First of all, did you know that Charlotte had a World War I military training camp? Located just outside Uptown near Wilkinson Boulevard and Tuckaseegee Road, Camp Greene first opened in September of 1917. It was named for Nathanael Greene, an American Revolutionary War hero. Charlotte’s temperate weather, readily available space and proximity to a major rail line made it an attractive location.
If you haven’t heard of Camp Greene before, you’re not alone. Some native Charlotteans aren’t even aware. We turned to UNC Charlotte associate professor of history, Heather Perry, for more details. She’s part of an inspiring University-community partnership that has made history come alive.
Since 2014, many European cities have been commemorating the centennial anniversary of “The Great War” that lasted from 1914 to 1918. Yet, it wasn’t until 1917 that President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war. Shortly thereafter, and for two years following, Camp Greene would operate as one of the 32 training camps throughout the United States, housing more than 60,000 soldiers. The original 2,500-acre camp included a portion of a farm owned by the Dowd family. The historic Dowd House was used as the camp’s headquarters, and the home still remains. This year, Camp Greene recognizes the 100th anniversary of its opening.
Over the next several years, along with Dillard, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the Charlotte Museum of History, Perry has helped bring Camp Greene to life for hundreds of people through presentations and teach-ins. This all led to a phone call from Neal Broome, a local history buff very much interested in historic preservation.
Broome is perhaps one of the most tenacious and determined people you will ever meet. Described as a “one-man committee,” Broome has led efforts to celebrate and maintain the heritage of Camp Greene, including working closely with the Historic Camp Greene Neighborhood Association and the 2016 Camp Greene Festival. When the neighborhood association needed help with the festival, especially historical research projects, Broome’s first call was to Perry.
Perry quickly came on board and was ecstatic to put her knowledge to use. More specifically, she jumped at the chance to provide her students in “History Skills Seminar” an opportunity to study local World War I history. Research projects included "The Daily Life at Camp Greene;" "The Role of Charlotte’s Red Cross during the War;" "The Impact of the Great War on N.C. Tobacco Industries;" "N.C. Public Health and Education during the Spanish Flu Epidemic" and many others. Students presented their findings to the Camp Greene Neighborhood Association and projects will be on display during the festival - details below.
“It makes me cringe when people think the only thing to do with a history degree is teach. This partnership allowed students to provide tangible value, and they experienced the real-world relevance of what they do. It really made history come alive for them and they’ve enhanced local historical knowledge,” said Perry.
On Saturday, July 15, Camp Greene will host the Historic WWI Camp Greene Centennial Festival. Get out and enjoy Charlotte’s living history - you just may learn a thing or two.
FREE FESTIVAL 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Experience dramatic reenactments, historic uniforms, scenes from the camp, tours of the General’s Quarters and the Dowd House, a screening of “City of Canvas: The Camp Greene Story,” plus a scavenger hunt for kids. Local historians and scholars will have educational presentations and exhibits about the camp and how soldiers lived. Live music and food vendors add to the celebration.
GALA Honoring the 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Cocktail Hour
7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Dinner - Keynote Speaker: LTG. Michael S. Tucker
Perry will host another series of community lectures on Camp Greene in conjunction with the Charlotte Museum of History, including a four-panel mini-symposium on the impact of WWI on the Carolinas on Sept. 17. Stay tuned for more details.