A Charlotte Neighborhood Rediscovers Its Name
When Drew Thrasher purchased his modest south Charlotte home in 2003, he thought he was moving into the Fairmeadows neighborhood.
All the real estate listings said Fairmeadows, and there were no signs saying otherwise. When he was signing the deed for his home, Thrasher did notice the word "Laurelwood," but he didn't think much of it.
"I just assumed there was some legal reason behind it, and honestly didn't give it another thought for ten years," he said.
That is until last summer, when Thrasher — a self-described history buff — began talking about the neighborhood's history with some folks at the neighborhood pool. He remembered what he saw on his deed, and out of curiousity, decided to do some digging.
What he found in his research was that he and his immediate neighbors weren't living in Fairmeadows at all, but in a completely separate neighborhood built in the 1960s by Charlotte developer John Crosland. Many of his neighbors just seemed to have forgotten the neighborhood's original name: Laurelwood.
Laurelwood — A New Community Blossoms
The Laurelwood neighborhood itself is not that big. It encompasses four streets, three cul de sacs, and about 80 homes — many of them single-story or split-level. The residents are mostly young families or empty-nesters, according to Thrasher.
When Laurelwood was built in 1963 on the site of a former cow pasture, the surrounding area was still relatively undeveloped. SouthPark Mall had yet to be built, and Sharon Road was still only two lanes.
Like many other Charlotte neighborhoods built after World War II, Laurelwood's name contains tree and forest imagery (think Beverly Woods, Sardis Woods, Hickory Grove, Arbor Glen, Double Oaks — Charlotteans really love trees!)
Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett said it was common for marketing firms to give Charlotte neighborhoods of that era country-ish sounding names, and it was also common for many neighborhood names to fall out of usage after everyone moved in.
"What normally happens is the subdivision name is a marketing tool," Hanchett said, "And once the subdivision sold, and the lots are sold, it may fade away."
Bringing Laurelwood Back
That's not the case for Laurelwood. After Thrasher completed his research — which included flipping though The Charlotte Observer archives, the register of deeds and talking with the only original homeowner still in the neighborhood — he compiled his findings into a powerpoint presentation and shared it at a neighborhood block party.
"For many, it was kind of the first time they had ever heard of 'Laurelwood,'" Thrasher said, "Again, they were people who might have moved in recently and just assumed from what they had seen (on real estate listings) that they were in Fairmeadows."
Since then, Thrasher has helped form a Laurelwood Neighborhood Association, and as president, he's helped the neighborhood get recognized on city maps and the social media app "Next Door." Neighbors have also created small, laminated neighborhood logos that have been affixed to utility poles — a placeholder until they can get street sign-toppers.
There are also plans to install a wooden sign by the neighborhood's entrance, where the neighborhood used to have a sign until it fell down or was stolen many years ago, leaving behind bare brick pillars.
Thrasher hopes the revived name will give residents a greater sense of place and community, and will hopefully band them together in the face of encroaching development in the SouthPark area, especially along Sharon Road.
Already they're seeing some success. One developer is building new townhomes near the neighborhood's entrance. After talking with Thrasher and other neighbors, the developer decided to name the homes "Laurelwood Towns."
"What excites me is bringing to life the history of what was here and creating that sense of place," Thrasher said. "My hope over time is that it will be more recognized."
Corrected on September 5, 2018 - An earlier version of this story misspelled the Fairmeadows neighborhood as Fair Meadows.