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Charlotte City Guide

Charlotte is the seat of Mecklenburg County and the largest city in North Carolina. Founded in 1768, Charlotte actually began as a single log cabin, built by the uncle of President James K. Polk at the crossroads of the Great Wagon Road and a Native American trading path. The village that sprang up in the area was named Charlotte Town, in honor of the wife and queen of King George III (earning it the nickname "The Queen City"). Despite this token of British loyalty, Charlotte quickly became known as a hotbed of political activism and separatism. The town signed its own Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775, a full year before the U.S. would propose the same. During the Revolutionary War, American and British troops were encamped in the village and fought numerous skirmishes in the streets. Despite General Cornwallis' best attempts, his army was unable to wrest control of the village from the entrenched Americans. In 1780, he finally gave up in disgust and pronounced Charlotte a "hornet's nest " of rebellion. The nickname has stuck with the city to this day, and the people of Charlotte bear it with pride as a symbol of their independence.

Gold was discovered in Charlotte in 1799 by a 12 year-old boy that brought the rock home to be used as a doorstop. Once word got out, North Carolina became the site of the nation's first gold rush, and was the major source of gold in the U.S. until the California Gold Rush of 1848. The Carolina Mint was opened in 1837 and continued to operate until 1861, when North Carolina seceded from the Union and the Confederates seized control, converting it into a hospital and military headquarters. Over the years, Charlotte has come full circle in its economic development and is once again one of the major banking and financial centers in the U.S. Two banks founded in Charlotte, NCNB and First Union, have grown through acquisitions to become Bank of America and Wachovia, respectively. Charlotte's economic drive has led it to expand rapidly, but not without controversy. Critics claim that Charlotte is experiencing "growing pains," or that its industry is outgrowing its culture and development. The city's penchant for destroying landmark buildings to provide room for expansion downtown has also sparked contention from the preservationists.

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Charlotte Postcards