Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley: a brief look at Charlotte's trolley history.

The LYNX train leaves the 7th Street Station.
During the late 19th century, Charlotte, like much of the United States, experienced an industrial revolution. Different regions of the nation had different types of economic growth—railroads enabled further settlement in the West; steel refining established a foothold in the north; and textile mills reigned in the South. Charlotte was no stranger to expansion, becoming a regional hub for textile manufacture in the southeastern U.S. Located near smaller mill towns, such as Gastonia, Concord ,and Kannapolis, Charlotte became a focal point for the mill industry; both in terms of textile production and textile transportation. With increased industry comes an increased need for workers, most whom settled in the neighborhoods adjacent to the center city. With increased settlement arose the need for the development of a reliable public transportation system that would transport workers to and from their work. This led to the establishment of the Charlotte Trolley line.
The construction of the trolley line came began in March of 1891 and was overseen by the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, who contracted the Edison Electric Company. Two months later, the first trolley was departed from Independence Square, also known as the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets. From this central location, the trolley not only transported passengers but also ushered in economic growth to the city of Charlotte.

The new Lynx light rail's tracks meander through uptown Charlotte.
With the expansion of the trolley line came the expansion of Charlotte through the construction of "streetcar suburbs," neighborhoods located father and farhter from the center city and accessible only through the streeetcars. Examples of such neighborhoods include Dilworth, Charlotte's first streetcar suburb, as well as the neighborhoods of Myers Park and Elizabeth. The trolley line also led to the creation of features such as Latta Park, originally developed to provide an incentive for trolleygoers to use the new rail lines.
After its establishment, the Charlotte Trolley service provided public transportation to the metropolitan region for roughly forty more years until it was disbanded in 1938. Trolley bells were not to be heard throughout Charlotte for the next fifty years, until the reestablishment of the trolley line in 1981. Due to substantial efforts on the behalf of Dan Morrill and the Historic Landmarks Commission, the Charlotte Trolley line was re-established in 1994 and has continued ever since.
A trolley in First Ward as well as the two crew members responsible for operating it.
This image depicts two trolley worker standing in front of a streetcar that ran through the First Ward neighborhood in Charlotte. This neighborhood has historically been the most economically and racially diverse of Charlotte’s four wards, and has been home to a large percentage of day laborers, including mill employees. Recognizing the need to connect this neighborhood with the larger the Charlottean community, the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company began construction on a trolley line that would run through the streets of First Ward in May of 1901. This line would provide service connecting Charlotte’s northeastern side to the whole.