighborhoods exhibit
“From settlement to present day, find out how neighborhoods like Plaza Midwood, Biddleville and NoDa developed.” – Matt Gilligan, Education Specialist
Join a group of young professionals that enjoy history and want to learn more about Charlotte. Kay Peninger, Director
9. Get married at the museum
“The eighth generation granddaughter of Hezekiah Alexander was married at the museum in May, and, in fact anyone can get married here.” – Mary Beth Navarro, Public Relations
May 13: Walking Tour of Dilworth
Meet at 6 p.m. at Big Ben Pub at 2000 South Blvd, Suite 150. Tour will be led by Dilworth resident Carl Johnson.
May 20-21: Celebrate Meck Dec Day
This annual event celebrates the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Events include the May 20th Society’s MeckDec Commemoration in uptown, Charlotte Trivia Night at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Charlotte Knights Baseball Game and special activities at The Charlotte Museum of History.
Sept. 17: Backcountry Days
Go back in time at this free celebration featuring music, storytelling and free tours of Hezekiah Alexander House. See demonstrations of basket weaving, blacksmithing, pottery, and cooking. Sample a colonial-style beer made using spring water from the Hezekiah Alexander Springhouse.
November 19: Colonial Beer Making Contest
Local breweries like Legion, Sugar Creek and Sycamore will compete to see who can brew the best beer using an 18th-century recipe.
Charlotte Museum of History: 3500 Shamrock Drive
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults $10, Children (6-17) $7
Photos: Vanessa Infanzon; Charlotte Museum of History; Matt Gilligan