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The "Queen City of the South," Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of CRVA)
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This headpieces, featured in The Mint Museum, complimented a 1920s silk chiffon-and-velvet dress. (Photo by Susan J. Winiecki)
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The 20-room Duke Mansion now operates as a nonprofit; its proceeds are used to preserve the home. (Photo by Kristin Byrum/courtesy Duke Mansion)
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These lovely palmiers and cafe au lait can be found at Amelie's French Bakery in the North Davidson (NoDa) subdivision. (Photo courtesy: Amelie's French Bakery)
I grew up in the Queen City of the North — Buffalo, New York, on Lake Erie — but I was overdue for a first-time visit to the Queen City of the South — Charlotte, North Carolina — where a college friend is only a direct flight away from Richmond. Museums, shopping and hikes through historic neighborhoods were on tap for the long weekend.
The Olmsted Connection
In the 1870s, landscape architect Frederick Olmsted changed the face of Buffalo by connecting neighborhoods with six parks and seven parkways. His sons, in turn, had a significant impact on Charlotte. Their work is seen in the neighborhood of Dilworth, the city’s first streetcar suburb. (You can find out more under “Local History” at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission website: cmhpf.org). Curving streets edged with trees follow the land’s topography, not a formal street grid. Dilworth is important to Charlotte not only because a nationally famous design firm created a lush residential neighborhood, but also because the Olmsteds’ work helped set the bar for suburban development.
Bonus: Bike Share
Tour Dilworth using one of the largest urban bike-share programs in the Southeast. Grab a Charlotte B-cycle (charlotte.bcycle.com) at East-West Station, pass turn-of-the-century homes along Dilworth Road and ride on East Boulevard, where the locally owned gift shop Paper Skyscraper (330 E. Boulevard, paperskyscraper.com) should be on your after-ride agenda.
From Robes a la Francaise to Fortunys
Because The Valentine in Richmond was getting ready to open its new costume and textiles galleries, I wanted to see what The Mint Museum (2730 Randolph Road, mintmuseum.org) had in its collection. In 1972, the museum’s auxiliary members began collecting family heirlooms. Since then, more than 10,000 items have been donated, and they span three centuries of fashion. Three expansive galleries are filled with men’s, women’s and children’s clothing. The museum’s conservation team works on items in the galleries on Saturdays, enabling visitors to ask questions. At the museum’s Uptown location, “Body Embellishment” opened in April and will run through September 2016. From tattoos to nail art, from jewelry to fashion design, the exhibition includes 100 objects by artists and designers.
Morning in Myers Park
On Sunday morning, we took a drive through the Myers Park neighborhood. Named for William R. Myers and his son, Jack, it’s a 1,000-acre community filled with tree-lined streets and flowers. The elder Myers also donated land for the area’s first African-American college, Biddle College (now Johnson C. Smith University) and land for Myers Street School, the city’s first public school for African-Americans. Built in 1915, The Duke Mansion in Myers Park was expanded by owner James Buchanan Duke, who founded Duke Energy and the Duke Endowment. The 20-room inn (400 Hermitage Road, dukemansion.org) now operates as a nonprofit, with proceeds used to preserve the home.
Va. Connection in NoDa
Formerly a mill community, the North Davidson neighborhood, aka NoDa, has undergone 30 years of redevelopment after artists discovered it in the 1980s. Don’t miss a lunch at Cabo Fish Taco, founded by a Virginia Tech graduate and his wife (3201 N.Davidson St., cabofishtaco.com). Blackened tuna tacos with pine-apple-kiwi sauce were a great start to an afternoon filled with gallery hopping and shopping. Dessert was found a few blocks away at the 24-hour Amelie’s French Bakery (2424 N. Davidson St., ameliesfrenchbakery.com), where crunchy palmiers left their telltale shards all over my lap.
The Sleepy Poet
It doesn’t look like much from the outside — a low-slung brick warehouse off South Boulevard, but it’s what is inside that counts. The Sleepy Poet Antique Mall (4450 S. Boulevard, sleepypoetstuff.com) contains 55,000 square feet of well-organized booths, from vintage clothing and jewelry to repurposed industrial finds.
Queen City Ballpark Battle
The Queen cities appropriately battle it out this month. The Buffalo Bisons will meet the Charlotte Knights (charlotteknights.com) at BB&T Ballpark (324 S. Mint St.) on Aug. 5. The $54 million park, which opened in 2014, overlooks the Charlotte skyline in Uptown and serves a staple of my childhood diet, Buffalo’s very own Sahlen’s hot dogs. Queen cities reign!