Mapping Downtown Matthews
Businesses and Community Building
For much of the town’s history, local and family owned businesses encompassed the downtown. Manley Clyburn’s barbershop and Budd Potts’ fish store indicated the economic trends of Matthews. In Matthews, “Everything you needed was within walking distance. The town had four general stores (three operating one or more cotton ginning machines), two doctors, a drug store, bank, grist mill, blacksmith shop, livery stable, hotel and one of the first two public high schools built in Mecklenburg County.” With nearly every necessity within walking distance and connections to Charlotte via trains, by the turn of the twentieth century Matthews soon became a cornerstone in the county. Yet, the small town continued to remain small, with residents forming distinct relations amongst the downtown populous.
Many of the businesses in the town served as important social centers as much as economic hubs. Two such places are the Matthews Drug Company and the Heath and Reid Store. The Matthews Drug Company served as the bus stop and the ticket agency in order to get to Charlotte, and Charlotteans even came to the store to get a chance to taste the store’s shaved ice Coca-Cola’s. These businesses facilitate social gathering and community building, which contributes to Matthews’ distinct sense of place within Mecklenburg County.
Just as the Great Depression and New Deal era had a profound influence on the Town, World War II and a steadily increasing population further influenced the town’s history. Local residents recall how after the Second World War, small grocery stores struggled to survive, many businesses changed ownership and location after the draft. Downtown Matthews previously had eight grocery stores, with each offering their own specialties in goods, however the war caused three to close and the increase in large corporation caused the others to close one by one in the 1950s and 1960s. Matthews now consists of a constantly expanding population, with vast corporate enterprises that extend to the other side of Matthews on the independence corridor. Contrastingly, the downtown remains an important area, which encapsulates the town’s past, created by the strength of its individual settlers. Many portions of the town still place emphasis on its local residents and the area’s historical past.
Matthews may not have the same sense of community building when the settlers arrived. As well, local drug and General Stores do not have the same sense of meaning to current residents, especially when necessities are no longer within walking distance to many. These historical shifts change the focus on place as an impetus for community and social gathering. This site asks when visiting downtown Matthews to think about its historical past, its place within the Mecklenburg County and the New South, and to make it so that the sense of community and heritage remains a part of this southern town. Explore the gallery, the archives and the map to understand how these objects, photos and articles are a part of Matthews cultural heritage.