It’s wild to think "FAQ City" is approaching its two-year birthday in January. To date, we’ve received more than 600 listener questions and produced full-fledged answers to about 40 of those listener queries. I’m constantly impressed with all the creative and curious questions people are coming up with, and I only wish we had time to answer more.
That said, here are my top five favorite listener-submitted questions (in no particular order) from this past year.
1. Does Charlotte have abandoned gold mines buried beneath the city?
This question from listener Aaron Hopping sent us down a rabbit hole (mine shaft?) of Charlotte’s gold-mining history. Not many people realize that before Charlotte was a banking town - and before that, a textile town - it was all about gold mining!
As we learned from Charlotte historian Dan Morrill, there were at least 60 mines around Mecklenburg County in the late 1800s, with the two largest located near present-day Bank of America Stadium. Unfortunately, the exact location of the mines and their underground tunnels has been mostly lost, and as far as we know, all the mines have been sealed shut.
However, they’ve been known to unexpectedly reopen, as one mine shaft did in an unsuspecting woman’s basement.
2. Who is Sharon and why do we have so many roads named after her?
This was one of the most-submitted questions "FAQ City" has received to date. Dozens of our listeners have been wondering who this ubiquitous Sharon is and why every other road in south Charlotte seems to bear her name.
We invited our listeners to send in their best guesses. Maybe she helped found the city, some wondered. Maybe she was related to Queen Charlotte? One listener even wondered if she was Hugh McColl’s pediatrician when he was a baby!
As we found out from historian Tom Hanchett, Sharon isn’t so much a person as she is a historical place in the Bible – a “rich pasture” and a “place for flocks.” Some of Charlotte’s earliest settlers bestowed the name on their new Presbyterian Church, and the road that led to that church got named – you guessed it – Sharon Road.
Since then, the name has spread and become something like a Charlotte brand. That’s why we now have the Sharon Forest and Sharon Woods neighborhoods, the Sharon Towers Apartments and even the Sharon Corners Shopping Center.
3. What’s up with those cell towers disguised as trees?
Listener Amy Reader sent us this question after thinking there was something awfully suspicious about a particular pine tree off Interstate 85. For instance, it was twice the height of all the other trees and had giant panels among its branches.
To get the scoop, we talked to a man whose company specializes in disguising cellphone towers – not just as trees, but as flagpoles, cacti, and giant Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils. He talked us through the origins of the incognito cell tower, and why he believes they’re better than the naked alternative.
He also told us that while humans might laugh at the tree towers, some birds have been fooled. The company once had to construct a fake nest in a tower near Charleston to accommodate a family of ospreys that wanted to reside in the tower.
4. How many Charlotteans are native?
There’s a long-running joke that native Charlotteans are like unicorns – so rare they almost seem mystical. Listener Garrett Cooperman wanted to know exactly how many residents actually are native.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find an exact answer to this question because the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t track someone’s city of birth. However, the Census Bureau does track a person’s state of birth, meaning we could get close to an answer by calculating the number of native North Carolinians living in Charlotte.
As we found out, 41% of Charlotte’s population is native to North Carolina. The percentage is higher in places like Belmont and Gastonia and plummets to around 30% in areas like uptown Charlotte and Ballantyne.
5. What’s at the top of the Bank of America tower?
Sometimes there are listeners who have such good questions they get to come on the podcast a second or even a third time! That’s the case for Aaron Hopping, who sent in this question about the 60th floor of the Bank of America tower (he also sent in the question about Charlotte’s historic gold mines).
We didn’t get to see the 60th floor in person – the bank typically doesn’t let the public in these days – but we did get to hear about it from bank executive Charles Bowman.
He told us the top floor is home to a windowless board room and an airy event space with sweeping views of the Charlotte region. The event space is typically used for employee send offs or to impress out-to-town clients. When you’re up there, you can see as far as Ballantyne and Charlotte Motor Speedway, he said.