A lot of us are using social distancing as an excuse to stroll around the neighborhood and see the world through a slower lens. But after several weeks of this, one may get the sense that the streets and buildings are starting to look the same.
If you’re finding yourself in such a situation, husband and wife team Tom Hanchett and Carol Sawyer have come to your rescue. You can now walk the same streets and pass by the same buildings as you have been doing for weeks or years, but they will never seem the same to you again.
Tom, historian extraordinaire and the official (and first ever) Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historian-in-Residence, and Carol, District 4 Board of Education member, have collaborated on a self-guided walking tour of several Charlotte neighborhoods. Their take on NoDa was published in mid-May.
Pick up your phone, slip on your shoes, and scroll as you go.
The idea to do these walking tours came to Tom in April when he noticed more foot traffic than normal on the streets. He and Carol began creating walkable routes and capturing history snippets along the way so that neighbors and visitors could easily learn more about Charlotte’s neighborhoods.
As he told Spectrum News in a recent interview, “You just bring it up on your phone and walk. You can do it anytime you want to. It’s free. None of the buildings are open to the public [right now], but from the sidewalk you can learn a lot.”
Back in the Day took a trial run – well, stroll – recently to see how the tour worked. It’s an easy walk of about 1.5 miles starting and ending near the Johnston YMCA. There are roughly two dozen stops, with each one featuring a photo of the location and a paragraph or two of its history.
Depending on your speed (sauntering is encouraged), it likely takes about an hour and a half to do the full tour. Along the way, you’ll visit all three textile mills in NoDa, weave through both of the mill villages, and visit several prominent businesses in the downtown area.
Overall, it’s a very easy walk and there is plenty to see even with temporary limited access to local businesses. While the walk will have something for everyone, it is highly beneficial to neighborhood newcomers.
We certainly rarely advocate leaving NoDa, but Tom has put together similar tours in Plaza Midwood and Elizabeth in case you would like to learn about other Charlotte neighborhoods. You can find Tom and Carol’s tour online at historysouth.org/noda-tour.
Another way to catch Tom is a five-minute vlog on YouTube about NoDa. It is an excellent resource to get a quick overview of the neighborhood’s history or to even share it with friends and family who don’t live in the area but are curious about where you live. We were able to find it by searching YouTube for “our charlotte neighborhood noda” and selecting the historian-in-residence video.
And if you find Tom and Carol’s tour interesting but not fully scratching that local history itch for you, be on the lookout for Back in the Day’s walking tours offered in the spring and fall. These are also free, but they are guided by friendly neighborhood volunteers. Our fall tour will be the evening of Saturday, October 17, and will feature our annual Ghosts & Legends spooky walking tour.