Along The Trolley Line
The next Trolley Stop is two blocks further north along Camden Road, at the junction of East and West Boulevards.
Edward Latta’s original impetus for his decision to get into the streetcar business was to provide reliable public transportation to his newly-built suburb of Dilworth just south of the City. The plan was to sell lots and residences to the city's burgeoning industrial population, which composed the essential work force for the expanding industries. For their new community of Dilworth, Latta and his partners in the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company (known as the Four C’s) purchased 442 level and treeless acres. The site was graded and excavated using mules and carts, and the unpaved streets, 60 feet wide, were arranged in a grid, intersecting at right angles, and ringed by a grand boulevard. The present East Boulevard, South Boulevard, and Morehead Street are part of this ring, the fourth side never having been completed.
Not coincidentally, the electric streetcars were placed in full operation on the very same day (May 20, 1891) that sale of land in Dilworth began. Electric streetcar service soon proved its worth in attracting development, as other residential suburbs sprang up in the knowledge that they too could be served by streetcars. Myers Park, Eastover, and Elizabeth, among others, were all built in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.
At the grand opening on May 20, 1891, lot prices in Dilworth ranged from an average of $7.00 to $10.00 a front foot or from $350 to $500 per lot. In that month alone, 78 lots were sold. After that first rush to buy, however, Dilworth lot sales slumped. Latta continued to invest large amounts of money in the suburb, especially for facilities in Latta Park. A pavilion, bowling alley, boathouse, shooting gallery, and baseball grandstand were erected in the spring of 1892. But the addition of these amenities could not obscure the fact that Latta and his partners were in financial trouble.
Just in time, the D. A. Tompkins Company built the Atherton Cotton Mills just south of Dilworth in 1893, and purchased an entire block in Dilworth, on which it erected twenty frame cottages to rent to its mill hands. Because their employees found residences in Dilworth, the newly established industries in the suburb enabled the residential scheme to survive. Although it was housing for industrial laborers that ensured Dilworth's survival, the developers endeavored for many years to attract affluent and middle-class residents to the suburb.
East Boulevard, Dilworth, in 1907
Between 1894 and 1900 they installed an impressive array of facilities and services in Dilworth. In that first year the firm erected a powerhouse on South Boulevard, which generated electricity for Dilworth and Charlotte. The company also constructed an elaborate sewerage system; a waterworks, and a gas plant.
Latta Park also received notable improvements in the late 1890s. A bicycle racetrack, a horse-racing course, a large grandstand, a football field, a new baseball diamond, and a summer theatre opened. Service on an expanded trolley network with double tracks along South Boulevard and East Boulevard commenced in 1900. Finally, by 1910, Dilworth had been annexed to the City of Charlotte, and the Southern Power Company had taken over Latta’s power and trolley monopolies. The Four Cs turned its attention exclusively to real estate, and began preparing eastern Dilworth for development. In the summer of 1911 the Four Cs commissioned Olmsted Brothers, the most prestigious landscape architecture and city planning firm in the United States, to design the street plan and landscape of eastern Dilworth. Today Dilworth Road and the pleasant curving streets off Dilworth Road East and Dilworth Road West bear the mark of this outstanding design firm.
Interestingly, East Boulevard becomes West Boulevard not at South Blvd, as might be expected, but at Camden Road, on the other side of the trolley tracks. This is because East Blvd originally ended at the tracks, and was extended and named West Boulevard when the residential development of Wilmore was established in 1914. Developer F. C. Abbott purchased two farms, one belonging to the Wilson family and one to the Moore family…hence the name Wilmore. Ultimately, Wilmore was also served by a trolley line running south on Mint St. from Uptown. Today Wilmore remains a residential neighborhood, with an active neighborhood advocacy organization.
Many thanks to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission for the historical information included above.