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dubone

Gold Mines and the History of Charlotte

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As Appatone suggested and as Verna is apparently trying to do in his Brevard Parking Deck, Charlotte needs to do a lot more to showcase this very interesting aspect of its history.

Charlotte was the center of Gold Mining in the US before the California Gold Rush. It shows up in our Mint Street named for the US Mint which was at Mint and Trade. That building was saved and moved to Randolph road and became Mint Museum of Art. It also could be argued that it set the foundation for the modern banking economy we have now.

Uptown Magazine did an article this past summer on the history of the mines in the area.

http://www.uptownclt.com/july07_x.html

It seems to be a no brainer to reopen one or more of the old mines, and create places for tourists to go. :camera: The mines are a major reason for Charlotte to have grown beyond a tiny crossroad village, so tourists can better understand the city's history by actually walking into the mines, even if there is no gold left in them. We have tourists that are already here for conventions, sports events, arts events, or general visits that seem to be looking for places to visit that are authentic and unique. You will constantly see them walking around Fourth Ward with tour guides, as an example. I also randomly get stopped by people driving or walking by looking for places to go visit.

With many of the old mines being in upper Wilmore or SouthEnd, they are easy walking distance from the LRT and Trolley, from uptown hotels, from the NFL stadium, and the convention center. If they reopened just one of them, it could easily be factored into many peoples visiting experience without the need to drive for an excursion.

While a gimmicky museum as an off-shoot of Reed's (which is in Midland, NC) in Verna's Brevard Street project would be a good thing if it is all we can do, it seems to be woefully incomplete considering the amount of history we have here locally in this subject.

As this seems to be popping up in other threads, it seems worthwhile to have a topic to discuss it.

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There is a vacant lot behind a service station at the corner of Summit (used to be called Gold Street) and Mint Street. There is a concrete cap there covering what used to be the Rudisill Mine...

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The main problem there is that the romance of a gold mine shaft doesn't quite match up with the reality.

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In The Dominican Republic there's a resturant called "La Caverna" inside a cave. I guess that's improbable for a gold shaft here to become a resturant; but a gold mine would make for an interesting attraction inside a resturant. Patrons could walk by the old shaft, etc.

As someone mentioned, there is a shaft or two capped over here.

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I'll add that in the same vein as Charlotte should try to reclaim its interesting history related to Gold, I think one of those things it should to is rename the Summit Street in SouthEnd/Wilmore to 'Gold Street'. Summit Street originally went through Wesley Heights to JC Smith University in Biddleville. Eventually, they connected it to Gold Street in what is now Wilmore and SouthEnd and renamed that stretch to West Summit Street. Now, however, they have severed West Summit from the South Summit in Wesley Heights by building I77, so it makes sense to now go back to the historic name. It is confusing to have West Summit in a completely disconnected neighborhood South and EAST of South Summit.

Not only would it help to build up interest and prestige to a revitalizing area, but it would add an implicit history lesson to those going to the trolley museum at the Camden, Tryon, and GOLD St intersection. It would also be cool if they reopened the Rudisill Mine for tourists, that it would be at the Mint and Gold Street intersection, which were the street names when it was in operation.

Here is a snippet from the 1935 map:

post-670-1193066408_thumb.jpg

post-670-1193066408_thumb.jpg

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If i am not mistaken, downtown seattle has something touristy like this. You can explore the city as it was when it was a great outfitter for the northwest expansion. This would be one of those "neat" things that seperates charlotte from other new south cities.

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The discovery of gold in Charlotte has led to so much of what we see today. The Mint (now Mint Museum) the establishment of a Federal reserve branch in 1927, the banks. The city does a poor job of telling this story, IMHO. No wonder people move to Charlotte and say it has no history.

Thanks for the reminder, Dubone.

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Salzburg, Austria (literally translates to Salt City) offers tourist tours of one of its salt mines. It's set up really well, with a mini-train descending into the mine (as similar trains used to take workers into the depths of their mines) for the tourists to ride. People then dismount and get a guided walking tour.

I'd be curious as to the the condition of some of these mines? Is there enough headroom for someone to walk upright?

I've always been surprised that Center City Partners never explored this authentic tourist attraction.

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There is a lot to be explored in the possibility of using our famed Gold Rush scenarios as becoming part of the tourism economy for Charlotte. Of course Reed's is a good spot to discover and learn, but it is a hike out in no-mans-land and there really is a minimum in center city, which is where it all began. If I can remember from the last history lesson from Reed's, the center of Tryon and Trade is where the gold had all began. In fact, the BofA HQ is built on a mine shaft. When they built this tower, for structural purposes, old mine shafts had to be filled with concrete for support of the tower. Aside from my brief history lesson of the importance of Charlotte and NC to the gold rush era, more presence, education, and tourism can be branched from a HUGE event in history for Charlotte. We do have museums now (Mint) and the presence of banks, showing how the banking industry makes sence for Charlotte, but it would be nice to see a restraunt, like described above, maybe a tour of "underground Charlotte" that can be recreated with tunnels under the center city with walking tours, similar to the ghost tours over in England, with their history underneith the urban districts. Good topic...

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Is there an authoritative listing somewhere of all the abandoned gold mines in Charlotte? Somebody once told me there's one in Villa Heights, and I've wondered if that's true.

