Finding treasures in Uptown Charlotte
As we drove into Charlotte late on a Friday night, the brilliant colors of Uptown lit up the sky in royal fashion. It’s no wonder, Charlotte is called the Queen City. Towering skyscrapers stretch out along the horizon, symbols of Charlotte’s prominence in banking and commerce. Scattered among the gleaming modern buildings you’ll find a few jewels from the past, including several ornately designed churches, the Art Deco style Hearst Tower, the impressive statues on the four corners of Tryon and Trade, and the Dunhill Hotel, at Tryon and 6th.
A spotlight on Charlotte's past
Built in the 1920’s, this 10-story building designed by architect Louis Asbury, Sr. started out as the Mayfair Manor, an apartment hotel catering to the city’s burgeoning business community. Today the Dunhill mixes the vigor of the roaring twenties, the laid-back atmosphere of the South and a touch of Great Britain all into one super charming boutique hotel. Built of light colored bricks, there are several features which catch your attention when walking buy even when the modern skyscrapers seem to be working overtime to get you to notice them. One of The Dunhill’s features is on the top floor where you’ll see a couple of outdoor balconies. This is where the hotel’s Penthouse Suite is located, a room with original marble floors. A dark wood awning sits above the Tryon Street entrance where at night a row of simple white lights make it look like a marquee. The arches above the windows on the second floor also help add to the building's charm. With all the growth in Uptown Charlotte, it is refreshing to see this piece of the city’s history so alive with activity.
Walking from the parking garage into the back of this 60-room boutique hotel, you are likely to see a shiny black London Taxi parked nearby. It’s one of several British touches scattered throughout the hotel including a large Union Jack Flag hanging on the wall near the elevators.
On the Friday night we arrived, Uptown Charlotte was bustling with activity. Hundreds of people were making their way into the dozens of bars, restaurants and night clubs in the heart of Uptown. If we were 20-years younger we might have joined them, but we opted to head up to the hotel room for a good night’s sleep.
Our room was on the third floor overlooking 6th Street and the Discovery Place Science Center. One of the signature services of the Dunhill is its turndown service. When we arrived, the sheets on our stately four post bed were turned down, with Ghiardelli chocolates placed on them. There was also complimentary bottled water in the refrigerator, a welcome amenity on a hot and humid Southern night.
Exploring Uptown Charlotte
After enjoying a great breakfast at the Dunhill, we headed out to the 7th Street Public Market. It was early on a Saturday morning and it was obvious that coffee was definitely on the minds of the patrons. We wandered through to see what all this place had to offer. One place that caught our eye quickly was a booth where several bicycles were hanging over shelves filled with wine and other sprits. The Assorted Table Wine Shop wasn’t open, so unfortunately, we weren’t able to browse the selections, but we did take a good look at the menu at Orrman’s Cheese Shop across the room, a business featuring 40 different types of cheese.
A few yards away from the Public Market we discovered the First Ward Park. This expansive greenspace features a water feature that’s a big hit with the kids and on the other end, a more traditional fountain. The park is a great place to take a walk, or spend time working out on a stationary bike overlooking the park. You’ll also find scooters there and just about everywhere else you look in Charlotte, that with the right app, can provide you a simple and fun mode of transportation. You could also opt to hop aboard the Lynx Blue Line light rail and head to neighborhoods like the South End and NoDa (short for North Davidson).
History you can bank on
Walking around Uptown, there were big bank buildings just about everywhere you turned around. Many of them had elaborate plazas with fountains and sculptures, and inside the Bank of America Center, a grand series of frescoes adorn the high walls of the lobby.
It’s easy to get the idea of how important banking is to Charlotte, all it takes is a walk through Uptown. In the middle of this all important business district, Wells Fargo offers up a free museum to help you learn more about banking in America. From the stagecoach business to its entrance into the North Carolina banking market, going through this compact museum helps you learn the history of gold mining in the region; what happened to the U.S. Mint in Charlotte; and just how long ago those pneumatic tubes drive through tellers use have been around. You can even get to try one out yourself.
Racing your way around Charlotte
Another big player in Charlotte is NASCAR. Having lived near Bristol Motor Speedway for many years, I’ve followed NASCAR for decades, but never considered myself a fan. I’ve only been to one race and that was just in the past couple of years. Located next to the Charlotte Convention Center, the NASCAR Hall of Fame helped us delve into NASCAR’s fascinating history and we came out with a much better appreciation for racing and all that goes into it.
Charlotte really does “got a lot”
After a day of exploring Uptown and venturing out to the NoDa neighborhood for a little while, it was evident that we may have just scratched the surface of all that Charlotte has to offer. Eventually we made our way back to the Dunhill for our 7:30 reservation at the hotel restaurant, The Asbury. Named after the architect of the original Mayfair Manor, this award-winning eatery is cozy and inviting. The food served up is described as Southern+ Modern. Let’s just say that Executive Chef Matthew Krenz really knows how to wow the guests with his creations and have them talking about their experience long after they’ve left. That’s especially true if you order the Cast Iron Mac & Cheese.
The Dunhill is just one of dozens of places to spend the night in Uptown Charlotte. It stands out from the rest of the hotels, as it is a reminder of a time long gone; a jewel in the Queen City’s crown that has survived decades of demolition and new construction in the area. It remains a part of the city's rich history, ready to welcome curious visitors to Charlotte like myself and my wife.
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