CHARLOTTE, September 2, 2012 — Like most American cities, Charlotte is not typically known as a pedestrian town. That will change when the DNC arrives however. Delegates will need a good pair of walking shoes because many of the hotels are several blocks from Time Warner Cable Arena and Bank of America Stadium where the convention events will take place.
The good news is that “The Queen City of the South” has much to offer people who take the time to stroll along its streets. The city is named for Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III from whom the United States gained its independence.
Though Charlotte hardly rivals Rome for its fountains, and there is no place to throw a coin over your shoulder to guarantee a return, visitors will be surprised at the vibrancy of the water art that flows throughout the city.
Fountain at the Square in Charlotte
Charlotte was born at the intersection of two Indian trading paths. Today that crossroads is the center of the city, known as “The Square.” Trade Street runs east and west while Tryon Street goes north and south.
The Square displays statues by sculptor Raymond Kaskey on each corner representing four major aspects of the city’s heritage; Transportation, Commerce, Industry and the Future.
Transportation is symbolized by a railroad worker holding a hammer. A mill worker in a bonnet honors industry by paying tribute to the textile business. The future is symbolized by a woman holding a child, and commerce shows a gold miner spilling gold on the head of a banker.
A little known bit of trivia is that Charlotte is built over several gold mines that still exist beneath its streets. The city was once the home of a United States Mint, which has now been converted into a fine arts museum which is appropriately named the Mint Museum. Or, as locals call it, simply “The Mint.”
As you walk the streets on the way to the arena, you may pass a statue of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg.
Near the Westin Hotel on South Tryon Street, a small uptown park known as The Green features a literary theme among which are statues of Cervantes Don Quijote and Ulysses by James Joyce. For added fun, check out the codes in the walkway of one of the side paths and see if you can decipher the messages.
Across the street from The Green is the mirror-covered Firebird at the entrance to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Children especially enjoy peering at the distorted reflections in the sculpture.
La Cascade, Jean Tinguely’s last sculpture
At the landmark First Presbyterian Church on West Trade Street, go inside to view the detailed woodwork and the Tiffany windows.
Further along West Trade, in the next block, duck into the Carillon Building to view the last sculpture of famed Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. The whimsical mechanical contraption known as La Cascade is typical of Tinguely’s art which satirizes the overproduction of material goods in an industrial society.
Charlotte’s vibrant public art identity is frequently overlooked as exemplified by the stunning mosaics of the Charlotte Art League along Camden Street in South End.
Bank of America Corporate Center on North Tryon Street also features frescoes by Ben Long in the lobby of the building.
Much of Charlotte’s public art is water related. Fountains spill fourth along on just about every block, though no one seems to know precisely why.
Fountain at Wells Fargo Plaza
Wachovia Plaza on South Tryon Street is a wide open square which will feature live music and festivities throughout the week. Stop in at the Mimosa Grill or grab a bite to eat, a glass of wine or a cup of coffee from one of numerous street vendors. You can also walk across Tryon Street to the historic Latta Arcade which offers menus to suit any taste. The tree-lined plaza is always active and the delightful sculptures of Children Playing in a Fountain add to the genteel atmosphere.
While the DNC will be taking place at Time Warner Cable Arena rather than the Convention Center, the fountain plaza at the Convention Center building on South College Street expresses the contemporary attitude of Charlotte as it looks to the future. Situated along the north side of the Convention Center, water cascades along a series of steps at one end of the fountain spilling into an elongated rectangular pool before forming three arches in the center.
The Waterfalls is tucked away in the southwest corner of the Square on Trade and Tryon Streets. Several benches face the irregular layers of water which are a soothing and cooling.
In the next block, on the left hand side of North Tryon heading away from the Square, you will pass the Streetfront Fountain with its arches of water streaming into a pool along the sidewalk.
Make a Wish Fountain, Charlotte
Walking along Trade and Tryon Streets in any direction will take you past cascades of water that add subliminal charm to a dynamic city. So, too, will Charlotte’s public art.
And that is what makes the Queen City of the South worth visiting.
Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. He played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club , which creates, and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.
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