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While not under this name, the Mill District formed in the early 1900s, thanks to the textile mill boom. At that time, the textile mills of present-day neighborhoods of Optimist Park, NoDa, Villa Heights, and Belmont were busy making Charlotte into the Piedmont centerpiece it is today. These iconic mills gave our citizens pride in their city and showed them anything was possible. Plus they are part of a dwindling number of structures left standing to tell the story of Charlotte as these industrious residents knew it–of a small Southern town becoming a booming city. As you explore The Mill District, we invite you to share their sense of pride and possibility.


  • The Mill District is responsible for one of the major population booms in Charlotte’s history. 

    • In 1880, before construction of these mills, Charlotte was a modest town of less than 8,000; by 1940 it was home to over 100,000.

    • Much of the land where the mills were constructed was sprawling farmland

  • The seven mills that are still intact in Mill District are (along with current uses): 

    • Alpha Cotton Mill (now Alpha Mill Apartments) – Optimist Park

    • Chadbourn (now a creative office and retail space under the same name)  – Optimist Park

    • Highland Park Mill No. 1 (now Optimist Hall) – Optimist Park

    • Highland Park Mill No. 3 (now Highland Mill Lofts) – NoDa

    • Louise Cotton Mill (now The Lofts at Hawthorne Mill) – Belmont

    • Johnston Manufacturing Co. (under construction to become a contemporary apartment community, The Wandry) – NoDa

    • Mecklenburg Cotton Mill (now The Lofts at NoDa Mills) – NoDa

  • These mills spun yarn, manufactured hosiery and leisure apparel, and wove everything from gingham and madras to fine cloths.

  • The mill boom led to the important development of Charlotte’s first working class neighborhoods and vibrant communities

    • The community was a walking neighborhood, which meant that schools, churches, groceries, barber shops, general stores, pharmacies and soda shops sprung up—even a hotel in NoDa.

    • Many residents worked as builders for the mills and mill villages, or as shopkeepers and school teachers 

    • Residents formed baseball leagues and planted sprawling rose and vegetable gardens in their front yards

    • Newspaper advertisements from the early 1900s showed that lots in Belmont were available for purchase between $50 and $100, and heralded recent lot sales with 250% profits  

  • The mills lead to the development of Charlotte’s first streetcars, powered at first by horses and mules and later electricity. They ran up  Brevard and Davidson Streets, connecting Uptown to the communities built around the mills.  

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