In the city of beige and new, there are still cool, old buildings to notice. Here are 5.

Alex Cason Photography
Optimist Hall

As the Charlotte metropolitan area continues to rapidly expand, it can be difficult for developers and the city to prioritize preserving history while keeping up with demands for more housing, retail and developments.

Yet, there remains pockets of preservation all throughout the city, even amid all the bright and shiny new developments. Which buildings are worth saving and why? 

On Thursday night, the Charlotte Museum of History’s Historic Preservation Awards narrowed down some of the special ones. The museum honored five residential, commercial and community projects for their achievements in preserving Charlotte’s architectural and cultural heritage.

“I think we hear a lot of laments of things that are lost, and surely as a community we have lost a lot of our history, but there have been great success stories,” said Adria Focht, director of the Charlotte Museum of History.

[ Related: How NoDa residents are preserving their historic homes despite Charlotte development ]

The Historic Preservation Awards were last given out in 2014, and the Charlotte Museum of History is bringing back the tradition as a way to provide visibility to these stories in Charlotte. 

“It’s very exciting for us to bring this event back to the community to celebrate the success stories and hopefully inspire more successful historic preservation and sensitive neighborhood integration in Charlotte, especially as we continue to grow exponentially in the next 20 years,” Focht said.

Here are the five buildings that made the short list:

(1) Atomic Palm Project

Palm Avenue

Courtesy of the Charlotte Museum of History

Developer Charlie Miller was tasked with developing a large lot with a 70-year-old cottage in the center. Miller maintained and moved the existing house to another location on the lot and built four mid-century modern-inspired ranch houses in the space to correspond with the style and history of the Country Club Heights Neighborhood. 

The neighborhood was developed in the 1950’s, and the Atomic Palm project homes have architectural features that reflect the style of that period, such as open floor plans, clean exterior lines and butterfly roofs. 

(2) Optimist Hall

1115 N. Brevard St. 

Courtesy of the Charlotte Museum of History

The recently opened food hall, retail space and office complex Optimist Hall is located in the restored historic Highland Park Manufacturing Company Mill No. 1 building. Built in 1892, this mill was one of the oldest and largest textile production facilities in Charlotte and was in operation until 1960.

White Point Partners restored this building to its historic condition and maintained elements of the original mill, such as signage and artifacts, to bring the story of the past into the building’s present use. 

[Related: Take a look at Optimist Hall, now open]

(3) Raynor Law Office

1822 Cleveland Ave. 

Courtesy of the Charlotte Museum of History

Ken and Lucy Raynor renovated a historic home in the Dilworth Historic District for use for both their personal home and their business office.

The existing structure was restored to be a home for the Raynors. A pergola connects to a business addition that reflects the style of the historic home and embraces the pedestrian-friendly nature of the urban neighborhood. Innovative elements such as a new patio leading to the business conference room and a water fountain provide a soothing counterpart to city noises.

(4) Second Ward Gym

710 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 

Courtesy of the Charlotte Museum of History

Second Ward High School was a landmark of historic Brooklyn, an African American neighborhood and community in uptown Charlotte’s Second Ward. In the 1960’s, the city razed over 1,480 buildings in this neighborhood, including the high school, as part of an urban renewal plan. Built in 1949, the high school’s gym was one of the first examples of modern architecture in uptown Charlotte; it was abandoned in the 1960s. 

In 2018, the Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation advocated for the restoration and reuse of the Second Ward High School Gym, and the structure was renovated and reopened later that year. Through a partnership with the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, the gym — located next to the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center — has been renovated for use for fitness, athletics and other programs, and preserves the memory of the Brooklyn community. 

[Related: 50 years later, black alumni reunite to recall their beloved, bulldozed high school]

(5) The Greene Residence

2601 Selwyn Ave. 

Courtesy of Charlotte Museum of History

When Amy and Phillip Greene purchased a 1921 Craftsman-style home in Myers Park, it was deteriorated and in need of renovation. Instead of tearing the house down, the Greenes spent several years to restore the house themselves and maintaining the historical architectural character and features of their home.

Phillip Greene worked as the general contractor, and Amy Greene assisted with the design to restore the house to its original American Foursquare architecture style.


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