History Marked

Belks opens its first store and Duke Chapel opens officially

Wadesboro prime viewing for solar eclipse May 28, 1900For the total solar eclipse that occurred May 28, 1900, scientists determined Wadesboro in Anson County as the best place in North America to view the phenomenon. The Anson Independent reported the public flocking in to view the eclipse, including a special train from Charlotte bringing hundreds. As the eclipse’s effects began to take hold around 7:30 a.m., the streets were packed with people searching for better spots on tops of buildings and out of windows. While the total eclipse lasted for less than a minute, the paper reported total silence during this time with a significant drop in temperature caused by the shadow. First Belk department store opensMay 29, 1888In Monroe, the first Belk department store opened under the name of “New York Racket.” Founded by William Henry Belk, who was just 25 at the time, he used all $750 in his savings, a $500 loan and $3,000 in consigned merchandise to launch the store. It opened early and closed late to accommodate the working class as well as incorporating clearly labeled prices to prevent haggling. The store saw success and eventually William’s brother, John, joined the operation and the store was renamed “Belk Brothers.” Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s new locations opened in the Charlotte region and is now a large retail chain throughout the Southeast. Fayetteville ‘burns to the ground’ May 29, 1831A fire started in a kitchen on the northwest corner of Market Square and destroyed much of Fayetteville. The townspeople tried to extinguish it but the fire spread rapidly, destroying downtown landmarks and buildings, including one where the state ratified the U.S. Constitution. Even the town’s fire engine was destroyed in the process of trying to extinguish the flames. The streets became a chaotic mess and in four hours the fire destroyed 600 buildings including homes, schools, two hotels, 105 stores, two banks and all but one of the city’s churches. While buildings were destroyed and almost everyone displaced, there were no casuatlies.Cotton planter patented May 31, 1870Cotton planter and North Carolina inventor James Lytch was awarded a patent for the Eclipse Lytch Cottonseed Planter. Originally exhibited at agricultural fairs throughout the Southeast, Lytch’s planter became the go-to instrument in the South. The planter was purchased for a mere $12 and Lytch received a medal from the Cape Fear Agricultural Association as well as an award at the International Cotton Expo in Atlanta in 1881. By 1880, a thousand of the planters were in use. Lytch’s other inventions included a cotton scraper, cider mill and fertilizer distributor. After his death in 1890 his son continued production of the cotton planter at a manufacturing facility in current day Scotland County. Duke Chapel DedicatedJune 2, 1935The chapel’s iconic design was the work of Julian Abele, a prominent African-American architect from Philadelphia who designed much of Duke’s West Campus. Construction began on the building in October 1930 and it took five years and cost $2.3 million. The bluestone of the building’s exterior was quarried near Hillsborough. Though not officially dedicated until June 1935, the chapel’s first major use was for Duke’s 1932 commencement ceremony. At that point, many of the windows had not been installed and the interior was largely unfinished. Today, Duke Chapel stands a majestic 210 feet at the center of West Campus. A 5,200-pipe Flentrop organ and 50-bell carillon, both added since the first round of construction was completed, are two of the building’s most distinctive features.Source: North Carolina Department of Cultural and Natural Resources