Historical Charlotte

While Charlotte may be slowing, losing its historical treasures to modern development, there are still a few gems to be found.

Rosedale Plantation

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by vampirefan on October 3, 2006

This beautiful Federal style manor was built in 1815 for Archibald Frew. Frew was a merchant, postmaster, and tax collector. The neighbors called it "Frew’s Folly" though no one is sure why. It was once part of a 911-acre plantation.

In stark contrast to the simple log cabins of the area, the Federal 2-story house was a site. The white house featured bright yellow trim on the outside. This incredible home includes a 2-story portico. Unlike many homes of the time which kept their kitchens separate from the main house. The kitchen area of this house is located in the basement. The coolness of the basement also allowed for better storage of fruits, vegetables, and meats. Sadly Archibald would not live much longer after his masterpiece was completed. Oddly enough he died on April 15th 1823 at age 45. His sister, Sarah, married into the Davidson family which is connected with the Rural Hill Plantation in Lake Norman.

In 1830 Dr. D.T. Caldwell brought the house for his family. Dr. Caldwell was a prominent physician in the area and with the help of 20 slaves ran a farm to help sustain his family. Dr. Caldwell passed away shortly before the beginning of the Civil War. It was taken over and ran by his family. After the war ended and slavery was abolished some of the slaves returned to the plantation as paid workers to help take care of the home.

Like most other homes in the South, the house went through a number of owners and uses. Eventually it was restored and opened to the public. Today visitors are once again a welcome site to the home. Inside the immaculate home you take a guided tour through the main rooms and bedrooms which are furnished as they would have been at the time of the original owners. The house is noted for its faux gained woodwork and for the French wallpaper that survives in three of the rooms. In one of the main rooms you can see the original woodwork of the house. You are also taken downstairs to see the basement where most of the cooking was done. Outside the home take the time to enjoy the surrounding gardens. Many of the trees and box woods in the boxwood gardens are still original to the home. You can also see where current excavation of the property is on going.

Hours/admission: Mon.-Fri. 10-4, Sat. & Sun. 1-4. Guided tours given at 1, 2, and 3 Tue.-Sun. Admission: $5 anyone over 8. There is a small gift shop and restrooms on the premises. Events include a Christmas open house and a family reunion. Please go to www.historicalrosedale.com. Located 3 miles from downtown Charlotte. This grand home sits in one of the most dilapidated parts of Charlotte. So please don’t be startled when driving to the home.

Historic Rosedale Plantation
3427 N. Tryon Street
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28206
(704) 335-0325

Hezekiah Alexander Homesite

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by vampirefan on October 3, 2006

This lovely 2 story stone house was built by Hezekiah Alexander in 1774. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, this home is the oldest home still standing in Mecklenburg County. The homestead originally encompassed 600 acres.

Alexander was originally a blacksmith, but after moving to Mecklenburg County he became a Justice of the Peace as well as a planter. He is one of the original signers of the May 20, 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. He also served as a delegate to the Fifth Provincial Congress. He was quite wealthy and an influential member of the local community. He had this large and impressive home built for himself, his wife, and 10 children.

The home, reminiscing of the houses of Maryland and Pennsylvania, was built from stone quarried from nearby. In parts of the house the walls are 28 feet thick and tapering to 14 inches at the roof. When the home was restored in the 1950’s, very little had to be done to the exterior. The stone had allowed the home to remain solid for almost 200 years.

In the 1950s the Daughter’s of the Revolution saved from the home from the wrecking ball. Today the home is run by the DAR and the Hezekiah Alexander Foundation and is part of the Charlotte Museum of History.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the home. Downstairs you tour the dining room, the master bedroom, as well as the parlor where Mr. and Mrs. Alexander would have once entertained guests. Upstairs the children’s room as well as guest rooms can be seen as well as a large loom which of course would not have been placed in this room at the time the owners lived here. Most likely the loom would have been in the kitchen area and a slave would have woven wool. Once you walk into the bedroom on your right make sure to take a look down. Here you can see the beautiful herb garden that has been planted. The house is furnished with pieces from the 1700-1800’s and a few pieces are from the Alexander family.

Not done just yet! Read on for part 2.

Charlotte Museum of History & Hezekiah Alexander Home
3500 Shamrock Drive
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28215
(704) 568-1774

The Charlotte Museum of History

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by vampirefan on October 3, 2006

Before you enjoy the Hezekiah Alexander homestead, take time to stop in the stunning 36,000 square foot newly expanded Charlotte Museum.

The museum is dedicated to telling the history of Charlotte and the surrounding area. You first walk into the rotund marbled front desk and pick up a map of the museum and sign up for the tour of the Alexander home.

