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Preservation committee hosts Excelsior Club town hall
Landmark could be demolished in 2019
Published Monday, November 12, 2018 8:03 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

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A Charlotte nonprofit wants to build bridges that can save the Historic Excelsior Club.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Heritage Committee is convening a community call to action Tuesday at Rameses Temple, 4919 Beatties Ford Road.

The onetime hub of black Charlotte’s social scene is under a one-year demolition moratorium by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, which is trying to find a buyer for the property on Beatties Ford Road. The Excelsior, which was shuttered last year after property owner N.C. Rep. Carla Cunningham foreclosed on the club’s mortgage, which was held by civil rights attorney James Ferguson. The meeting is open to the public.

“The purpose of our meeting is to bring everyone together who’s interested in preserving the Excelsior so we can all be on one page,” said Kelly Eaves-Boykin, chair of the committee. There are other groups out there and everybody’s talking about it, but nobody’s led the charge about what’s exactly going on with it.”

Organizers will provide a history of the nightclub as well as open the floor to representatives from the Historic Landmarks Commission, Mecklenburg County commissioners and what Eaves-Boykin calls “friends of the Excelsior,” including Cunningham, who has said she’d like to sell to someone who’ll preserve the landmark’s façade.

“We have asked, but we’re not sure if she will be there,” Eaves-Boykin said. “If she is not, she will have someone there who will represent her best interests. What we don’t want is for people to come in and make this a bash session.”

The Excelsior has limited protections against demolition, but ultimately its future lies with Cunningham, who can opt to maintain the property as a historic site, or sell it outright after a Historic Landmarks Commission moratorium expires on June 11, 2019.

Mecklenburg commissioners voted down a proposed deal between Cunningham and the landmarks commission that would give the commission a year to locate a buyer or purchase the property outright through a $4,000 exclusive option.

“Our mission is to preserve and restore” historic properties in African American communities, Eaves-Boykin said. “We wanted to make sure we partner with [Excelsior stakeholders] to offer anything we can from a nonprofit standpoint to be in support.”

The Excelsior, which entrepreneur Jimmie McKee opened in 1944 in the Washington Heights community, is the nation’s oldest black nightclub and the centerpiece of Charlotte nightlife during the South’s state-sanctioned segregation era. Music legends from Louis Armstrong to Nat “King” played the Excelsior, a converted two-story, seven-room house whose Art Moderne architecture is part of its historical significance. As racial and social barriers fell in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Excelsior maintained its status as a social and political center, hosting wedding receptions, fish fries, campaign gatherings and election night parties.

“There’s a lot of information out there, but want to bring all the like minds together as well as the community so those that are thinking of restoration and purchasing it they will know exactly what the community wants to happen with the Excelsior,” Eaves-Boykin said. “There’s a lot of ideas out there, but it’s going to be a good thing and come out with an action plan – what’s next.”


If Ms. Cunningham wants to truly save the property that she inherited from her husband, alone with her title then, she should donate it as she never spent a dime for it. Folk are always ready and willing to get a dollar at any means. She has no desire to maintain it and once it loses it's status she will sell it. There are too many so called prominent black people in this community to allow this to take place. If it was to attend an all white party, or walk around being important they would handle this and not let others do it for them. I say, shame on all of the people in a position to make a real difference, financially. If you forgot, you can't take anything with you when you die. Stop being so selfish and do something versus talking it to death. Kudos to the group trying to save this place as a big part of the African American experience is this City who cares nothing for us.
Posted on November 27, 2018

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