The Friends of Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour returns with good cheer, good food and a lot of history.
by Page Leggett
Fourth Ward, the historic enclave that looks like it was lifted out of the Victorian era and dropped into a corner of uptown, is one of Charlotte’s most diverse neighborhoods — and one of its most inclusive.
Every December, the tight-knit neighborhood rolls out the red carpet and invites the rest of the city over for a peek at how they live. This tradition began in 1977, when the modern-day settlers who moved to the newly revitalized area visited each other’s homes to eat, drink and make merry. That small gathering evolved into a tradition that’s been going strong for 42 years.
Since the beginning, tour proceeds have benefited neighborhood projects such as preservation of historic landmarks, social and safety programs and more.
It’s the elegant Victorians that give Fourth Ward its charm, but there’s much more to the neighborhood than historic homes. There are chic, urban skyscrapers; stunning townhomes with small but impressive courtyards; pocket parks, old-fashioned street lamps and brick walkways. Nowhere else in town looks like Fourth Ward.
All six private residences on the tour — two Victorians, a new-construction, single-family home and three condos at the historic St. Peter’s building — will be festooned in holiday finery.
The St. Peter’s Condominiums at 229 N. Poplar St. were originally constructed in 1877 as St. Peter’s Home and Hospital. The land for the building was purchased for $275.42 after funds were raised by the “Busy Bee Society” of Miss Hattie Moore’s Select School for Girls, says Beth Walker, tour organizer.
In 1940, when St. Peter’s Hospital moved to the present location of Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center and was renamed Charlotte Memorial Hospital, the old hospital became the Kenmore Hotel, where rooms rented for $1.25 per night. In 1978, local architect Murray Whisnant converted the building into 36 individual condominiums, many featuring the original exposed brick.
The walkable, self-guided tour includes more than just admission to homes decked for the holidays. There’s seasonal live music, horse-drawn carriage rides (on Friday and Sunday only) and small bites from participating center-city restaurants.
Food and beverage tastings are offered in or just outside the homes during the tour, plus in the leafy courtyard of the St. Peters building, which will be dressed up with Christmas decor and twinkling lights. Corkscrew on 5th, Poplar Tapas, Potts Chocolate, Pizzeria Sapienza, Sea Level NC (oysters on Saturday and Sunday) and The Daily Tavern will offer samples. Distilleries offering tastings include Copper Barrel, Doc Porter’s and Muddy River.
On Sunday, guests can also tour the historic pink-and-purple McNinch House restaurant and Victorian home, including owner Ellen Davis’ renovated private residence upstairs.
Fourth Ward neighbors have a special way of life. They give up big yards in favor of small private courtyards and patios. But there’s a palpable camaraderie there that comes from, who knows, living in such close proximity? Or perhaps from running into each other often at Alexander Michael’s, the longtime neighborhood watering hole.
The closeness is on full view at Christmas. For one weekend each December, Fourth Ward is everyone’s home for the holidays. SP
Want to go? The 42nd annual Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour is on Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7 from 5 – 9 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8 from 1- 5 p.m.
This year for the first time, participants can purchase a discounted, day-specific ticket for $30 or a weekend flex pass for $45. Buy yours at Friends of Fourth Ward’s website, fofw.org.
Pro tip: You may be asked to take off your shoes or use booties provided at each home. Wear a pair that’s easy to get on and off.
Photographs by Austin Caine