Charlotte Is 250 Years Old. What Will We Look Like After 250 More?

Dec 3, 2018

The city of Charlotte turns 250 years old today. If our city was a person, you might say, yeah, they’ve had a lot of work done. In fact, there’s not much left that anybody who was alive in 1768 might recognize.

There’s the Hezekiah Alexander House, which was built in 1774. There’s a couple of log cabins at Rural Hill and Latta Plantation. There’s the Old Settlers’ Cemetery uptown, which has gravesites that go back as far as 1776. That’s about it.

Of course there wasn’t much to Charlotte at all back then – we were a little settlement at the crossroads of two Native American trading paths. Now we have a metro area of a couple of million people, plus the NFL, the NBA, several Fortune 500 companies, and multiple Costcos.

But if our next 250 years are like our first 250, by the time the year 2268 comes around, just about everything we know of as Charlotte will be gone.

That has always been the Charlotte way. While other cities kept their old buildings, Charlotte always had the money and the desire to tear down and start over. Our uptown is as sleek and shiny as a new BMW, but it doesn’t have the soul of a classic old Mustang.

You can find that soul in other parts of the city. But uptown is the face we show the world. If we let it age, leave things alone a little bit, it might gain more of a sense of place. But all those cranes perched above the skyline say different. We’re going to keep growing, keep changing, as long as the money holds out.

And I wonder along the way how many of our monuments will survive.

You can see the uptown skyscrapers from 10 miles out on the highway. Now it’s hard to imagine the city without them. Bank of America Stadium is so massive and imposing that it feels like it’ll be around as long as the Parthenon. But when I was a college student, I went to Braves games at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. They demolished it in 1997. Then I went to Falcons games at the Georgia Dome. They imploded that last year.

Time is a humbling thing, no matter how big and powerful you might be.

It might be that the people who founded Charlotte hoped that what they built would be remembered forever, in the same way that the people who built modern Charlotte might hope to leave a permanent legacy. But if our first 250 years have taught us anything, it’s that we don’t get the final say in how the world sees us.

We might as well just decide to be good and kind and decent in the time we have. And if we’re remembered 250 years for now, hope we’re remembered for that.

Tommy Tomlinson’s commentaries appear every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. They represent his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to his commentaries in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.