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ACRL NATIONAL CONFERENCE: Charlotte, Queen City of the Southeast: A look at the site for ACRL’s 2003 National Conference

by Barbara Tierney

What does a transplanted San Francisco Bay Area librarian have to reveal about

Charlotte after a two-year “trial separation” from the West Coast?

Leaving the San Francisco Bay Area after a 25-year tenure is definitely a difficult lifestyle change. When the Bank of America/Nations

Bank merger trans- ferred my husband from San Francisco to Charlotte in 1999, I traded my position as a Bay Area public librar- ian for an aca- demic position at the J. Murrey Atkins Library at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC).

Although the scenery, climate, and politics of my newly adopted city are quite different from San Francisco, I haven’t looked back! I have found Charlotte to be a dynamic, beautiful city and I believe it to be an inspired choice for our 2003 ACRL National Conference.

Waterscapes taken from Charlotte's Marshall Park— with the First Union Bank Building (rounded top) in the background.

Copyright 2000 by Lawrence J.Dolan

Boom city of the Southeast

Charlotte is an up-and-coming, world-class destination, with a generous touch of sweet- ness and Southern charm … a true embodi- ment of the New South. A vital, booming banking and international business center, Charlotte boasts sophisticated restaurants, luxury hotels, and a vibrant arts sec- tor, as well as fam- ily-oriented cul- tural attractions.

Charlotte cur- rently ranks sec- ond among the nation’s top banking centers. Many other For- tune 500 compa- nies either have their corporate headquarters here or make Charlotte their center for research and development. Charlotte is also one of the nation’s largest distribution hubs, serving as both a major rail and trucking center.

In the past decade, there has been a whirlwind of growth in Charlotte, with skyscrapers, a new convention center, a new football stadium, and a new performing arts center now accentuating the city’s skyline. Hundreds of new neighborhoods have transformed the metropolitan area.

About the author

Barbara Tierney is associate professor at the J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte and was formerly senior librarian, Public Services, San Leandro Public Library, San Leandro, California; e-mail: bgtierne@email.uncc.edu

"Uptown" Charlotte

“Uptown” (Center-City) Charlotte, with its skyscraper banking headquarters, tree-canopied plazas and streets, decorative fountains, and public art attractions, is an exciting place to work or visit. Sophisticated outdoor cafés invite passersby to sit a spell, sip a glass of wine, and watch the lively metro scene. Residents and visitors hail from all parts of the world. It is commonplace to hear English spoken with a London, New York, or Boston twang or to catch fragments of Russian, Japanese, German, and Spanish while enjoying a night out on the town.

The heavy relocation of U.S. and international businesses to Charlotte in the past decade—combined with the ready availability of excellent colleges and housing—have contributed to an influx of diverse ethnicities and cultures here. (Out of a staff of ten reference librarians at UNCC, only two of my colleagues actually hail from the South—with the rest having relocated to Charlotte from California, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.)

Cultural sites

Bank of Americaand First Union Bank make Charlotte their corporate headquarters and compete with each other in their donations to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Arts and Science Council. Last year, Charlotte ranked first in the nation in workplace giving to the arts, with a whopping $10 million donated to the council.

The big winners, however, are the arts- loving Charlotte citizens and visitors who enjoy the beautiful Uptown Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the new Mint Mu- seum of Craft and Design (which show- cases crafts in ceramics, glass, wood, metal, and fiber), the new Tryon Center for Vi- sual Art, the Spirit Square educational arts center, the Museum of the New South, and the 140,000-square-foot, hands-on science museum Discovery Place (which offers an Omnimax Theater and a Planetarium). The award-winning Public Library of Char- lotte and Mecklenburg County also has its Main Branch in Uptown at Tryon and Sixth Street.

Commercial art galleries are springing up in the Uptown and North Davidson districts of the city. Residents and visitors alike enjoy First-Friday Gallery Crawls, which display the work of exciting local artists in such whim- sically named galleries as the Blue Pony and the Center of the Earth Gallery. Also popu- lar are the Joie Lassiter Galleries and the Afro-American Cultural Center Gallery.

A taste of Charlotte .. . Uptown

It’s a tough decision indeed to choose an Up- town dining destination with so many deli- cious possibilities.

Recommended headliners include: Bistro 100 (100 N. Tryon in Founder’s Hall), one of the city’s premier dining establishments fea- turing wood-roasted preparations of chicken, beef, and seafood along with gourmet appe- tizers; the Palomino (525 N. Tryon), a ro- mantic European bistro with fountain-side dining that specializes in Mediterranean cui- sine; Mimosa Grill (First Union Plaza Atrium, 327 S. Tryon Street), a chic destination with both indoor and plaza dining featuring mouth- watering southern specialties; LaVecchia’s Seafood Grille (225 E. Sixth Street); Bijoux (201 N. Tryon), an excellent choice for French cuisine; Sonoma (129 W. Trade Street), a so- phisticated café that boasts an excellent wine list; Morton’s of Chi- cago (227 W. Trade Street), a renowned chain steakhouse; Carpe Diem (401 E. Trade Street), a local favorite with outstanding veg- etarian options; and the Ri Ra (208 N. Tryon Street), an authentic Irish pub.

