Thoughts from an Uptown walking tour guide | CLT Blog
Thoughts from an Uptown walking tour guide

Thoughts from an Uptown walking tour guide

Posted on 30 Jul 2009 by Rob Cummings

the Center City Green Market in action, watch this video on YouTube

So I’m the guy that has been leading the Uptown Walking Tours each Saturday from the Green Market Uptown at Trade and Tryon.  It all started back in early May when Center City Partners sponsored the Uptown Living Showcase.  Myself and several other ‘tour guides’ gave walking and Gold Rush tours around the city.  It was a huge success so I decided to volunteer my time to carry the torch and continue the tours (with more of a historic theme) each Saturday during the summer months.  The momentum is growing–I had 45 people join the tour on July 18th


photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

The tour participants range from all ages, backgrounds, and home towns.  The majority are not from Charlotte.  They either heard about the tour from the Uptown hotel where they are staying for the weekend, or they are visiting friends who live in Charlotte and have asked to see what downtown Charlotte has to offer.  Last weekend my tour group included a couple from San Fran along with two businessmen from Italy.  All of the northeast states along with France have been represented along the way.  I even had a former neighbor from South Charlotte come up from the burbs and to his surprise, this converted suburban to urban-guy was leading his tour.


photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

People are very enthusiastic about the city and are surprised to still see so many cranes rising in a deep recession.  I get comments about how clean our city is, the diverse use of public art throughout the city, and how we intelligently use our green space (everyone thinks that our interactive park, The Green, is so cool).  Visitors also comment on Charlotte’s commitment to the arts (4 new arts venues on South Tryon doesn’t hurt) and how livable they perceive the city to be.  Unfortunately, I can’t avoid our one black eye along the tour path–The Park–but all in all, our city shows very well.  In addition, I carry my pen and paper to pickup an occasional tidbit that I didn’t know.  For example, I now know that the huge flowers in Fourth Ward Park are Canna Flowers–hey, I never claimed to be a Botanist!


photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

During the tour, I have several morsels that I share such as the fact that both Elvis and Frank Sinatra played at the now fire-gutted Carolina Theater (good luck Jim Donnelly with his proposed project to restore the theatre).  Or that Bank of America corporate center may be the tallest building in Charlotte with 60 stories, but there are 24 other skyscrapers in the United States that are taller.  It is hard to imagine that the World Trade Center towers were almost twice as tall as B of A – wow!  Or that Eifirds, Belk, and Ivey’s Department Stores anchored Uptown’s retail from 1924 to 1990, the year when Dillards acquired Ivey’s and shut down the last of our big box department stores in the Center City.  After the acquisition, a bond referendum to turn the Ivey’s building into a magnet high school was shot down, and instead the mixed use development that now boasts one of Uptowns premier residential addresses in Charlotte now anchors 5th and Tryon (by the way, some very cool condos in the Ivey’s).


the historic Ivey’s building; photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

Finally, I always get a few off the wall questions such as “why would I raise my children in the center city?”  My response is that I actually received a Christmas card from one of our regular homeless women last December (true story, and my kids know Terri by name).  I consider the city a very safe place as long as you are street smart.  People always ask where our professional athletes live – the Trademark condo is a trendy spot for several Panthers.  Or my favorite question, “why do you do the tour for free”?  My response – I love to show off Charlotte and if this is my small contribution to turning Charlotte into a world class city, then that’s what it is all about.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the northeasterners head home to their congested city only to later decide to relocate to an ‘easier life’ in CLT.  That’s what happened to me … and I will never look back.  I’m even eating ‘que, banana pudding, and Bojangles now.

I have the next few weekends off for vacation and the Presbyterian Invitational Criterium on August 8th (no Green Market that weekend).  But my tour will resume on August 22nd departing from the Square at 11am (North Tryon corridor) and Noon (South Tryon corridor).  I hope you can join me.  And please send me ideas, atta boys, and criticisms via this blog.  You can also follow my tour tweets at @robcummingsclt.


  1. Avatar of Rob Cummings
    Rob Cummings 30 Jul 2009 at 11:02 AM

    Quick note that I forgot to mention. The Uptown Walking tours will continue to run this upcoming Saturday August 1st and on Saturday, August 15th. The tours will be led by colleagues from Charlotte Center City Partners. The green market is closed the weekend of the 8th since the bike criterium is running Uptown that day. I will be back conducting tours on the 22nd. All tours depart the Green market at Trade and Tryon at 11am.

  2. Jody 31 Jul 2009 at 11:24 PM

    This is great. I really enjoyed it. I’d like to go on your tour sometime. I’ve lived in Charlotte 20 years, but keep finding more things to love about it. I like your enthusiasm for the city.

  3. Pingback: MiniFail Blog Views: August 3rd, 2009 | MINIMUM FAILURE

  4. Francina Bullion 31 Aug 2010 at 10:22 PM

    Who knows what happens next… All I know is:
    Time is what keeps everything from happening at once. :)