To the left you will see the history of Charlotte as it started to immerse into the 19th century. There are displays and artifacts of every day citizens, see how Charlotte began it rise as a banking giants with a display of a early 1900’s bank, see mementos from when Mother Theresa was in Charlotte in 1995 to open up one of her charities, and see a display to one of Charlotte’s most prominent citizens..Rev. Billy Graham.

To the right see how Mecklenburg county got its start. Check out a huge covered wagon which brought many new citizens to the area and everyday items including pottery, Bibles, photographs, coins, etc. There is also a display to show the regions prominence as gold was first discovered in the area in 1799.

Up stairs there is a display of the Alexander house. There is a miniature of the house and it shows the work and progression of restoring this amazing house. There is also room for changing exhibits upstairs.

Outside there is large cannon in front of the museum as well as a beautiful flower garden and water fountains which allows this stunning museum to have a picture postcard quality to it. They also have a walking path around the back which can be accessed anytime.

The museum has a very well stocked gift shop on the premises. It includes books, local crafts, museum replicas, as well as children’s gifts and your requisite round up of t-shirts, post cards, magnets and such. Scrapbookers be on the lookout for their bookmarkers. I got a beautiful one that made a great enhancement to my page. They do have restrooms and water fountains. They are handicapped accessible. But please note the Hezekiah Alexander homestead is not. They are affiliated with the Smithsonian. They have a research library and reading room. They also have a beautiful grand hall that can be rented out for private events.

They have a number of on going events through the year including music sessions, ice cream socials, kids nights, demonstrations, lectures, Christmas and Halloween programs, and tours of the museum in the evening.


Tue-Sat. 10-5 Sunday 1-5 Tours of the house: 1:15 and 3:15

Closed major holidays and Monday except for Memorial Day and Labor Day. Hours may be changed or extended during events.

Admission: $6 (a) $5 (s) $3 (c) under 6. AAA and other discounts may apply.

Parking is free. Accessible by CATS bus system on CAT Rt. 23 Shamrock.

For more information please go to www.charlottemuseum.org.

Charlotte Museum of History & Hezekiah Alexander Home
3500 Shamrock Drive
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28215
(704) 568-1774

Hezekiah Alexander Homesite Pt. 2

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by vampirefan on October 3, 2006

In addition to the home, there is a barn on the premises. Though not original to the property, it is of the era. The barn was found in Cabarrus County and was saved from being demolished. There would have likely been such a barn as part of the original property. There is a reconstructed log kitchen adjacent just to the house. Built by students from Central Piedmont Community College, excavation shows this is where the original kitchen was located. Most homes of the period had their kitchens separate since kitchens tended to go up in flames sometimes. Also since there wasn’t such thing as Zippo lighters in those days, fires were a lot harder to start and the fire had to keep going at all times. In the summer this would have made the house unbearable to have a kitchen fire going. There is an herb garden outside which was typical of the colonel homes. The herbs grown are used today for cooking demonstrations.

Down the walkway a bit you will find the springhouse which is original to the property. The spring was used to cool and preserve food. Water ran over a floor of bedrock and stayed between 54 and 56 degrees year round. Milk, butter, cheese, and other food items would have been placed in containers and kept in the water. Even today when you walk up to the spring you can feel the coolness from the springs.

The home still stands proudly in the same spot it has occupied for more than 200 years. Today the home is part of the Charlotte History Museum. The home sits on top of a hill overlooking a stunning park and is the highlight of the walking tour. There is not an actual charge to walk through the park area and it is a favorite place for joggers and walkers after the museum closes. In addition to the homestead you will see the 7 foot Freedom bell, a Chilean Mill, a Native-American garden, a statue of Hezekiah, and lovely bridges and sculptures through the walkway.

In order to see the home, you do have to be part of a tour group and tours are given daily. Costume docents lead the tour which takes between 1-1/1/2 hours to complete. Our guide was a wonderful woman named Ellen who certainly knew her stuff. She was very informative and as equally entertaining.

Hours/rates/other details:

Tours: 1:15/2:15/ 3:15 Tue.-Sun. Admission: $6 (a) $5 (c/s)

Museum hours: 10-5 Tue.-Sat., 1-5 Sun. Admission is free.

Closed Mondays except Memorial and Labor Day. Closed major holidays.

The museum its self is handicapped accessible but due to the nature of the home, it is not. There are restrooms and snacks and beverages available at the museum. There is also a gift shop within the museum.

The museum currently has a display on the Alexander house on its second story wing as well as a miniature replica of the home.

The museum in about 3 ½ miles from downtown Charlotte and is accessible on CAT route 23-Shamrock. It is about a 15-minute drive from Rosedale Plantation.

