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Vintage Charlotte – Independence Blvd

Amity Garden large sign

Amity Gardens sign before they took it down!

If you have been in the Charlotte area for any amount of time you have taken that journey up and down Independence Blvd all to often. I have seen many changes over that past years as the city grows. Independence Blvd is only a short part of Hwy 74 but a huge part of Charlotte history. At one time if the idea of purchasing a car came to mind that was the place to be as every type of car dealership was represented on each side as you headed east from the center of the city. I have heard people refer to it as Beach Blvd as it would be the starting point for many that would take Hwy-74 all the way to the Wilmington area.

My First Memory

I was raised in Charlotte and my first memory was living in a duplex just one block over from Independence. The carnival would come to town and set up the Farris wheel in the parking lot of Amity Gardens. My Mother always said they did it for me. I could see it and all the lights from my window.

Amity Gardens in 1958

Amity Gardens was the hot place to shop when it opened in November of 1958.  It included stores like Woolworth’s and the Barclay Cafeteria.  In 1961, Clark’s opened which was Charlotte’s first “super center.”  Clark’s sold both general merchandise and groceries.  As the saying goes “History repeats itself” and the buildings and many of the businesses have now been cleared for a huge, larger than before Wal-Mart  Super Center yet again providing general merchandise and groceries.

Lions, Tigers and Elephants?

As I grew older my next memory was  when  the circus came to town.  Everyone would gather on each side of Independence as the elephants, horses and animals would make that walk from the train station to what is now the Bojangles Coliseum.  I plan on featuring the Bojangles Coliseum one day here on the Charlotte Banter because I  have heard stories of what an incredible building it was when it was built.   In its time it was our biggest gathering place for concerts, conventions and shows blocking traffic for miles down Independence. As I got older I moved all my activities next door to the Ovens Auditorium where I would perform all my recitals, see the Nutcracker and attend  other performing art shows.

Krispy Kreme taken in 1989

Sweet and Sassy!

My next memory was riding the school bus as they had just started busing students clear across town to “balance the system.”  My route would include passing the Krispy Kreme located close to the shop that sold lingerie.  I never knew the name of the place but it had  rows of windows and displayed manikins lined up wearing all kinds of skimpy clothing.  I had no idea at that time, as many on the bus, how to act as we passed each day.   It was always uncomfortable and seeing that Krispy Kreme was always a welcome site.  I would love to have a picture of that place now to share.  i am sure it  ensued many of those “Birds and Bees” talks in its time.  Maybe over some Donuts!

The Bottle Neck Curve

OK I am not wanting to show my age as I am but if you have been in Charlotte for awhile you will know what I am talking about.  Do you remember the area where and between  Dutch Boy Paints use to be and  the Budge Inn and Kim School of Tae Kwon Do is?  There was a bottle neck there that would have the best of drivers holding their breath.  I would love to have a dollar for every side mirror that was knocked off a car there.  I know I dreaded the thought of having to take that turn beside an 18-wheeler and would start positioning myself long before I reached that point to who I was going to die beside.

On The Other Side…

Photo Drop Off Booth

Just across the street from the larger Amity Gardens you would have found a smaller version of the sign and something that I feel is just a sad loss!  The film drop off building!  That is right!  A place to drive up,  drop your film off and come back  days later to collect your prints.  So weird now we just hit delete and move on.  I cannot tell you the amount of bad pictures i have paid for in the past.  My feet,  grass, walls and whatever else got in the way.   Now you would think that with all the photographers of this time period someone  was bound to have a picture of this place in its glory.   You would think in the past someone would have driven up and said “Dang,  I have one more photo I can take before this roll is ready to turn in,  Hey, I could take a picture of this cool building and turn it in!”   I would have taken a picture of a hexagon building had I been in that situation and i would be sure to share it with the Charlotte Banter folks!  I am sad to say they demolished this building only days after I took the photo.

Smaller Amity Garden Sign

Amity Garden sign located across Independence Blvd

Your Turn To Share…

Independence Blvd has been through change after change.  Being one of the most traveled roads to one of the most avoided roads because of the grid lock from the center of town to Matthews.  I can share many more stories but I want to open the floor to you guys.  Tell me your memories of Independence Blvd and if you have a picture you can share let me know.  I would love to post it on The Charlotte Banter.  Did you loose a mirror on the bottle neck or blush while passing the windows of deceit?  We want to know!

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3 Responses to "Vintage Charlotte – Independence Blvd"

  1. Laura says:

    I remember when I turned 16 I was so happy to drive to Camelot Music and I am not sure if the bottle neck that you are referring to is when you had to go around the curve and the lanes were so small that it was really scary. My mom grew up in that area and I am sure she has lots of fond memories. I will come back and comment after I talk with her.

  2. Debbie says:

    We also lived a block from Independence Blvd., and i credit that with my lack of fear in crossing busy streets as an adult. My mom worked at Barclay’s Cafeteria through much of the 70’s, and i in turn worked at Sports Consignment through the mid-late 90’s.

    There are days i would die for a turkey sandwich from Chris’ Deli, or a #19 sub from Sub Station II.

  3. Bob Brandon says:

    I lived in Chantilly back when you could access the neighborhood from Independence, there were about eight streets that intersected the blvd. I remember Thompsons Bootery and Bloomery, where the live lingerie models once stood in the windows and that Krispy Kreme at Hawthorne would fill the neighborhood with delicious smells of hot donuts. I also remember the bottleneck. More than one car got stuck on the median at Morningside Dr.

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