Michael Graves ‘came to see old Charlotte’? Uh-oh

“I came to Charlotte a day early to see old Charlotte. I wanted to see the original buildings, whether they’re 18th century or 19th century, whatever they are. Charlotte did, like so many towns, tear down its heritage and build modern skyscrapers. I didn’t go to any of them. I didn’t want to.”

– Architect and Target teakettle designer Michael Graves, quoted in “Charlotte falls short of Michael Graves’ ‘real humanism’ ”  (Charlotte Observer, April 26, 2013)

A generation ago, I had the privilege of accompanying another famous architect on a walking tour of downtown Charlotte and filling my notebook with his memorably scornful observations. Newspaper reporting can be hard work, but on this occasion I had to provide no more than stenography. 


George Washington wasn’t last to knock Charlotte

When I moved to Charlotte in 1974, I soon learned that George Washington had memorably dismissed it as “a trifling place.” But that was only the beginning — as the prototypical overreaching Southern boom town, Charlotte has lent itself to decades of  insults.

Because the Democratic National Convention will test as never before the thickness of our civic skin, I’ve preemptively assembled some notable putdowns from the past (first of a series):

“Charlotte is not Jerusalem. Charlotte is not Mecca. Charlotte is just a big city sitting on the South Carolina line.”

— Rep. Melvin “Pap” Creecy, D-Northampton (1983)

“The ugliest collection of third-rate buildings in America.”

— PBS architecture critic Robert A.M. Stern (1986)

“I hope this doesn’t mean we’re going to become Charlotte one day.”

– Harry Carter, city manager of Cornelia, Ga. (population 36,000), sharing with The New York Times his worst fears about growth. (2001)

“What are we going to do in Charlotte? Go to the Bass Pro Shop or something?”

— Virginia Tech guard Jacob Gibson, mulling a possible bid to the inaugural Continental Tire Bowl. [The Hokies ended up in the San Francisco Bowl — 1,750 miles from the nearest Bass Pro Shop.] (2002)

We come from labor, steel mills, blue-collar workers. They are like little daffodils. They wear their hair in a bow and say, ‘I just hate that for you.’ ”

– Teddy Xidas, president of US Airways’ flight attendants union, contrasting members in Pittsburgh with those in Charlotte. (2004)


‘There’s no place like Charlotte’ (and he’s glad)

On this day in 1986: New York architect Robert A.M. Stern, host of PBS’s “Pride of Place” series, tours downtown Charlotte and pronounces it “the ugliest collection of third-rate buildings in America. Charlotte has defined a type unto itself — a town that has grown very fast in a very mediocre way. There’s no place like Charlotte.”