FAQ City: Who Is Sharon, And Why Are So Many Streets Named After Her?
A previous version of this podcast was broadcast in 2019.
Sharon Road, Sharon Lane, Sharon Amity, Sharon Woods Lane, Sharon Township Lane, Sharon Avenue, Sharon Chase Drive, and ... well you get the point. With so many roads named after her, it's no wonder Charlotteans are curious to know who is Sharon.
Among the numerous listeners who wrote to the FAQ City podcast with this question was Darcy Grimes, who said she's seen Sharon's name on multiple street signs and wondered if she might have some sort of familiar connection to someone important in Charlotte.
That's not a bad guess, and neither is listener Brooke Simmons's theory that Sharon could be the name of an influential family that helped establish the city.
We also heard listeners speculate that Sharon might be Queen Charlotte's sister, or perhaps the name of a town in Germany, like Mecklenburg.
Another listener, Bill Diskin, had an even wilder guess: "Maybe Sharon was Hugh McColl's pediatrician when he was a baby!"
No. Sad to say the real Sharon has no relation to the former president of Bank of America, or to Queen Charlotte. In reality, the true story behind all those Sharon-named streets has less to do with a personality and more to do with religion and Charlotte's early development.
All Roads Lead To Sharon
To get the scoop, we called in an old friend of the podcast, Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett, who has previously written about the Sharon phenomenon in south Charlotte.
He says two of the city's first "Sharon" streets were Sharon Road and Sharon Amity Road. If you trace them with your finger on a map, you'll see they intersect in a "V" in south Charlotte and end up at the historic Sharon Presbyterian Church, established 1831.
Sharon Road is not named after a person at all, he says, but a church. That's because churches were de facto landmarks in Charlotte's early days, and so many roads were named after the church they led to.
"There aren't any really big hills or deep valleys or lakes or riverfronts or whatever," he says, "So when somebody planted a church, that became a magnet for farm folk to move back and forth."
This also helps explain the names of many other Charlotte roads - like Providence Road, Carmel Road, Steele Creek Road, and Sugar Creek Road. All are named after local Presbyterian churches.
So who, then, is Sharon Presbyterian Church named for? Hanchett says the answer can be found in the Bible - specifically in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 65:10 describes Sharon as a "rich pasture" and a "place for flocks" for true believers. It's also mentioned in Isaiah 35:2 as a place that will "blossom abundantly."
Turns out Sharon isn't a woman at all, but a place, and it makes sense that Charlotte's early Presbyterians would bestow its hopeful name on their church, which was built among actual pastures and farmland.
Hanchett says as time went on, the name would prove prophetic.
"That area really was an area of good farmland and good soil," he says, "and it had wealthy enough farmers so that the county built them a brick schoolhouse. It was one of the few rural brick schoolhouses."
That attracted wealthy families to the area, as did North Carolina's former governor, William Morrison, who moved in and built an estate called Morrocroft, lending the area a certain prestige.
By the mid-century, most of the green pastures had been paved over for new developments, but the Sharon name stuck and became a sort of Charlotte brand. Developers knew the Sharon name was associated with a nice part of town, so they used it to attract new customers and homebuyers.
That's how we got the Sharon Woods and Sharon Forest neighborhoods, the Sharon Corners Shopping Center, and for a brief time, a Sharon View Country Club.
Today, there are — by our count — at least 14 roads in south Charlotte named after Sharon. There's also, of course, the two neighborhoods, the shopping center, the Sharon Towers apartments, and Sharon Elementary (which evolved from the Sharon School.)
The green pastures of old south Charlotte may be long gone, but there's no denying the area has blossomed. Perhaps we have Sharon to thank - even if she's not a real person.
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