Why is downtown Charlotte called “Uptown”?


You know it’s coming. The most vexing question posed by visiting out-of-town guests: “Why does Charlotte refer to its downtown as … Uptown?”

I asked several notable Charlotteans what they thought.

David Marsh


SwimMAC Carolina’s CEO & Director of Coaching.

Marsh has coached 47 Olympians from 19 countries and owns 12 NCAA titles from his time at Auburn.

“I assumed it had something to do with the Southern vernacular related to ‘uppity town.’ Being a coach that works ‘Uptown’ daily but lives in the quaint village of Davidson, I can relate to the appropriateness of ‘Uppity Town.’ Let’s brand it nationally!”

Uh … no. Thanks for playing, David.

Thomas Morgan



Morgan splits his time between Charlotte and Singapore where they call downtown “downtown.”

His recent documentary film “Waiting for Mamu,” won Audience Favorite at the 2013 Traverse City Film Festival.

“The queen sounds classy as an ‘Uptown’ lady as opposed to a downtown tramp – and so it was.”

Nice try Tom.

Amy Herman & Corri Smith

Co-founders #instabeerupCLT.

Amy: “Uptown is on a hill, it’s above everything else and people coming from elsewhere were coming ‘Uptown.’”


Corri: “Uptown sounds fancier. I think someone who lives on one of the Sharon Roads came up with it.”


Amy may be on to something. Corri … maybe not.

Mike Collins


Host of WFAE’s Charlotte Talks and co-creator of the hilarious annual spoof “Charlotte Squawks.”

“Have you ever tried walking there from any direction? No, of course not, we all drive there or take the Lynx. But if you do, you’ll quickly discover you’re walking uphill. That and the fact that uptown makes us sound elite.”

Getting closer …

Teresa Hernandez


Owner Pura Vida, NoDa.

“I never have called it Uptown. It just doesn’t connect with me even after 13 years in Charlotte, I still say downtown.”

A rebel. Teresa, I like that.

John W. Love


Performance artist.

“Growing up on the west side of Charlotte, we always referred to it as downtown. I think the push to revitalize Charlotte’s center as Uptown came about as more marketing than anything else. Uptown sounds less gritty and more desirable and sophisticated. I still refer to it as downtown.”

A trend is developing here …

Tracy Lee Curtis


Observer columnist, humorist.

“Really, I don’t know. But I DO know it was named by the same people who came up with the intersection of Queens and Queens and Providence and Providence.”

If anyone knows the definitive answer it has to be Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South.



Here is what he had to say on the matter:

“There is a two-part answer: The first part is rooted in geographic reality. In the mid-1700s, the nation’s trading path from the southeast to the Atlantic ran along a ridge top.

“One of those Indian trading paths in Charlotte came to be Tryon Street and it crossed another that became Trade Street. This was the highest elevation point and the city grew around it. When people came to this point, they were going ‘up.’

“The second part is more recent. On September 23, 1974, a city council proclamation declared that the shopping and business district in the center city be officially named ‘Uptown Charlotte.’ The push for this came from local merchant and booster, Jack Wood. Wood argued that Uptown name was in use in the 50s and needed to be restored.”

Now you know.

Photo credits: David T. Foster, III/Charlotte Observer, Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com, zimbio.com, Tracy Curtis, Corri Smith, Amy Herman, Moye Photography, Kimberly Lawson, Mike Collins.


Read more from Michael Solender at michaeljwrites.com and follow him on Twitter  @mjsolender.


  1. Downtown is defined as the place in a city where Trade/commerce occur. (Like on “Trade” st.)
    Uptown is defined as a section for shopping/residental development AWAY / SEPARATE from the Downtown area.
    Go google the uptown & downtown part of Dallas or other cities you will see they are completely different locations-sometimes miles apart.
    Charlotte has No Uptown!!!
    If you still designate our city center as uptown, then where is the downtown?

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