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CNU31: Charlotte NC. Historic Fourth Ward

Just a bit north of the center city is Charlotte's oldest neighborhood - the Victorian-era Fourth Ward. It’s a mix of historic structures and infill with pleasant walkable narrow streets.

The neighborhood offers an unexpected respite in the heart of Charlotte. Made up of more than 30 city blocks, the Fourth Ward Historic District features diverse architecture, intriguing history, charming culinary spots, and peeks of nearby skyscrapers through its lush green canopy.

Friends of Fourth Ward has a great walking tour of the various homes and buildings within the neighborhood. This downloadable brochure gives a concise history of the structures that make up the neighborhood.

A couple of great neighborhood dining spots are also integrated into the quiet residential blocks - Alexander Michael's and the Poplar Street Cafe and Wine Bar.

Alexander Michael's is a neighborhood pub that is located in the historic Crowell-Berryhill Store Building. The building, constructed in 1897, served as the Berryhill Store for many years. It also housed a paint store, a laundry mat, and a gym for an English wrestler named “Tinker Todd” - clearly demonstrating how well-loved buildings can both adapt and persevere. While sitting in the tavern, you overlook the residential fabric and realize that commercial buildings, bars, and restaurants can be in harmony with residential neighborhoods when they respect the scale and context and do not comply with parking standards.

The Poplar Street Cafe and Wine Bar is in the historic Morrison House (circa 1885). The building, a great example of Queen-Ann style Victorian architecture, has been preserved by local architect Lucia Zapata Griffith. The front yard dining space activates the neighborhood and provides a great example of how a residential frontage can be transformed into a commercial frontage while still honoring the context and character of the block and neighborhood. And again, a restaurant that fits seamlessly into the residential fabric by not trying to build off-street parking that satisfies zoning requirements. You have to ask, how easy would it be to build this type of structure in your residential neighborhood? How many variances would you need? How many neighbors would be worried about congestion and parking?

The 3-acre Fourth Ward Park helps to anchor the neighborhood while offering a sequence of views through the tree canopy that gradually reveal Uptown's highrise buildings as you stroll through the space. Throughout the park you will see birdhouses crafted from discovered ceramic pieces designed by Joan Bankemper.

The northeast entrance to the park has a small collection of homes that front directly on the public greenspace. The zone between these private front yards and the public park is a unique space within the neighborhood that sets up a series of transitional spaces that are carefully nuanced with walls, plantings, and benches - giving visitors to the park cues on where it is appropriate to wander.

An interesting street tree placement in the historic Fourth Ward. This tree, the brick wall, the granite curb, and the paver sidewalk give this section of the street a human-scaled charm.

Quirky spaces within the Fourth Ward unveil themselves at nearly every turn. One such space is a small garden that includes what is referred to as the Secret Fountain. This space, near the intersection of 9th Street and North Poplar Street, is a small park that resulted from the closure of the intersection between 9th and Poplar. Within the space is the small fountain, defined by hand-laid bricks and granite pavers that have attained a great deal of patina that give the space a welcoming feel.

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