Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and the 20th most populous in the United States. Nicknamed the Queen City, Charlotte is the county seat of Mecklenburg County. It is located in the south-central part of North Carolina, near the South Carolina border. As it is a center of finance, transportation, wholesale distribution, and manufacturing, Charlotte is the metropolis of the Carolinas.
Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation and is also the second-largest banking center in the country, trailing only New York City in terms of headquartered assets. A resident of Charlotte is referred to as a Charlottean (shar-la-TEE-uhn).
As of 2004, census estimates show there are 594,359 people living within Charlotte's city limits, and 801,137 in Mecklenburg County. The county's population is projected to reach 1 million in 2010.
Figures from the more comprehensive 2000 census show Charlotte's population density to be 861.9/km2 (2,232.4/mi2). There are 230,434 housing units at an average density of 367.2/km2 (951.2/mi2).
Charlotte's population is ethnically diverse. The city's breakdown by race is as follows:
The median income for a household in the city is $46,975, and the median income for a family is $56,517. Males have a median income of $38,767 versus $29,218 for females. The per capita income for the city is $26,823. 10.6% of the population and 7.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 13.8% of those under the age of 18 and 9.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Charlotte has become a major U.S. financial center, and both the nation's second largest (Bank of America) and fourth largest banks (Wachovia) call the city home. Their headquarters, along with other regional banking and financial services companies, are located primarily in the uptown financial district. Thanks to the continued expansion of the city's banking industry, the Charlotte skyline has mushroomed in recent years and boasts the Bank of America Corporate Center, designed by Csar Pelli. At 871 feet (265 m), the 60-story post-modern gothic tower is the 23rd tallest building in the United States, and the tallest skyscraper between Philadelphia and Atlanta.
The following Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the Charlotte metropolitan area:
Other major companies based in Charlotte include Belk, Meineke Autocare, Carlisle Companies, Compass Group USA, and Royal+SunAlliance.
Charlotte was founded in the mid-18th century at the intersection of two Indian trading paths, one of which ran north-south Great Wagon Road, and is followed closely today by U.S. Route 21, and a second that ran east-west along what is now modern-day Trade Street. In the early part of the 18th century, the Great Wagon Road led settlers of Scots-Irish, who were Presbyterian and founded many churches the oldest of which being Sugaw Creek Presbyterian and German descent from Pennsylvania into the Carolina foothills.
In 1755, early settler Thomas Polk (uncle of United States President James K. Polk) built a home at the crossroads of an Indian trading path and the Great Wagon Road, which became the village of Charlotte Town, incorporated in 1768. The crossroads, perched atop a long rise in the piedmont landscape, is the heart of modern Uptown Charlotte. The trading path became Trade Street, and the Great Wagon Road was named Tryon Street, in honor of William Tryon, a royal governor of colonial North Carolina. The intersection of Trade and Tryon is known as The Square.
Both the city and its county are named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the German wife of British King George III. The loyalty to King George and his consort was short-lived, however. On May 20, 1775, townsmen allegedly signed a proclamation that later became known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. A copy was sent, though never officially presented, to the Continental Congress a year later.
Though Thomas Jefferson would deny having borrowed content from the Mecklenburg declaration, his 1776 Declaration of Independence featured language similar to the Charlotte document (today there is no generally accepted historic proof of the so-called Meck-Dec, and many doubt it ever existed, yet the date of the Declaration appears on the North Carolina state flag). Eleven days later the same 27 townsmen met to create and endorse the Mecklenburg Resolves, a set of laws to govern the newly independent town.
Charlotte played a critical role during the Revolutionary War. It was a site of encampment for both the American and British main armies, and during a series of skirmishes between British troops and feisty Charlotteans the village earned the lasting nickname "Hornets Nest" from a frustrated Lord General Charles Cornwallis. Charlotte was an ideological hotbed of revolutionary sentiment, a legacy that endures today in the nomenclature of such landmarks as Independence Boulevard, Independence High School, Freedom Park and Freedom Drive.
In 1799, 12-year-old Conrad Reed went fishing one spring morning and brought home a rock weighing about 17 pounds, which the family used as a doorstop for three years before it was recognized by a jeweller as gold. It was the first verified find of gold in the fledgling United States. The nation's original gold rush was on, and many veins of gold were subsequently found in the area. The Reed Gold Mine was the nation's first, and it operated until 1912. Uptown Charlotte is literally and figuratively built on gold mines.
Charlotte's history as a financial center is extensive. In 1837 the U.S. Congress established a branch United States Mint here because of the gold deposits found in the area. The Charlotte mint was active until 1861, when Confederate forces seized the mint facility at the outbreak of the Civil War. The mint was not reopened at the end of the war, but the building survives today, albeit in a different location, and now houses the Mint Museum of Art.
The city's modern-day banking industry achieved prominence in the 1970s, largely under the leadership of financier Hugh McColl. McColl transformed North Carolina National Bank (NCNB) into a formidable national player that, through a series of aggressive acquisitions, would eventually become Bank of America. Another hometown bank, First Union, experienced similar growth, and is now known as Wachovia. Today, Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the country after New York City.
Charlotte's penchant for looking ahead--a drive for economic development that kicked into particularly high gear during the mid-20th century--has created something of a historical apathy in the city. Most traces of antebellum Charlotte are long gone, and preservationists often struggle to maintain landmarks in the face of modern-minded boosters, a key reason Charlotte is often regarded as a "new" American city despite the fact that it is actually one of the oldest of the nation's larger cities.
Famous natives of Charlotte include evangelist Billy Graham, pop music stars K-Ci and JoJo of Jodeci, R&B singer Anthony Hamilton, R&B singer Sunshine Anderson, pro wrestling legend Ric Flair, actor Randolph Scott, U.S. president James K. Polk(Pineville), independent filmmaker Ross McElwee, humorist Rich Hall, artist Romare Bearden, actress Berlinda Tolbert (of The Jeffersons) and Emmy-nominated actress Sharon Lawrence ("NYPD Blue"). Novelist Carson McCullers wrote her best-known work, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, while a resident of the city.