For 2 great resources on Southern homesteads try: Marvelous Old Mansions by Sylvia Higginbotham and Bob Vila’s Guide to Historic Homes of the New South . Bob’s book is a bit older so try www.amazon.com. I got a used copy here. Sylvia’s books should be readily on hand at your favorite book store or directly from the publisher at www.blairpub.com.

There are a number of events and workshops and demonstrations throughout the year. For more information please go to www.charlottemuseum.org. You should allow a minimum of 2 hours to see the home and the museum. Both are wonderful places to discover the history of Charlotte.

The Charlotte Museum of History Walking Path/Tour

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by vampirefan on October 3, 2006

In the back of the Charlotte Museum you will find a walking tour which highlights some of Charlotte’s history. There are 10 places featured on the tour. You can walk through the Charlotte Museum or just simply walk around the side and walk to the trail.

The first item you will encounter is the 7 foot liberty bell . The bell is 7-foot tall and 7 foot around and weights 7 tons. It was given to the people of Charlotte by the Belk foundation to honor the independent spirit of the people and to pay honor to the original colonies of the Carolinas. If you take the guided tour, the docent will ring the bell for visitors.

If you think gold was first discovered out west, then you would be wrong. It was first discovered right below my house in 1799 by Conrad Reed. Today visitors in the Locust area (about 45 minutes from the museum) can explore Reed’s gold mine and pan for gold. You can read about that in my 5 of the 22 Pt. 2 journal. But for the Charlotte museums connection, there is a Chilean Mill used in the mining industry along the walking tour.

In August of 2002, the NC Chapter of Colonial Dames erected a maker in honor of John Lawson . Lawson was the surveyor-general of NC in the early 18th century. His book, A New Voyage to Carolina , published in 1709, was the most comprehensive of the state at the time.

Chip Calloway of Greensboro was commission by the Queens Table to design a Native American garden path along the museums walkway. The garden is made up of plants that the natives used during the 17th and 18th century for medical and spiritual purposes. The plants were typical of what the natives used and plants that the first colonists would have encountered.

On past the gardens you will find a bronzed statue in honor of Hezekiah Alexander and the Backcountry patriots. As far as anyone knows it is not a rendering of Hezekiah himself, since there are no known photographs in existence of him. To me it looks like Mel Gibson in the Patriot. The life-sized statue was sculpted by David Dowdy of High Point and was installed on October 24, 2001.

Up on the hill and giving a lovely view of the walking path you will find the Hezekiah Alexander home . Built in 1774 it is the oldest home in Mecklenburg Country. When the home was restored over 90% of the exterior of the home was still in tact. This is the original spot of the home. You may tour the home given by costumed docents of the museum. There are several tours offered through the day.

To the right of the home you will see a log barn . The barn itself is not original to the property, but most likely there would have been such a barn somewhere on the premises. It was rescued from the Harris-Caldwell Farm in Harrisburg. It is original to the period of the home.

Next to the house there is also an herb garden . A look from one of the upstairs bedrooms you will give you a great view of the design of the garden. The herbs here are typical of what you would find in colonial gardens. While very pretty, the gardens were not designed as pleasure gardens. The herbs grown here were used for cooking and their medicinal qualities. The herbs grown today are used for the cooking demonstrations as part of several events open to the public.

In front of the herb garden you will find the reconstructed log kitchen. People kept their kitchens separate during this period for several reasons. For one thing if your kitchen went up in flames, then the rest of your home was spared. Also since it took most of the day to prepare meals, a fire had to be kept going at all times. Homes were not equipped with electricity at the time, much less A/C so having a fire going in your house at all times would have been quite miserable in the summer months.

Archaeological research has determined this is where the original kitchen stood. The kitchen would have been staffed by female slaves and the loft area upstairs is where they would have lived. The kitchen you see today was built by students from CCPC. Today the kitchen may be toured on the guided tours and are used during cooking demonstrations.

The foundation of the springhouse is original from the home and dates also from 1774. There were several uses for the spring house, but the main use was to keep foods cool thus preserving them from spoilage. The jars and crocks would have been placed in the water and cooled by the springs. The spring runs over a floor of bedrock. The temperate averages 54-56 degrees year round. Even in the dead of the summer, you can feel the cooling effects from the house when you approach it.

The walkway provides a beautiful shaded walkway year round. In addition to the featured places on the tour, the paths are filled with flowers and accompanied by lovely stone bridges. The pathway goes through a tree lined area offering escape from the heat even in the hottest months of the year. There is not an actual charge to use the pathways and this is a favorite walking/jogging path of many locals. Pets are permitted along the path on a leash. The path is lit at night for the safety of those who use it. If you happen to take the guided tour of the Alexander home then you will also have a guided tour of the pathway. For more information you can simply go to www.charlottemuseum.org.


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