Development of Streetcar Systems in North Carolina
By Walter R. Turner
N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation Historian

Edward Dilworth Latta, a classy dresser who operated men's clothing businesses
in Charlotte for several years, was ready for a new challenge. Now thirty-nine years old
and married with three small children, he had traveled widely and understood how
electric streetcars were beginning to transform cities. Asheville and Winston (later
Winston-Salem) had already established streetcar systems, but he was determined to do
something even more impressive. With a new company and strong financial backing, he
made his move in 1890. Latta purchased Charlotte's horse-drawn streetcar system,
completely rebuilt it, and extended the lines to the outskirts of the city to Dilworth,
creating the state's first major streetcar development. Dilworth eventually encompassed
residential sections for different economic classes, a sprawling park, and an industrial
district.

"Clanging, swaying, grinding along, the streetcar created the modern city; rolled
two generations of Americans to work, to the suburbs, to the ball park, out to the laughter
and bright lights of the Ferris wheels and roller coasters. . . ."1 During the period from
1886 to 1948, more than a dozen cities and towns in North Carolina acquired streetcars,
usually operated and owned by electric utility companies or their subsidiaries. In most of
these cities, streetcars transported riders to work and play while greatly influencing the
establishment of suburban neighborhoods and recreation/amusement parks.  
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Streetcar Statistics for North Carolina