Why is Charlotte Called the City of Churches

A drive south on Carmel Road in Charlotte will give a clear view of why this city has been long known as “The City of Churches.”

As the road dips, a hill comes into view. On top of that hill is a Calvary Church, designed to look like an enormous crown with an iconic glass facade rising into points along the front of the church.

Charlotte’s hundreds of churches, ranging from the majestic old churches that sit on prominent street corners to hip congregations that meet in the city’s warehouses and schools, have helped define this city over the centuries. Calvary Church’s distinctive crown design is as well known in Charlotte as the towering Bank of America high rise in uptown.

Charlotte did not start out as a religious hub. The city was settled in 1755 and named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of England’s King George III. It soon attracted immigrants of European descent who came to North Carolina looking for fertile farming land, industrial work and religious freedom.

The Scots-Irish Presbyterians arrived in the early 1700s, settling the area with people of English, French Huguenot, German and Swiss descent. They were hardworking, self-sufficient and fiercely religious people hoping to make a new life for themselves.

The immigrant communities soon set up churches where they could worship together. Charlotte became the home of Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Catholics. “The Brick Church” opened in uptown Charlotte in 1815 as a non-denominational house of worship, but Presbyterians saved it from financial problems in 1830 and established the First Presbyterian Church there.

Charlotte only had 2,500 residents by 1850, but the area already was teeming with churches.

It is not known exactly when Charlotte officially was nicknamed “The City of Churches,” but as groups continued to build communities in Charlotte the number and variety of churches increased. The city’s thriving black church population was established in the 1880s, spurred by the founding of a school to train black ministers in 1867.

In 1929, Charlotte’s Greek community grew large enough to build its own church. Asian communities followed suit in the 1950s, and now Charlotte is home to a number of ethnic congregations ranging from Vietnamese to German. Some churches have built huge campuses and spawned daughter congregations all over the city.

It is not uncommon for a visitor to Charlotte to note that there literally can be “a church on every corner.” Where one goes to church is also a frequent question when people meet, no surprise as the city has long been known for its high church attendance.

Charlotte has maintained its faithful ways over the years, becoming home to Christian denominational headquarters, seminaries, mosques and synagogues. The Billy Graham Association is headquartered in Charlotte, as was the infamous PTL Ministry led by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The city’s Presbyterian-USA population continues to be a national force within the denomination.

Charlotte seems far from reaching its saturation point for churches, even though it now boasts more than 700 congregations for a population of just more than 700,000. Church planters say they find Charlotte a fertile ground and are undeterred by the number of thriving, well-attended churches already in the city. Congregations old and new continue to be a force in Charlotte, ensuring that Charlotte will be “The City of Churches” for years to come.