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I'd be curious as to the the condition of some of these mines? Is there enough headroom for someone to walk upright?

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I think the mines are in pretty rough shape. They were deep shaft mines and they always had issues with water in them from much of what I've read. I don't know if any exist that could be actually entered and toured like Reed Gold Mine (though they might be) but a tourist attraction on one of the original sites would still make sense. The site at Summit and Mint is on a hill and has great skyline views as well.

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Flooding is the big issue, and to keep it unflooded, you have to pay lots of money for proper necessities to keep it safe.

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That's a good point, atlrvr. It was really the hotel tax that is paying for that. I wonder if anyone can talk to Jenetian or someone in the city that knows the accounting for that tax as to whether there is any budget in it. For example, we spent a lot of the original tax on the arena, then they added a new tax for the Nascar HOF. Hotel vacancy rates have plummeted and hotel prices have gone way up. This obviously leads to good revenue collections into a budget bucket that must be spent on the tourism related projects. Granted we have the debt on our past projects to pay for with that money, but I wonder if there is any new unspent money that can go to a niche project like this.

Certainly, they could squeeze out enough of that budget to float 30 year bonds to pay for a $10-20m museum. I'm sure the banks would help contribute as it helps to tell their story and create marketing goodwill. Somehow this not only seems feasible, but also seems like big 'duh' that has been missed all these years. Even if this isn't a project to open a vast maze of the mine shafts, surely they could build a small museum on the site of one of the bigger mines, and seal a small section of the tunnels from floods.

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If tax money is involved, you'd better be prepared to hear a LOT of snide remarks about the importance of gold mines vs. roads, jails, schools, etc.

Doesn't matter if it's coming from the tourism budget. The fact that it's gimmicky and located uptown will make it a big ol' target for right-wing bloggers.

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They could say all they want but their points would immediately get shut down by the fact that this money cannot be used for any other purpose.

I, for one, concur with all of you, this is an amazing idea and should be pursued. Reed's has done well all these year (I've been twice myself) and they are far out from the city. It seems like it would be a worthy investment for the city to set something like this up. It can't be all that hard to create an irrigation and ventilation system for something as small as a mine shaft when the same is done for caverns in other parts of the state and country. Relishing on a historical landmark can be compared to the restoration of the Blue Ridge Parkway after it was shut down a few years ago by a huge storm and resulting mudslides.

The question remains that, over the years, how well have these tunnels held up? The city should at least pay for a study to look at the tunnels considering the micro-quakes we get here from time to time and the lack of structural supports inside the tunnels -- I can't imagine, with all that moisture, that any wood supports would still be in good condition.

We do need more attractions in and around uptown to keep the people here. Retail goes where the people are.

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This seems to come up from time to time and I think the response from officials is that what remains of these mines, are pretty unsafe and there really would not be a way to bring them back without practically re-digging them from scratch. Most of the mining that was done in this area was done as cheaply as possible and like said above, the romantic vision's of gold mines and the reality of what it was really like was quite different. (especially after close to 100 years of neglect)

I think the best bet would be to have a gold mining museum kind of like the Rice museum in Georgetown that was devoted to the rice industry that flourished there around the same time that Charlotte was known for gold mining.

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I don't think it would cost much to re-dig a small section and while reinforcing it with modern engineering for safety either use some of some of the methods or the materials that were used then. The key for the mine as a tourist attraction is mainly in the story and the location. They can re-create the mine shaft itself without violating the purpose of doing this, to tell the story of our city's first half century.

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A museum in SouthEnd would be nice. Especially since you could re-dig a small section that is now capped (you can still see the mine, it's a small raised hill capped by concrete) and create a cross section of earth with a simulated gold vein that people could see (maybe a clear lexan wall or something like it).

It would seem a good fit to use the Mint's collection as a starting point, perhaps make it an extension of the Mint focusing on gold and history of Charlotte as a financial center.

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The aforementioned Uptown Magazine quote:

A study was even commissioned by Charlotte to determine the cost and feasibility of reopening either the Rudisill or St. Catherine mine as an attraction similar to Reed. The cost of reopening one of these mines, combined with the uncertainty of the condition of the tunnels, caused the idea to be shelved. The city also considered the placement of surface markers and the creation of a visitor center or park commemorating Charlotte

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Let's take it off the shelves and dust it off! It all comes down to money and will.

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Much of the hubbub about this in the 1970s was related to the opening of the first incarnation of Underground Atlanta in the very early 1970s. Charlotteans wanted a similar attraction here and the mines seemed like a logical choice. When it got down to the actual details of opening up something like this, the interested died off as nobody wanted to dig holes in the ground for the tourist trade.

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Would this be something that the city itself would try to do? Or a private group such as CCCP or some other tourist company?

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I think the best bet would be to have a gold mining museum kind of like the Rice museum in Georgetown that was devoted to the rice industry that flourished there around the same time that Charlotte was known for gold mining.

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We need someone with some geological expertise on board here. How deep below the surface are some of the shafts? I know they run hundreds of feet in length. Perhaps they could do something like a glass floor looking down into one of the shafts or something like that to prevent the dangers of people being inside of it. They're probably too deep to do that I would guess.

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