/ Historical / Kicking the Hornet’s Nest in Charlotte, North Carolina

Kicking the Hornet’s Nest in Charlotte, North Carolina

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Whitewater Center/Wikimedia Commons
Nicole Voltapetti on January 13, 2014 - 5:22 am in Historical, Places to visit

Charlotte, NC is well known for its booming economy and financial prosperity, consistently ranking as one of America’s best cities for employment and standards of living.  This national gem is much more than an economic powerhouse though.  Charlotte has deep southern roots, affording the city a multitude of nationally registered historic sites.


Founded in 1768 and named after Queen Charlotte, the city of Charlotte is now referred to as the Queen City.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Some may view Charlotte as a friendly town but make no mistake, Charlotteans aren’t to be pushed around.  When General Cornwallis tried to invade Charlotte during the American Revolutionary War, the city’s residents united against him, successfully expelling the British general.  Charlotte’s resistance lead General Cornwallis to refer to the city as “A Hornet’s Nest of Rebellion.”  Spurred by Cornwallis’ description of the city, Charlotte adopted the nickname, “The Hornet’s Nest.”

Lord Charles Cornwallis

Lord Charles Cornwallis did not want to step foot in Charlotte.


Charlotte’s economy first struck gold in 1799 when a local family realized their door stop was actually a 17 lb. gold nugget.  As word of the gold nugget spread, people far and wide flocked to the Queen City, all hoping for the same type of prosperity.

The gold rush helped put Charlotte on the map, but many of the city’s gold-seeking residents were quick to relocate as untouched California land held greater potential for fortune.  In the mid-1800s, the city’s commerce centered largely upon the tobacco and cotton industries.  The advent of railroads, combined with Charlotte’s cotton trade, transformed the city into a major Southeastern textile hub.  By the early 1900s, the city of Charlotte boasted a stable business sector and even maintained one of the nation’s early skyscrapers.

Early Charlotte Skyscraper built in 1908, Independence Building

Early Charlotte Skyscraper built in 1908,
Independence Building

 The James K. Polk 11th US President Historic Site

Can’t get enough of Mexican-American War President James K. Polk?  Who can?  Visit this heritage site owned by the President’s parents, and learn about this widely underrated American President achievements.  Visit the site for more info.

11th US President James K. Polk

11th US President James K. Polk

Historic Inn –  The VanLandingham Estate

Embark on a southern escape at the VanLandingham Estate Inn and Conference Center.  Originally built for an affluent cotton businessman in the early 1900s, the estate is now open to the public as a popular venue for special events as well as lodging.

This 5-acre estate features serene gardens including a lily pond, butterfly garden, and a tranquil waterfall.  The gardens were designed so that regardless of the season, there’s always something in bloom.  The inn maintains many of the original furnishings it housed when the VanLandinghams were in residence and also provides guests with a southern breakfast – topping off the Charlotte experience.

Get Your Grub On at Pinky’s Westside Grill

Near the VanLandingham Estate, you’ll find Pinky’s Westside Grill.  Pinky’s is a hotspot with the locals, serving up famed hamburgers and fried pickles – their “White Trash” Burger is a fan favorite.  They also have an impress beverage menu, including craft beers and quirky-named cocktails such as Unicorn Tears and Squirrely Temple. More info here.

Pinewood Elmwood Cemetery

Take a walk through this 72-acre cementery complex for a special glimpse into the city’s history.  The cemetery was initiated in the mid-1800s, providing a final resting place for generations of Charlotteans.  Stroll through the grounds and notice the varying gravestones and detailed inscriptions, all whispering stories of Charlotte’s past.

Roadside Signs

As American’s economy flourished after WW2, many Charlotte companies developed flamboyant signs in hopes of catching passing motorists’ attention.  Drive through Charlotte and keep your eyes peeled for some of these photo-worthy stops.


Latta Plantation

You can’t talk about Charlotte history without mentioning a plantation.  The Latta Plantation is perhaps one of the Mecklenburg’s best known plantations and offers a historic glimpse into lives of Charlotteans during the 16th and 17th centuries.  The plantation features cultural demonstrations and reenactments of early American life and even maintains farm animals that you (or your child) can feed.


Historic Neighborhoods

Wesley Heights is one of the 6 city designated historic districts in Charlotte and was developed in the early 1900s.  This neighborhood retains many of the same elements from its early 20th century upbringing including George Pierce Wadsworth’s house, constructed in 1911.  George Wadsworth is credited for developing Charlotte’s first street car, making his house a significant historic site for the city.  This If you’re nearby and want to observe some of the city’s pre-WW1 history, this neighborhood might be worth a short excursion.

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Feel the need for speed?  Experience life in the fast lane at NASCAR Hall of Fame and explore rare memorabilia and historic NASCAR facts.  If you want to see what it’s like to be a NASCAR racer, get behind the wheel of a racing simulator and put the petal to the metal. The official NASCAR track in Charlotte is the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Photo courtesy of MalcolmWP.

NASCAR Hall of Fame
Photo courtesy of MalcolmWP.

U.S. National Whitewater Center

Venture to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for ultimate outdoor adventures.  This getaway offers guided rafting tours as well as exhilarating rapids for the more experienced visitors.  If whitewater rafting isn’t your thing, don’t worry. This destination also offers ropes courses as well as climbing, hiking, biking, zip-lining and geo-trekking escapades

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Whitewater Center/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Whitewater Center/Wikimedia Commons

Cultural Museums and Galleries

The Bechler Museum of Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, and the Mint Museum Uptown are conveniently located on S. Tyron St. and feature a wide range of impressive artworks.  Take an afternoon to enjoy the diverse exhibits and dazzling works of art featured in these museums.


If you’re visiting Charlotte, I recommend stopping by one of the city’s 3 Visitor Info Centers to better plan your trip.  Two of the visitor centers are located in Center City, while one is conveniently located at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Map of Charlotte

Map of Charlotte

For more information, visit charlottesgotalot.com.


Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Dollar Photo Club.


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