Built in 1949, the Second Ward High School Gymnasium served as a centerpiece for school and community events for Second Ward High School, Charlotte’s first African-American High School. The school itself was the heart of Charlotte’s Brooklyn neighborhood, with social events and gatherings surrounding football and basketball games, school dances, and other events. In 1969, Second Ward High School was demolished during Charlotte’s Urban Renewal Movement, with the only remaining building being the Gymnasium.
The Gymnasium was designed by modernist architect A.G. Odell Jr., one of Charlotte’s first modernist architects. At the time the building was constructed, Charlotte was largely filled with neo-classical structures, and the Gymnasium become one of the first International Style Public Buildings. It’s clean, modern lines lacked the traditional ornamentation found on other buildings in Charlotte, instead exposing its steel, masonry and glass. The building was placed on the Historic Register in 2008.
Neighboring Concepts was challenged with restoring the abandoned historic building and to restore it’s soul and pride, giving the Second Ward Alumni Association and the community a place to host events such as tournaments, exercise classes, and reunions. Working closely with the alumni of Second Ward High School, our office was able to relocate the Alumni Association to the old lobby of the building, dedicating the space as a museum showcasing remaining cultural artifacts from the association’s collection. In a collaboration with the Arts and Science Council, a mural by local artist Tommie Robinson, was installed at the gymnasium, capturing the history of the neighborhood.
The Neighboring Concepts team studied A.G. Odell’s original drawings to ensure the restoration efforts maintained the architect’s original design intent. Additionally, a new addition provided accessible restrooms, operations support space and air conditioning to the structure, maintaining the International Style of the original building. Previous renovations or repairs that did not maintain the original style were also removed, ensuring a holistic approach to the restoration effort.