Other Uptown places of interest

The Charlotte Convention Center—ACRL National Conference Headquarters (122 E. Stonewall Street, Center City between Tryon and College Streets)—com- pleted in 1995, is a sparkling showplace conveniently lo- cated within easy walking distance of Uptown attrac- tions.

An extension of the charming antique Charlotte Trolley line (once the mainstay of Charlotte public transportation) is currently under construction near the Convention Center and by 2003 should provide a 20- minute run from the Convention Center to South End Charlotte (a lively restaurant and specialty shopping area). http://www. charlotteconventionctr. com/.

Ericsson Stadium

Charlotte is the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, which began play in 1995. Gargantuan sculpted black panthers guard the entrance to the beautiful open-air Ericsson Stadium, which opened in Uptown Charlotte in 1996 with 73,000 seats, 13 stories, and a $184 million price tag. Although its biggest attractions are Panther game days, the stadium complex is also a venue for exhibition games, religious crusades, and rock concerts, http:// www.panthers.com/facility/index.cfm? cont_id=55l64.

The Square(Trade and Tryon Streets)— For a public art display focusing on Charlotte’s beginnings, visit the four symbolic sculptures erected at the intersection of Uptown’s Trade and Tryon Streets. The huge sculptures include a gold miner, for Charlotte’s commerce; a woman millworker, for Charlotte’s textile heritage; an African American railroad builder, for Charlotte’s importance as a transportation center; and a mother holding her baby aloft for the future.

Settler’s Cemetery(corner of Fifth and Church Streets)—Strolling through the oldest city-owned graveyard provides a fascinating history lesson. Here you will find gravestones marking the final resting places of Charlotte slaves, planters, soldiers, politicians, and children buried from 1776 to 1884.

Charlotte's landmark sculptures at the corner of Trade and Tryon Streets in Uptown. The goldminer represents Charlotte's early 1800s gold rush history and the mother and baby represent Charlotte's future.

Nearby excursions outside of Uptown

Charlotte Museum of History and Hezekiah Alexander Homesite(3500 Shamrock Drive) offers 18th-, 19th-, and 20th- century Charlotte history galleries and offers guided tours of the Revolutionary Era home of Charlotte blacksmith, Hezekiah Alexander. Built in 1774, the home is the oldest surviving structure in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. http://www.charlottemuseum. oig.

Lowe’s Motor Speedwayis considered the center of motor sports and NASCAR in the Southeast. Tours include a behind-the- scenes look at the Speedway grounds; many race shops are located in the track vicinity, http://www. lowesmotorspeedway. com/.

Latta Plantation,the 1800 Catawba River home of merchant/planter James Latta, allows visitors a glimpse of 19th-century life in Charlotte. The house is original with antiques ranging from 1790 to 1840. http ://www. lattaplant ation. org/.

The Trolley Museum,located in Charlotte’s South End, provides a fascinating glimpse into Charlotte’s former main mode of public transportation. It’s fun to take a 20- minute ride from the South End to the Stadium area on the newly renovated trolley line, http://www. charlottetrolley. com/.

Rosedale Plantation,once a 911-acre plantation, allows visitors to time travel back to the 1800s. It includes an 1815 manor house and eight acres of beautiful grounds and gardens . http ://libweb. uncc. edu/archives/crhc/ rosedale.htm.

Mint Museum of Art(2730 Randolph Road) is one of the leading museums of tire Southeast. It boasts holdings of American paintings, pre- Columbian art, regional crafts, historic costumes, and gold coins minted in Charlotte. http://www. mintmuseum.org/.

Historic neighborhoodsabound throughout Charlotte, and an afternoon spent wandering through such beauties as Myers Park or Fourth Ward is well worth your shoe leather.

Nearby colleges and universities

North Carolina boasts a wealth of noteworthy colleges and universities of all sizes. Some fine institutions to visit include: • Davidson College (Davidson, North Carolina): http://www.davidson.edu

• Duke University(Durham, North Carolina): http://www.duke.edu

• Furman University(Greenville, South Carolina): http://www.furman.edu

• Queen’s College(Charlotte, North Carolina): http://www.queens.edu

• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill(Chapel Hill, North Carolina): http://www.unc.edu

• University of North Carolina at Charlotte(Charlotte, North Carolina): http:// www.uncc.edu

• Central Piedmont Community College(Charlotte, North Carolina): http://www. cpcc.cc.nc.us

Heading out of Charlotte

Charlotte enjoys excellent highway accessibility to attractions further afield. Interstates 77 and 85 intersect in Charlotte, linking the city with the Great Lakes Region, New England, and Florida. Interstate 40, running coast-to-coast across the United States, is only an hour north of Charlotte.

The Great Smoky Mountains are only two hours to the west of Charlotte, and the Atlantic Coast beaches are a bit over three hours to the east. Some of the world’s best golf courses are only an hour’s drive east of Charlotte. ■

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