Dr. Tom Hanchett’s new self-guided walking tours
At a time when folks are buying masks from local entrepreneurs and beginning to venture back out into the world (while social distancing of course!), our friend Dr. Tom Hanchett decided to do what he knows best: Share history with the Charlotte community.
Dr. Tom Hanchett, the historian-in-residence at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, is now sharing self-guided walking tours of the of Plaza Midwood, Elizabeth, and NoDa neighborhoods. We recently spoke with Dr. Hanchett to learn more about the origins of his walking tours and how his own community inspired him to go out for a refreshing walk.
“The notion of history walking tours has always been a tool of the historic preservation movement,” says Dr. Hanchett, who came to charlotte in 1981 as a historic preservation researcher studying older neighborhoods for the Historic Landmarks Commission. While first living in the Elizabeth neighborhood, he sketched a walking tour of the area. After moving to Plaza Midwood in the early 2000s, he then developed a Plaza Midwood walking tour. “Both of those were done by a type-writer,” says a proud and smiling Dr. Hanchett. “[I] made a few copies and that’s all that was to it.”
Like many folks staying in, Dr. Hanchett found time to reflect and dig out some old documents around the house. “A lot of what I do is bring history to the general public, usually I get to do that through tours, community building initiatives, or talks with groups at public libraries or other city organizations. And all of the sudden I didn’t have anything to do! (laughs).” Subsequently, as the quarantine stretched on, Dr. Hanchett noticed more and more people walking around the neighborhood, which reminded him of his old neighborhood tours.
“I dug out what I had done decades ago, and they needed a whole lot of updating.” Then came a realization, “Golly I should go out and walk myself, and take some fresh pics of those buildings. And, that was fun because the weather was just beautiful,” says Dr. Hanchett. With all the updating, Dr. Hanchett explains that he pretty much started from scratch. He published the first tour online in mid-April, and his fourth tour will be up next week.
Dr. Hanchett strongly believes in the importance of preserving our past:
“Walking tours are a great way of making a really important point – that history is all around us. History is not something that happens just in Washington or New York, or in history books. People make history, people who live around us, who lived like us, built this world that we are now in. And, come to think of it, we are doing our own building. Walking tours are a way to help you see history right around you!”
You can find Dr. Hanchett’s tours and additional resources on his website historysouth.org
***coronaHOPE is a new digital series from Levine Museum of the New South that is highlighting stories of hope and resiliency within our community during these unprecedented times. While we all are doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, many community members are also caring for one another in small and big ways. Please share your stories of people bringing HOPE to their communities with us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org