There’s no big collection of such photos, sad to say. In some cities, government took photos of every house for tax purposes. But in Charlotte-Mecklenburg that did not start until recently.
Check the Carolina Room’s image archive.
Then ask neighbors and previous residents of your house. You may get lucky.
Johnson C Smith University library has a large collection of photographs, anchored by the James G Peeler collection. While not organized by specific neighborhood, the pictures largely focus on the historically African American neighborhoods along the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
The UNCC library has a collection of 1500 photographs from the Charlotte Redevelopment Commission, showing houses and other buildings, many of which were demolished, in center city neighborhoods in the 1960s.
Knowing when your neighborhood was annexed to the city can help you learn what records may be available to tell its story. You can use this interactive map to discover the date that land was annexed. Step 1 Check the box for “planning” on the layer list on the right side. Step 2 Click on the arrow next to “planning” and check the box for “annexation history.” Step 3 Enter address or click location on the map.
Maps Showing Neighborhood Boundaries
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Department has no official map showing neighborhood boundaries. Google Maps does show its own unofficial neighborhood boundaries. Do a Google search using your neighborhood’s name. Be aware that some smaller neighborhoods may not be named on the Google map. Some large Google neighborhoods may contain several smaller neighborhoods with their own historic names.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Sanborn maps show details of all buildings and the location of all streets. They cover the most densely built-up areas inside the city of Charlotte starting in 1885. To access the on-line Sanborn maps for Charlotte (and other NC cities) for FREE, go to the resources page of the public library’s home webpage.
Step 1 Scroll down to “Sanborn Maps,” and click on it. Step 2 Click on “Browse to a location” and click on “Charlotte.” Step 3 Click anywhere on the current Google map and at the bottom of the page you will see links to every on-line Sanborn map through time that shows that spot. Step 4 Click on “zoom map” under the “plate” column to load the image of a map.
School yearbooks are windows on to local communities, and often have wonderful images. Yearbooks for many of the Mecklenburg County high schools are available online.
Aerial photographs show in great detail what is in the built environment, and what your neighborhood looks like.
Aerial photographs from 1950 are available at the Robinson Spangler Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library. You will need to use them in-person, so check with the librarians there.
Photos from 1955 are available in the Dalton Rare Book Room of the Special Collections unit located the top floor of the Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte. You will need to use them in-person, so check with the librarians there.
Folks have written histories of most of Charlotte’s pre-1930s neighborhoods near the center city.
Overview: The Growth of Charlotte
Center City / original 4 wards
Belmont-Villa Heights-Optimist Park
Dilworth from 1911 see also Dilworth before 1911
Myers Park see also Myers Park National Register Nomination (pdf 109 pages)
North Charlotte, see also North Charlotte National Register Nomination, and Useful Information for Cotton Manufacturers by Stuart W. Cramer, 1906
Washington HeightsThis site created by UNC Charlotte provides histories of many historically African American communities in Charlotte, with links to archival and published resources. Neighborhoods include Belmont, Biddleville, Brooklyn, Cherry, Derita, Enderly Park, Graham Heights, Greenville, Grier Heights, McCrorey Heights, Optimist Park, Shuffletown, and Washington Heights.Historic West End, created by Johnson C Smith University Duke Library, explores the historically African American neighborhoods in the vicinity of the university and the Beatties Ford Road corridor.County-wide studies by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission have documented a variety of communities, including cotton mills and their villages, African American sites, Mecklenburg’s small towns, and post 1945 suburbia.There is also a study of African American buildings in Mecklenburg County from 2002.
Cornelius — Leslie Rindoks, Cornelius, A Town By Any Other Name (Lorimer Press, 2005)
Derita — Eddie Conley, June Bug on a String (Warren Publishing, 2011)
Dilworth — Tom Bradbury, Dilworth, the First 100 Years (Dilworth Community Development Association, 1992)
Lake Norman — Chuck McShane, A History of Lake Norman: from Fish Camps to Ferraris (History Press, 2014)
Mint Hill — Mint Hill Historical Society, Mint Hill (Images of America) (Arcadia, 2005)
Myers Park — Mary Kratt and Tom Hanchett, Legacy: The Myers Park Story 3rd edition (Duke Mansion, 2010)
Plaza Midwood — Jeff Byers, Plaza Midwood Neighborhood of Charlotte (Images of America) (Arcadia, 2004)
Steele Creek — Linda Lawless Blackwelder, Steele Creek: An Early History of the Steele Creek Community, Mecklenburg County, N.C. (Steele Creek Printing and Design, 2018)
West End / Biddleville — Ron Stodghill, et al, editors, Let There Be Light: Exploring How Charlotte’s Historic West End is Shaping a New South (Johnson C. Smith University, 2013)
Is your neighborhood missing from this list? YOU could write its history. Be sure to give a copy to the Carolina Room and we’ll add it here.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission has designated over 300 individual properties across Mecklenburg County, each with an in-depth Survey & Research Report.
The Landmarks Commission has also done county-wide studies focused on particular aspects of the “built past,” including cotton mills and their villages, African American sites, the county’s small towns, and post 1945 architecture.
The City of Charlotte has a separate Historic Districts Commission, part of the planning department, which has designated six neighborhoods as historic.
The Town of Davidson has an Historic District of its own.
More than 100 sites and districts in Mecklenburg County are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each has extensive research studies available on-line from the NC State Historic Preservation Office.
The following three are the best to start with. There are dozens more — check with the Carolina Room. E-mail or phone 704.416.0150.
- Mary Kratt, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Brief History (History Press, 2009)
- Tom Hanchett, Sorting Out the New South City: Race, Class and Urban Development, 2nd edition (UNC Press, 2020)
- Fanny Flono, Thriving in the Shadows: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County ( Novello Press / Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, 2006)
- And to understand your neighborhood in national context, here’s a good starting place: Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (Oxford University Press, 1987)
Neighborhood History Toolkit Developers
J. Michael Moore, community historian
Dr. Tom Hanchett, Historian in Residence, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Dr. Tom Cole, Librarian, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Carol Sawyer, Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education