Is it Uptown or Downtown?


“South Tryon Street from Square, Charlotte, N.C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077). North Carolina Collection Photographic Arvhices, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.

If you live in Charlotte, you know there is a lot of confusion surrounding the proper labeling for Uptown/Downtown Charlotte. For those of  us who are “locals”, it seems as “uptown”‘ is universally used. However, to a visitor it would seem that  “downtown” more properly defines the area. Confused myself,  I decided to do some research and here is what I found…

Apparently in prior to the 1980’s the area was referred to as “downtown” by all residents. In 1983, Billy Joel’s hit “Uptown Girl” was released and a massive campaign was introduced by city leaders to revamp the Center City area. The campaign included plans to renew the area and leaders thought that redefining the area to be called “Uptown” would help create a more positive, upbeat opinion of the area. On February 14, 1987, the Charlotte Observer began using the term “Uptown” and school teachers were provided historical documents justifying the use of the new term to teacher students.

While the previous theory seems legit, there are also locals who have lived in Charlotte for three or more generations who claim that they have always called the area “Uptown”.  The main intersection of Center City, Trade Street and Tryon Street,  has been the point of highest elevation. When people would come to Charlotte from outlying areas, they would say they were going “up to town” which was later shortened to “Uptown”. If you’ve ever sat at the traffic light at the Randolph Rd. and Wendover Rd. looking towards the city, you will see that the city is in fact elevated more than most of the land below.

Whatever you choose to call it, center city has prospered since these pictures were taken in 1911. Thanks to city leaders, the banking industry, and many proud Charlotte-ians we’ve become a flourishing city!


“South Tryon Street from Square, Charlotte, N.C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077). North Carolina Collection Photographic Arvhices, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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