Apr 13, 2016 - Things to Do

History on Call may no longer exist, but you can still learn Dilworth’s history on a walking tour

Photo via Google Maps

Scattered throughout Dilworth are these signs:

History on Call

Essentially, when History on Call was functional, a walking (or driving) tour through Dilworth was enriched when you called the number on the sign to learn about the history of the spot you were standing.

History on Call has gone by the wayside, but the stories and map are still discoverable, and the history is rich and interesting. Here’s what you can learn.

Photo via Charlotte Trolley
Photo via Charlotte Trolley

#1 First Electric Streetcar Runs in Charlotte

When Edward Dilworth Latta created the city’s first suburb of Dilworth, he promised plenty of fresh air, graceful streets and spacious homes, but it was considered too far out of town to be inconvenient. To fix this problem, the four Cs – the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company – signed with the Edison Electric Company to create a streetcar system in March of 1891.

The system was finished in May and consisted of two lines: one from West Trade Street to McDowell Street and another from North Tryon to Latta Park. Because of its success, the real estate market in the area skyrocketed. Find the spot on East Boulevard between Euclid and Springdale Avenues.

#2 Buying Lots in Charlotte’s First Suburb

Homesites in Dilworth went on sale to the public for the first time in 1981 and it was a huge deal – the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company literally threw a three-day party in Latta Park. Find where it happened at Euclid Avenue and Kingston Avenue intersect.

#3 Trolley Workers Strike – Violence Erupts

As the trolley’s importance grew in Dilworth, the importance of better pay did, too. When the city tried to get around the demands for more money and union recognitions by hiring new employees, current employees began to strike and police protection was put in place around the car barn.

A rope was stretched along the opposite sidewalk in an attempt to keep protestors out, but when the rope broke and the hundreds of protestors moved forward, police were ordered to fire, leaving five dead and dozens wounded. The incident has been called the worst labor disturbance in Charlotte’s history and you can find the site at the corner of South Boulevard and Bland Street.

#4 Luring City Folk to Dilworth: Latta Park

Edward Dilworth Latta, responsible for the Charlotte trolley line, added Latta Park as the final destination. Latta originally rented the 90-acre space for its ponds, pavilions, fairground, racetrack and baseball field. It was a bid to get more citizens on the trolley, and it worked. Take a walk through the smaller version at the East Park Avenue/Romany Road/Myrtle Avenue end of the park.

#5 Life in the Mill

The original Atherton Cotton Mill was located behind the Trolley Car Barn and began producing yarn and cotton goods in 1893. It was the first mill established by the D.A. Tompkins Company, who would go on to 100 more mills, the Charlotte Daily Observer (now the Charlotte Observer) and college textile programs that would be put into place at N.C. State and Clemson University.

Atherton Mill actually included a Mill village, which housed a school and 50 one-story houses on Euclid, Tremont and Cleveland, but the living conditions were horrendous. Life was regulated by the mill owners and the houses had no hot water, toilets or closets – because the mill hands weren’t used to modern improvements. They were used to accidents – mangled fingers, deaths and fires were commonplace in the mill. Cheery.

Find it at the intersection of Worthington and Euclid Avenues.

#6 Dilworth’s First Architect: C.C. Hook

Charles Christian Hook was an architectural genius and is known for being the brains behind many of Charlotte’s best-known buildings, including the Duke Mansion. The 4 Cs – the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company – brought him on to design many of the homes on the Dilworth promenade that have, to this day, avoided being bulldozed in favor of something better and have found instead found their place on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission’s roster of historic homes. 

Find a number of his projects on East Park Avenue between Cleveland and Euclid Avenues.


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