Stay Gold Charlotte
A couple of weeks ago, my sister Sonja and I were at The Unknown Brewery and we were walking to Craft Tasting Room. As we walked down Lincoln Street, I pointed out the beautifully decorated alleyway right before Church Street and asked her if she knew what it was. She did not. It dawned on me that most people wouldn't know what it was, and that's how I came to write this blog.
Welcome to The Gold District.
Charlotte used to be the gold mining capital of the US. There were roughly 700 gold mines operated in North Carolina in the nineteenth century. People came from all over when word spread about the gold that was being discovered here. $2.6 million in gold was extracted from Charlotte area mines. This alleyway, known as The Riva Finoli Passage, is the passage that Count Vincenzo Riva Finoli walked daily in the 1830s. The streets was dusted in gold from the local mines. True story.
Who was Count Chevalier Vincent de Riva Finoli?
He was a Milanese Count and a gold digger - literally - from Milan, Italy who arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1830. He brought the best miners with him from France and Italy, Ireland and Wales, Switzerland and Scotland, Mexico and Brazil. At one time there were said to be 13 different languages overheard in the mines.
He lived in a mansion on South Tryon and West Morehead and owned the Rudisill and St. Catherine's Mines. He was said to be quite the flamboyant & elegant dresser. Each morning, he would walk with his gold tipped cane to oversee his mines. He was accompanied by Paulidon Brickett, who was his servant, butler, and barber. He walked the path daily with his dog named Augie, who was a golden retriever ( sidenote: "Au" derives from the chemical symbol for gold ) that is now called The Riva Finoli Passage. It is located between Magnolia Emporium and Walker Zanger.
Craft Tasting Room & Growler is at the end of the alley.
Today, tunnels from the Rudisill Mine, The St. Catherine Mine and the McComb Mine still lie beneath much of the Uptown area, just south and west of the square. Numerous shafts from the Rudisill Mine lie parallel to South Mint Street, with one of the principal shafts located near the intersection of South Mint and Summit Avenue. I read that the manager of Reed's Gold Mine believes that when they were building the Bank of America Corporate Center in the 1990s, the workers struck one of the gold mining tunnels and had to stabilize it.
This is a map from 2014 showing the area of the three former gold mines.
This is an image of the vison for the 79 acres, appropriately named The Gold District to honor the three gold mines the area sits on top: St. Catherine, Rudisill and Brush Hill Mines. I read that the area covers exactly 79 acres because on the periodic table of elements, that's the atomic number for gold.
**UPDATE: after writing this blog, it was brought to my attention that the area has been increased to almost 130 acres.
Randolph James Is Making It All Happen
I met the amazingly talented designer Randoph James a few years ago. His store, Magnolia Emporium, located on Lincoln Street in The Gold District was featured on Reese Witherspoon's Draper James blog as a "Must See" location when visiting the Queen City. Guest blogger Jakiya Brown of The Traveling Fro mentioned a few other Charlotte staples - Prices Chicken Coop, The Cowfish, Soul Gastrolounge, to name a few. I had been to all of those spots, but Magnolia Emporium I had not. I put it on my places to check out.
Magnolia Emporium is a cute store full of home decor, art, fine gifts, men's and women's accessories, gourmet delights, elegant lighting, custom furnishings and more! They offer residential & hospitality interior design services. Reese's website listed it as "one of the cutest shops in Charlotte".
While I love the store, I was drawn to the passageway and the mostly the history. Randolph, who is a member of the non-profit Gold District Board has done so much to it and made it absolutely gorgeous. It's decorated with comfy benches and beautiful lighting; the rich garnet colored curtains draped at the entrance. He even put in a fountain. It's an alleyway I want to get lost in. The walls of the buildings have been painted with murals by local artists; a huge THANK YOU to Benjamin Moore Paint, Brand The Moth, Art by Miouxnie and Erin Laney of Up A Wall for your donations/artwork/vision and help. The plan is to give a place to the community to hang out and grab a beer at Craft or a glass of wine at The Gallery or just walk by and admire.
Anyone is welcome to hang out in this alley.
“It’s supporting the community, because we don’t have an Arts District,” said Randolph James, who is a member of the nonprofit Gold District board. “We want this to be the true Arts District; we want it to be the official Arts District. That’s something I’m already branding now with hashtags and tying into anything that we’re doing — #CharlotteArtsDistrict.”
Randolph and I recently spoke and he let me know that on Saturday May 5th, the city will hold the official naming of the Rivafinoli Passage, with a ribbon cutting and presenting the famous passage with a heritage sign. He has made arrangements for Baroness Quaranta di San Severino e Fusaro of New York to cut the ribbon. Randolph has even connected with Luca Simone R. R. descendant of The Noble Riva's, who is Count Vincenzo Riva Finoli's descendent. He has made the trip from Milan to Charlotte, NC to visit the site. I can't tell you how excited and grateful I am to Randolph for all of his hard work.
I mean, would you just look at how beautiful that alleyway is!!!
So, the next time you are hopping around SouthEnd, visiting the breweries and whatnot, be sure to visit Lincoln Street. The Gold Rush is long gone, but the history will forever live on.
And besides, who doesn't want to hang out on streets once dusted in gold?